The urgency to adopt a religion starts for most before we take the first breath in this world. Parents make sure we get the correct name, which we will carry until engraved on our tombstone. What we may or may not know is that each of our names are often religiously and culturally based.
Religious indoctrination starts at an early age to satisfy our parent’s wishes, needs, longings, and pledges to their deity. This kind of upbringing doesn’t leave much room for children to grow, think rationally or choose their own commitments. Muslims begin introducing their newborn babies to Islam by reciting the lyrics of the Holy Qur’an in their ears. Jews circumcise their babies on the eighth day of life, and Christians baptize their children as infants.
Why do parents go to such lengths to make sure children have the right name, behavior, clothes, friends, and religion, yet they can’t think critically about their children’s right to choose their own belief system? Parents tend to assign their beliefs selfishly and carelessly early on in life, while in every other respect they try to think through the consequences of every decision they make. Deciding which religion to join is one of the most important decisions a person can make. It affects how you approach and interact with the world, whether you do so blindly with eyes closed and mind shut or whether you critically explore a wide range of options.
To arrive at your own beliefs about God, you must first explore the history of how humanity came to form a concept of God. Equally important is understanding how other religions conceive of God. The notion of God, gods, and supreme divine power took many twists and turns before transforming into today’s well-known categories of polytheism and monotheism.
When Did Humans Begin to Form Religion?
According to Egyptian history, one of the earliest gods, Atum “the complete one”, created the entire universe, and later became known as the Sun God, the supreme deity. Atum gradually blended into one God, El. In turn, El becomes Elohim, then Yahweh, then God (or Lord), three-in-one God (trinity) and then Allah. All bear the same likeness of character as the complete one or the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
A wise king, the Pharaoh of New Kingdom, raised the local god “Amun” like a status of national deity, linking him with the Sun God to create Amun-Re. Gradually the Judicious Pharaohs became mediators between humans and celestial gods. Later, the title Pharaoh reformed to Judge e.g. (Judge Samuel), King (David and Solomon) and Messiah (Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Mohammad).
Next originated the “Words of Power”; spoken only by priests who ensured security of the kingdom and balance in the universe. Later Pharaoh’s words of power became prayers which console the human hearts and their well-being among many religions today. Temple was a focal point and Centre of gravity in Ancient Egyptian settlement; only a priest was permitted access to the sacred inner part of Temple.
In the Holy Roman Catholic Church and Holy Kabah (Mecca), a black stone plays an important role in the central ritual of hajj. Egyptians created a blessed eternity. The most familiar images of ancient Egypt, from mummies to the pyramids, are all linked with death and burial. Egyptians wanted to live forever and did everything they could to prolong it indefinitely. Mummification was fundamental to the continuation of life. Today we follow the same route of continuation of life without mummification. Blessings, prayers and many other strange rituals stand firm on the gravesite.
Ancient Egyptians created life after death, or the “Judgement Day”. Osiris was a supreme judge who waited for the dead to appear to count their deeds and evils. Humanity’s work was to fine-tune the character of the gods, developing them successively in response to people’s changing needs. This process is a bit like the transformation of the first car built by Henry Ford into the highest level of car – the James Bond car, of course.
From Polytheism to Monotheism
After the appearance of Atum, many other gods like Abraham appeared on the religious stage. Abraham radicalized the nature of worship by adhering to belief in a one and only God. Unlike polytheistic stone and carved gods, Abraham’s One God could not be seen, heard or touched; people could only “see” and “hear” Him in their hearts and minds. People could access this new God internally, in their own souls. His followers no longer had to stand in front of cold, speechless statues and ask why their wishes were denied or why their prayers went unanswered. They could talk to God in their own minds.
The creation of an unseen God gave fresh meaning to worship and belief. God’s character was changing according to humanity’s changes. This is a strong indicator that humanity helped create God in stages and designed Him to serve a variety of purposes, each group according to their culture norms and sociopolitical agenda. It’s as if the writers of Holy books fine-tuned old Egyptians and Greek myths and legends into their own divine recipe books with their own respective spices, they re-seasoned earlier scriptures and each claimed to have invented a brand new book, a revolutionary cookbook.
Earlier visible stone gods had a tough time answering questions, solving problems and maintaining order in the Universe. Creating a new and invisible God was a wise choice by Abraham! Making God an invisible realm shielded him from prying hands and eyes and made Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad’s life much easier. There are no grounds to prove God wrong, just as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad had no grounds to prove themselves right. Even God’s witnesses (Angels) live invisibly in an invisible realm. The idea of invisible entities ruins the possibility that God will prove his existence in a way humans can understand. So how do we get to know where God is? It’s ironic that all invisible entities are made for the living and visible human beings!
Religion in a Modern Era
Today there are 2.01 percent atheists and 16 percent non-religious people in the world. At this rate, the next 500 years should see religious fanatics become the minority. Belief in an invisible God is slowly fading away. In biblical times, God came to the selected few and left them to carry out his will with the words “the Lord said so.” God then passed the baton to His handpicked Holy Messengers. Now the messages are worn out, the baton lies broken, and God’s repeated messages have become antiquated, as they have not produced any fruitful results.
Despite God’s efforts, humanity has not changed its errant ways. God enviously saw the dawn of the 21st century with a Coke in one hand and a computer in the other, performing more interesting and useful miracles. These miracles are better, faster, and more efficient than the rod of Moses, Jesus walking on water or Muhammad traveling to Heaven on a winged horse. They are also visible, palpable, and provable. Some people will go on choosing concept over logic and fact, and they will overlook the many faux pas of God in the name of blind faith. But those who seriously undertake the journey of choosing their own religion will undoubtedly find the more they dig into Holy Scriptures, the more God fades away in the rear view mirror.