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Hinduism and other religions

Published: 16 August 2014 (GMT+10)
Wikimedia commons/Mistvan (CC BY-SA 3.0) 9530-buddha

It is common to ask if religions really are different, and whether Christianity is really a better religion than some of the others. N.J. from Australia writes:

I have watched debates on religion in Western countries which always confine and seems to recognize, being aware of, Jews, Christians and Muslims all of which grew at same place, in deserts of what is now called the Middle East, and also they all believe in Abraham to be their father/God but each of them call their preacher as son of GOD, which simply is saying that others are not.
A bigger question which arise is that what about Hinduism which is most oldest organized and practiced religion. It can be understood that it was difficult at that time to know about all the practices of organised religions though those so called flag bearers of these three religions, from all over their places, reached to invaded India hearing about its wealth and prosperity with the sole objective of looting and indulged in barbarism, destruction of culture, language, civilisation and everything good and also spreading their own religion. Are these really religions and have God?

, CMI–US, responds:

Dear N.,

Thanks for writing in. First, we have to understand that we have to separate the claims of a religion itself from the actions of people professing to act in its name. This is because people can act inconsistently with what they believe, and there can be all sorts of political and personal motives for action which have nothing to do with religion. This isn’t to say that these aren’t important, but considering these things has to come after we consider the religion itself.

When we’re evaluating a religion, we have to look at the character of its God/god/gods. The Muslim god is cruel and changeable, and cannot be trusted. He is not the true God, and is not worthy of worship. Christians believe that the Jewish faith reveals the true God and the Jews prior to Christ were actually saved through believing within this system (though they were only saved because their religion looked forward to Christ, who alone can save). However, by the time of Christ, a religious tradition grew up around Judaism which corrupted it.

Christians believe that Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish religion (the biblical concept of fulfillment is a bit more complex than just when predictive prophecy happens, but that is definitely part of it). We believe that He was not just a man, but the Son of God who came down to earth to live as one of us so that He could pay the penalty for our offenses against God on our behalf, and so His righteous human life could be credited to us instead. The central claim of Christianity is that man can do nothing to save himself—we have rebelled against God and deserve punishment, and there is nothing we can do ourselves to avoid it. But God wanted to save human beings and sent Jesus so that anyone who believes in Him can be saved.

Throughout history, Christians have been responsible for good things like education, advances in science and medicine, and political reforms. Christians were behind the abolition of the slave trade in the western world, at a time when slavery was economically lucrative and popular with the general population (except slaves, presumably). We have traditionally believed that these things are a natural consequence of what we believe about the nature of God and how He works in the world. We believe that bad things in the world that cause suffering are the result of sin ruining a once-perfect creation; because Jesus came to relieve the effects of sin, Christians follow Him in alleviating the effects of this curse whenever possible.

I only understand a little of the history of the UK’s former colonial relationship with India, but I don’t doubt that it was at least partially exploitative. But there is nothing in the Bible that condones this sort of colonialism; rather, Jesus is clear that His kingdom is a heavenly one, and that Christians are to live as travelers and exiles in this world while we wait for our heavenly home.

Hinduism, by contrast, has Brahma, who is impersonal and pantheistic. The world is thought to be an illusion. Hinduism has no salvation, rather, the goal is to be ‘dissolved’ into this ultimate reality which then leads to the absence of suffering. But I would say that the Hindu philosophy fails at the most basic level, because we can’t really live as if the world was an illusion. For instance, if I saw your message, and said, “Oh well, guess I can delete it without responding, because N. J. is an illusion—and I can’t answer it anyway, because I am one as well,” that would be consistent with Hindu thinking, but inconsistent with how we actually live.

No human actually wants to be dissolved into a ceaseless Nothingness where individuality is lost. What we want, what we long for, is to live forever, to see our dead loved ones again, to have a world free of the struggle and strife of this life. Christianity succeeds on this most basic level because it acknowledges that something is really wrong with this universe, and it presents the promise of a future restoration back to how each of us knows everything should be.

I spent more time on this response than I normally do, because I wanted to help you understand a little bit what Christians believe and why we would dispute the claims of Hinduism. I would also add that the Bible gives us the true history of the world, which is that after the global Flood with eight saved on the Ark, and following the dispersion of the population at Babel a few generations after the Flood, people migrated into various parts of the world, including India. In other words, the forefathers of Indians today had the knowledge of the one true God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and like most other peoples of the world, progressively abandoned and corrupted this knowledge. There are hints of this original knowledge of the truth about God and the history of the world in legends and traditions, including the Hindu Scriptures. Thus, Hinduism is not the ‘oldest religion’ at all. The earliest recorded forms of worship in ancient China, for instance, are very much like that of the worship of the one true God in the Old Testament, as shown in this article, with the progressive rejection of the true religion happening over time. This also means that biblical Christianity is not a ‘white man’s religion’, or some new invention, as some of your countrymen have been led to believe but is the natural progression of something that was planned and foretold from the earliest times following creation.

I would encourage you to read the Bible if you have access to one. If you have Internet access, there are many websites which have the Bible on them that you can read for free. Also read https://creation.com/good-news for an explanation of why we need to be saved and how Jesus Christ can save us when we believe in Him.

Sincerely,

Lita Sanders

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Christianity for Skeptics
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