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In the Name of God بسم الله

Common Ground

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All:

I've never started a topic before, so bear with me. I know that many post probably from work and in posting you are multi-tasking. But I wondered, since there seem to be many readers of this forum who do not post, some who post but infrequently, and some who are regulars, what has been learned by individuals here as common in the religious perspectives being discussed.

So far it seems only differences are discussed. But what about similarities? I see several factors, regardless of opinion regarding the significance of those factors:

Abraham is the progenitor of the peoples but also his consort with a Power From on High and the resulting convenant founded all three faiths (I include our Jewish posters because they have made significant and constructive contributions to many discussions).

All three religions exalt the One God of Heaven and Earth, the giver of life and breath, and believe He gives guidance both personally by edicts but also through prophets.

All three adhere to strong family and personal morals and responsibility, as well as social moral responsibility - these edicts having been dictated by the Deity.

All three name the Deity as Just and Merciful, and yet wrathful against wrong doing and injustice.

All three believe in judgement, and following reward or punishment for Earthly doings by nations and by individuals.

All three have at hand writings by prophets and witnesses of this Deity, many words of which confirm one another.

AND YET - All three digress from essential and basic unity at the borders of physical nations, languages, cultures and race.

___________________________________________

I guess I am asking for an evolution here in this forum. A request for higher thought processes, a return to essential importance.

I understand it is the nature of forums of this type to "debate", and if there is no contention, the forum dies. And Yet - I have seen, particularly in certain person's posts, a degree of nobility I believe is the essence of all three religions, which we are called to seek.

I am calling out the humanity, the higher nature of the posters here.

Tell now - what have you learned, in truth, from others of paradigms conflicting with your own? I will tell first -

I came here to learn of Islam from complete ignorance and have come to respect the basic tenets of Islamic faith, and even in some respects embrace the theology as familiar to all I know of human interaction with God as the same God to all.

I have learned much of Judaism I did not know before and have come to see and respect the calm and intelligence and evolution of this ancient faith.

I have come to wonder in awe from Christians in the human ability called faith, and through that wonder see by leaps the vital and irrevocable link between man and his God.

These are lessons I would not have learned had I never discovered shiachat, and so I am thankful for my time here.

I have learned, on an extremely personal note, that we all talk to the same God, even I, who am none of these three and never shall be. To become one religion means to abandon the beauty of the others; this I cannot do.

I see, by what I have learned, that in essence we are all on the same page. At the point where divergence begins I understand now this is not the nature of God.

What have you learned here, leave your doctrine at the door and be a human being. What similarities do you see now - do not say you see none, as PEACE is also a tenent of all three faiths.

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I share your sentiments, Pocahonky.

Strangely enough, there is such a lot common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Anyone who is prophet to Christians or Jews is a prophet to us as well.

And if there are differences, it does not matter really. The most important thing, I believe, all religions teach is tolerance for our fellow-men. I know for sure that it is part of Islam's focus, even though many here might be tempted to lash out at me, as they have been led to believe otherwise.

In any case, I was born and raised in a country which had and still has almost as many faiths as people - India. For us Indians, religion was a sacred personal thing. I remember in our school we had (in descending numerical order) Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Parsi children. And not once did we ever try to discuss religion with the intention of bugging others as is common all over the internet.

The question is if there is anything to be gained by all this. Are we any better off if we prove the other religion wrong. No, not at all. You can demonise my religion to your heart's content. But I will remain a Shia till my dying breath.

To me the important thing is to try and promote a culture where we can dish out basic human rights to every man, woman and child. Beyond that, even if all SHIACHAT members pooled together to prove my religion wrong, I could'nt give a damn, as my faith is unshakeable. And so should be yours.

As long as you practise your faith the way it should be, without causing suffering and pain to others, as long as you can deliver basic human rights to all within you reach, as long as you have lived your life in a manner that when your face your Creator, there is a smile on your face - well, then, regardless of what others might say, your religion is, indeed, the best religion in the world, and you should be happy about it.

Leave the rest to God.

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Islam and Christianity have so much in common, the contributions to society the cultures that it has brought. Empire have fallen because of these two great faiths, yet through it all we still fight since the beginining we fought and to this day some contend that we still are (although I disagree).

But the truth is we are not driven by our conviction of similarities and what we share with the people of this faith, but by the conviction of the truth of Christ, you see we are only as tolerant as Christ is true, we can do nothing but disagree - in a respectful manner of course- and although we can sit and chat about how we believe in one God one side will always have to delve into our differences it just typical.

But great thread though it seemed to well written.

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"To me the important thing is to try and promote a culture where we can dish out basic human rights to every man, woman and child...As long as you practise your faith the way it should be, without causing suffering and pain to others, as long as you can deliver basic human rights to all within you reach.."

Beautifully said baqar! Thank you. This is exactly the humanity, the humaness, I had hoped to hear. Thank you very much!

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"although we can sit and chat about how we believe in one God one side will always have to delve into our differences it just typical."

Yes, but is there nothing you can state that you have LEARNED here, something you did not know before? Even so simple as the reasons for a Muslim holiday, or some difference between Shia and Sunni you heretofore did not realize? Even if it is the meaning, of an Arabaic word, what have you learned here, speaking with others from all different parts of the globe? That in itself is a miracle. We are living in times fortunate for the curious.

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To become one religion means to abandon the beauty of the others; this I cannot do.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

pocahonky, your intention is good, but your choice is vague. you treat religion like one would treat food, where restricting oneself to only one kind of cooking means abandoning all others. religion is a complete way of life. how can one choose no religion, no way of life, if one believes in god? indeed there is a lot of common ground between the religions you mention, but being content with just the commonality without seeking completeness is akin to being content with knowledge without applying it. for me it is clear, that if god exists, there must exist a way of life, and if there exists a way of life, it must be followed completely. simply being content with the commonality of several ways of life might make me seem pleasing to more people, but if i believe in god, then pleasing people should not be my objective.

But I will remain a Shia till my dying breath.

Beyond that, even if all SHIACHAT members pooled together to prove my religion wrong, I could'nt give a damn, as my faith is unshakeable. And so should be yours.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

baqar, i wanted to ask you that, when our prophet (pbuh) had started preaching islam to the idol-worshippers, do you know what the response of the majority used to be?

they used to say that "this is the faith of our fore-fathers and, no matter what proofs you bring us, we will never abandon it till our dying breath."

their faith was unshakeable too.

maybe you should consider this when advising everyone to be unshakeable in their faiths.

Edited by fyst
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maybe you should consider this when advising everyone to be unshakeable in their faiths.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My dear friend, you are misquoting and misrepresenting my words.

Please read it again and try and understand the import of my message.

Thanks

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Pocahonky

you are right , all the three religions belief in one God , the creator and merciful but here is the major differences:

Only Islam recognize Judaism and Christianity as a religions of God and belief of all the prophets.

Judaism does not recognize Christianity and Islam

Christianity does not recognize Islam.

Judaism belief is God is only for The Jewish people and they don't want any others to belief in Judaism (its only for them)

Christians belief that Jesus is a God or the son of God come down to earth.

Islam respect both but its belief that God is the creator of all human being and they are all equal.

Islam belief God is unique and has no sons because only human being need sons because they are not eternal and they die so the son will complete what they started

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My dear friend, you are misquoting and misrepresenting my words.

Please read it again and try and understand the import of my message.

Thanks

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

well, it kinda seemed that you were just sticking to your faith just coz u wanted to regardless of any amount of proof opposing it. maybe that's not what u wanted to imply.

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Satyam:

That is one great cartoon!! :!!!:

Hi fyst:

You said, "being content with just the commonality without seeking completeness is akin to being content with knowledge without applying it."

I think finding the commonality is an important step. But I understand what you are saying, in that the following of a religion is sweet satisfaction in the lives of many. Would it not be true, then, in understanding the commonality among the faiths, that were I a Christian in ways of worship knowing this I would respect your ways of worship as a Muslim, believing the same God has heard us both?

