Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
The God who claims to have created all claims exclusivity. He says there is “none like me.” Those who have had an experience with Him acknowledge His exclusivity.
“Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”
Psalm 114: 13
Elijah gave the people a choice between a false god and the true God:
“How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
1 Kings 18:21
Anyone can claim to be God. Anyone can claim to “know the truth” even non-believers, i.e., Atheists. Some may say there is no such thing as “truth” or “truth” is whatever you want it to be. Further, there have been many who claim to be Jesus.
For the next several blogs, we will explore the world of gods, those claiming to be a god and those claiming to have the truth. Our objective is to ask for the real God to stand up. We want the real God to give us some reason to believe he is the real God.
This is such a massive topic, that I am not sure how long this series will last. I do not plan on it being an exhaustive study, but I want to make sure the topic is carefully explored with proper and fair use of resources. So hang on, here we go. Let start by asking,
How many gods are there in the world? How many religions? How many groups are there claiming to have truth? In other words, what is the scope of all this?
Below is a ranked listing of the major religions and the estimated number of followers according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
I am including Atheists as a religion. Like some of the religions listed below, they do not believe in any god, but they have a belief system and a faith in their philosophy and world view. Like many churches, Atheists are evangelical in their belief and often try to proselytize others through campaigns, books, meetings, merchandise, etc. They claim to have the truth!
The less biased researches regarding the number of Atheists vary, but several sources put the number at about 1. 4 million or 2% of the population worldwide. It is very complex identifying an unbeliever or an Atheists, but even the higher numbers put them at a low percentage of the world’s population. Based on these numbers, they would rank about #17 on the list below.
World Religions and Approximate Number of Followers:
- Christianity: 2.1 billion
- Islam: 1.3 billion
- Hinduism: 900 million
- Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
- Buddhism: 376 million
- African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
- Sikhism: 23 million
- Juche: 19 million
- Spiritism: 15 million
- Judaism: 14 million
- Baha’i: 7 million
- Jainism: 4.2 million
- Shinto: 4 million
- Cao Dai: 4 million
- Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
- Tenrikyo: 2 million
- Atheists: 1.4 million
- Neo-Paganism: 1 million
- Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
- Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
- Scientology: 500 thousand
Within each religion are thousands of “denominations,” “factions,” or “sects”
World Christian Encyclopedia estimates there are 33,000 Christian denominations alone! (World World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001).
As I write this, the two major factions of Islam (Shiites and Sunnis) are battling it out for control of Iraq.
In the Christian world, there is a split between the Roman Catholic church and those churches who “protested” against the tradition and misuse of the Bible and power.
The atheists like to use these numbers as “proof” that “God is imaginary.” The inference is that if God were real, there would be only one religion and one truth. In a perfect world without any enemies, this might be so. I must admit that all their claims about God and truth is a difficult argument to address.
Other arguments by unbelievers start with the same type of reasoning. “If” God were real, then why is there so much suffering in the world? “If” God is real, why are there so many wars and death? Again, the implication is that God would not allow any suffering or death at all and again this is a difficult question to answer.
We have a couple of options in the address of such difficult questions. We can put our head in the sand and just enjoy life as it comes to us and be put in our grave after our time on earth. Such is the philosophy and the battle cry of the Atheist, “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
The more aggressive evangelical atheistic view is to convince others, that because mankind is in such an emotional need of a higher power that they create God in their own image. Their fervent dedication to atheism is to destroy religion which they see as harmful to society. Certainly, they have a good case as you consider the many wars, death, and destruction caused over “religion.” Many believers are confused by the terror on this earth, but I am not sure embracing their philosophy would make the world a better place and stop war.
To them, the concept of God is a crutch for the weak-minded. It is about men controlling other men and wealth. It appears to make sense. Their formula for the existence of life is simple:
No one + nothing = everything (Evolution) which means:
No god + no purpose = no meaning to life (Enjoy while you can.)
After many years on this earth and many experiences, I have discovered people with no answers can make themselves look intelligent by asking questions that have no easy answer. Example: A young man doesn’t have an answer to why the country fell into a recession, so he asks the question, “Is this really a recession or have the numbers been manipulated by the government for political reasons?” This type of question or suspicion brings doubt and no real answers. It only adds to the confusion.
Just as the Atheist does not have an answer for the many religions their question brings doubt about the reality of a Creator God, but no real answers or proof of the no-God theory. They only have circumstantial evidence with their twist on its interpretation. But the same is true for the believer.
