The main religions of the world, generally had their period of “enlightenment” via the prophets of their choice between 600 BC and 600 AD. Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Jesus and Mohammed, all are claimed to have lived and died between these dates.
Even a cursory glance at the writings of these religions reveals some profound insights into the nature of existence. And yet, when one starts to look further into them, one cannot help but realise that although there are aspects worthy of respect because of some universal truths, the method of both transmission and context are probably neither true or accurate to the original intention.
Little of the original ideas have remained unaltered by multiple translations, cultural appropriation or generations of “officials” rewriting or reinterpreting the material for personal or group advantage. Whereas the earlier Shamans used personal experience to define their interactions, the later religions gained spiritual insights through the experiences of others and bestowed upon those same individuals titles that were representative of the aspirations of the growing organizations dedicated to further their power bases in the general populations. As I have discussed elsewhere, the route offered to the supporters was one of preferential treatment in the afterlife.
The earliest major religion to appear was probably Hinduism which generally predated the other major religions by somewhere between 2 to 5000 years. The polytheistic nature of this leads to, viewed from a western perspective, a confusing and contradictory theology. Rites and rituals which would appear to be both contradictory and incompatible in both nature and meaning co-exist alongside each other with no major conflicts of interests. Unlike the other religions, there is no general prescribed course of entry into the afterlife or even into the realms of reincarnation. Instead this is defined by the local belief system prescribed to by the local populations.
The first example of a cultural shift from a polytheistic theology to one that maybe viewed as a monotheistic viewpoint would be one whose primary figure was Zarathustra Spitama. He is believed to have lived around the 18th century BC, though dating is very imprecise. His creed is Zoroastrianism, from the Greek translation of Zarathustra. At its height, it is believed that it was practiced in an area larger than the Roman empire. In an example that has been viewed throughout recorded history, most of the recorded early history was lost when many of its priests, who, like the later Druids acted as living libraries, were slaughtered during Alexander the Great’s invasion of the 4th century BC.
This course of action would be repeated many times in later times as an example of one of the favoured methods used to gain ascendency over rival theologies. Zoroastrianism also set a precedent which would be repeated by the later religions namely the nature of the discourse was one of direct revelation to a specific individual by a specific God. The earlier shamans experienced interactions with a variety of entities, but the nature of Zoroastrianism and the later monotheistic paths was one that claimed exclusivity through this interaction with a single entity. It is not my intention to go into depth into the theologies of these religions, as I’m sure any reader of this will have experienced this aspect for themselves. What I intend to do is study the probable consequences for adopting these theologies and their inherent, and in my opinion, fatal flaw.
Of the current mainstream religions, only Islam was initiated within the lifetime of the appointed prophet. It would therefore, be considered to be the candidate for the least amount of theological alteration. From a western perspective, it would appear this is not the case and therefore this raises the question, if a religion that had direct access to the individual concerned is subject to as many different interpretations as the rest of the evidenced religions, can the central tenets be reliable frames of reference?
If these works were subject to modern scientific rigours, it would probably result in a conclusion that stated that the evidence had been altered too much to place any credence in the resultant evidence. The primary evidence has been gained from a singular source of interaction from the appointed prophets, and it has not been confirmed by any other independent means. In fact, the whole area of theological conjecture which has arisen from the religions of this period, are pieces of conjecture written in the second ,third or more parties, parties who were not subject to, or were present at, the time of disclosure. They are works of interpretation written from the perspective of later times, sometimes hundreds of years later. This brings into perspective the reliability of these interpretations and also raises the question as to the motivations behind the reworking of the earlier material.
If this was a court of law, we would in a position of being be asked to believe the eyewitness account of an individual who was hundreds of miles away and several years later than the actual event. How much credence would the court give to such an individual? How much would you?
Interestingly, there is a shared ethos throughout most of these documented religions, which is supplied here:
Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. DADISTAN-I-DINIK, 94,5
Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: Do nought unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. MAHABARATA, 51 1517
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. UDAN-VARGA, 5,18
Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. MATTHEW 7:12
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. SUNNAH
Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you. ANALECTS, 15.23
Taoism: Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. T’AI SHANG KAN YING PIEN
Jainism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, regard all creatures as you would regard your own self. YOGA-SASTRA
and my own personal favourite….
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire law; all the rest is commentary. TALMUD, SHABBET, 31A
So there is a common theme, which is both appropriate and respectful. What a crime that this could not be accommodated without the need to qualify either a reward or a system run more for the benefit of the administrators.