The Apple Of God's Eye

May 8, 2011

World Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents

Filed under: Religion,Religious Denominations — melchia @ 12:52 am

(Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)

  1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
  2. Islam: 1.5 billion
  3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  4. Hinduism: 900 million
  5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  6. Buddhism: 376 million
  7. primal-indigenous: 300 million
  8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  9. Sikhism: 23 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 15 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha’i: 7 million
  14. Jainism: 4.2 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million
  16. Cao Dai: 4 million
  17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
  18. Tenrikyo: 2 million
  19. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
  22. Scientology: 500 thousand

Source: http://www.adherents.com

World Religions By Country

Filed under: Religion,Religious Denominations — melchia @ 12:43 am

This is a list I found referring to religions of this world by country. It is from: Infoplease.com

World Religions

Afghanistan Islam (Sunni 80%, Shiite 19%), other 1%
Albania Islam 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10% (est.)
Algeria Islam (Sunni) 99% (state religion), Christian and Jewish 1%
Andorra Roman Catholic (predominant)
Angola Indigenous 47%, Roman Catholic 38%, Protestant 15% (1998 est.)
Antigua and Barbuda Christian (predominantly Anglican and other Protestant; some Roman Catholic)
Argentina Roman Catholic 92%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%
Armenia Armenian Apostolic 95%, other Christian 4%, Yezidi 1%
Australia Roman Catholic 26%, Anglican 21%, other Christian 21%, Buddhist 2%, Islam 2%, other 1%, none 15% (2001)
Austria Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 5%, Islam 4%, none 12% (2001)
Azerbaijan Islam 93%, Russian Orthodox 3%, Armenian Orthodox 2%, other 2% (1995 est.)
Bahamas Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%, Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other Christian 15% (2000)
Bahrain Islam (Shiite and Sunni) 81%, Christian 9%
Bangladesh Islam 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)
Barbados Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%
Belarus Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Belgium Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%
Belize Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 27% (Pentecostal 7%, Anglican 5%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Mennonite 4%, Methodist 4%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 2%), none 9%, other 14% (2000)
Benin indigenous 50%, Christian 30%, Islam 20%
Bhutan Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%
Bolivia Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5%
Bosnia and Herzegovina Islam 40%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%, other 14%
Botswana Christian 72%, Badimo 6%, none 21% (2001)
Brazil Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 15%, Spiritualist 1%, none 7% (2000)
Brunei Islam (official religion) 67%, Buddhist 13%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs and other 10%
Bulgaria Bulgarian Orthodox 83%, Islam 12%, other Christian 1% (2001)
Burkina Faso Islam 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%
Burundi Roman Catholic 62%, indigenous 23%, Islam 10%, Protestant 5%
Cambodia Theravada Buddhist 95%, others 5%
Cameroon indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Islam 20%
Canada Roman Catholic 43%, Protestant 23% (including United Church 10%, Anglican 7%, Baptist 2%, Lutheran 2%), other Christian 4%, Muslim 2%, none 16% (2001)
Cape Verde Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs), Protestant (mostly Church of the Nazarene)
Central African Republic indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant and Roman Catholic (both with animist influence) 25% each, Islam 15%
Chad Islam 51%, Christian 35%, animist 7%, other 7%
Chile Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, small Jewish population
China Officially atheist; Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%–4%, Muslim 1%–2% (2002 est.)
Colombia Roman Catholic 90%
Comoros Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 2% (more…)

January 30, 2010

How To Know If You Have God's Truth, When Others Are Wrong!

How can you know that you are any nearer to understanding God’s truth than others? Who is right among the hundreds of squabbling denominations; thousands of confused sects or millions of “loner” Christians. God says we can be absolutely sure to know we are biblically correct in what we practice, by “proving all things.”

  1. The very recognition of that fact is the beginning of right knowledge. That is the first step toward coming out of the fog of error and deception, starting toward truth. It is not a matter of who has the greater intellect. A man may have the highest IQ in the world, and in his intellectual vanity refuse to admit he could be wrong—reject all correction—and thus embrace error and deception.
  1. The second step  is to be willing to admit being deceived, or in error, and to reject it and accept truth—when proved—even though unpopular. Are you willing to act on it— obey the truth—no matter what the cost?”

