Religion and Tradition
What is Religion?
Religion is a particular system of faith and worship. It has become to be known as an organised system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a Deity or a group of 'gods'. Often different religions have different devotional or ritual observances, and often contain a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
How do we know which religion is the right one?
Different religious sects have their differences, some have major differences such as the monotheistic religions versus the polytheistic religions. Abrahamic religions- namely Islam, Christianity and Judaism are Monotheistic and despite their differences have in fact very much in common. Although we may all have different Names for our Creator because of our differences in language and communication- it is important to ask the question- does this mean we worship different gods or is it the same Universal God that has shown Himself in different ways to a different group of people? What is the true Religion in the eyes of God- and how do we get closer to knowing this? How do we differentiate right from wrong from the knowledge that we have been given, and how do we separate truth from falsehood when so many contradictions exist within the knowledge passed down from generation to generation and within the way we practice religion. How do we know that the religion we practice is the right one or better than others? What is the evidence for this? Have we ourselves actually asked the questions and explored the source of the information that we choose to follow? Or are we practicing our religion blindly?
Surely if God is Possessor of Truth, and if there is only One Truth- then He can show us the way? How sincere are we really in asking Him- Our Creator- The Source of all knowledge and existence for Guidance and Wisdom? Or are we just outwardly blindly practicing the rituals and cultures of our religion without paying heed and attention to the inward meaning and purpose of it all?
Religion in this modern age has generally a 'bad name.' The world that we live in seems to have so many different 'labels' of religion, each one with divisions and sects of their own. We see that some of these groups commit what humanity would consider to be 'evil' crimes in the name of religion- and those who are ignorant about the teachings of that religion tend to blame the religion for the evil. When mankind divides into different sects and groups and says 'we are right and you are wrong' we see that religion can cause 'division' among people and lead to war and destruction of innocent lives.
It is true that there are many different 'religions' all over the world. But by religion having a 'bad name' many people are refusing to even contemplate the idea that there might be a God, a Creator, a Higher Being, and that He is in fact good. This can lead to conflict within each of us and spiritual, emotional, mental and physical poor health. It is important to seek knowledge and wisdom and understanding about why it is that people do bad things in the name of religion- should we blame God or should we blame the people? Much of the terrorist crimes and attacks that happen in the name of God- are in fact a result of 'ignorance' and stem from the 'ego' of people and the 'greed for power, control and land and money.'
We can also ask the question- why is it that religions become divided, dividing humanity into separate groups, each rejoicing in what they have and believing that they are right and others wrong? Surely this just leads to weakening humanity, causing division, and reducing the ability for us all to live in peace and harmony together- especially if there is a lack of tolerance and respect between the religious sects and groups?
It is interesting that although there is mention of different groups, nations, tribes amongst men, nothing in Scripture suggests that dividing into different 'religions' and 'sects' is what pleases God. There is however a huge emphasis in keeping our 'Faith' in Him and seeking His guidance to showing us the right way, and encouragement for laws and rules for different nations. The message we get from Scripture is that our declaration of our faith in Him will be tested in this world life and that only through our speech and behaviour do we confirm our faith in Him. Therefore the intention and truthfulness of our hearts and actions is crucial in defining the 'Religion' of God. The more knowledge we gain about what is morally right and wrong and His Divine Will, the more responsibility man has upon him to be true to that knowledge and 'surrender' to truth of it. So one person's understanding of truth may be different to another's- and for the reason of groups of individuals who actively impose their version of truth upon others- we have divided ourselves into sects. However once we say 'I am right' and 'you are wrong' we stop learning. Everyone has aright to believe and choose one version of 'truth' above another, but let us ask ourselves- what is the true sincerity of our hearts behind doing this? Is it really about seeking THE Truth? or is it about 'winning an argument? Because God encourages us all in Scriptures that has been sent to different nations among us to seek wisdom, truth, justice and to be righteous in our ways by acting selflessly, embracing the relationship between us and Him, and between one another of His creation in loving kindness. By dividing ourselves and arguing and fighting and trying to gain power and victory in the name of religion- are we not going against ourselves as humanity and getting distracted from the true message? Should we not as different nations be helping one another in obeying His commandments, encouraging one another to be more charitable and kind and forgiving and let God judge between us all instead of passing judgement and criticism and instead of arguing about our differences?
In what many believe to be the Books of God- humans are described like 'trees.'- His True disciples or servants have strong roots which are well grounded and bear good fruit in abundance. Those who stop bearing fruit are cut off and destroyed.. We can also look at humanity as a whole like a tree in that we come from one trunk, which has divided into many branches which themselves have divided further into smaller ones. So even how humanity has divided- we could say that that too is part of His Divine Will and that it is perhaps something He has 'allowed' to happen. We all come from the one source of life, and are but vessels of His light and creation.
