The purpose of religion is to teach people how to love God. That was said by Srila Prabhupada (1896 – 1977), a Vedic religious teacher and prolific author who helped to popularize the Vedic religion, Hinduism, in the West in the 1960s and 1970s.
If we accept this statement, then we will likely conclude that some religions are doing a poor job of fulfilling their purpose.
Loving God, we think, requires more than just attendance at ritualized worship services, more than reciting (by rote) Scripture verses, more than socializing and fellowship with like-minded co-religionists. Loving God requires an internal change – call it a change of heart if you like. One needs to go beyond the mere outward displays of religiosity and work at centering one’s consciousness on God and awakening what Prabhupada referred to as our “innate love for God” – that is deep within our souls.
There are charlatans out there masquerading as holy men and women. Consider the many tele-evangelists with their TV and radio programs. Many of these make a really good living in their ministries (and some own palatial homes with adjoining acreage). The financial donations roll in as these personalities make those who attend their rallies feel good about themselves. By mouthing the appropriate words, one is saved. Really?
As Radhakrishnan observed (in one of his insightful books) that kind of faith – the one based on simply assenting to a particular creed and scrupulously observing a legalistic code of rules – is not the faith which saves. You have to live the faith. You have to change yourself with the help of God and become a more loving, less self-centered being.
A few words on Islam and Judaism. Both are extremely chauvinistic religions. Muslims and those who adhere to the Talmud are taught that all others not like them can be (and are) treated very badly. Basically Islam and Talmudic Judaism have 2 sets of ethics. There is one set of ethics for dealing with fellow members of their religion and another quite different set of ethics for dealing with the infidel and the goyim. It is wrong for Muslims to harm other Muslims, but it is not wrong for Muslims to harm “infidels”. Similarly, the Talmud has many verses that say how non-Jews can be treated badly (we have previously written about this). It is hard to see how these religions are helping their adherents to love God.
In conclusion, working on awakening that love of God that is hidden, buried, obscured in the depths of our souls is more important for progress on the spiritual path than focusing one’s efforts on the outward signs of religiosity. Religions need to help people to learn how to love God. For it is that love of God that is transformative and helps us to love one another as well.
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