You said, "pocahonky, your intention is good, but your choice is vague...religion is a complete way of life. how can one choose no religion, no way of life, if one believes in god?"

Each religion departs from the common ground at this point. The Christian leads life one way, the Muslim another, very different, because of their religion.

May I ask you a question? Always, no matter where I am or even alone, before I partake of a meal I bow my head and give thanks. If I say (in truth) that I have no chosen religion, do you acknowledge that I am giving thanks to OUR God?

When I do a wrong by deed or thought, my repentence is real and I ask for forgiveness and aide and guidance. Yet I have no chosen religion, as you say. Who am I seeking but the One?

You said, "simply being content with the commonality of several ways of life might make me seem pleasing to more people, but if i believe in god, then pleasing people should not be my objective."

Are you saying I would be more pleasing to God if I became Christian, or Muslim? Something, anything? I would be pleasing to Christians if I became one, or Muslims if I became one. I would however not be pleasing to Muslims if I became a Christian, nor vice versa.

But my lack of choice is not about people and their opinions. I am subject only to One. I apologize if this seems strange to you.

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Hi Kind110:

Yes, these are the divergent doctrines. There is a point though where all is well, that's the point I'm pointing at :angel:

That is why I have said before that Mohammed was the first Universal Man, and the wisdom he related and the culture he created are the actual ground work for humanism - the human being taking care of its own. Giving "unto God what is God's", and yet setting example for a social order unprecidented in the day it was introduced.

I delibrately did not add, "...and unto Caeser what is Ceasar's", because Islam is not a passive social reality.

In these days of speed and interaction among individuals there is an evolution of humanism being forced upon us - baqar said it well in his post - and can you see that the major consideration here is standing at common ground, and then enforcing human rights? I believe there are organizations on the planet fostering this very thought process. It is a true evolution, and needed or we will become extinct at our own hands.

Do you believe it is a crime for a man of one religion to say HIS God is superior to another's? Given the similarities among the faiths, and the psychology of the point of divergence, I believe in my own heart it is a crime in the eyes of God. And you know, please forgive me if this makes offense, but I think this was what Mohammed (saws) meant, and the heart of what makes him a prophet.

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I respect everyone's input in this sensitive topic. I respect the right of people to follow a religion, worship the One and the Only but I also respect those of other faiths. I also believe we should not bug anyone on account of their faith or pre-disposition of any sort, however, deviant they might appear.

I strongly believe in the Truth of my own faith and I certainly do not subscribe to everyone's faith but I surely respect everyone's beliefs. I also believe Islam's greatest focus, after belief in the One and the Only, is on humanity. That is what many people miss out on.

We Muslims believe there is only one God, the Master, the Creator, and He will judge us as He deems fit. It will be irresponsible to pre-empt His judgment, however correct our pre-emption might be. In fact, if we did so, we would be crossing our limits, because almost everyone of us, be they Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew or even aetheist, will stand in need of His clemency, however good we might think we are.

Islam teaches us that there is only one God. He is the same God as the God of the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the aetheists and everybody else, even though some televangelists think we have a different god.

So, my friends, let us take care of ourselves.

We have a difficult bridge (the Sirat) to cross and we need to prepare ourselves.

So, as I said before, let us leave the rest to God, the Merciful and the Beneficient. Let us pray for our fellow-men (and women) and let us discuss politely with them, but let us not bug anyone for their beliefs.

Thanks

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You said, "being content with just the commonality without seeking completeness is akin to being content with knowledge without applying it."

I think finding the commonality is an important step. But I understand what you are saying, in that the following of a religion is sweet satisfaction in the lives of many. Would it not be true, then, in understanding the commonality among the faiths, that were I a Christian in ways of worship knowing this I would respect your ways of worship as a Muslim, believing the same God has heard us both?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

the respect is there for the object of worship, not necessarily the method. as in there is respect for followers of differrent religions because they worship the same god, but it is not necessary that the specific approach used to worship god also deserves respect. often people of other faiths criticize muslims for prostrating to a stone room, and in a sense this objection is also valid, since if we believe in the omni-presence of god, why should we degrade our god by ascribing him to be resident of that stone room? the truth about the ka'bah is irrelevant here, but the point i'm trying to make is that if the methods of worshipping the same god are different, then there might be flaws in one method (flaws that actually ascribe insult to this common god), that might not exist in the other. thus, even though one will always respect others for the object of worship (if they worship the same god), it is not necessary that they respect the method of worship.

Each religion departs from the common ground at this point. The Christian leads life one way, the Muslim another, very different, because of their religion.

May I ask you a question? Always, no matter where I am or even alone, before I partake of a meal I bow my head and give thanks. If I say (in truth) that I have no chosen religion, do you acknowledge that I am giving thanks to OUR God?

if your thanks are for the provider of nourishment, then indeed you are giving thanks to OUR god.

When I do a wrong by deed or thought, my repentence is real and I ask for forgiveness and aide and guidance. Yet I have no chosen religion, as you say. Who am I seeking but the One?

now may i ask you a question? if you believe that god has created in us the desire to seek him, to seek the One, then do you not think he will make a way for us to reach him? and if he makes a way for us to reach him do you not think he will inform us of how to get to this way and follow it? do you not think god will make guides to guide us to him? now what else is the "way to him" but religion? and who else is the "guide" to him but a prophet?

You said, "simply being content with the commonality of several ways of life might make me seem pleasing to more people, but if i believe in god, then pleasing people should not be my objective."

Are you saying I would be more pleasing to God if I became Christian, or Muslim?

i meant that if god did make religion, then would it not be more pleasing to god if we followed it?

Something, anything? I would be pleasing to Christians if I became one, or Muslims if I became one. I would however not be pleasing to Muslims if I became a Christian, nor vice versa.

however, our aim should be to adopt a religion to please god, not his people. thus the pleasure or displeasure of muslims, christians, jews is irrelevant as long as there is pleasure of god.

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however, our aim should be to adopt a religion to please god, not his people. thus the pleasure or displeasure of muslims, christians, jews is irrelevant as long as there is pleasure of god.

You are missing the point, there is a also self satisfaction with your religion too.

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You are missing the point, there is a also self satisfaction with your religion too.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

pocahonky had implied that selection of any one religion would be displeasing to the followers of all others. i said that the pleasure or displeasure of people shouldn't be a concern when selecting religion. whether there is self-satisfaction in this selection or not is irrelevant since the validity of a religion does not depend on this.

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Hi Pocahonky, thank you for starting this important topic (& including Judaism in the mention.) I have a longish response. I'd like to start with the specific and then proceed to the universal -- I think it works better that way. I've divided it into sections so nobody gets lost. You can skip to the end if you want.

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1. The Essence of Judaism

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Judaism is filled with insanely detailed regulations (how many cubits should a man walk with his head uncovered? how long after a meat meal can someone drink milk? what types of blemishes render a sacrifice of a calf, as opposed to a lamb, impure -- if there are ever going to be sacrifices again?). The 19th-century Hebrew writer Ahad Ha-Am noted, however, that there were two tendencies in Judaism: priest and prophet. The priest mediates with the average person on a daily basis, and writes laws that the average person can follow. The prophet speaks of uncompromising righteousness. As the rabbis of the Talmud noted, the prophet Micah reduced all of Judaism to three things. Micah envisioned someone asking where he should pray -- should he sacrifice burnt offerings? year-old calves? Does God want "thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil?" Micah says:

"What does God demand of you? Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Later, two different rabbis in the Talmud summarized the Torah into a single principle. Their formulations are different -- one is about action, the other intent --but pretty compatible.

Rabbi Akiva said: "Love your neighbor as yourself -- this is the main thing in the Torah." (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). And Rabbi Hillel more famously said that all Torah can be reduced to "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. The rest is commentary. Now go and study." (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a). Note he didn't say "Keep the 613 commandments of the Torah; now go and do them." In fact, he went further. After enunciating his ethical principle, he concluded, "The rest is commentary." In other words, the rest of Judaism is essentially a commentary on how to lead an ethical life.

