In April 2004, America was in the thick of the Iraqi war. Plenty of casualties on both sides, with both sides proclaiming their efforts were in the name of “God”. It shocked me to see the insurgents screaming “Death to the Americans Zionist Pigs” in the name of their God. Worse yet, our own president, Bush, confessed that he prayed to God mightily before entering our nation into war. If you listened to all the rhetoric, it seems that God was playing both sides of the fence.
This bothered my Christian way of thinking. To my God, earthly things are trivial. His divine purpose is creating the ultimate destiny of humanity. Only He understands the destiny of mankind and certainly not us mortals that live at best 100 years at a time. Why would He incite such a thing? Or could it be that both sides are confused on their vision of God, and this confusion is causing the chaos?
So one night, I bring up the key question to some of my Christian friends. Are all Muslims going to hell? This is indeed a dilemma. The Bible teaches the only way to heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. It is painfully obvious to me that no self respecting Muslim is going to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. But the Bible is about 2000 years ago, and the Koran and Mohammed came after Jesus Christ, so perhaps the Bible did not contemplate other and more recent ways of achieving eternal salvation. At least so I thought.
My friends explained to me that was simply not true. The Bible is explicit and universal on this subject, and there is only one conclusion that one can make. All Muslims are going to hell. I countered time and time again, but unless a Muslim accepts Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, they will suffer eternal damnation. This really set me for a loop. If this was true for Muslims, did the same logic apply for Buddhists, Hindus, and other religions? Did I believe believe that my religion is better than the religions that the other 75% of the world practices? No, I did not. My friends patiently explained to me the relevant Bible verses, but I didn’t want to hear it.
But things got worse in my mind rather than better. If we really believed that all Muslims were going to hell because they do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then should’t our role be to enlighten them and not kill them? Is the war in Iraq more or less likely to convert Muslims to Christianity?
So I decided to have lunch with one of my senior pastors at my church. I asked him, “When you close your eyes and pray to God, do you believe it is the same God that a Muslim prays to?” He answered very quickly. No it is not. I pray to a real God, and the Muslim prays to a false God. He started to give more Bible verses to read, but to be honest, I didn’t want to read them.
It’s a slippery slope. We interpret the Bible to mean that our God is the only true God, and all others are false Gods. Do Christians really believe this? If they do, with all their heart, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to come to the conclusion that a Christian life is worth more than a Muslim life. After all, all Muslims are going to hell. I believe that God made all of us equal, but somehow as Christians, we have some of the underpinnings of religious superiority. Yuccch.
At this point, after about 4 months of this in my head, I decided to stop going to church. The reality is that there is no sure way of knowing if one religion is superior to another. All we have is faith. I felt that my faith was leading me to a bad place, where I felt religious superiority to others. I have never felt this way about my faith, and I hope I never will. I feel grateful for my religion and the insights and peace that it gives me. I feel humbled that there is a larger plan. But I have never felt superiority. And I felt that if I continued my current path, it was leading me there. So I just stopped going.
As of this writing, I still struggle with this issue. I still believe that it is wrong to believe that Christianity is the exclusive way to heaven, and hence we are the only true religion. I believe it is dangerous to believe this and I refuse to. But I have started to go to church again. There is more goodness there than bad, but I still would prefer that it would all be good when it comes to God. Maybe one day, He will make it so.