For those who call themselves Believers with sincere intention to Please God and seek Truth Justice and Love - Let us invite one another to do good in the name of God, rather than evil in the name of religion. Let us all take individual responsibility to kingship, and better ourselves as humanity, and seek knowledge and wisdom about what it is our religion teaches- what it really invites to- Faith, Peace, Love, Truth, Tolerance, Respect, Forgiveness, Humility, Gratitude, Kindness, Compassion, Justice and Fairness for all people, Faith, Chastity, and practicing what we preach. Let us all turn to our Creator for guidance to Wisdom, and invite others to do the same. Let us put down our weapons and defences, and stop blaming one another, stop causing corruption and oppression in the name of justice and peace, and instead pray for Peace and Unity and Guidance and Mercy.
Let us each questions ourselves and the paths which we have chosen to take. Why have we labelled ourselves as 'Muslim' or 'Jew' or "christian' or 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'- do we even know about the responsibility we are taking on by calling ourself this? Are we being true to the label that we call ourselves? Do we even truly believe that this is what God wants from us? Or are we simply following the ways of our fathers and forefathers without asking questions and without truly seeking the Truth? Are we being true to ourselves by practicing one religion over another or are we living our lives according to what others expect from us? Our actions will speak loudest. For example it is likely that a Jew who follows the Ten commandments and this is giving them inner peace is being true to themselves. It is likely that a christian who loves ~God with all his heart mind and soul and treats others how they want to be treated and tries to live a life of self-sacrifice and love and forgiveness and kindness- truly believes in the message of Christ; it is likely that a Muslim who practices the five pillars of Islam and accepts that the Torah and Gospel and Psalms of David and Proverbs given to Solomon are also Scripture from God as well as the Holy Quran- truly deserves that title.
Let us invite one another to purifying the intention within our hearts. Honest truthful hearts- who say what they believe, who act what they say. Ignorance is more forgivable in the eyes of humanity and in God's way, than evil which is done while knowing that it is wrong. Let us then all respect one another for having honest hearts- for on that basis we can build relationships with each other despite our differences- when we have honesty, we have trust, and when we have trust- we can work together, help one another and unite in loving kindness despite our acceptance that we are all on our own personal journeys and that God will ultimately judge us all according to our intentions and deeds.
Let us invite to seeking truth and separating it from falsehood- together. The more we talk to one another, learn from one another, the more we understand the different perspectives to our understanding of truth. Where we find contradiction, we know that there must be falsehood- let this be our guide to helping us distinguish what God really asks of us. If we all turned our faces to seeking Truth while trying to better ourselves as human beings, and if we all turned to the same God for guidance with sincere hearts and asked Him to make peace between us all, while we actively helped one another as humanity, as one entity, He will unite our hearts in loving kindness, compassion, and Faith. It is ok for us all to be different, have different hairstyles, colours, be different shapes and sizes, whether female or male, speak different languages and have different cultures and backgrounds- if anything diversity is a beautiful thing- how boring it would be if we were all the same, had the same talents, spoke in the same way, had the same personality- why not embrace each other and Praise God for our differences and diversity of creation while also remembering that we are all from the same soul- we are all different, but we are all from the same source. To Him we belong and to Him we return.
Time to take Responsibility
What we see happening is people across the globe are forming generalised opinions about a group of individuals who practice a certain religion or culture based on the actions of a few of those individuals. This is leading to racism and fascism and causing further division. For example we see hate crimes happening in the world against Jews and Muslims and Christians all over the world because of the actions of a few of the ignorant, or corrupt individuals who hide behind those labels- and commit evil crimes in the name of religion. It is the responsibility of those who call themselves Muslims, Jews and Christians to seek knowledge and wisdom about the teachings of their Book and try to be good role models for their label they choose to call themselves- and the more knowledge and wisdom we seek in Scripture- the more we see that the Abrahamic faiths all encourage good- they encourage righteousness, kindness, respect, love, compassion, forgiveness, respect, justice, and all the humanitarian concepts that this charity is based upon. The Ten Commandments and seven Noahide commandments alone forbid murder and stealing and lying and all the corruption and oppression that is often caused as a result of those who choose to do evil in the name of religion.
Let us also invite others who do not have religious labels take responsibility for us to get closer to world peace and living in harmony with one another. We must shun racism, we must shun making judgement of a whole group of people based on the practices of a few of them, and we must all seek justice and be fair to one another despite our differences in opinion about religion and our beliefs in order for humanity to live in peace with one another. No-one is better than anyone, no matter their race religion or background- except in righteousness in the eyes of God according to Scriptures. - let us all invite one another to all trying our best to respect that we have our differences, stop trying to impose or control one another through aggression about who is right and who is wrong. Those who truly are peacemakers, love one another do not try to put one another down and mock one another and call each other by nicknames- this leads to a reaction from the other group and this leads to conflict and arguments and retaliation. Let us reflect- what would God want us to do? Scripture teaches us that it is better to be patient with one another, respect one another, learn from each other, live together in peace and harmony and as one humanity. We do not have to agree with one another or be compelled to follow a religion or a way that we do not believe to be right- but God encourages us to say "to me my religion, to you your religion, and "peace be with you"" and turn away from those who we consider to be ignorant. But He encourages us to always treat one another with justice and fairness, despite our differences. He encourages us to learn from one another, and be kind to one another despite our differences in opinion or faith. He advises us to invite to seeking Truth and wisdom and to His Ways with good moral character and with gentleness- not through argument and aggression. The most powerful way of inviting one another to turning to God, is through our actions and deeds. Our kindnesses- by giving without expectation, our respect and tolerance- despite our differences in opinion, our forgiveness and pardoning of one another sins, our love and compassion that humanity shows one another- all these actions speak for themselves, actions speak louder than words and makes it more likely that we can live in peace and harmony with one another, and in Unity despite our differences and diversity of opinions.