This is why “all the great theologians—the noted preachers and heads of great religious denominations” are in error. There are few people of great intellect who don’t have the kind of vanity that shrinks from confessing he has been wrong. To find and live the truth of God requires a humbled mind. The greatest, ablest intellect in the world is still human—still fallible—still imperfect. Those who are deceived and steeped in error have simply not stopped to realize their own imperfections—their proneness to error. They assume, in their egotism, that whatever they believe is true. And they are unwilling to humble themselves and confess their wrongs. (more…)

December 12, 2009

Denominational Flavour Of The Day: Cafeteria Religionists!

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal of December 11, 2009, titled “A Hint of This, a Pinch of That” pointed to a very interesting survey survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. It found that the U.S. is a “nation of religious drifters,” gravitating toward religious monogamy, pledging fidelity, say, to Methodism in our youth, Catholicism in middle age and Episcopalianism in our dotage.

Americans seem to have no problem flirting with religious beliefs and practices other than their own without officially changing their religious affiliation. “Cafeteria Religionists” are picking and choosing beliefs and practices they choose to uphold at a whim. This is what Boston University’s John Berthrong has referred to as the “divine deli.”

The article says, “Not counting travel, or special events such as weddings and funerals, more than one-third of Americans attend worship services at more than one place, and nearly a quarter attend services held by another religion. Much of this religious infidelity happens in the family, or within the extended family—Lutherans attending Baptist services or Baptists attending Catholic Mass. …

Religion in North America seems to be heading down a slippery slope, under the guise of religious tolerance. Today, it’s not even so much about doctrines as it is between the blurred lines of the actual religions themselves. Traditions have been tossed to the wayside in favour of filling the shopping cart with the religious flavour of the day.

October 1, 2009

Why The Religions Of This World Do Not Understand God!

1Well, I have an interesting title, yet the subject is absolutely true, though most will not believe it and may even violently argue it. There is a reason though why I make such a statement, and it does not stem from my own opinion, but from the word of God.

God says the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9. It is desperately wicked. This includes the mind of ALL men – even great leaders, statesmen and religious heads such as the Pope, Dalai Lama, Mohammed and so on. It does not matter what we are involved in, our mind is at war with God (Rom. 8:7). The mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; and it is not subject to the Law of God. Little wonder then that modern Christianity is throwing the law of God out the window in favour of grace. Who wants to listen to that outdated talk, right? So half the Bible is now invalid because we decide we want a religion of convenience, rather than necessity.

It’s not merely in religious circles that we display the dangerous trait of following other men. God says cursed is the man that trusts in man (Lev. 17:5). That’s right, because men lead us astray. They propagate their own set of beliefs, values and judgments on others, usually formulated in a lukewarm way to be pleasing and easy to follow. That, as God says, they walk after own lusts (Jude 16); their own ways.

Why so much confusion today?

The religions of this world can be defined very broadly as “any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life.” They include the great monotheistic religions, Eastern religions; and Neopagan religions; a wide range of other faith groups, spiritual paths, and ethical systems. There are also sub-Christian, quasi-Christian and anti-Christian groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, cults and sects.

Then there is Christianity which many define in a much more exclusive manner. This term can be defined as: “An individual or group who sincerely, thoughtfully and devoutly believes that they are Christian.”

Not one of these thousands of bickering experiences with so many various doctrinal differences are from God. Sure, members of all different religions can appeal to religious experiences as validating their beliefs. Christians may claim to have had experiences of the triune God, or of Jesus; Hindus may claim to have had experiences of Vishnu, or Ganesha; Buddhists may claim to have experienced transcendence, or unity with the universe. Each of these claims to have experienced religious truth, but they cannot all be valid, for these various religions are mutually inconsistent, and so cannot all be true.

If not all of these claims are valid, then it must be exactly as Christ said – there is only ONE true Church (Matt. 16:18), and the rest are deceived.

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The word “church” literally means “those called out,” and often means an assembly or congregation, NOT a building. It is applied to Christians as being “called out” from the world — the whole body of believers. But it also implies a singular Church. The word “my”Church is # 3450 in the Greek, which means “me, or mine (own). It does not mean all combined religions.

However, men want do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25), even though religion means we follow God and do as He wants, not as we want (Deut. 13:18). It is the mind of God which must be in us (Phil. 2:5), led by the Spirit of God. It cannot be our own convictions, feelings or moral beliefs. And this can only be achieved if it is God who calls us (John 6:44). We ourselves can’t just decide to become a Christian – that is NOT what your Bible says. Neither are WE to convert others. Go back to John 6:44 and see that it is GOD who calls us – into His one true Church. It is not my place to tell anyone where to go or what to believe, but only to point out the truth.