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2. Wisdom, Righteousness, and the Nations

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The Talmud says two things that I think are relevant:

1. "The righteous among the nations [i.e., non-Jews] have a share in the world to come." (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2)

2. "If a person tells you there is wisdom among the nations of the world, believe him. If a person tells you there is Torah among the nations of the world, do not believe him." (Eicha Rabba 2)

What does this mean? The Chief Rabbi of Britain says this:

"Judaism has an unusual dual structure. On the one hand, there is the covenant with Noah, and through him, with all humanity. On the other, there is the covenant of Sinai, specific to the Jewish people. This means that though Judaism is a particularist faith, we also believe that all human beings have access to G-d, and - if they are righteous - a share in the world to come.

Corresponding to this, Judaism has a dual epistemology (theory of knowledge). There is hokhmah, wisdom, which is the universal heritage of mankind. It flows from the definition of humanity as the image and likeness of G-d. Rashi translates 'in our likeness' as meaning, 'with the capacity to understand and discern'. On the other hand, there is Torah, the covenant binding Israel to the sovereignty of G-d. There is nothing universal about this. Torah flows from the highly specific historical experience of the patriarchs and their descendants. It sets forth a unique code of sanctity, by which the people were to govern their lives. About this, the Psalm says, 'He has revealed his word to Jacob, His laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation . . .' (Ps. 147: 19-20)."

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3. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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Judaism thus blends the universal and the particular. The universal aspect is that wisdom and righteousness are found throughout the world, and that the righteous of all religions have a share in the world to come. The ideals of justice, mercy, peace, love, etc. are universal. But ideals need specifics in order to be implemented on the ground. Torah (i.e. Judaism) provides the specific way that the Jewish people should attempt to reach these ideals. In other words, as Micah said, what God wants is that you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. And Torah is a manual for doing all that -- a manual written for a Jewish audience. It is the best way for Jews to do so. (Some would say it is the best, period.) But other ways of doing so -- whether found in the Quran, the New Testament, or for that matter the Bhagavad Gita or the sayings of Buddha or Confucius -- are also fine. In the Jewish view, it's the righteous among the nations who have a share in the world to come -- not those with the "best" beliefs, or those most similar to Judaism, but the righteous. Justice is what matters. Any religion is "good enough" if it leads to righteousness.

I understand Islam to have an analogous view: that the Islam is the best way to live, but Judaism & Christianity are "good enough." Am I right about that? I did read the section on "The Teachings of Islam" in http://al-islam.org/begin/intro/takim.html, and it's all entirely consistent with Judaism.

I am not entirely sure about Christianity. Many Christians (e.g. the Unitarians) take an ecumenical view. Even the Pope has been reaching out lately. Some Christians, however, believe that only those who have been baptized and/or profess faith in salvation by Jesus are good, and everyone else is a sinner. This is hard to reconcile with the common ground of which you speak. It is these Christians who are most involved in missionary work, I would guess. (Why try to convert someone to your religion if you believe that theirs is "good enough"?)

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4. Where to Go From Here

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Many of the points that divide us are shockingly small. I mean, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and probably most other religions or quasi-religious systems (like Buddhism) instruct us in charity to the poor, justice for the oppressed, humility, fairness, equality, etc. Frankly, if everyone followed those tenets of their religions, we'd all be a lot better off. Because the true threat to all religions is (and always has been) materialism, arrogance, breakdown of community & family, and senseless hatred.

I found an interesting little snippet at a fairly random web site (http://chinese-school.netfirms.com/Judaism-Christianity-Islam.html). Maybe the Chinese, by being outside the Judaism-Christianity-Islam triangle, have a fresh perspective on what unites vs. divides us. I quote it in full and then leave a brief conclusion:

--

There are a few common roots and many common elements to that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--the so-called Abrahamic religious heritage. Here are a few major ones that these religions share similarities:

Belief about God.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions, namely they believe that there is only one God. Jews and Muslims greatly stress the oneness and unity of God. The affirmation of the oneness of God by Christians is sometimes misunderstood, because Christians believe that the one God is triune (the Holy Trinity). However, this is not a denial of monotheism but an affirmation of the complexity of the Divine Being.

All three religions believe that this God is the origin and source of all that exists. God cares about the entire creation and desires the well-being of all. God is just and has provided basic rules for our guidance so that we may be good and righteous, according to God’s intention. God is also merciful; by means of God’s grace we are given strength to be more like what we ought to be.

Children of Abraham: Understanding human beings

The three religions believe that human beings are the highest creatures here on earth. We are the children of Abraham. God created us full of mystery, which means potential for continuous growth, both as a species and as individuals. We are capable of both good and evil. When we grow in goodness, righteousness, and love we become more like what God intended human goodness to be. When we abuse our freedom and do harm to other people, ourselves, and the environment it means that we are going against God’s plans as we become evil-doers. Each person is capable, with God’s help, to turn away from evil, repent, and do good. We owe God our devotion, glorification, and obedience.

The Future

No matter how difficult the past and present may be, the three religions are hopeful about the future. Evil and suffering cannot ultimately prevail. God has provided a condition (or state of being) for which our three religions have different names, but we agree on the term Paradise. This future will bring about God’s unchallenged rule; unconditional bliss for all who live with God.

Divine–Human Encounter

The three Abrahamic religions believe that God and human beings can and should communicate with each other. By revelation God communicates to people, among which the most important are revelation through prophets. These revelations are recorded in the Holy Scriptures of each religion. While the Holy Scriptures of the three religions are not the very same, nevertheless the younger two religions acknowledge God’s truth as found in the previous religions, and encourage respect to the Holy Books. While each of the three religions does not merely focus on one set of writings, the key Scripture of Judaism is the Torah, the key Scripture of Christianity is the Bible, which consists of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament, and the key Scripture of Islam is the Qur'an.

The duty of people is to read or listen to God’s Holy Writings and to respond with prayer, praise, and with an appropriate acceptance of God’s commandments in our life-style.

God’s Guidance

God did not leave us without guidelines for behavior. God provided us with sound basic rules to live by as well as a rational mind to learn how and when to apply those rules to our everyday life. All three religions, for example, abhor murder, the arbitrary killing of innocent people. Likewise, God wants us to be telling the truth and not to take from others what rightfully belongs to them. We are to respect the dignity of every person and help especially those who are not capable of helping themselves, such as widows, orphans, and the poor. All three religions believe in Golden Rule: doing to others what we wish others do unto us. All three religions foster modesty, moderation, and honest work. We are to submit ourselves to the will of God.

All three religions closely link religion and morality. Religion is to be manifested by showing concern for the well-being and dignity of others, in a life of service to others, and in personal and social ethical behavior.

What Difference Does It Make?

As monotheistic religions, sharing common ancestors, belief in divinely given written scriptures, and common rituals and practices, such as regular prayer and charity; valuing pilgrimage and sharing many common holy places; promising that behavior will receive its proper rewards and punishments in the future, on earth and in an afterlife; balancing and integrating strands of mysticism, legalism, and pious devotion; the three religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would appear to be naturally suited to co-existence and even to mutual reinforcement. And indeed at times, notably in Spain, during much, but not all, of the period from about 750 to about 1250, the three faiths coexisted and gladly learned from one another. But such warm, reciprocally beneficial coexistence has been the exception rather than the rule.

