Will Religion Ever Be a Force for Peace?
“LET’S make the world a better place. Let’s get rid of religion.” That is what Dutch philosopher Floris van den Berg recommends in his published lecture entitled “How to Get Rid of Religion, and Why.” Around the world experts in various fields of knowledge are likewise promoting the abolition of religion.
“The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” declares Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg. The idea that the evils of this world could be greatly minimized by eliminating religion has been loudly articulated in recent years. Books against religion proliferate and are quite popular.
Leading scientists have gathered to discuss what they consider to be the urgent need to eradicate religion. An emerging wave of atheists is flooding the media with their unapologetic hatred of religion. Are these well-respected thinkers on the right track?
If all religions were false and there was no God, then it might seem reasonable to eliminate religion. But what if there is a God? What if there is a group of people on earth who rightfully represent God—a true religion?
A careful study of the history of religion points to one form of worship that stands out as very different from all other religions. It is a form of worship practiced by relatively few people today. This religion was established by Jesus Christ and his apostles. But it is not represented by what Christendom has practiced for many centuries.
How do Christendom and the true religion established by Jesus Christ differ? In many ways. Let us consider one of them.
“No Part of This World”
The first Christians did not take sides in political issues. This is in harmony with the neutral stand that Jesus himself took. The Bible reports that on at least two occasions, Jesus firmly refused offers to become a political ruler. (Matthew 4:8-10; John 6:15) Jesus even rebuked his disciples for wanting to use violent means to prevent his arrest.—Matthew 26:51, 52; Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10, 11.
When the Roman governor of Judea asked specific questions about Jesus’ alleged political ambitions, Jesus set the record straight by saying: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Clearly, Jesus would not get involved with the political and military structures of his day.
Jesus’ disciples followed the same pattern. A study on the role of religion in war compiled by the team of researchers referred to earlier in this series explains: “Early Christians believed in nonviolence. . . . Most Christians refused to join the army and fight.” The teachings of Jesus and his apostles emphasized love of neighbor, including strangers and those of different ethnic backgrounds and races. (Acts 10:34, 35; James 3:17) This religion was indeed a force for peace.
Eventually the original concepts of Christianity became contaminated by the divisive forces of philosophy, tradition, and nationalism. The previously mentioned historical review of the role religion plays in armed conflicts states: “[Roman Emperor] Constantine’s conversion led to the militarization of the Christian movement—no longer guided by the compassionate teachings of Christ, but rather spearheaded by the Emperor’s goals of political and geographical conquest. Christians, including the Emperor were compelled to find religious justifications for war.” A counterfeit version of Christianity was born.
A “Distinctive” Group
Is original Christianity lost forever? By no means. There is one group today that deserves special consideration. Jehovah’s Witnesses emulate the first Christians like no other religious people. They are not linked to any religion in Christendom. The Encyclopedia of Religion describes them as “distinctive,” because they base all their beliefs on “the authority of the Bible, which entirely supplants tradition.”
Like the first Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take sides in political conflicts. A paper published by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine states that Jehovah’s Witnesses aim to overcome “racial, national, religious, social, and economical differences.” The study explains that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not engage in “anti-state activity” and are “law-abiding citizens of their country.”
Professor Wojciech Modzelewski, from the Warsaw University in Poland, wrote in his book Pacifism and Vicinity: “Jehovah’s Witnesses make up the largest community in the world today that objects to wars.” Because they closely follow the pattern of first-century Christians, it could be said that Jehovah’s Witnesses have successfully reinstated the form of worship that was established by Christ and his apostles. That is the kind of Christianity that is indeed a force for peace.—See the box on the next page.
A Bright Future
Granted, many sincere worshippers—and even a number of religious leaders—are appalled by the hypocrisy of their own religions. Due acknowledgment must be given to the many religious people who are devoted to the promotion of peace and harmony in the world.
Still, as sincere as they may be, humans are limited in their power to fix the world’s problems. The ancient prophet Jeremiah wrote: “To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
But there is a bright future. God’s Word teaches that a peaceful new human society will be established on earth. This new society will be a veritable brotherhood. All races will live in harmony, and mankind will not be divided by territorial borders, ethnic hatreds, or religious ideologies. The one uniting element will be the pure worship of Jehovah God.
The Bible also foretells the demise of religion that dishonors God. Jesus said: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25) In time, God will make sure that those words come true regarding all false religion.
The Bible long ago foretold that God would “certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight.” This prophecy also says that people will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) This prophecy is undergoing fulfillment today. True religion, as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, is already a force for peace.
[Blurb on page 8]
Jehovah’s Witnesses are united by love
[Box on page 9]
How Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Different?
Many people are amazed when they learn how different Jehovah’s Witnesses are from all the other religions that claim to follow Christ. The following are some of the things that make Jehovah’s Witnesses unique:
● They have no clergy class.
● Their elders, teachers, and missionaries are unsalaried.
● They neither tithe nor take up money collections at their places of worship, known as Kingdom Halls.
● All their activities are supported by anonymous donations.
● They remain neutral with regard to politics.
● They advocate peace and do not participate in warfare.
● They are globally united in their faith and Bible-based beliefs.
● They are fully integrated, with no social, ethnic, racial, or class divisions.
● They are not affiliated with any other religion, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
● They believe that there is only one true God, whose name is Jehovah.
● They do not believe that Jesus Christ is Almighty God, nor do they believe in the Trinity doctrine.
● They follow the teachings of Jesus and honor him as the Son of God.
● They do not venerate the cross, nor do they use idols in their worship.
● They do not believe in a fiery hell where all bad people go after death.
● They believe that God will bless obedient mankind with perfect everlasting life in an earthly paradise.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they have successfully reestablished first-century Christianity, the form of Christianity that Jesus’ apostles practiced.
[Picture on page 8]
A Serb, a Bosnian, and a Croatian