Of all the world religions we have identified only six clearly teach an infinite good person: Tenrikyo, Zoroastrianism, Baha'i, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Except for Tenrikyo (a recent development from Japan), these religions spring from the Middle East. For better and for worse, the spread of modern civilization mostly parallels the geographical growth of these religions. To understand these systems is a good starting point to comprehending the basis of modern society.
More importantly, our quest to find and verify a channel of communication with the Great Doctor outside the quarantine will get very real.
"The path to the Joyous Life originated with Oyasama, whose name is Miki Nakayama. She was settled as the Shrine of God the Parent at the age of forty-one and spent the subsequent fifty years conveying the teachings in their entirety and providing guidance for people."
"God the Parent became openly revealed on October 26, 1838, through Oyasama as the Shrine of Tsukihi in order to save all people in the world. The 'Shrine of Tsukihi' means that Oyasama’s mind had been replaced by that of God the Parent, though outwardly She was still human. Oyasama taught the intention of God the Parent by Her spoken word and written word and by demonstrating it in Her life."
From what I can find, that last sentence sums up the total “evidence” for Oyasama’s claim. Our goal is to find and verify God and God’s teachings. Oyasama asks us to believe her because she says she is a good person.
But what is good? It is what works forever. Only a God can tell us that, and how do we know she speaks for God? Because she said so. Oyasama has created a self-referencing circle. This is no different from the claims of charismatic cult leaders or dogmatic religious authorities— “Obey and believe me because I told you so.”
What is a follower of Tenrikyo to believe and obey? Their mission statement says, “Tenrikyo is a faith and lifestyle that believes that all human beings were created by God the Parent to live a Joyous Life, here on Earth. We do not discriminate against anyone. Instead, we believe that we are all brothers and sisters and that by mutually helping one another, we all can get one step closer to salvation.”
Their philosophy springs from positive attitudes of gratitude, joy, service, unity, worship. Who can find fault with that? This is in harmony with the great motivations of faith, hope, and love. So according to our first two criteria, Tenrikyo scores high.
Criteria #3 (complete, consistent worldview) seems to be ignored or greatly glossed over. Simply stated, no one knew the truth because God did not tell anyone the truth until he told it to Oyasama in the mid-1800’s. According to one of their three books of Scripture, Ofudesaki (Tip of the Writing Brush):
“(1) Looking all over the world and through all ages, I find no one who has understood My heart. (2) So should it be, for I have never taught it to you. It is natural that you know nothing. (3) At this time, I reveal Myself and teach the truth of all things in detail... (8) As I am in haste to save all of you quickly, I set out to make all minds in the world spirited.”
Footnote references to another of their sacred books reinforces this point.
"Ofudesaki chushaku (OC) 1:1: While an uncountable billions of people have been born and lived during the long years since I, Oyagami created this realm of existence, at every age I watched over this wide world, there was never a single person who understood My heart."
"OC 1:2: This [is] not at all unreasonable or could be helped, for until now I did not share with you the true teachings. Though I occasionally taught (various teachings) through saints and sages, these were all but timely manifestations of My divine will to suit each day and age and was not anything final. But this cannot be helped, for the Promised Time had not arrived."
It is one thing to share truth and have it be ignored or rejected, but to withhold it?! A good doctor does not withhold the cure from the patient until “the Promised Time.” A good doctor works 100% for the health of the patient before, during, and after the quarantine.
But such a concept is missing from Tenrikyo. Within its worldview is no historical explanation for evil, suffering, or death. Gratitude and joy is good but it is greatly blinded by platitudes that erode trust and raise more questions.
Why didn't God the Parent help and teach the earlier generations to the full extent of His abilities? For that matter, why did people need help? How did suffering and death originate? Why didn't the Parent create a perfect creation?
Most of all, to what extra length has God the Parent stretched Herself to restore fallen creation? There is not a single hint of sacrifice, or even of painful effort, on God’s part in their writings. On the contrary, truth was withheld until Oyasama, with her unexplained and unsubstantiated specialness came along.
My conclusion is that the first two criteria receive high marks if one does not dig deep into the details. Worldview, sacrifice, and verification get thumbs down.