What is truth? God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and this truth sets us free (John 8:32). It allows us to repent and be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit of God, after being called out of this world (Acts 3). ALL will eventually receive this calling, but most after the resurrection to life.

We will continue to have suppression of truth because the Bible says it is so (Rom. 1:18). Such do not seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).

Why is the Bible correct?

The Bible is radically different than all other so-called sacred literature. It asserts that it is the divinely inspired writings of a supreme Deity. No other sacred literature makes such a claim. It is full of personal quotes from a very active, living God. Here is an example:

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

The God of the Bible declares the supremacy of His own power. There is none like Him. He is capable of initiating and carrying out a purpose on Earth. A real understanding of God’s purpose shows that there are stupendous and wonderful things ahead for all mankind.

The Bible asserts that it alone contains the divine revelation of that plan—that the Almighty God directed all the writing. Here are some examples:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (Exodus 34:27). God told Isaiah, “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever” (Isaiah 30:8).

The expression “time to come for ever and ever” is best translated latter days—or our time right now! The entire Bible carries essential knowledge that only God can make known to mankind. This sole piece of sacred literature contains the historical record and prophecies about how God is working out His plans.

The literature of other religions is not subject to scholarly scrutiny simply because the Bible claims to be the express Word of God. No other religions make such a claim for their literature. The Bible speaks out with God’s authority because it is the literal Word of God. Critics may deny this fact, but it is the truth.

September 29, 2009

Is Your Religion Offering You A Bailout?

Rev. 12:9 says this world started with Satan deceiving the first humans and he continues to do so to the entire world today. How many people (including organized religion) believe this verse? Does it really encompass the whole world, including the thousands of bickering religions systems in existence today? Of course it does, that’s why it is in the Bible.

II Cor. 4:3 – Scripture says the God of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (II Cor. 4:3). Now I know that many Christians will say they believe, but do they? Are their actions in tune with what God says in the Bible? Let’s have a deeper look.

This is NOT God’s world or civilization

Despite the facts and evils that fly in our face, there is no good in this present world. America likes to hold itself up as the world’s standard, but despite the blessings of Abraham, this country leads the world in pornographic filth, drug consumption and a host of other evils that make other countries shake their heads.

This is Satan’s world entirely. God, at the present time, has a hands off policy towards mankind. That is why we see unparalleled human suffering.  Jesus came to start a new civilization which will be God’s world (future). God has NOT tried to repair the world and neither is there a power struggle between God and Satan.

When Christ first came to earth, He was a light to the world, but men did not recognize Him because they love darkness (John 3:19). This is not just talking about the Jews, as some commentaries state, but about all men – the entire world. How do I know that all men would have reacted the same way? Because Jer. 17:9 says man’s mind is deceitful above all things. Notice how powerful is Satan’s deception. He has deceived mankind to be incapable of seeing things in a straightforward manner. All are full of shrewd guile, and moved only by motives of self-interest..

After 6000 years, most still think this is a good world. Satan also sees his way as better than God’s, as workable. He is an espouser of change, just not positive change. How can we even know the heart if it is so dangerously sick?

Destruction of this world’s systems?

We usually think of Christ as the “Prince of Peace.” But did you know that your Bible says He is actually coming to make war with man? Has your particular religion ever explained this to you?

Rev 19:15 – “And out of His mouth goes forth a sharp sword, that with it He might smite the nations. And He will shepherd them with an iron rod. And He treads the winepress of the wine of the anger and of the wrath of God Almighty.”

Jesus Christ will actually fight against unrepentant sinning nations. He is coming to destroy the world’s systems of government. Some will say that God cannot do this, as He is love. But notice that Rev. 11:18 says He destroys those who destroy the earth. Man is destructive, not God. He has to put a stop to it or man would wipe himself out. God has to intervene by sending His Son to this earth.

The Pharisees in Christ’s time, much like our leaders today, could not understand that Christ would sit with sinners and not the “supposed righteous.” But He told them that THEY were wrong, and that they needed healing from their spiritual sickness, or their Jer. 17:9 mind (Matt. 9:10-13, Hos. 6:6).

