You may not have known it, but tomorrow is World Religion Day. The aim seems to be for everyone to get along in one big happy religious family, since at bottom religions have so much common ground. For those who know something about Baha’i, it will not come as a surprise to learn that they were evidently the ones to first establish WRD.
The Baha’is first observed this day on January 15, 1950, and it has been progressing since then. Before looking more closely at the day, let me offer just a very quick overview of Baha’i. Calling itself the world’s newest religion, it seeks to bring all religions and all humanity together in one big melting pot.
It is a monotheistic system which argues that all religions come from God, who has sent various messengers over the centuries, culminating in Baha’u’llah, a 19th century Persian. He is the latest and greatest revelation of God, meant to unite all of humanity and all religion. But I will need to write a separate article on this faith some other time.
WRD gives us more of the same. Here is what its homepage states: “The aim of our website is to foster the establishment of interfaith understanding and harmony by emphasizing the common denominators underlying all religions. Mankind, which has stemmed from one origin, must now strive towards the reconciliation of that which has been split up. Human unity and true equality depend not on past origins, but on future goals, on what we are becoming and whither we are going. The prime cause of age-old conflict between man and man has been the absence of one ethical belief, a single spiritual standard – one moral code.
“The history of man’s cultures and civilizations is the history of his religions. Nothing has such an integrating effect as the bond of common Faith. The history of religion shows that all religions had this unifying power – the power to instill in the hearts and minds of their adherents the fundamental verities, the vital spiritual standards, and thus establish a unity of conscience for motivating man towards founding great cultures and civilizations.
“Thus, through various events, dedicated towards encouraging the leaders and followers of every religion to acknowledge the similarities in each of our sacred Faiths, a unified approach to the changes that confront humanity can be agreed upon and then applied on an ever-expanding scale to permeate the very psyche of mankind, so that it can be made to see the whole earth as a single country and humanity its citizenry.”
There you have it folks: a global religion and a global world government. One-worldism has always been around of course, and this is just the latest hard religious push for it. Indeed, while the concept might sound appealing, the one who should know best about all this is not at all too thrilled.
God himself forcefully took steps way back in mankind’s early history when humanity sought to establish a global religious and political body. Thus he very decisively squashed the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). More such attempts have been made, and will be made by mankind in rebellion against God, as we read about in the book of Revelation.
Another important thing to note about this WRD document is the total absence of the concept of truth. And that is for good reason. If there is such a thing as absolute truth, and the law of noncontradiction applies, then of course there can never be any such thing as world religions living together in complete harmony.
That would be like claiming that Jews and Nazis can exist in complete unity and harmony. Complete unity will never exist in a fallen world as long as competing truth claims are being made. Truth must go missing in any attempt at religious syncretism and harmonisation. Indeed, the very concept of unique truth claims would of course undermine such a utopian and naive goal.
Anyone who has studied the world religions even a little will know that the most accurate thing to say about them is how much they differ from each other, not how much they are alike. Simply compare and contrast the core teachings of Christianity with the core teachings of Islam for example.
The very heart of the Christian belief is that Jesus is God’s son, that he died on a cross for our sins and then rose again. Islam denies all of this in no uncertain terms. Thus if Islam is true, Christianity cannot possible be true. And if Christianity is true, then Islam cannot possibly be true.
It is that simple, and the most basic principles of logic tell us this must be so. The law of noncontradiction states, as Aristotle put it, that “one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time”. That is, no two contradictory statements can both be true at the same time and in the same sense.
Thus either Jesus is the Son of God or he is not. Either he did die on a cross and rise again, or he did not. There is no other way around this. Thus by the very standards of truth and logic, the major aims and goals of WRD are unrealistic and unachievable.
But of course because we live in postmodern times where absolute truth has been rejected big time, such an observance seems to be just peachy keen. Plenty of misguided folks will get on board with this, including plenty of naïve and biblically-illiterate Christians.
Indeed, we have a perfect example of this in today’s press. True to form, the Christophobic Melbourne Age happily ran an opinion piece on all this. A Sydney academic penned a rather muddled piece entitled, “Here’s another golden rule: let’s look at what we have in common”. And she even drags in WRD.
There are plenty of problems with her piece, but let me just mention two of them. She informs us, “Tomorrow is World Religion Day. It arrives with a benign intention: to draw our attention to the best of what religions share. This neither assumes nor hopes that all religions are the same. Arising in differing historical moments, and expressive of different mores and stages of spiritual development, how could they be the same?”
But she is simply wrong here. The goal of both Baha’i and WRD is to get all people to recognise that at the end of the day we are all part of one big religious family, and to understand that, we must embrace the latest revelation of God as given us in the teachings of Baha’u’llah.
He gets the last word obviously. He is said to be the latest and therefore most authoritative revelation from God. So what happens if another revelation of God comes on the scene, giving us yet another, newer and different message? Will Baha’is insist that he is wrong? But how can they given their religious syncretism and epistemological relativism?
Indeed, their evolutionary view of religious progress, culminating in this Persian prophet, smacks a bit of religious arrogance and exclusivism. Our academic misses this, and she also misses the most important reason why religions are different: the ol’ T word again.
Sure religions have had differing historical beginnings and the like, but the number one reason the religions differ so greatly is simple: they make radically conflicting truth claims. They differ because they are different – big time. Hinduism claims there may be as many as 330 million gods. Buddhists don’t even have to believe in God, while Jews and Muslims insist that there is only one God. Sorry folks, but they can’t all be right.
Finally, consider this remark by the NSW academic: “The current Dalai Lama is famous for saying that his religion is kindness. He’s not the only one. Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name so much harm as well as immeasurable good has been done, was clear: ‘Love one another’.”
Sorry, but by mangling a major teaching of Jesus, you distort and corrupt his entire message. While Jesus did tell his disciples in John 13 to love one another, the main summary statement of his teaching is found in the three Synoptic gospels when asked what the greatest commandment was.
He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus we have a two-fold command, and the order is absolutely crucial. The assumption here, as throughout Scripture, is that the latter can only be achieved by means of the former.
Unless one first loves God, and loves him on his own terms, one will not be able to love others as they ought to be loved. The Ten Commandments of course display this same priority of order: the first four Commandments are God-ward, followed by six commandments which are toward others.
Unless we are in right relationship with God, it will be impossible to properly love others. And as Jesus made crystal clear, the only way we can love and serve God is through him. Jesus is the only door to God, and he is the only mediator between God and man.
He insisted that all others are in fact false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are arrogant, radically exclusive, and highly divisive claims to make, if you think all religions are the same and all roads lead to God. So we are back to the issue of truth and logic.
If Jesus meant what he said, then all religions are not of God and other religious leaders are not the true path to God. Only Jesus is, not Muhammad, or Baha’u’llah. When Jesus forthrightly claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me,” he was not engaging in postmodern relativism or religious syncretism.
He was making an exclusive truth claim and he expected his hearers to understand him that way. Thus Jesus would never approve of something like WRD, nor would he endorse the Baha’i faith. Instead he would say, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. . . .Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many’” (Matt 7:15; 24:4-5).