PART 4 My Search for the One True God
Thinking of Joining a Mainstream Religion Such As:
Judaism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Episcopal, Christian Science, Christian?
If you are considering becoming a member of one of these faiths, what will be required of you? And, what are the conditions to which you must adhere to in order to remain a member?
Does the God they believe in come into one’s life, allowing the experience of his presence now?
Do they believe in an afterlife?
The beliefs of the selected faiths outlined below are very generalized. If a reader who is a member of one of these faiths has any differences of opinion, please remember that this is a broad-spectrum view and specifics are not included.
The following testimony is from a Jewish Rabbi. His words are paraphrased from a phone conversation.
I was brought up in a Jewish family, and I believe that by maintaining traditions and faith, my life will be enhanced.
All religions try to create a pathway to maximize the short time that we have on earth. The commandments, not just the Ten Commandments, are the vehicle that adds meaning to my life and makes the world a better place.
History, beliefs, and membership requirements of Judaism include:
The next testimony is from a Buddhist teacher.
I became particularly interested in Buddhism when I first tried meditating. It was challenging at first, but eventually a peaceful state of mind appeared. This was qualitatively different than the 'happiness' that would appear from ordinary objects like a new car, friend, a better reputation, and so forth. It seemed apparent that the key to real, deep happiness, as opposed to the artificial variety, is found in the mind.
I investigated a few different lineages of Buddhism, but fell in love with Kadampa Buddhism. The native Tibetan Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, after years of studying and then 18 years of extensive meditation, came to the Western world to transmit what he had learned formed the New Kadampa Tradition. I appreciated his humility, pure moral discipline, kindness to all people, incredible work ethic, piercing wisdom, and clarity. The presentation he passed on from his teacher and lineage, stemming back hundreds of years, was the most accessible and practical version of Buddha's teachings I had found. Finally, I saw the practitioners who followed his teachings and was deeply impressed by their good example, great minds, and kind hearts.
The beauty of Buddhism that I discovered through Kadampa Buddhism is that we can bring about a better, more lasting state of mind just through changing the mind itself, instead of searchingly endlessly in an attempt to arrange perfect external conditions. To explain this, someone shared the quote from Buddhist master Shantideva…
Where is there enough leather to cover the surface of the earth?
But just having leather on the soles of one's feet is the same as covering the whole earth.
In the same way, it is not possible to control all external events
But, if I simply control my mind what need is there to control other things?
This logical invitation to change the mind, the 'internal', instead of externals, and seeing how this brings about a deeper change anyway, drew me into Buddhism. What kept me is the constant desire to benefit others through improving ourselves. We do everything we can to cultivate this mind of altruism and become a true friend of the world. For me, the wisdom of training the mind fueled by a compassionate motivation to better ourselves for other people is the heart of Buddhist teachings and why they have touched me.
In order to become a follower of Buddhism a person must:
This could not be any more different than the initial faith that was presented, and the first thought that came to my mind was the word, “confusion”. I don’t mean this as a knock on Buddhism, but that the task of determining which faith or faiths follow the one true personal God seems daunting because Buddhist beliefs bear no resemblance.
Is there a way to sort through all of these differences? We’ll see as we take a look at the next mainstream religion.
This testimony is from a member of a Catholic congregation.
I was born in 1956 to a wonderful mother and father who are Catholic. I was baptized, received my first communion, and was confirmed as a soldier of God.
Believing in God and the Catholic Church has never left my heart. There are some whose beliefs differ from mine, while there are others who are still searching to find belief.
I believe that there are many religions and all of them have one thing in common, that being the almighty God, even though their writings may differ. Their view, like mine, will hopefully cause all of us to become whole, based on the good that God represents.
People must do whatever it is that causes them to be good in this life. For me this is attributed to the Catholic faith.
Beliefs and requirements to become a member in good standing are outlined below.
The next faith that we will look at is very similar.
There are definitive similarities and differences between the Catholic faith and the Episcopal faith. One major difference is that of the authority of a bishop within the church. In Episcopalism, one bishop presides with authority over one diocese. Even though the origins are different, with Catholics being from Jerusalem and Episcopalians being from England (Anglican), many Catholics believe that Episcopalism is an offshoot of Catholicism.