Modern religion offers spiritual bailouts

We hear about bailouts, prop-ups, and rescues for companies today due to financial mismanagement However, all of these fail to address the cause, which is changing what is wrong. That is what Atonement is all about. If we keep destroying the earth, Jesus Christ has to intervene to stop us.

In Heb. 9, Paul spoke to people who knew the symbols, but not the meaning. This is much like the world today. It does not understand the Bible, and neither do religious denominations or groups who think everything will be provided for them – no change necessary, no looking at the cause. Quite simply, their religion offers to bail them out spiritually, to remove their guilt without effort, without repentance, without law keeping, without becoming one with God. This is impossible. Christ will not bear our sins and atone for them if we make no changes. The death of Jesus Christ is not enough to give us salvation, yet religion today worships only a dead Christ on the cross, not a living intercessor. This can only be done by keeping the law of God, because once we come out of sin, an unrepentant life will be of no value to God.

Verses 13-14 of Heb. 9 show a new project, a new way and new world to serve the living God. We have to have a clean slate and washing to move on from the dead works of this world to follow God. In God we live, move and have our being. Our guilt ceases to exist if we repent (Acts 17:28).

The Day of Atonement offers us the opportunity to fast (Lev. 23:29), which is a vivid reminder of being saved from destruction – the ultimate bailout. It is about salvation. Our dollar says in God we trust, yet God is the only one we won’t turn to in humility and prayer so that our guilt might be atoned for.

Our greatest need is for God to reveal our sickness, and then to change it. This is addressing the problem and starting over with what is right. If our sins are not atoned for first, then there can be a special relationship between God and His children (Lev. 23:28).

Humans are wracked with sin and deeply flawed. Sin divides man from God (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18). It is a chasm between us — a tear in the fabric of the family unity God yearns to share with us. As passionate as God’s love is, it is equaled by the passion of His hatred of sin. He simply will not abide sin.

God’s master plan involves spiritually converting human minds to the point where we come to despise sin and embrace righteousness as He does — in every thought, word and deed. This is the fundamental change required in God’s plan for mankind.

In other words, if we are ever to fulfill God’s purpose for us sinful human beings — if ever the violence set in motion by Lucifer’s rebellion is to be set right — God must institute a process of atonement. Sin must be dealt with; the presence of sin in our lives demands radical action to remove it, expunge it, wipe it out, so that true at-one-ment between man and God can occur.

Is this what your religion teaches, or does it offer a flaccid come-as-you-are doctrine? Only one can be right!

July 2, 2009

Should A Minister Be Addressed By The Title "Reverend?"

anunveiledface.wordpress.com

anunveiledface.wordpress.com

When we look into the Bible, we find the word “Reverend” refers ONLY TO GOD — not once is it applied to man. In Psalm 111:9 we read: “He (God) hath commanded his covenant for ever: HOLY AND REVEREND IS HIS NAME.”  God alone has a NAME worthy of REVERENCE. No man, including any minister, has a name worthy of such respect or worship.

You will not find a single place in the New Testament where Peter, Paul, John, James or any other ministers were ever called “reverend.” The use of religious titles, such as “Reverend,” began when the great apostasy set in at the close of the first century. Ministers put themselves “IN THE PLACE OF CHRIST.” Hence they took upon themselves the attributes and titles of divinity. God’s true ministers (in His one true Church) throughout the ages have never done so.

Notice the instruction of Jesus Christ in Matt. 23:8-11: “But you [Christ’s disciples], do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Our Savior commands that those He calls to serve the brethren of the church should not take upon themselves titles that arrogate God and Christ’s own titles and positions, such as “Teacher” and “Father.” Instead, as servants and brothers, ministers should live and work in humility as servants of God.

However, it is proper for ministers to be called, “Elder,” “Pastor” “Evangelist,” etc., for these are titles used in the New Testament. See Matthew 23:8-10.