Perhaps a useful way of humanity going forward and getting closer to distinguishing truth from falsehood as one entity- is to try to gain more knowledge about the difference between religion and culture. Much of traditional practice and culture has merged into the practice of 'religion' so that it is portrayed as 'from God' without sufficient evidence for this from Scripture and much of it is in fact passed down through 'man.'By mixing religion and tradition and not keeping the labels as separate, we unknowingly cause further separation and division and encourage further ignorance amongst ourselves, while portraying a false image of religion in the name of God.
Depending on how we look at it- religion can divide- but religion can also help us to unite...
Let us invite to loving kindness and seeking truth together- no matter what our 'religion, faith, cultures or traditions...'
(Above Writings are based on the reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)
Scripture Quotes on 'Religion.'
'There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned.’ Quran 2:256
'Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 'Quran 2:62
'Have you not considered how God presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky?' Quran 14:24
'Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.' Psalm 1:1-3
‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.’ Jeremiah 17:78
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.’ Mathew 7:15-20
‘Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ Luke 3:8-9
‘“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another”’. John 15
Lo! religion with God (is) the Surrender (to His Will and Guidance). Those who (formerly) received the Scripture differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning. 'Quran 3:19
‘You cannot guide those you would like to but God guides those He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided.’ Quran 28:56
‘God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just.’ Quran 60:8
'God does not love corruption' Quran 2:205
For you is your religion, and for me is my religion." Quran 109:6
'O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers.' Quran 49:11
'And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.' Quran 29:63
'Some of those who have divided their religion into different sects are not your concern. Their affairs are in the hands of God Who will show them all that they have done.' Quran 6:159
'And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of God and His beloved ones. Say: Why does He then chastise you for your faults? Nay, you are mortals from among those whom He has created, He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases; and God’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and to Him is the eventual coming.' Quran 5:18
'And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and assuring it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. To every one of you We have appointed a right way and an open road. If God had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may try you in what has come to you. So be you forward in good works; unto God shall you return, all together; and He will tell you of that whereon you were at variance.' Quran 5:48
'[Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has.' Quran 30:32
'And they did not become divided until after knowledge had come to them - out of jealous animosity between themselves. And if not for a word that preceded from your Lord [postponing the penalty] until a specified time, it would have been concluded between them. And indeed, those who were granted inheritance of the Scripture after them are, concerning it, in disquieting doubt.' Quran 42:14
'...Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ Matthew 17:20
‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’ Psalm 62:5-8
‘Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.’Psalm 27:10
‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.’ Psalm 143:8
‘But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands.’ Psalm 31:14-15
'Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.'Psalm 37:3-4
'Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.' Psalm 37:3-4
'He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around.'Mathew 8:24
'Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge' Proverbs 22:17
'Call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding. 'Proverbs 2:3
'Do yourself a favor and love wisdom. Learn all you can, then watch your life flourish and prosper!' Proverbs 19:8
'But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.' Proverbs 8:36
'How then does a man gain the essence of wisdom? We cross the threshold of true knowledge when we live in complete awe and adoration of God. Stubborn know-it-alls will never stop to do this, for they scorn true wisdom and knowledge.' Proverbs 1:7
'Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil.' Proverbs 3:7
'So make wisdom your quest – search for the revelation of life’s meaning. Don’t let what I say go in one ear and out the other. Stick with wisdom and she will stick to you, protecting you throughout your days. She will rescue all those who passionately listen to her voice.' Proverbs 4:5-6
'Wisdom is the most important thing; so get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding.'Proverbs 4:7
'Those who find true wisdom obtain the tools for understanding, the proper way to live, for they will have a fountain of blessing pouring into their lives. To gain the riches of wisdom is far greater than gaining the wealth of the world. As wisdom increases, a great treasure is imparted, greater than many bars of refined gold.'Proverbs 3:13-14
'For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;' Proverbs 2:6
'Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.' Proverbs 9:10
'A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.' Proverbs 13:1
'There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise: Ants—they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer. Hyraxes—they aren’t powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks. Locusts—they have no king, but they march in formation. Lizards—they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings’ palaces.' Proverbs 30:24-28