Perhaps two factors can explain the hostility that has often characterized the relationships among these religions. First all three have been proselytizing religions--although Judaism abandoned this practice early in the Christian era-- and their very closeness has made them bitterly competitive. Each has had some feeling that it has come the closest to the essential truths of God and the world, and that the others have somehow failed to recognize this. Both Christianity and Islam, for example, accuse Judaism of stubbornly refusing to accept later revelations that modify and update its original truths. Both Judaism and Islam accuse Christianity of a kind of idolatry in claiming that God begat a son who as actually a form of God and who walked the earth in human form. Both Judaism and Christianity argue that God did not give a special, final revelation to Muhammad. In each case these religions have looked at one another and said that, despite elements of deep commonality, there exist also fundamental heresies. Indeed within each of these religions, at various times, splits have turned one group against another amidst cries of heresy and calls to armed opposition. Truth was to be maintained, asserted, and defended through the force of arms. (Religions with less insistence on doctrinal correctness, such as Hinduism, and Buddhism, have had less, and less bitter, religious warfare.)

Second, as each religion developed, it sought the support of government. It often sought to be the government. Truth was to be reinforced by power. Basic competition over spiritual and philosophical truths spilled over into competition also for tax monies, office, land, and public acceptance of specific ritual and architectural symbols, and suppression of opposition. When they could, these religions marched through the world armed. The idea that the state and religion should be separated appeared as early as Augustine; but until recently, in the lands where these three religions predominated, the state and religion were usually intimately bound up with one another, and in many places, the religion of the leader of the state was excepted to be accepted as the religion of his subjects, or at least to be given preferred treatment over others.

--

Don't the differences seem small when viewed this way?

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5. Conclusion

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I've said quite a bit. My own belief has always been that if you think you should give charity to the poor because God commands it in the Torah as the mitzvah of tzedakah, then do it for that reason; if you think you should give charity to the poor because it is the commandment of sadiq or khums, then do it for that reason; if you think you should give charity to the poor because Jesus said to do so, then do it for that reason. When we are all taking care of our poor and no child goes to bed hungry, then we can debate who was the last prophet. Until then, we have important business of a more practical nature.

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Hey Ron:

I was hoping for some input from you in this thread. This is a very fine post, as usual eloquent and insightful. Thank you! I especially liked the Chinese quote, what an eye opener.

You said, "Don't the differences seem small when viewed this way?"

Until there is a real alien invasion we will probably remain idealists.

Hi fyst:

"the pleasure or displeasure of people shouldn't be a concern when selecting religion."

I did not mean to imply at all that I refrained from selecting a particular religion because of fear of offending others. Please understand that.

You said, "if the methods of worshipping the same god are different, then there might be flaws in one method (flaws that actually ascribe insult to this common god), that might not exist in the other."

This may be true or not. Worship, meaning adoration and thanks, the actual welling up of awe, the true love and devotion, is a part of being alive, of every task. Yes there is organized ritual. But which is God's purpose for us, the ritual or the intent? In deciding not to respect the method or rituals of another who addresses the same God, a person is claiming monopoly on God. Who may claim monopoly on the Power that propels comets or puts whiskers on the faces of kittens?

"do you not think god will make guides to guide us to him?"

Evidently this has occured.

"now what else is the "way to him" but religion?"

As each of the mentioned faiths have become rooted far beyond the point of divergence, I would guess this to be to turn around and go back to common ground.

"and who else is the "guide" to him but a prophet?"

But all the prophets speak from the common ground.

"i meant that if god did make religion, then would it not be more pleasing to god if we followed it?"

If he has given you one, by all means! Yet with this in mind, "differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the Lord" Prov. 20:10.

"our aim should be to adopt a religion to please god, not his people. thus the pleasure or displeasure of muslims, christians, jews is irrelevant as long as there is pleasure of god."

Yes! And now we are back to common ground, where all weights and measures are the same.

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You said, "if the methods of worshipping the same god are different, then there might be flaws in one method (flaws that actually ascribe insult to this common god), that might not exist in the other."

This may be true or not. Worship, meaning adoration and thanks, the actual welling up of awe, the true love and devotion, is a part of being alive, of every task. Yes there is organized ritual. But which is God's purpose for us, the ritual or the intent?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

the intent is the foundation, but the ritual is the extension. obviously all rituals will be worthless if not founded upon true intention, but is intention alone sufficient? true submission to the will of god is when not only do the heart and mind submit, but everything under their control as well. complete submission will include the submission of the limbs as well, and this submission is expressed through the rituals of worship.

In deciding not to respect the method or rituals of another who addresses the same God, a person is claiming monopoly on God. Who may claim monopoly on the Power that propels comets or puts whiskers on the faces of kittens?

but what if god himself prefers one form of worship to another? what if god prefers the form of worship that he has recommended to humans over forms of worship that humans have recommended to other humans? if one believes in the existence of religion, one is forced to conclude that there is a preferred form of worship, and this is the form that has been preferred by god. and it would be injustice towards god to give equal respect to the form of worship preferred by god and the form of worship preferred by other than god.

"now what else is the "way to him" but religion?"

As each of the mentioned faiths have become rooted far beyond the point of divergence, I would guess this to be to turn around and go back to common ground.

but the common ground is the state of incompletion. it is none of the three religions. so the common ground would only be valid if all three religions are wrong in their extensions (i.e. the region beyond the common ground). and even if all three are, then how is incompletion any better than being wrong? however, i believe that if god wants us to reach him, he will make a way for us. and this way cannot be incomplete or wrong, because, obviously then, it cannot reach him. thus, as a result of my belief that god does wish to guide us to him, i must believe in the completion and perfection of a religion. all that matters now is finding it.

"and who else is the "guide" to him but a prophet?"

But all the prophets speak from the common ground.

not all they said was common. there were differences too, not in principle, but in practice. and if the practice is worthless, then they would never have advocated it in the first place.

"i meant that if god did make religion, then would it not be more pleasing to god if we followed it?"

If he has given you one, by all means! Yet with this in mind, "differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the Lord" Prov. 20:10.

ummm . . . ok, i'm a muslim actually, so i'm not really sure about the meaning and context of the verse you have quoted, although it seems to be part of the history of prophet shu-ayb (as) (don't know his name in english) and how his people used to deceive others in trading.

"our aim should be to adopt a religion to please god, not his people. thus the pleasure or displeasure of muslims, christians, jews is irrelevant as long as there is pleasure of god."

Yes! And now we are back to common ground, where all weights and measures are the same.

i don't see how this brings us back to common ground. the pleasure of god could very well lie in one of these three religions, in which case the common ground is not sufficient for one who wishes to follow his god completely.

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Hi again fyst! And thanks for writing back.

These are some deep and thought provoking responses, and I thank you for taking the time to share them.

You said, "the intent is the foundation, but the ritual is the extension..."

This is a good definition, and I accept it as you are expressing it here, particularly in use of the word submission, as this is what Islam means.

You said, "...what if god himself prefers one form of worship to another? what if god prefers the form of worship that he has recommended to humans over forms of worship that humans have recommended to other humans?"

You are speaking of the extension of intent, expressed through ritual.

Well, it is possible that God would prefer one over another, but is this because God is persnickity, or because it is good for that particular culture of humans? I mean, would He not be able to prefer one type from one kind of people, and another from another kind of people?

I am asking this because I recently read an author making study of Arabic culture at the time of Mohammed's revelations. The people were actually wildly untamed, they pretty much did what was right in their own eyes according to tribal traditions and familial loyalties. Raiding was a national sport. They were pretty dreadful to outsiders, a fright I mean, unpredictable and difficult to fathom. They were also, though related to Abraham, left out in that they had no revelation of their own.

This author made the observation that for the Arab - who bowed to nothing - to bow now as a believer before Allah created a major transition in the culture and minds of the people. It also made of them - a wild unruly people - a cohesive people in this shared submission.

You said, " if one believes in the existence of religion, one is forced to conclude that there is a preferred form of worship, and this is the form that has been preferred by god. and it would be injustice towards god to give equal respect to the form of worship preferred by god and the form of worship preferred by other than god."

This presumes there is a preferred form of worship - extention of intent called ritual.