June 14, 2009

The Violence Of Islam

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Editors Comment: I posted this article  from probe.org in its entirety because I thought it contained a good insight into a politically incorrect subject. Too many are willing to minimize what is plainly evident before our eyes today. Islam is not a religion of peace, though many practice it that way. From the outset, as the article states, Muhammad conquered with the sword and this philosophy is now manifesting itself again in a huge way worldwide. Any opposition is worn down through suppression – either violent or non-violent through political pressure by integration into other societies.
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On September 11, 2001 Americans found themselves confronted by an enemy they knew little about. We had suddenly lost more lives to a sneak attack than had been lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor and yet few understood the reasons for the hatred that prompted the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon. Even in the days that followed, Americans were getting mixed signals from the media and from national politicians. One voice focused on the peaceful nature of Islam, going so far as to argue that Osama bin Laden could not be a faithful Muslim and commit the acts attributed to him. Others warned that bin Laden has a considerable following in the Muslim world and that even if he was removed as a potential threat many would step in to replace him with equal or greater fervor.

Some argued that fundamentalist Muslims are no different than fundamentalist believers of any religion. The problem is not Islam, but religious belief of any type when taken too seriously. This view holds that all forms of religious belief, Christian, Jewish, or Islamic can promote terrorism. Robert Wright, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania writes that:

If Osama Bin Laden were a Christian, and he still wanted to destroy the World Trade Center, he would cite Jesus’ rampage against the money-changers. If he didn’t want to destroy the World Trade Center, he could stress the Sermon on the Mount. [1]

His view is that terrorism can be justified by any religion when people are economically depressed. He adds “there is no timeless, immutable essence of Islam, rooted in the Quran, that condemns it to a medieval morality.” [2]

This claim points to the question: Is there something inherent in Islam that makes it more likely to resort to violence than other world religions like Christianity or Buddhism? While it is important to admit that all religions and ideologies have adherents that are willing to use violence to achieve what they believe are justified ends, it does not follow that all religions and ideologies teach equally the legitimacy of violent means.

People have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, from the inquisitions to the slaying of abortionists. However, it is my position that it is not possible to justify these actions from the teachings of Christ Himself. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach that one should kill for the sake of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, or to defend the honor of Jesus Himself.

What about Islam? My contention is that Islam’s founder Muhammad, and the Quran, its holy book, condone violence as a legitimate tool for furthering Allah’s goals. And that those who use violence in the name of Allah are following a tradition that began with the very birth of Islam.

Muhammad

As mentioned earlier, there are followers in most of the world’s belief systems that justify the use of violence to achieve their religious or political goals. However, this says more about the sinfulness of humanity than it does about the belief system itself. It is important to look past the individual behavior of a few followers to the message and actions of the founder of each system and his or her closest disciples. In the case of Islam, this means Muhammad and the leadership of Islam after Muhammad’s death.

One cannot overstate the centrality of Muhammad’s example within the religion of Islam. One of the greatest Muslim theologians, al- Ghazzali, writes of Muhammad:

Know that the key to happiness is to follow the sunna [Muhammad’s actions] and to imitate the Messenger of God in all his coming and going, his movement and rest, in his way of eating, his attitude, his sleep and his talkGod has said: “What the messenger has brought–accept it, and what he has prohibited–refrain from it!” (59:7). That means, you have to sit while putting on trousers, and to stand when winding a turban, and to begin with the right foot when putting on shoes. [3]

Although considered only human, one Muslim writer describes Muhammad as “[T]he best model for man in piety and perfection. He is a living proof of what man can be and of what he can accomplish in the realm of excellence and virtue. . . .” [4] So it is important to note that Muhammad believed that violence is a natural part of Islam. Many passages of the Quran, which came from Muhammad’s lips support violence. Followers are told to “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them (9:5),” and to “Fight those who believe not in God, nor the Last Day.” (9:29) Muhammad also promises paradise for those who die in battle for Allah, “Those who left their homes . . . or fought or been slain,–Verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath;–A reward from the Presence of God.” (3:195; cf. 2:244; 4:95)

While living in Medina, having escaped from persecution in Mecca, Muhammad supported himself and his group of followers by raiding Meccan caravans. His fame grew after a stunning defeat of a large, well defended, caravan at Badr. Muhammad was also willing to have assassinated those who merely ridiculed his prophetic claims. The list of those killed included Jews, old men and women, slaves, and a mother of five children who was killed while she slept. [5] Also, in order to violate a long-standing ban against warfare during a sacred month, he claimed a new revelation that gave him permission to kill his enemies. [6]

Violent expediency seems to have been the guiding rule of Muhammad’s ethics.