Zoroastrianism teaches an infinite good person with a twist or two.
“Angra Mainyu, (Avestan: “Destructive Spirit”) Middle Persian Ahriman, the evil, destructive spirit in the dualistic doctrine of Zoroastrianism. According to the earliest version of the myth, he is the twin brother of Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit, and both were the sons of Ahura Mazdā (Ormizd or Ormazd), the Wise Lord and supreme deity of Zoroastrianism.
“Angra Mainyu’s essential nature is expressed in his principal epithet—Druj, “the Lie,” which expresses itself as greed, wrath, and envy. To aid him in attacking the light (Spenta Mainyu, the good creation of Ahura Mazdā), Angra Mainyu created a horde of demons embodying envy and similar qualities. Despite the chaos and suffering effected in the world by his onslaught, believers expect Angra Mainyu to be defeated in the end of time by Ahura Mazdā. Confined to their own realm, his demons will devour each other, and his own existence will be quenched. In a later dualism, Ahura Mazdā, still the creator god, is himself the force of good, Angra Mainyu is his evil, destructive counterpart, and both exist from eternity.
“The modern Zoroastrians of India, the Parsis, tend to diminish the importance of Angra Mainyu by explaining him away as an allegory of humanity’s evil tendencies. Ahura Mazdā is thus restored to omnipotence.” [or has he now also become an allegory?]
The Zoroastrian “Godhead” or “God family” is ripped by an obvious, unexplained inconsistency that enshrines evil as an eternal principle. In spite of that, their three basic moral principles—good thoughts, good words, good deeds—helped elevate every civilization from before the time of Alexander the Great to now.
Because of its personal ethic Zoroastrianism gets high marks for criteria #1 (faith, hope, love), but because of the contradictory and incomplete view of life and God, it gets low scores on the other criteria. Nowhere did I find a teaching of sacrifice by God.
“Bahāʾī Faith, religion founded in Iran in the mid-19th century by Mīrzā Ḥosayn ʿAlī Nūrī, who is known as Bahāʾ Allāh (Arabic: “Glory of God”). The cornerstone of Bahāʾī belief is the conviction that Bahāʾ Allāh and his forerunner, who was known as the Bāb (Persian: “Gateway”), were manifestations of God, who in his essence is unknowable. The principal Bahāʾī tenets are the essential unity of all religions and the unity of humanity. Bahāʾīs believe that all the founders of the world’s great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race. Despite their apparent differences, the world’s great religions, according to the Bahāʾīs, teach an identical truth. Bahāʾ Allāh’s peculiar function was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal faith. Bahāʾīs believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices. The great bulk of Bahāʾī teachings is concerned with social ethics; the faith has no priesthood and does not observe ritual forms in its worship.”
It is readily seen that the Baha’i are a peace loving people and the principles of faith, hope, and love hold a high place in their teachings. God, the Creator of all, is cherished as an infinite good person. Breakdowns occur, however, when applying the first two criteria to the last two—worldview and sacrifice.
Evil is explained as being nonexistent, as in the absence of good, but why is there absence? Two things may be good in themselves, but antagonistic or evil in relation to each other. Where did the antagonism come from?
“Yes, a scorpion is evil in relation to man; a serpent is evil in relation to man; but in relation to themselves they are not evil, for their poison is their weapon, and by their sting they defend themselves. But as the elements of their poison do not agree with our elements—that is to say, as there is antagonism between these different elements, therefore, this antagonism is evil; but in reality as regards themselves they are good.
“The epitome of this discourse is that it is possible that one thing in relation to another may be evil, and at the same time within the limits of its proper being it may not be evil. Then it is proved that there is no evil in existence; all that God created He created good. This evil is nothingness; so death is the absence of life. When man no longer receives life, he dies. Darkness is the absence of light: when there is no light, there is darkness. Light is an existing thing, but darkness is nonexistent. Wealth is an existing thing, but poverty is non-existing.
“Then it is evident that all evils return to nonexistence. Good exists; evil is nonexistent.”
