We know that there is a universe. We know that there is a
planet Earth. We know that we are living, human beings. We have
no idea where we and the universe came from, or why.
Philosophers and religious-minded people over the centuries
have tried to arrive at answers, and generally agree that “God”
created the universe and mankind, and that the purpose of life is
to live a “good” life so that one will “return” to their Creator.
With Hinduism, if one fails to achieve this “good” life, one
is reincarnated into a lower caste, or as an animal, and has to
work their way up over numerous re-incarnations until one is born
At this stage, if one lives a “good” life, one’s soul is
merged with the supreme soul of the universe, Brahma, nirvana is
achieved, and one’s cycle of reincarnation is ended.
With Buddhism, an off-shoot of Hinduism, this “nirvana” can
be achieved by extinguishing one’s lusts, desires, appetites,
Monotheism — belief that there is only one God — began in
widely scattered parts of the Middle East, and at first required
nothing of its adherents but this belief.
Abraham, of Ur of the Chaldees (Basra, Iraq), father of the
Israelites, as related in Genesis 12:1-3, was chosen by God
without any duty or requirements of good behavior on his part.
Only when Abraham was 99 years old does God say to him “Walk
before me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17:1)
Curiously, in Gen. 14:18-20, we read that Welchizedek, King
of Salem (Jerusalem?) “brought forth bread and wine: and he was a
priest of the most high God. And he blessed him (Abraham) …
and he gave him (Abraham) tithes of all.”
Following the Old Testament through the first five books, we
find God increasingly demanding of the Israelites certain
standards of behavior and modes of worship to enhance their
happiness and longevity on earth; but no mention of on after-
life, either for the good or the evil.
The closest we find to such a reference is in Psalms 16:10-
11: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell… at thy right hand
there are pleasures for evermore.” (Like Islam)
This absence continued into the time of Jesus, with
Pharisees believing in a resurrection, and Sadducees denying it;
a divided condition that exists today in modern Judaism.
As the biblical promises of the “Old Covenant” God made
with His chosen people were negated by historical events,
Israelite prophets like Isaiah began to prophesy of a “Messiah”
who would restore Israel to its former independence and glory.
Key events in Israel’s history are the division of Israel
into the northern kingdom of Samaria, and the southern kingdom of
Judah, in 922 B.C.; the captivity of the ten “lost tribes” of
Samaria by Sargon of Assyria in 722 B.C., leaving the tribes of
Judah and Benjamin to become the remnant that became Judaism.
Later in 575 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon,
conquered Judah, and took its people captive. Out of this
captivity, removed from the temple and its sacrifices, came the
Mishnt portion of the Talmud, the “oral tradition” that Jesus
The New Testament, or new “covenant” tells us about the life
and teachings of Jesus; and of the beginnings of the church.
Rooted squarely in Old Testament prophecies and teachings,
Jesus finally admitted in Luke 24:46 at the end of His ministry
that He was the Christ, the Messiah.
His concept of the Messiah was to clearly interpret the will
of His father, God, and to describe an afterlife of a spiritual,
joyous heaven for those who believed in Him, and a fiery hell for
those that did not.
He emphasized that what a person thinks, or says, is of
paramount importance; and that thinking ill of others is as bad
as acting badly towards others.
He promoted a greatly expanded concept of “loving one’s
neighbor,” teaching that people should “love their enemies,” and
“do good to those that despitefully use you.”
For all of the wisdom and breadth of His teaching, and that
of His followers, as recorded in the New Testament; and the
subsequent success and importance of the church, Jesus is not an
He is barely mentioned in the writings of the Jews of His
time, and briefly mentioned by contemporary writers, notably
Much good has been done by His followers over the centuries,
especially in the fields of education, health care, social
welfare, and the value of the individual.
But Christendom has been marred by almost continuous warfare
in its midst, by wide-spread poverty in the midst of plenty, by
injustices perpetuated on other peoples.
The evil side of human nature seems almost intractable, and
mankind is far from the ideal world envisioned by the Rabbi David
Jaffee June 14, 1994,
“At any second the world could turn good and the Messiah
“Every day the Messiah is not here, the world isn’t ready.”
Practically speaking, the actual human condition is little
different for those who believe the Messiah came 2000 years ago,
and for those who continue to wait for His coming.
One of the saddest indictments of Christianity was voiced by
Mahatma Gandhi, in talking with a group of missionaries, when he
“I would be a Christian, if it weren’t for the Christians.”
Islam is the third, and last, major monotheistic religion,
and claims to embrace the first two, although in reality it is
completely different and unique.
Allah is the name of God, and “Islam” means to submit to His
Its moral code is more similar to Judaism than Christianity,
and its concept of heaven is a very sensuous one.
Like Judaism, it completely rejects Jesus as the Messiah,
let alone Jesus as the Son of God, and considers Him just a
Mohammed is the final prophet, and his words in the Koran
and commentary are the final authority.
All three monotheist religions reflect the customs of their
times, in that men are accorded a higher position than women.
Both orthodox Judaism and Islam segregate the sexes in worship,
and only men are rabbis or imams, as is the case with Roman
None of the religions of the world adequately try to answer
the question “Why?” of creation of the universe and man, and I
have no answer.
It is contradictory to our concept of God as perfect that He
would be “bored” or “lonely.”
All three monotheist religions speak of angels, who
presumably would keep God from being either bored or lonely.
To create a universe over billions of zeons and miles, and
then create mankind, a species that knows right behavior from
wrong, but with a predilection for choosing the wrong, and then
doom untold billions to a life of hell on earth, and eternal hell
after death does not seem a reasonsable thing to do.
With this scenario, at the end all that would be
accomplished is that heaven has billions of additional occupants,
and so does hell.