No doubt, there is an element of deception in the world of religion and philosophy. However, the atheist believes all religion is false and it has deceived all men. But, what if one of these gods is the real God and how would you know? This is what we will explore.
A scientific approach to the discovery of the real God would be to seek evidence and the claims of those claiming to be gods. Interview them all and their followers to see if the real God is there. But, what criteria would you use to determine who is true and who is false? What would be your basis for truth? This we need to consider in our search.
There was a popular TV show back in the 60’s called, To Tell The Truth. Three contestants would be introduced and all three would claim to be a certain person who had performed some unusual feat. For example, the show would start with all three contestants saying, “Hello my name is John Smith, I swam the English Channel with my hands tied behind my back.”
The celebrity panel of four would ask questions of each contestant, observe their body type (typically swimmers are athletic looking), and evaluate the answers to the questions. The contestants’ motivation was to deceive the four celebrities. The more celebrities guessing incorrectly, meant more money. Of course they had to lie or make up an answer some of the time. However, the real John Smith could not lie.
When the celebrities were finished asking questions, they would vote on who was the real John Smith. Sometimes it was unanimous; other times the votes were split. After all the questioning, the moment would come when the Emcee would ask,
“Would the real John Smith please stand up?”
Imagine the surprise of the celebrities in being deceived by the best lying contestants! This was a lot of fun, but it has a simple basis for the answer our question about the real God.
First, if we really want to know the truth about God, we need to be willing to ask some questions and seek some answers. rather than just guessing without some basis. Many people don’t want to know the truth or have no motivation to seek for it. They are comfortable with their head in the sand.
Is it possible, unlike the TV show, that the real God wants us to know the truth?
Also, in our search are we willing to accept things that cut across our own philosophy, set of beliefs or world view?
A good place to start is to examine the claims of each god. As mentioned above, there are a few religions whose leaders do not claim to be God, but rather promote a particular philosophy about living and life. Philosophies are extremely subjective. Many are a nice sounding string of words, but would be difficult to examine and test for truth.
Let’s try to start with the claims of each god or philosophy. We would need to study the answers to our common questions and compare. Also, we would need to see if there is anything they have done that would demonstrate god-like qualities or evidence of truth
We must be willing to submit to the idea that there are some liars among the group. There is truth and there is error. We will talk a little about absolute truth next time.
Perhaps only one is telling the truth. But keep in mind the law of non-contradiction. Two who contradict each other can’t both be right. The claim that all are right and there are many paths to eternity cannot be right, because of the contradiction of the claims on how to get there. Of course, the atheists take the simple way out and claim all are liars, but we won’t take this lazy approach.
Many unbelievers would also ask, “Why is there a need to do such a complicated time-consuming search?” Why doesn’t God just show up at the World Cup Soccer matches and say,
“Hello everyone! I am the real God and to prove it, I am going to predict the winner, the score, and other facts you can’t possibly know.” Even this would not convince many because they would claim mind manipulation. So how does someone become convinced they are following he real God?
For the purpose of this writing, I am going to take the “To-Tell-The-Truth approach to finding the real God. The question as to why a search is needed is again typical of the person who has no answers and is not willing to do an honest research or keep an open mind. So, they ask a difficult questions with no easy answers to bring doubt and get the seeker off course, because they are trying to protect their own philosophy. So, for now, we will ignore those types of questions.
Why are people a member of a particular religion or denomination?
Could we assume that people in these different religions are of that faith because they studied and selected that religion due to their research or because they were born into it?
If you are born in the middle east, you are likely to be Islamic. If you are born in the southern states of the US, you are likely to be Protestant Christian. If your parents were Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc., it is very likely you will be the same.
It would be safe to assume that our religion and denomination is determined mostly by our ancestry, location, and environment. Family roots and race is the most powerful reason for someone’s religion. I have heard people say, “if it was good enough for grandma, it is good enough for me.”
Of our 21 “religions” listed above, how many claim to have a god?
Some of the religions such as Hinduism, Shinto have many thousands of gods. Some have no gods, but are either led by gurus, teachers, philosophers, or politicians such as Buddhism, Sikhism, and Juche, Jainism
Many are recent “religions” such as Spiritism, Baha’i, Cao Dai, Tenrikyo, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism, Scientology which just started in the last couple hundred years.
Some are very nationalistic such as:
They attempt to reason their way to a conclusion rather than search the evidence.
We will start our next blog with a summary/comparison of each of the top “21” religions.
My desire is to eventually compare the top two religions in the world and their leaders. We will look at the claims of Jesus, Muhammad, Jehovah, and Allah.