1-6. What shameful record has been left by the major religions in the West?
THE major religions in the world have vast numbers of followers and many magnificent churches, cathedrals, synagogues, and temples. Despite all of this, have these religions taught the truth about God? Have they helped people to lead happier and more meaningful lives? Do their leaders practice what they preach?
2 History clearly shows that the Western religions have proved disappointing in these areas. For example, some of the most horrible conflicts and massacres in history took place in lands professing to be Christian. The Crusades, for example, were launched by the churches of Christendom from the 11th to the 13th century. The wars during this period took innocent lives by the thousands.
3 In the early 19th century, the churches openly supported many Western powers in the expansion of their empires in less-developed lands and the wanton exploitation of the resources of their colonial territories. Church and State acted in collusion. Hand in hand, they brought distress and misery to people in many lands.
4 In the two world wars of the 20th century, most of the belligerent powers on the opposing sides were Catholic or Protestant nations. Thus, with the approval of their religious leaders, Catholics killed Catholics and Protestants killed Protestants. In more recent times, the conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland resulted in heavy casualties. Leaders of these religions love to talk about peace and brotherhood, and all of them profess to serve the same God. But in view of the facts, we must ask: Do they really have a genuine love for peace? Do they truly love their neighbors as themselves?
5 Additionally, are the religious leaders and their flocks known for their adherence to high moral standards? Has not the media repeatedly exposed and reported on cases of child molestation and other corrupt practices among the clergy of Christendom? Some of the clergy openly support homosexuality and premarital and extramarital sex. Others with radical views advocate the violent overthrow of what they consider to be unjust political or social systems, some clerics even taking part in guerrilla warfare and riots.
6 As regards helping people to gain an accurate knowledge of God, all major religions of the West have failed miserably. Their doctrines are mainly based on traditional beliefs rather than on the teachings of the Bible. For example, they believe that humans have an immortal soul and that those who do not serve God will be tormented in a fiery hell forever. Just think! If God were really so cruel and hardhearted, would you want to worship him?—See box on page 25.
7-10. What religious beliefs have the Chinese commonly accepted, and to what have such beliefs led them?
7 Clearly, the religions of the West have not brought lasting peace and happiness for mankind, nor have they provided the right spiritual guidance. What, then, about the religions of the East? In China, for example, the three major religions are Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Have these religions brought lasting peace and happiness for the Chinese?
8 In its early stages, Taoism was more a philosophy than a religion. Its founder, Lao-tzu, was dissatisfied with the chaos and turmoil of the times and sought relief by shunning society and returning to nature. However, as time wore on, Taoism became a system of worship venerating a pantheon of many gods and goddesses. Taoists practice divination. They attach great importance to omens and feng shui (the reading of the forces of wind and water) as well as to sundry other rituals. It is clear that Taoism falls short in providing satisfactory answers regarding the meaning of life or in fulfilling the people’s spiritual needs.
9 At the outset, Confucianism was a school of ethics and morality based on the teachings of its founder, Confucius. Through the centuries, Confucian concepts have wielded a strong hold on Chinese culture and way of thinking. Still, being a philosophy of life, Confucianism has neither helped the Chinese to learn about the Creator nor encouraged them to cultivate a close relationship with him. Although adopting its precepts as rules of conduct brings certain benefits, Confucianism does not fully satisfy one’s spiritual needs; nor has it brought lasting peace and happiness.
10 Buddhism first came into China from India. This religion advocates compassion and tolerance, and it has fascinated many by its complicated philosophy. But has Buddhism helped people to learn about the Sovereign of the universe? Have the teachings of the Buddha satisfied the spiritual needs of mankind? The book Basics to Buddhism says: “Buddhists do not believe in an all-powerful divine being in the universe”; “Everyone is capable of becoming a Buddha”; “Everyone has to work on his own to become a Buddha and be liberated from suffering.” Buddhism has inspired, not faith in God, but reliance on self.
11. To be spiritually satisfied, what questions must we consider?
11 If a person’s faith is misplaced, how could he ever find the truth that brings real satisfaction? Down through the ages, the Chinese have followed the tradition of worshipping their ancestors, idols, and the spirits in nature, engrossed in the multitudes of rites and rituals connected with them. As a result, the concept of a personal God, or Creator, is something foreign to most Chinese. Yet, as discussed earlier, to satisfy our spiritual needs, we must come to know not only who the Most High God is but also what his purpose for mankind is. By so doing, we will be able to act in harmony with that purpose and gain lasting happiness. We therefore invite you to investigate and find for yourself the reasonable, objective, and satisfying answers to these questions: Is there a Creator? Does he care about mankind? Can he really bring lasting peace and happiness to mankind, who are so beset with problems and difficulties?