All of the (common) Western religions started with the Jewish people. Thus Judaism is the “source” or at least precursor of these religions. It’s scripture is the Old Testament of the Bible, particularly the first five books or the “Pentateuch”. As mentioned in an earlier blog, this tends to be one of the better supported scriptures (about as well as scriptures CAN be supported). It provides a history of how the world came to be and includes a guide for “righteous” living, as well as some insights into God.
The guide for living was called “The Law (of Moses)”. Note that it was a guide for RIGHTEOUSNESS, not “salvation”. The Old Testament seems to only describe life “immediately” after death, per the story where a poor righteous man was in “Abraham’s Bosom” and a rich unrighteous man was across a chasm suffering from thirst. Furthermore, there was a mechanism to atone for unrighteous behavior, involving the sacrifice of a “perfect” animal. The belief was, that by putting the “sin” on the animal, then killing it, the sin would be “covered” by the animal’s blood, and thus no longer be counted against the sinner.
Still, seems a simple enough system. Memorize a number of rules (613, I think, with the “10 commandments” as the “Cliff Notes” version), follow them, and when you screw up, (as is almost guaranteed), perform the required sacrifice. Oh, there is a couple of problems. First of all, you think PETA is going to let you get away with animal sacrifice? Even if you can avoid them, the Temple where the sacrifice is to be held was destroyed in 73 AD, and the alter (the Arc of the Covenant) lost. And where are you going to find the required “priest from the line of Levi”? We are not talking about someone wearing jeans… So it appears that Judaism may not have been the road to salvation, and probably is not a reliable path even to righteousness today.
The Old Testament prophecies a “new covenant” (the Law of Moses was the “old covenant”). This is Christianity, and its scripture is the New Testament, with the Old Testament as backup. Christianity is clear that the goal is “salvation” for all eternity, not righteousness, and provides an indication on how salvation is to be acquired. Basically, “sin” includes thoughts as well as actions, and it is made clear that God does not tolerate any sin in his presence (sort of like an allergy). Since no person can pay the penalty for all of their sins (and everyone has at least some), no person can enter the presence of God on their own.
The theory is that God caused part of Himself to be born and live as a human, and lived a life without sin, annoying the Jewish leadership to the point where they had Him killed. Being perfect, this sacrifice was sufficient to pay the price for every sin ever committed or yet to be committed by every person who was, is and will be. This part is pretty clear; how each of us can accept this gift is less clear. It is clear that repentance (not only being sorry for every sin committed, but doing one’s best not to repeat any of them or add new ones) and a set of beliefs about God and Jesus is a key part. But what “else”, if anything, is needed has various interpretations.
Several hundred years later, Muhammad, peace be upon him, was inspired to a new view of a monotheistic God, built on ideas and history from the Old Testament and New Testament. This is Islam; the scripture is the Qur’an. As opposed to the Testaments, which are generally considered to have been “inspired” by God, the Qur’an is generally thought to have been “dictated by God to Man (Muhammed)”. In the highest view, it appears that the primary purpose of man is to worship God (Allah). In the beginning, Islam tended to be spread by conquest, but left Jews and Christians alone as long as they did not fight the Muslims (adherents of Islam). Eventually this changed to where violence against non-Muslims was not only allowed, but even required.
Unlike most other religions, which generally attempt to educate non-believers and then if they don’t “see the light”, leave them to their fates, Islam often attempts to “force” belief. The problem is, although you can “force” behavior, you cannot force belief. As a result, Islam often supports just killing off the non-believer. Also, another primary goal of Islam is the creation of the “Caliphate” super state which imposes Sharia Law on everyone, Muslim or not. It is a problem when you attempt to have God control people who do not believe in that God, not to mention how full of corruption Sharia law is and how destructive to those not at the top, particularly all women.
Like Judaism, Islam has a number of “rules” to follow which mostly seem doable, but it does not seem to be clear how one can “guarantee” they will go to paradise. Other than dying while killing non-Muslims, of course.
Now we have come to the point where hopefully there is a path which allows you to “find God”. We will look at this path in the next, final part.