The Indian (Native American) beats the drum, beats his feet against the earth, and chants prayers and thanks to the Great Spirit en masse - the people, men on one side and women on the other, move together in this worship as a community. They paint their bodies in earth, bedeck themselves in feathers and leather (yes I am talking about 21st century people!) and begin at sun up and go until sundown in utter devotion. It is to them the sacred dance to God, The Great Spirit. Who knows how long they have been doing this? For them this is the manner the Great Spirit perscribes them to worship. It is something that wells up from the inside of them. It has not occured to them once they do God an injustice.

I realize I just threw in there an example not included in the three mentioned faiths. But understand this religion is loved as much as any of the three. Please read the below transcript, an actual dialog between a missionary and the Indians:

http://www.geocities.com/jrstrader2000/onereligion.htm

You said, "but the common ground is the state of incompletion. it is none of the three religions. so the common ground would only be valid if all three religions are wrong in their extensions (i.e. the region beyond the common ground)."

I agree with you about the incompletion. But I do not see how divergence makes completion, either. Unless one were to look at the whole and say yes, this kaleidoscopic human expression of intent toward seeking God and pleasing him by extension through ritual - rituals as richly multitudinous as the stars in the night sky - also, as does nature, express the unfathomable beauty of the Infinite God.

"...however, i believe that if god wants us to reach him, he will make a way for us. and this way cannot be incomplete or wrong, because, obviously then, it cannot reach him. thus, as a result of my belief that god does wish to guide us to him, i must believe in the completion and perfection of a religion. all that matters now is finding it."

Yes. That's the clincher. It's the concept I am trying to grasp. That God would make one religion, one set of rituals, for all of mankind. And I keep coming back to the common ground they all share because there are so many ways human beings in effect say the same thing to God.

You said, "ummm . . . ok, i'm a muslim actually, so i'm not really sure about the meaning and context of the verse you have quoted..."

To me it means applying one set of rules to this one, and another to that one. You said that if God created a religion would it not be more pleasing to him to follow it, and I agreed. I agreed because of the common ground, and the practice of one's religion gives satisfaction, or completion, simply being on the common ground does not supply. What I meant by the verse was to remember the common ground, and not tip the measure this way or that.

You said, "i don't see how this brings us back to common ground. the pleasure of god could very well lie in one of these three religions, in which case the common ground is not sufficient for one who wishes to follow his god completely."

I misunderstood you. By "pleasure of god" I thought you meant pleasure IN Him, the interior man pleased/satisfied with his form of worship, and we were back at common ground because the forms of worship are divergence, but ground that there is only one God remains constant. Now I see you meant God being pleased with us exteriorly, through a "right" choice of extension or expression.

I would have to admit again that there may be a single right way that is pleasing, but at this point I am thinking it is a lot simpler than presently exhibited on the planet among the religions, particulary those of any who are adamant that theirs is the absolute and only truth, and the others utterly false.

I thank you, in your other post, for saying that when I give thanks it is to OUR God. I am also thanking Him right now to be able to have these dialogs with others so far from me, who may give me input I would not recieve from any in person in my own world, and with whom to share this common human dilemma.

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You said, "...what if god himself prefers one form of worship to another? what if god prefers the form of worship that he has recommended to humans over forms of worship that humans have recommended to other humans?"

You are speaking of the extension of intent, expressed through ritual.

Well, it is possible that God would prefer one over another, but is this because God is persnickity, or because it is good for that particular culture of humans? I mean, would He not be able to prefer one type from one kind of people, and another from another kind of people?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

i believe that the basis for the preference of one form of worship to another is because of the greater benefit lying in that specific form (i.e. greater benefit for all humanity, not just one specific culture). in islam the purpose of our lives is to know Allah, and ofcourse there will be several ways to achieve this purpose, but if there is a way preferred by god, then clearly this way is the best.

choosing our own way of worship despite the existence of a preferred way is like a student who chooses to study a profoundly vast subject on his own without seeking assistance from masters of that field. it is improbable that such a course of study is the most effective. just like only the masters in any field will be capable of instructing students about the best approach of gaining knowledge in that field, only the creator of the universe is capable of instructing humanity about the best approach of knowing him.

I am asking this because I recently read an author making study of Arabic culture at the time of Mohammed's revelations. The people were actually wildly untamed, they pretty much did what was right in their own eyes according to tribal traditions and familial loyalties. Raiding was a national sport. They were pretty dreadful to outsiders, a fright I mean, unpredictable and difficult to fathom. They were also, though related to Abraham, left out in that they had no revelation of their own.

This author made the observation that for the Arab - who bowed to nothing - to bow now as a believer before Allah created a major transition in the culture and minds of the people. It also made of them - a wild unruly people - a cohesive people in this shared submission.

yes, the arabs were very proud and submission must have been strange for them, but prophet muhammed (pbuh) did not simply bring rules for submission. he brought rules for every aspect of life, aspects which had nothing to do with arab culture. for example, we have a preferred way of cutting our nails, preferred way of showering, preferred side of sleeping on. if the purpose of the rituals was simply to overcome the boundaries of prevaling arabic culture, then the obligation of belief in the unity of god, of praying, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage were sufficient. there was no need to delve into the minutest details of their daily lives and instruct about the best methods there too, since culture has no bearing on these aspects. however, the fact that these minute instruction were provided proves that the purpose of the rituals was not simply to crush the prevaling culture, but instead to provide a complete way of living.

You said, " if one believes in the existence of religion, one is forced to conclude that there is a preferred form of worship, and this is the form that has been preferred by god. and it would be injustice towards god to give equal respect to the form of worship preferred by god and the form of worship preferred by other than god."

This presumes there is a preferred form of worship - extention of intent called ritual.

The Indian (Native American) beats the drum, beats his feet against the earth, and chants prayers and thanks to the Great Spirit en masse - the people, men on one side and women on the other, move together in this worship as a community. They paint their bodies in earth, bedeck themselves in feathers and leather (yes I am talking about 21st century people!) and begin at sun up and go until sundown in utter devotion. It is to them the sacred dance to God, The Great Spirit. Who knows how long they have been doing this? For them this is the manner the Great Spirit perscribes them to worship. It is something that wells up from the inside of them. It has not occured to them once they do God an injustice.

I realize I just threw in there an example not included in the three mentioned faiths. But understand this religion is loved as much as any of the three. Please read the below transcript, an actual dialog between a missionary and the Indians:

http://www.geocities.com/jrstrader2000/onereligion.htm

yes, this dialogue is very interesting. the missionary was trying to make the natives accept his religion without giving any reasons for why it is the preferred form of worship. he simply had faith that it was preferred, that all other forms were "works of the devil". only those who understand the depths of their religion should preach it.

but then in the chief's understanding of religion binds it to his culture. he himself doesn't understand the purpose of his actions, but attributes them to his fathers saying "We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship in that way." he calims that he follows the way of his fathers, but this is simply culture, not religion. and culture and religion are far away from each other. if people still followed culture like they did religion, then slavery would still be in practice. thus ascribing different religions to different cultures is the same as ascribing different values to different races, and this is tantamount to racism, something that we do not expect from the god of all creatures.

You said, "but the common ground is the state of incompletion. it is none of the three religions. so the common ground would only be valid if all three religions are wrong in their extensions (i.e. the region beyond the common ground)."

I agree with you about the incompletion. But I do not see how divergence makes completion, either. Unless one were to look at the whole and say yes, this kaleidoscopic human expression of intent toward seeking God and pleasing him by extension through ritual - rituals as richly multitudinous as the stars in the night sky - also, as does nature, express the unfathomable beauty of the Infinite God.

however, it is not necessary to look at the whole before decding upon the right expression of intent. the choice of the right rituals should be made by contemplation of the principles underlying each religion, and these principles will not be the same. i understand that there is a lot of common ground between many religions, but even in religions which seem to be extremely similar, you will always find the discrepancies in the principles, and it is these discrepancies that lead to the differing extensions. infact you will find these discrepancies in principles even in the differring sects of that same religion, and because of them will you even be able to discern between all the mutitudinous sects of these mutitudinous religions.

