Choices to consider
Imagine that it is Sunday and you are chilling on your couch while suddenly your doorbells ring. You wonder who it might be. You go to the door and open it. There are two men, smiling. Both want to talk about their religion and for some unknown reasons, you invite them for a cup of tea. While they are talking about their religious beliefs, you examine them. Both look nice, friendly, smiling a lot and are very enthusiastic about their religious ideas. And they talk about great religious teachings, about peace, about lawful order, divine wisdom and so on. You think that this is all nice and you wonder where the difference is between both men, respectively their beliefs. After a while, this is still not clear and so you ask both how they became followers of their religions. The first one explains that long time ago a wise man came into his village and started teaching about love, compassion, the spiritual nature of humans, the higher realms, about ethics, etc. and the path to inner peace and happiness. This wise man was able to convince the whole village to follow him and through many generations all followers were able to see the truth and the good in it.
You think that this is truly nice and positive. Now, you are curious what the other one will say.
He says that in the past his family and indeed all people of his country were followers of a different religion. But one day, they were attacked and conquered by an emperor of the neighbor country. This emperor forced all people to convert to his religion. The decision was simple, – convert or lose your head. And so most people converted and since then everyone is happy with the new religion, the only true religion.
You think for yourself that this is very convincing. Force is always so convincing and the option to lose your head is even more convincing. It must be a wonderful religion.
Now you want to know a little bit more and so you ask about the conditions of membership.
The first one says that his religion is more a positive attitude towards life and all living beings. There is no force but only the higher sense and truth. So, when people understand these things, they will follow the teachings and stay. But even if they want to leave it is no problem because the teachings say that there are many ways for self-realization.
You think that this sounds good. And what does the other one says?
He says that there is only one lawful way to serve God and to live a righteous life and so it is a must to join the community of followers. Force and death penalty are necessary to maintain the God-given order. For the good followers, there are waiting great rewards while all others are punished and tortured in hell for all times. This must be understood. All those who follow different beliefs have no human value. They are like cattle and need to be treated in this way.
Again, this sounds very convincing. You imagine how you receive the great rewards when you are dead from this all-loving God while everyone else is burning in hell. And you understand how useful the death penalty for infidels is and that not all humans can be equal. Some are meant to rule while others are meant to work hard for the rulers like slaves, being exploited like cattle. This simply must be the true religion, the right belief.
Or is there something wrong? Does truth need any force? Does an all-loving God need to punish or torture anyone? And if teachings are wise, beneficial and good, would they need any force to keep people as followers?
Many questions to consider. What is good? What is evil? What is true? And what is deceptive? And how would you decide?