Presumably, evil will extinguish itself, but how that will happen is undetermined. Its end is as unexplained as its beginning. And while God is taught as being Ultimate Good, there is no mention of sacrifice or effort to help us beyond Spirit or Manifestations delivering messages.
“These Messengers have been the only way to knowledge of God, and their number includes the Founders of the world's great religions: Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad—to name those Messengers who are best known.” This apparent unity is only symbolic. “Although the Bahai faith imports people and ideas from other world religions, it is important to know that adherents to those faiths don't traditionally share those same beliefs. For example, Judaism hasn't traditionally taught about Abraham what Bahai's believe about him and Christianity hasn't traditionally taught about Jesus what Bahai's believe about him.”
Therefore, the goal of global religious unity is merely a symbolic veneer over underlying contradictions and claims that are irreconcilable.
Once again, we encounter a religion that begins well on the human level, makes bold positive claims about God, but then cannot back it up with a big picture explaining and resolving the history of good, evil, and death. Also, as in our previous two religions, a theoretical philosophy is taught by a messenger who fails to present real-world verification as to his/her authorization by God. (The fact that they led good lives does meet one of the minimum requirements, but many atheists lead good lives, and many other religious leaders exhibit goodness. Evidence, yes. Proof, no.)
Our final three religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—are all monotheistic, Abrahamic religions that started in the Middle East. One would think this would result in peace, harmony, and understanding. Sadly, the opposite is true. These religions are strongly, even violently, opposed to one another, and each is riddled with division and factional differences.
Judaism, the religion of Israel, declares itself the true religion of Abraham (~2000 bce) and the keepers of the law and teachings of Moses. They focus on right actions.
“Unlike many other religions, Judaism does not focus much on abstract cosmological concepts. Although Jews have certainly considered the nature of G-d, man, the universe, life and the afterlife at great length (see Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism), there is no mandated, official, definitive belief on these subjects, outside of the very general concepts discussed above. There is substantial room for personal opinion on all of these matters, because as I said before, Judaism is more concerned about actions than beliefs.”
So, while Judaism has a strong belief in an infinite good person who will judge unerringly between good and bad behavior, the theology seems to have become more of a moral ethic than a complete picture of origins, destiny, good, evil, and the meaning of life.
Where it really differs from its offspring, Christianity, is on criteria #4– sacrifice. If there was a temple in Jerusalem, sacrifices of lambs and goats would resume. The story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross means nothing to the modern Jew. In their theology, God does not sacrifice for us. Rather, we sacrifice to him.
Thus, we conclude that yet another religion fails to score high on our four points of quest.
“The following six beliefs are those that are commonly held by Muslims, as laid out in the Quran and Hadith.
"Belief in the Oneness of God: Muslims believe that God is the creator of all things, and that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. God has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.
"Belief in the Angels of God: Muslims believe in angels, unseen beings who worship God and carry out God’s orders throughout the universe. The angel Gabriel brought the divine revelation to the prophets.
"Belief in the Books of God: Muslims believe that God revealed holy books or scriptures to a number of God’s messengers. These include the Quran (given to Muhammad), the Torah (given to Moses), the Gospel (given to Jesus), the Psalms (given to David), and the Scrolls (given to Abraham). Muslims believe that these earlier scriptures in their original form were divinely revealed, but that only the Quran remains as it was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
"Belief in the Prophets or Messengers of God: Muslims believe that God’s guidance has been revealed to humankind through specially appointed messengers, or prophets, throughout history, beginning with the first man, Adam, who is considered the first prophet. Twenty-five of these prophets are mentioned by name in the Quran, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last in this line of prophets, sent for all humankind with the message of Islam.
"Belief in the Day of Judgment: Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment, humans will be judged for their actions in this life; those who followed God’s guidance will be rewarded with paradise; those who rejected God’s guidance will be punished with hell.
"Belief in the Divine Decree: This article of faith addresses the question of God’s will. It can be expressed as the belief that everything is governed by divine decree, namely that whatever happens in one’s life is preordained, and that believers should respond to the good or bad that befalls them with thankfulness or patience. This concept does not negate the concept of “free will;” since humans do not have prior knowledge of God’s decree, they do have freedom of choice.”