"...however, i believe that if god wants us to reach him, he will make a way for us. and this way cannot be incomplete or wrong, because, obviously then, it cannot reach him. thus, as a result of my belief that god does wish to guide us to him, i must believe in the completion and perfection of a religion. all that matters now is finding it."

Yes. That's the clincher. It's the concept I am trying to grasp. That God would make one religion, one set of rituals, for all of mankind. And I keep coming back to the common ground they all share because there are so many ways human beings in effect say the same thing to God.

making multiple ways to the same destination, ways which are no different from each other in clarity or ease, would simply mount to confusion for those who are trying to choose. for, obviously, you cannot follow the rituals of two differing religions at the same time. thus a single set of rituals must be preferred over the rest inorder for mankind to ever be united as a single race.

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I think the Pocahonky-Fyst exchange can be analyzed as follows. One might believe any of the following:

1. There are many ways up the same mountain, and as long as they're headed for the summit, they are all (or at least, in theory all can be) equally valid.

OR

2. There is one best way up the mountain, but there are also other ways that, while less preferable, can get you there. These other ways are acceptable, just not as good as the one best way.

OR

3. There might be one best way up, but no one can say completely for certain which way that is, and so we should treat other ways up respectfully because, who knows, they might be just as good as they way we're going.

choosing our own way of worship despite the existence of a preferred way is like a student who chooses to study a profoundly vast subject on his own without seeking assistance from masters of that field.

Ah, but what if there are many different masters? I could study nuclear physics at any of several different universities and learn it from several different professors, each of whom might emphasize a different aspect & teach it a different way.

making multiple ways to the same destination, ways which are no different from each other in clarity or ease, would simply mount to confusion for those who are trying to choose. for, obviously, you cannot follow the rituals of two differing religions at the same time. thus a single set of rituals must be preferred over the rest inorder for mankind to ever be united as a single race.

Maybe mankind is not meant to be united as a single race. Judaism teaches, in fact, quite the opposite -- that the Jewish people should always preserve a distinc identity. In fact, the Torah teaches that mankind isn't even meant to speak a single language.

To be honest, the way most people "choose" their way "up the mountain" is simply how they were raised. I'm pretty sure that if I had been born in rural Bangladesh, I'd be a Muslim. A much less common reason to change religions is to marry someone of a different religion. Forceful conversion was once common but not so much anymore. And occasionally you find people looking for something very specific and finding it in another religion (e.g., a lot of Americans wanting some kind of meditative practice gravitate to Buddhism). My guess is that the total number of people who choose a religion based on a completely open & honest blank-slate search process is pretty small.

I think language is a pretty good analogy. I didn't choose English as my native language after a careful comparison of the world's languages. I was just raised that way. And even if you could convince me that French is more romantic, or that Berber is more honest, or that Cherokee is more concise, or whatever, I'll always feel more comfortable in English because it's my "home." I think religion works that way. As a Jew, most of Judaism seems logical & sensible to me, and even the parts that don't seem sensible at least seem familiar. Other religions seem like exotic languages.

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Ah, but what if there are many different masters?  I could study nuclear physics at any of several different universities and learn it from several different professors, each of whom might emphasize a different aspect & teach it a different way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

in that case it is clearly preferable to seek the best master. and if one cannot decide (being ignorant himself) who the best is, then any master should do until one reaches the point of understanding where one can judge between the several masters and determine the best.

however, my point was that studying under the guidance of those more knowledgeable is always more efficient than trying to study in one's own way without any guidance at all.

Maybe mankind is not meant to be united as a single race.  Judaism teaches, in fact, quite the opposite -- that the Jewish people should always preserve a distinc identity.  In fact, the Torah teaches that mankind isn't even meant to speak a single language.

yes, see here is a very fundemental difference between judaism and islam. in islam, i believe the goal is to combine humanity into a single race, under the leadership of a single master. and when the differences are that fundemental then it's pointless to assume that all paths lead to the same goal with the same ease. as a result being content with the common ground of several religions is futile, since even the principles of these differring religions do not match.

To be honest, the way most people "choose" their way "up the mountain" is simply how they were raised.  I'm pretty sure that if I had been born in rural Bangladesh, I'd be a Muslim.  A much less common reason to change religions is to marry someone of a different religion.  Forceful conversion was once common but not so much anymore.  And occasionally you find people looking for something very specific and finding it in another religion (e.g., a lot of Americans wanting some kind of meditative practice gravitate to Buddhism).  My guess is that the total number of people who choose a religion based on a completely open & honest blank-slate search process is pretty small.

yes, it's true that culture plays the most important role in choosing a religion for us, but it is not necessarily the only factor. as you've said, there is a minority that choose religion after understanding the necessity of its existence and the properties it must possess.

anyway, if people wish to follow their religion like they follow their culture, that's their choice. because we know that god exist, we also know that religion must exist. and if religion exists then there are things that are right, and those that are wrong. and thus if we are required to follow religion, we must also possess the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. and if we have been given this ability by god, then we must also be capable of exercising this ablity in regards to religion itself, that is, be able to differentiate between right and wrong religions. and just because the majority of people do not choose to do so does not imply this ability does not exist.

I think language is a pretty good analogy.  I didn't choose English as my native language after a careful comparison of the world's languages.  I was just raised that way.  And even if you could convince me that French is more romantic, or that Berber is more honest, or that Cherokee is more concise, or whatever, I'll always feel more comfortable in English because it's my "home."  I think religion works that way.  As a Jew, most of Judaism seems logical & sensible to me, and even the parts that don't seem sensible at least seem familiar.  Other religions seem like exotic languages.

however, all languages are the effects of human creativity. so preference of one over the other is simply the preference of one human race over the other. when it comes to religion, it is not that simple. assuming that god has preferred one religion over all others (as i believe all religions imply for themselves), then preferring one religion over another might be preferring what god has not preferred over what god has. and considering that obedience to god is quite important for the followers of any religion, then this is no longer a trivial choice. it becomes necessary for us to seek the right path if we accept the existence of god and religion.

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Hi fyst:

You said, "assuming that god has preferred one religion over all others (as i believe all religions imply for themselves), then preferring one religion over another might be preferring what god has not preferred over what god has."

...which would be the common ground.

Again, you are back at common ground!

Unless of course you prefer one religion over another - in which case you are past that point, having diverged, and may be preferring what God has not.

"...considering that obedience to god is quite important for the followers of any religion, then this is no longer a trivial choice. it becomes necessary for us to seek the right path if we accept the existence of god and religion."

Because beyond the point of common ground, there is naught but divergence.

It seems to me that the only thing God has revealed of himself to people is what is contained in commonality of all religions. People interpret it this way and that, creating paths.

And again, they all only go back to one place, what is common to all.

Satyam's cartoon becomes more and more pertinant to this conversation!

Edited by Pocahonky
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1.  There are many ways up the same mountain, and as long as they're headed for the summit, they are all (or at least, in theory all can be) equally valid.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The supporting argument for this logic is that no God would show his own creation the wrong path.

2.  There is one best way up the mountain, but there are also other ways that, while less preferable, can get you there.  These other ways are acceptable, just not as good as the one best way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The supporting argument for this position is that God would always show his own creation a clear path.

3.  There might be one best way up, but no one can say completely for certain which way that is, and so we should treat other ways up respectfully because, who knows, they might be just as good as they way we're going.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

A clear path that is not the wrong path, is ultimately as good as any other clear path that is not the wrong path.

 

Ah, but what if there are many different masters?  I could study nuclear physics at any of several different universities and learn it from several different professors, each of whom might emphasize a different aspect & teach it a different way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You have now introduced obstacle to the path to the summit. It is not God who places obstacles in our path to the summit, but our fellow man. No God but a pagan god would place an obstacle in the path of his own creation. But the obstacles are there. We know the obstacles are there for all three religions because, while all three declare their's to be the one true path, none of the three can prove it. Jews live in fear. Christians live in violence. Muslims live in oppression. Who do Jews fear? Not God - but other men (The anti-Semites who can come at any time from anywhere). Christians live in violence not because of God, but because of other men. Muslims live under oppression because of other men. It isn't that God hasn't provided us all with a clear path. It's that other men - the "masters" you describe - keep us from following it. God isn't our enemy to reaching the summit. We are.