Early Islam

Muhammad’s life as a prophet was a precarious one. After fleeing Mecca and establishing himself in Medina, Muhammad was constantly being tested militarily by those who considered him a religious and political threat. Although at an initial disadvantage, Muhammad wore down his opponents by raiding their caravans, seizing valuable property, taking hostages and disrupting the all-important economic trade Mecca enjoyed with the surrounding area. [7] The turning point for Muhammad and his followers seems to have come in what is known as the Battle of the Ditch or the Siege of Medina. A large Meccan force failed to take the city and destroy the new religion. Suspecting that a local Jewish tribe had plotted with the Meccans to destroy him, Muhammad had all the men of the tribe killed and the women and children sold into slavery. [8] In 630 A.D. Muhammad returned to Mecca with a large force and took it with little bloodshed. He rewarded many of its leaders financially for surrendering and within a short period of time a large number of the surrounding tribes came over to this new and powerful religious and political movement.

Muhammad continued building his following by using a combination of material enticements, his religious message, and force when necessary. With the fall of Mecca, many other tribes realized Muhammad’s position as the most powerful political leader in western Arabia and sent representatives to negotiate agreements with him.

Muhammad’s death in 632, just two years after his triumphant return to Mecca, thrust an important decision on the community of believers. Should they choose one person to lead in Muhammad’s place or do they separate into many communities. The decision was made to pick Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s father-in-law and early supporter to assume the role of caliph or successor to Muhammad. Immediately, many who had submitted to Muhammad refused to do so to Abu Bakr. Several tribes wanted political independence, some sought to break religiously as well. The result is known as the Apostasy wars. At the end of two years of fighting to put down both religious and political threats, Abu Bakr had extended his control to include the entire Arabian Peninsula. Islam was now in position to extend its influence beyond Arabia with a large standing army of believers.

Violence and warfare seems to have dominated early Islam. Two of the first four caliphs were assassinated by internal rivals, and within the first fifty years of its existence Islam experienced two bloody civil wars. Rival tribal loyalties within and the religious struggle or jihad against the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires made the first century of Islam a bloody one.

Jihad

Historian Paul Johnson writes,

[T]he history of Islam has essentially been a history of conquest and re-conquest. The 7th-century “breakout” of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. [9].

From the beginning, Muslims “saw their mission as jihad, or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness far and wide.” [10] Although many Muslims in America have argued that jihad primarily refers to a struggle or striving for personal righteousness, Bernard Lewis, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University writes that, “The more common interpretation, and that of the overwhelming majority of the classical jurists and commentators, presents jihad as armed struggle for Islam against infidels and apostates.” [11]

Although highly regulated by Islamic law, the call for every able- bodied Muslim to defend Islam began with Muhammad and has continued with the fatwas of Osama bin Laden in 1996 and 1998. Bin Laden argues that his attacks on American civilians and military has three specific complaints: America has placed infidel troops on holy soil in Saudi Arabia; America has caused the death of over a million Iraqi children since Desert Storm; and American support for the evil Zionist nation of Israel.

Regarding the history of jihad in Islam, an ex-chief justice of Saudi Arabia has written “[A]t first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory, . . .” Muslims are to fight against those who oppress Islam and who worship others along with Allah. [12]. He adds that even though fighting is disliked by the human soul, Allah has made ready an immense reward beyond imagination for those who obey. He also quotes Islamic tradition, which says, “Paradise has one hundred grades which Allah has reserved for the Mujahidin who fight in His Cause.” [13]

Numerous passages in the Qur’an refer to Allah’s use of violence. A surah titled “The Spoils of War” states, “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you . . . they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.” [14] Another says, “O ye who believe! When ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them. . . .” [15] It adds that those who do will find themselves in hell, a significant incentive to fight on.

Muslims and Modernity

Islam was born in the midst of persecution and eventually conquest. Muhammad was adept at both religious and military leadership, but what about modern Islam? Do all Muslims see jihad in the light of conquest and warfare?