With Judaism, Islam shares the belief in an infinite good person who will unerringly judge the behavior of human beings for punishment or reward. Behavior depends on choice and effort.
The worldview of Islam holds that Paradise and Hell are everlasting. Only a few sinful believers will transfer from Hell to Paradise.
Evil started with a jinn (genie, something like an angel) named Iblis. “The different fragments of Iblis' story are scattered across the Quran. In the aggregate, the story can be summarized as follows:
“When God created Adam, He ordered all the angels to bow before the new creation. All the angels bowed down, but Iblis refused to do so. He argued that since he himself was created from fire, he is superior to humans, made from Clay-mud, and that he should not prostrate himself before Adam. As punishment for his haughtiness, God banished Iblis from heaven and condemned him to hell. Later, Iblis made a request for the ability to try to mislead Adam and his descendants. God granted his request but also warned him that he will have no power over God's servants.”
The internal inconsistency should be apparent. Disregarding the questionable command for one creature to bow down to another creature, the arbitrary and unreasonable release from hell to tempt others into hell puts the responsibility for evil onto God—a supposedly infinite good person. This simplistic and contradictory explanation for evil, along with the never ending evil of hellfire, destroys Islam from within.
Added to that problem are the opposing claims that certain prophets and writings from Judaism and Christianity are worthy of reverence while at the same time their fundamental teachings are contradicted. The biggest of these is the central teaching of Christianity on the cross.
Islam says that Jesus was a good prophet, but he was not God, did not die on the cross, and did not make a sacrifice. This of course is a total contradiction of what Jesus said about himself. Again, self-destructing inconsistency takes place because a liar cannot also be a good prophet for an infinite good person.
Like other religions, Islam looks good from a distance. Its words sound good in general, but when their conceptual details are analyzed and compared, the system collapses. Therefore, our quest must continue.
We now arrive at the largest of all religions. Claiming a third of the world's population, Christianity is the foundation of western civilization. Its teachings, along with ancient Roman law, have shaped our governments and institutions. There must be something within it that makes it so popular, and therefore worthy of consideration. However, even if all the other religions are wrong and inadequate does not mean it is right.
Yet, there is something about it that even the dean of atheists, Antony Flew, recognized. “I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honored and respected whether or not its claim to be a divine revelation is true. There is nothing like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. Virtually all the argument about the content of the religion was produced by St. Paul, who had a brilliant philosophical mind and could both speak and write in all the relevant languages. If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat.” (There is a God, 185)
However, one cannot ignore the history of its followers. Inquisitions and Crusades, bigotry and hypocrisy, tradition and superstition, capped off with abuse, immorality, colonialism, and petty sectarianism, are disgraces of the Christian world. If we are to find the truth of an infinite good person in Christianity, it will be in spite of, not because of, its mainstream followers.
Of all the religions, Christianity is the most fragmented. However, the "Christ" in Christianity is the one unifying factor, even if it is superficial in some cases. With widely varying degrees of orthodoxy or weirdness, belief in Jesus Christ as the embodiment of an infinite good person is the foundation on which all denominations build. Of all the world’s religions, only Christianity teaches that an infinite good person sacrificed for humans. It is for this reason that it is worth our time for further consideration.
What is the central teaching of Christianity?
Ignoring all the wide variety of flavors and toppings, every bowl in Christianity has this ice cream: A God incarnated Himself, started a church based on love, sacrificed Himself for our sins, then rose again to life and heaven. If we choose (more or less), we spend eternity with Him in peace and happiness. This is captured in the slight variations of the Apostles’ Creed.
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead/hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic/Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”
If the sects agree, why are they so different?
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. The creed is agreement on the basic importance of God, Jesus, and the church. It does not explain how a person is converted and saved, or what heaven is. It does not explain the origin or final destiny of evil and evildoers. It avoids defining many theological points necessary to forming a complete worldview such as choice, death, law, authority, origins, afterlife, etc…
Within the creed-believing denominations is a wide range of beliefs from everyone ultimately being saved to only a few select sect members. There are different levels of heaven and hell, and different methods to achieve either one. The confusing worldviews all claim to be based on an infinite loving person, but their definitions vary widely. Thus, the worldviews are to various degrees contradictory. This means that the Gods they teach are contradictory. To say this is a monstrous mess to filter is an understatement.