 

Maybe mankind is not meant to be united as a single race.  Judaism teaches, in fact, quite the opposite -- that the Jewish people should always preserve a distinc identity.  In fact, the Torah teaches that mankind isn't even meant to speak a single language.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The Torah says that but did God say that? How can two men work out their differences if they cannot speak the same language? Imagine the chaos if every person on earth spoke a different language than the other. Every man would be the enemy of every man. Would the creator of all men want this? If he did, why did he give us voices with which to speak and ears with which to listen?

We all know - and we have all seen - obstacles placed before us by other men to keep us from reaching the summit.

 

To be honest, the way most people "choose" their way "up the mountain" is simply how they were raised.  I'm pretty sure that if I had been born in rural Bangladesh, I'd be a Muslim.  A much less common reason to change religions is to marry someone of a different religion.  Forceful conversion was once common but not so much anymore.  And occasionally you find people looking for something very specific and finding it in another religion (e.g., a lot of Americans wanting some kind of meditative practice gravitate to Buddhism).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The Creator can only judge his creation based on what his creation knows. If the creation is raised in Islam, the Creator can only judge him by that standard. Since the creation knows the difference between right and wrong, the creation can find the right and clear path - If he chooses. Or he can choose the wrong path - if he chooses. The problem is that the Creation cannot see himself as the Creator does - but he can see his neighbor as the Creator does. For example, let us take two creations, a farmer and a shepherd. The shepherd has 100 sheep. The farmer has none. The farmer decides that it would be nice to have some lamb to go with the onions and tomatoes for dinner and steals one of the shepherd's sheep. We all know the farmer has done wrong. He has chosen the wrong path - the selfish path. Now, again, assume the same situation only now the farmer's onions and tomatoes have died. His crop has failed and his family is starving. He steals the same lamb. Man's laws would put him in jail. The Creator though would put the shepherd in jail. The shepherd had plenty and yet refused to share with his needy neighbor. He has chosen the same wrong path - the selfish path. He should have said, "Neighbor! You look hungry! Let me have you over for dinner." After all, next year the sheep may die and the farmer may have a huge crop...or the shepherd may fall sick and have to ask the farmer to tend his flock. We must all love and look out for one another. After all, if we cannot love our own mankind, how can we expect the Creator to?

If our "masters" that Ron describes teach us to share with the poor and the needy, then we know that this teaching comes from the Creator. But if our masters teach us "Let us not clothe and feed the needy. Let us put them in jail." Then we know that this master is a man speaking and not the Creator and that this man has placed an obstacle between those that have possessions (sheep) and the path to the Creator. Those with possessions then think it is their duty to guard them against the poor and the hungry. They are as guilty of selfishness as the thief - And they don't know it. So then the Creator must send messages to those with possessions warning them they are no longer on the true path ("The meek shall inherit" or "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to Heaven.").

We receive these messages from the Creator whether we are Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Japanese. Whether we know it or not, we are all being shown the same path. It's just that different men are blocking it in different ways.

My guess is that the total number of people who choose a religion based on a completely open & honest blank-slate search process is pretty small.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That would be me - And, at last count, I number exactly one.

I think language is a pretty good analogy.  I didn't choose English as my native language after a careful comparison of the world's languages.  I was just raised that way.  And even if you could convince me that French is more romantic, or that Berber is more honest, or that Cherokee is more concise, or whatever, I'll always feel more comfortable in English because it's my "home."  I think religion works that way.  As a Jew, most of Judaism seems logical & sensible to me, and even the parts that don't seem sensible at least seem familiar.  Other religions seem like exotic languages.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Your language analogy can certainly be applied to religion. You feel comfortable in what you understand and uncomfortable in what you don't. A master of men can use that uncomfortableness to make you selfish. Let us go back to the shepherd and the farmer who are neighbors but now both speak different languages and both have different religions. The master of men desires the farm and comes to the shepherd and tells him that when the farmer speaks, he is saying lies about him and uttering curses against him, and he tells the shepherd that when the farmer is practising his religion, he is praying to his God to kill the shepherd who "disbelieves". And when the farmer gets out his hammer and anvil to make his farm tools, the master of men tells the shepherd that he is actually building a weapon with which to kill the shepherd, and then suggests that the shepherd kill the farmer first. Not only will the shepherd be safe that way, says the master of men, but the Creator will approve of killing the farmer since he is of a different religion and, therefore, a non-believer.

Did not the masters of men tell this very thing to George Bush about the farmers of Iraq? Did not virtually the entire world see America's selfish mistake before we even invaded? Yet most Americans still can't see it. We cannot see ourselves the same way the Creator does. And the proof is that we still see Iran the same way as Iraq. So the Creator has to send us messages to put us back on the clear path ("Death to Amerika").

Ultimately, there is only one clear path. It is the same for all of us. Different languages and religions are the creations of the masters of men, not the Creator. The Creator would not say, "This is how a Negro gets to Heaven and this is how an Indian gets to Heaven. Because if he said that he might just as well say, "This is how blue eyed people get to Heaven and this is how brown eyed people get to Heaven."

We are all ultimately judged first on what we know - And we all know the difference between right and wrong (And the Ten Commandments are not Right and Wrong.). So that is how we shall all be judged. Very few understand this. But the Creator does not withhold answers from the Creation. What God would do that? So seek and ye shall find. Either read or pray. Is not reading the word of God food for the soul? Are Muslims, Jews, and Christians taught their prayers will go unanswered? And the more you know, and the more you obey, the better off you are. Whereas the more you know and the less you obey, the worse off you are.

So once you start the climb to the summit, there is no stopping and there is no obstacle that cannot be removed from your way. After all, if the Creator sees you on your way up, will he not come down to meet you? Will he not pick you up and help you on your way again if you fall? Will he not be glad when you reach to top? Will he care whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Jew?

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You said, "assuming that god has preferred one religion over all others (as i believe all religions imply for themselves), then preferring one religion over another might be preferring what god has not preferred over what god has."

...which would be the common ground.

Again, you are back at common ground!

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not really. i do not see how you managed to reach this conclusion.

what i was trying to say was that if we just choose a religion for ourselves without determining whether it is right or wrong, we might end up preferring for ourselves that which has not been preferred by god. thus selecting a religion as a matter of convenience regardless of its validity is not an option for someone who believes in religion. i was not saying that choosing a religion itself is doing what god has not preferred. just that choosing the wrong one is what god has not preferred.

i have clearly stated there "assuming that god has preferred one religion over all others", which would not be a good way to start had i been trying to make an argument for common ground.

Unless of course you prefer one religion over another - in which case you are past that point, having diverged, and may be preferring what God has not.

unless one chooses to prefer the one religion that god has preferred. in which case, the preference of the person and the preference of god are the same. and the only way to be able to do this is if one uses the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and apply this to different religions and finally choose for himself that which is the best of them all.

it does not make sense to assume that god has preferred common ground. this assumes that all religions are equally valid, but if they are, then it was unnecessary for god to send more than a single prophet with a single message. if one accepts the validity of all paths, then it seems that god's purpose in making several paths must have been to confuse humans.

furthermore, if one begins to collect the common principles of several religions and complies them into a single source, what do we get then?

we get a new religion. a religion that is different from all others that currently exist.

so in the attempt to unify religion by seeking the common ground, one ends up creating a completely new religion, and thus, further dividing humanity.

"...considering that obedience to god is quite important for the followers of any religion, then this is no longer a trivial choice. it becomes necessary for us to seek the right path if we accept the existence of god and religion."