While it is probably safe to say that American born Muslims apply the teachings of Muhammad and Islamic traditions differently than Saudi or Iranian Muslims. The use of violence in the propagation of Islam enjoys wide support. Part of the reason is that the concept of separation of church and state is alien to Islam. Muhammad Iqbal, architect of Pakistan’s split from Hindu India, wrote, “The truth is that Islam is not a church. It is a state conceived as a contractual organism. . . .” [16] Responding to the inability of Islam to accommodate the modern world, an Algerian Islamic activist points to the example of Muhammad:

The Prophet himself did not opt to live far away from the camp of men. He did not say to youth: “Sell what you have and follow me. . . .” At Medina, he was not content merely to be the preacher of the new faith: he became also the leader of the new city, where he organized the religious, social and economic life. . . . Later, carrying arms, he put himself at the head of his troops. [17]

The powerful combination within Islam of immediate paradise for those who die while fighting for Allah and the unity of political, religious, and economic structures, helps us to understand the source of suicide bombers and children who dream of becoming one. Young Palestinians are lining up by the hundreds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to volunteer for suicide missions. Eyad Sarraj, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Project, detects a widespread zeal. “If they are turned down they become depressed. They feel they have been deprived of the ultimate award of dying for God.” [18] Palestinian support for suicide bombers is now at 70 to 80 percent.

Islam and Christianity both require its followers to sacrifice and turn from the world and self. Yet while Islam equates political conquest with the furtherance of Allah’s reign, Jesus taught that we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Christianity recognizes that the advancement of God’s kingdom is not necessarily a political one. The New Testament did not advocate the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Muslims are given the example of Muhammad’s personal sacrifice in battle so that Allah’s enemies might be defeated. Christians are given the example of Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice, so that even His enemies might believe and have eternal life.

Notes

1. Robert Wright, http://www.msnbc.com/news, 10/30/2001.
2. Ibid.
3. Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), p. 82.
4. Ibid., 84.
5. Ibid., 175.
6. The Quran states, “They ask thee Concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offense)’; But graver is it In the sight of God To prevent access to the path of God.” (2:217)
7. John Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, (Oxford University Press, 1999), p 10.
8. Geisler & Saleeb, p. 79.
9. Paul Johnson, National Review, October 15, 2001.

10. John Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, p. 13.
11. Bernard Lewis, “Jihad vs. Crusade,” The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2001.
12. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Bin Humaid, “Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah,” http://islamworld.net/jihad.html, p. 4.
13. Ibid., p. 8.
14. Qur’an 8:65.
15. Qur’an 8:15-16.
16. Kenneth Cragg & Marston Speight, Islam From Within, (Wadsworth Inc., 1980), p. 213.
17. Ibid., p 228.
18. Eric Silver, “Bomber quit intelligence service to join Hamas two days before attack,” Independent Digital (UK) Ltd, 03 December 2001, www.independent.co.uk.

June 8, 2009

Do Nicolaitians Have A Connection To Santa Claus?

“Nicolaitan” means “a follower of Nicolas.” It comes from two Greek words — “nikos” and “laos”. “Nikos” means “conqueror” or “destroyer,” and “laos” means “people.” The original Nicolas was a conqueror or destroyer of the people! That was Nimrod — the original archrebel, who conquered the people and founded a man-made civilization within two centuries after the Flood!

While he was alive, Nimrod put himself in the place of God. When he died, his admirers continued to WORSHIP him as a divine hero. They called him “Baal,” a name found throughout the Old Testament, meaning “master” or “lord.”

Nimrod also had other names. One, commonly used throughout Asia Minor, was “Santa.” (See “Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary”). “Santa Claus” is but a shortened form of “Santa Nicholas” or “Saint Nicholas.”

Many unknowingly honor this Nicholas even in our day by by observing customs associated with December 25th. Christmas originally was the “Saturnalia” or birthday of Nimrod. Of course, these customs handed down from ancient paganism have been renamed and made to appear innocent and good!

Nicolaitans in modern times

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says:

  • nik-o-la’-i-tanz Nikolaitai: – The Sect: A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Re 2:14,15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Re 2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Re 2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Re 2:20; compare 2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture. The Nicolaitians were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, and perhaps elsewhere.

Irenaeus identifies the Nicolaitans as a Gnostic sect:

“John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith (the deity of Christ), and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word” (see Irenaeus Against Heresies iii 11.  1; ANF vol. 1, p. 426) There is also historical evidence of a Gnostic sect called Nitolaitans a century or so later.

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans appears to have been a form of antinomianism: a belief that is based upon a recognition of the mercy of God as the ground of salvation. However, it goes astray in the mistake that man can freely partake in sin because the Law of God is no longer binding. It held the truth on the gratuitous reckoning of righteousness; but supposed that a mere intellectual “belief” in this truth had a saving power.