How does one get started? I honestly don’t know because I don’t think it can be solved from the outside in—from comparing lists of doctrines, Bible texts, and theological arguments. For me, the whole tangled knot was cut out entirely. Though dimly realized at the time, the surprising revelation of choice from faith, hope, and love set me in the right direction.
A high school English assignment had me researching psychics then prophecy. The world of the paranormal and spiritual fascinated me, but it was all separate from God and made no difference in my belief that God was dead.
Then one day I found myself in a library reading the history of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans in 70ad. The author then spent a couple paragraphs on the spiritual context from God’s point of view. It described how even infinite power could not force the doomed people to choose better. That is when it hit me.
We are beings of free choice. God is a being of free choice. Like a cosmic chess game, God makes choices and we make choices. He make counter choices and we make counter choices. Free beings dancing, bargaining, or fighting together!
That single insight is the cause and reason of all history, every revolution, every social movement.
I was under the impression, shared with most other people, that both people and God cannot be fully free. Depending on circumstance, one or the other must have less than 100% freedom. In other words, we limit ourselves, our options, or our worth. Peer pressure and peer dependency, tradition and authority, and other external expectations “push” us into the “inevitable.” We view ourselves as victims of fate, slaves to a predetermined destiny.
At other times, we bind God in similar expectations. We view him as unfeeling, uncaring, and incapable of feeling or caring. He merely has an omnipotent will and plan that must be carried out. We might call him, Creator, but we don’t view him as creative. Science tells him what to do and determines what cannot be done. The principles of science, the laws of math, or brute force are the real powers behind The Throne.
To view God as infinite and fully personal at the same time seems to be a foreign idea to over 99% of the world’s population. It certainly was to me. Then, to catch a glimpse that Deity could be an infinite person who also happened to make choices at every junction that were eternally best for everyone was mind blowing.
These thoughts all came rushing into my mind in an instant. The next instant I looked up from my book and there appeared someone who looked like the stereotypical Jesus. I instinctively understood him to be Jesus, the Son of God.
Whether that lasted 5 or 15 seconds I do not know. Whether that was a vision in my mind’s eye or whether I viewed Him with my physical eyes, I do not know. What I do know was that a whole new world, or a whole new view of the world, was opened to me in a matter of seconds. Divinity was personal! Life has direction!
Or at least, divinity could be a person. When the experience faded, my research took an entirely new direction. Psychics and prophecy were no longer my goals. I had to know if God was real. I did not interpret that revelation in the library as proof, but as possibility. I felt I was at the beginning of knowledge, not the end.
Was God real? Was the dead God really alive? Was he truly a person? Did he love me? Could I know him? Could we be friends?
The embryonic core of what I share in these books was presented to me that day. All these years I have spent unpacking and unfolding it; checking it and double checking it; then trying to present and polish and refine it.
Now, I not only want to share with you a belief system that is able to explain the whole universe for all time, but also a personal experience with One I call my Father. In times of trouble, he gives me strength and assurance. In times of peace and solitude, he gives me rest and the peace that comes from total trust in One who loves me, who likes me, who wants to personally connect and be with me. I am never alone! Never forsaken!
I do not expect you to believe this on my word only. How can you know what is really inside me? You can’t. Yet, you and I are both human. We respond to the same basic patterns. We seek the same basic patterns that inspire faith, hope, and love. Unfolding those patterns is what I will share with you next. They are so simple a child can understand them, but so deep that we will never cease to wonder. Most importantly, these universal spiritual patterns are free and uncontrollable and unchangeable. Though buried and hidden by commercialism and petty power politics, they remain as freely flowing and pristine pure as a waterfall in the wilderness. You are invited to drink to your heart’s content!
In your words:
What and who are you looking for? Have you ever felt like an infinite good person was reaching out to you?