Because beyond the point of common ground, there is naught but divergence.

there is divergence from what?

from other humans, ofcourse.

but why would this be the same as divergence from the preferred way of living? if god has preferred one religion over others then divergence from all the other religions is a must, if one wishes to obey god.

It seems to me that the only thing God has revealed of himself to people is what is contained in commonality of all religions. People interpret it this way and that, creating paths.

well, you are not innocent of interpretting "this way and that" either, as you've shown us by your usage of words that i've boldened. ;)

anyway, if there is only common ground then it was pointless of god to send this message more than once, to one people. this is clearly not the case if you consider the middle-east based religions.

And again, they all only go back to one place, what is common to all.

nothing goes back there. one can choose to stay there, or one can choose to go forward. the common ground is just the starting point.

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The Torah says that but did God say that? How can two men work out their differences if they cannot speak the same language? Imagine the chaos if every person on earth spoke a different language than the other. Every man would be the enemy of every man.  Would the creator of all men want this? If he did, why did he give us voices with which to speak and ears with which to listen?

I guess an analogy would be: does God want all humans to be exactly identical? No, each human is unique, and our differences are valuable.

Isn't it better that we have multiple cultures? Which type of city do you find more "alive" -- a city like Reykjavik, Iceland, where everyone has the same ancestry and looks alike and speaks the same language ... or a city like New York or London or Los Angeles or even (at one point, and maybe again soon) Beirut, filled with the sounds and scents and appearances of different races, cultures, and languages?

Some in Jewish tradition believe that each nation was created for a specific mission. (This is a bit mystical, but follow me.) The purpose of the Romans was to bring engineering to the world. The purpose of the Greeks was to bring philosophy. The purpose of the Jews was to bring Torah and be a "light unto the nations." (Whether or not we are fulfilling that purpose at any given moment in history & specific context is another story!)

Interesting side note: Maimonides (great medieval Jewish thinker) said that Christianity & Islam had a holy purpose, even though from the Jewish perspective, they negate the Torah, and promote a different redemption and a different redeemer. (see http://www.jcrelations.net/en/?id=1020)

That purpose is to spread Torah more efficiently than the Jews could do alone!

Even though Christianity says Torah was once valid but has been replaced by Jesus, and Islam says Torah has been corrupted from the valid original and replaced by the Quran, both at least mention it, and have spread at least the concept of Torah to, in Maimonides' words, "far-off islands and ... closed-hearted nations." (For example, Christian Bibles begin with what they call the "Old Testament," which is a translation of the Hebrew Bible.) Apparently (here I am fleshing out what Maimonides says) the idea is that since Israel is (and always has been) "among the smallest of all the nations," Deut. 7:7, it would take too long to spread Torah to the whole world ourselves, so God appointed gentile nations (Europeans, Arabs, Persians, etc.) to help!

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I always thought Islam speaks highly of the Torah.

Read the Quran.

Maybe so. But --

1. I keep hearing on this forum how Islam says the Torah is "corrupted."

2. The idea of Muhammad as the greatest prophet is not really consistent with Deut. 34:10-12, which gives rise to a basic principle of the Jewish Faith that no other human being ever had a revelation equal to that of Moses (Maimonides, Thirteen Principles of Faith, #7).

3. I've also read on this forum that Islam rejects the notion that God chose Israel as a special people, a major theme of Torah.

4. While I've sworn off political discourse on shiachat, my earlier discussions on the "Occupied Palestine/Intifada" forum have led me to believe that Islam (or, at least, a lot of Muslims) reject the giving of the Land of Israel to the Jews, which is arguably one of the main themes of Torah.

But, to be fair, my phrasing might have misrepresented what Maimonides said. Here is the actual quote from Mishneh Torah (which I got from a web page):

"Even Jesus the Christian, who thought he was the Messiah... was the subject of a prophesy in the Book of Daniel (11, 14): '...also the renegades of your people will exalt themselves to fulfill the vision - but they will stumble.' Could there be a greater stumbling block than this [Jesus]? For all the prophets spoke of the Messiah who will redeem and save Israel, who will ingather all its exiles, and who will strengthen them in the fulfillment of the Torah's commandments - while he [Jesus] caused Israel to be killed by the sword, their remnants to be dispersed and humiliated, the Torah to be switched for something else, and most of the world to worship a G-d other than the G-d of Israel! But - the thoughts of G-d cannot be fathomed by human minds. For our ways are not like His, and our thoughts are not like His.

All these activities of Jesus the Christian, and the Ishmaelite who came after him, are all for the purpose of paving the way for the true King Messiah, and preparing the entire world to worship G-d together, as is written (Tzefaniah 3,9): 'For then I will convert the nations to a pure language, that they may all call in the name of G-d and serve Him together.'

"How will this work? For by then, the world will already be filled with the idea of Messiah, and Torah, and commandments, even in far-off islands and in closed-hearted nations, where they engage in discussions on the Torah's commandments: some say that the Torah's commandments are true but are no longer binding in these times, while others say that there are hidden, deep meanings to them, and that the Messiah has come and revealed their hidden secrets. But when the true King Messiah arrives, and will succeed and will raise them up, all the peoples will immediately realize that they had been taught lies by their forefathers, and that their ancestors and prophets had misled them."

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what i was trying to say was that if we just choose a religion for ourselves without determining whether it is right or wrong, we might end up preferring for ourselves that which has not been preferred by god.

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Most of us would choose the wrong religion. We would choose the religion that serves our most selfish desires.

unless one chooses to prefer the one religion that god has preferred. in which case, the preference of the person and the preference of god are the same. and the only way to be able to do this is if one uses the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and apply this to different religions and finally choose for himself that which is the best of them all.

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Distinguishing between right and wrong is the starting point but it is not the ending point. One would not want to accept beliefs the Creator has deemed to be wrong obviously, but, nonetheless, people do. At some point, one must try to rise to the level of the Messenger or higher. To be beneath the messenger is not to your advantage - especially if his message has been altered from its original form.

it does not make sense to assume that god has preferred common ground. this assumes that all religions are equally valid, but if they are, then it was unnecessary for god to send more than a single prophet with a single message. if one accepts the validity of all paths, then it seems that god's purpose in making several paths must have been to confuse humans.

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The creation of several paths are man made. The Creator has to deal with false prophets who argue for the wrong path. If the false prophet is not recognized as a false profit, and his teachings are accepted as genuine, then all his followers, who may be of good intentions, are doomed. The Creator must defeat this false prophet by opening new paths for those followers - In order to bring them back to the true path. For these people, the path is not a straight path but a crooked path. The Creator will not allow the false prophet to mislead his sheep without a fight.

furthermore, if one begins to collect the common principles of several religions and complies them into a single source, what do we get then?

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The common message.

we get a new religion. a religion that is different from all others that currently exist.

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No. If it shares the common principals of several religions then it should not be new at all, but very old (The Creator's message will not have changed). Included in the common principals will be principals you already accept and believe. There just won't be as many.

if god has preferred one religion over others then divergence from all the other religions is a must, if one wishes to obey god.

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And when did God state he preferred one religion over the others?

one can choose to stay there, or one can choose to go forward. the common ground is just the starting point.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

But it should be a good starting point. The Creator wouldn't give us all bad starting points, would he?

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Pocahonky

Isalm 1400 years ago recognized human rights very clearly , The Quran holds in high esteem human rights and in its own words, humankind, regardless of religious affiliation, gender, and race, color of skin or nationality. It recognizes piety (meaning emancipation and sense of responsibility to liberate man from shackles that exploit him or her) as the sole criterion for advantage. (Surely, the most noble among you in the eyes of God is the most pious among you).

Islam recognizes the right to life and immunity from torture. It considers violating these rights as being among the most cardinal sins.

The Quran reiterates that anyone who deliberately murders an innocent human being has in effect murdered all humanity.

-as a Moselms we beleif that there is on God for all humans ..we call him Allah , others have different names but after all Humans beleif in the same Creator of humankind ..

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