James 2:19 refutes this error:

“The devils also believe, and tremble”; reminding us that belief of and by itself is not enough for salvation, especially when held to the light of James 2:20, which says: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

No one will argue that salvation is a free gift, based upon God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). but from there we have to go on and do something, as the very next verse admonishes us.  “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).  The faith of God produces action; leading to a desire for holiness and obedience. (1 John 3:18, Titus 2:11-15, 1 Peter 1:15-16, Revelation 14:12)

There are certain religions  today which still teach the heretical doctrine of holding to the freedom of the flesh and sin, and teaching that the deeds of the flesh have no effect upon salvation. But is this biblical?

The Bible teaches that Christians are supposed to “die” to sin and the deeds of our “flesh”: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)  “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:11-13)

Today, the doctrine is now largely taught that the gospel of Christ has made God’s law of no effect: that by “believing” we are released from the necessity of being doers of the Word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned in the book of Revelation.  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)

May 3, 2009

Jedi Officers: May the Police "Force" Be With You!

Filed under: Religion — melchia @ 6:07 am
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A police force appears to have some Star Wars fans in its midst, after eight of its officers recorded their religion as “Jedi”, it was revealed today.Strathclyde Police said the officers and two civilian staff had listed themselves as “Jedi” in voluntary diversity forms.Jane’s Police Review asked 55 forces across the UK how many employees had officially declared their religion as Jedi.It said Strathclyde Police was the only force to confirm that some of its staff had entered “Jedi”.In the 2001 Census for England and Wales around 390,000 people stated religion as “Jedi”. The Office for National Statistics did not recognise it as a separate category, and incorporated them with the atheists.In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000. Strathclyde is the largest police force in Scotland.It employees around 8,200 police officers and 2,800 police staff.
A police force appears to have some Star Wars fans in its midst, after eight of its officers recorded their religion as “Jedi”, it was revealed today.
Strathclyde Police said the officers and two civilian staff had listed themselves as “Jedi” in voluntary diversity forms.Jane’s Police Review asked 55 forces across the UK how many employees had officially declared their religion as Jedi.
It said Strathclyde Police was the only force to confirm that some of its staff had entered “Jedi”.In the 2001 Census for England and Wales around 390,000 people stated religion as “Jedi”. The Office for National Statistics did not recognise it as a separate category, and incorporated them with the atheists.
In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000. Strathclyde is the largest police force in Scotland.
It employees around 8,200 police officers and 2,800 police staff.A police force appears to have some Star Wars fans in its midst, after eight of its officers recorded their religion as “Jedi”, it was revealed today.Strathclyde Police said the officers and two civilian staff had listed themselves as “Jedi” in voluntary diversity forms.Jane’s Police Review asked 55 forces across the UK how many employees had officially declared their religion as Jedi.It said Strathclyde Police was the only force to confirm that some of its staff had entered “Jedi”.In the 2001 Census for England and Wales around 390,000 people stated religion as “Jedi”. The Office for National Statistics did not recognise it as a separate category, and incorporated them with the atheists.In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000. Strathclyde is the largest police force in Scotland.It employees around 8,200 police officers and 2,800 police staff.
“A police force is said to have some Star Wars fans in its midst, after eight of its officers recorded their religion as “Jedi.” Strathclyde Police said the officers and two civilian staff had listed themselves as “Jedi” in voluntary diversity forms. Jane’s Police Review asked 55 forces across the UK how many employees had officially declared their religion as Jedi. In the 2001 Census for England and Wales around 390,000 people stated religion as “Jedi.” In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000. Strathclyde is the largest police force in Scotland. It employees around 8,200 police officers and 2,800 police staff.”

March 14, 2009

America Rejects Religion

deacbench.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html

deacbench.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html

The last generation of Americans has done what no others before it has accomplished — reject God in record numbers. According to the recently published  “American Religious Identification Survey” (conducted between February and November of last year), the number of people professing Christianity in the United States has dropped 10 percent since 1990.

Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.”

“Only1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.”

In other words, real religion  is dying, replaced by a self serving generic form of evangelicalism. This shift away from a belief in God represents a dangerous trend in America. Shifting away from belief in God means shifting away from the foundational principles which make up a nation, leading to its ultimate collapse.

During his 1796 farewell address, George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” The second American president, John Adams, later said, “Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”

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