Basic beliefs and membership requirements are:
In this faith, there are many similarities as well as differences to Catholicism. So close and yet so far away, because an examination of beliefs regarding the afterlife reveals a major discrepancy as to what happens to those who don’t believe in God.
So, we have two similar faiths, both believing in the same God yet with distinct differences. Such is religion, and the next faith may cause you to go, “huh,” because it is so different from Catholicism and Episcopalism.
A Christian Science member provided this testimony.
When you asked me what drew me to my religion, I would have to say the teachings showed me that God and His help are immediately available for us all. That feeling of knowing that wherever I am, no matter the extremity, I can call on God for healing, for peace, and for guidance is what keeps me practicing and studying Christian Science. I do not need a clergy member to help me, because I can just turn to prayer, the study of the Bible, and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by the religion’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, in order to receive the help I need.
Now, I must confess, this is the only religion I have ever known. But as a 55-year-old woman, I have had my years of questioning, and have felt that Christian Science is the religion that helps me to feel peace and connection to God, and my identity with Him.
Christian Science is also a religion that teaches about God’s Love, not condemnation, nor the fear of God’s wrath. I have had many physical healings, healings of finance, and healings of stress and relationships. To me Christian Science is my one true religion, because it teaches the truth about God.
Followers of Christian Science:
What do you think? I am struck by the diversity of thought about God, which is probably why many people say that there are two things you shouldn’t discuss—politics and religion. Well, there is more to contemplate, so let’s see what faith is next.
A member of a Spanish Christian Church provided this testimony.
Since I was a kid my family had always talked to me about Jesus. In the morning, afternoon, and at night they would talk to me about his love, grace, and his commitments, but with all of this it was difficult for me to comprehend and understand what was being said about him.
They told me about his love, but my own life was filled with sadness, hatred, regret, and many other things. For many years, I fought and I tried to live and be happy, but I failed in every attempt even though I was going to a Christian church where I heard about the gospel and sang songs.
Still there was always emptiness in my heart. I continued feeling sad, tired, defeated, angry, confused, lonely, depressed, being full of hatred and pain. Every day of my life was filled with no sense of purpose causing me to be in depression.
How could this be? I was born in a Christian home, where I would hear about God’s love, peace, charity, being good one to another; and I used to think how we can talk about this love and peace when, in reality, we were always fighting like cats and dogs and hating each other.
My own father, closest relatives, and my neighbors were abusing me physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, I used to think, “Who is this Jesus? Is he real? Or is he just a lame excuse that people use to torment one another?” All these questions and so many more used to flow inside my head, heart, and soul every single day, to the point that I just wanted to end my life.
I made many attempts to kill myself by using pills, drugs, knives, long swims, while at other times I tried as was humanly possible in my own power to change my life. I made the decision to walk away from God. I went on for years without going to church and hearing Jesus’ name, and instead I tried to find happiness in other things.
I tried many things that I thought would make me happy such as sports, working extra hard, finding love in different places, but none of them satisfied me. I went through a divorce that was followed by a few long-term relationships that didn’t work out.
I was sick, tired, desperate, confused, and destroyed. One day I looked up to the sky full of tears in my eyes and I said to God how come if you are a God of love then why do all these horrible things keep on happening to me? Why if the bible says that you have a plan for my life are all these things happening to me? Is this your plan for me?
My relationships with others always turned out bad, as did my friendships, my family interactions, and my associates at work. I struggled every day just to keep my job and support my broken family.
So, one day I began to shout to the sky and heaven saying, God where are you? Where are you? I hear about you almost every day since I was an infant, but I don't know you. If you are real and you love me and care about me; if you are that God that came from heaven who walked on this earth preaching, teaching, forgiving, and healing having died on the cross, and rose again on the third day, then please come into my heart. I repent of all my sins. I need you Jesus to reveal yourself to me.
This confession and profession changed my life. Now I can testify as to what is written in Job 42:2-5, "My ears had heard you but now my eyes have seen you." Even though I had heard about him I never before had a personal encounter with him. