Variety is the spice of life.
Life would be very tedious is everyone was the same; we need variety. Unfortunately, when people differ from us, we can naturally feel superior or threatened.
Here, we look at the two largest religions in the world, and see just how they differ. (Of course, there are wild variations within each of the two religions; we are making very broad generalisations here.)
- Christians believe in the Trinity; Muslims believe God is indivisible.
- Christians believe that as a member of the Trinity, Jesus is the Son of God. Muslims believe that Jesus was conceived by an act of God and though not the Son of God, is like Muhammad, a highly respected Prophet.
- Christians believe Adam is guilty of disobeying God and that we all bear this Original Sin when we are born. We can be saved from this, and other sins, through accepting Jesus Christ's atonement. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross to atone for man's sins.
Muslims believe Adam was faultless (some refer to him as a Prophet). They believe Jesus did not die on the cross and consequently there is no atonement. Muslims believe that each person is born sin-less and must take responsibility for maintaining this state throughout life.
- Christians believe that when we die, we are immediately judged and sent to heaven or hell (or Purgatory in the Catholic faith, where Christian souls can do penance to prepare for heaven and non-Christians can languish until the final Judgment Day). Muslims believe in barzakh, an interim afterlife similar to Purgatory, where spirits wait Judgment Day.
- Many Bible stories are repeated in the Qur'an but some of the details differ. Not all of these differences can be explained by translation errors.
- Secular law and morality are separate in Christian countries and they have secular governments. Islam considers law and morality are synonymous; the law is based on their moral code and politics are governed by the religion.
- Christians have a more relaxed view about what foods may be eaten. Muslims, being conscious that God created man, consider it wrong to defile such a creation with certain food and drink. Muslims may not, for example, eat pork or drink alcohol.
- It is mandatory for Muslims to face Mecca and recite a prescribed liturgy (salat) at five specific times every day. Christians have no such obligation.
- Increasingly, the Christian Church is tolerating homosexuality. This is still largely forbidden in Islam. Christian men and women worship together; Muslims segregate. Polygamy is forbidden in the Christian Church; Muslim men may have more than one wife. Christian males and females may wear silk gold, but in Islam only females are permitted to wear silk and gold.
These differences are significant and it's easy to see a real conflict of ideas. It's also easy to see how one person's belief can cause offence. And if one person offends another then it's natural for the other to take action. That action may be to walk away or ignore the offence, or retaliate. Retaliation is only expected if the offence is strong.
So for example, if you're a non-smoker and somebody smokes in your presence, you can either:
- ignore it or move away, or
- grumble at the smoker,
- shout at him,
- hit him,
- kill him,
- kill him, his family and randomly bomb anyone else who you might associate with him.
Now let's put those numbered reactions in the context of the Christian and Islamic differences. Look at the reactions again, closely, then think: What number is appropriate? Number 1? Number 2?
Then why in Heaven's name do we, through electing our country's leaders, select the highest number?
(A: For money and power, of course.)
Are we civilized, or are we thugs? As Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) wrote through Salvor Hardin in Foundation: "Violence, the last refuge of the incompetent."
There is no doubt that religious holy texts promote violence as well as love. Early Christians were pacifist, but all that changed around the time Constantine merged religion with state governance, and with that, the use of violence, "just war", "holy war", persecution, etc. Hence the violence of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Church control of slavery, etc., right up to the more recent Holocaust.
We are now in the 21st century, and most of us have grown up to realise what Jesus meant when he commanded us to "love your neighbour".
But some of us haven't yet grown up.
If you would kill in the name of your religion, harm or even just hate somebody through following your beliefs, then sadly you aren't cut out to be religious and should quit. Take up something harmless instead, such as gardening or jogging.
Believe this: God doesn't want us to harm things He has created.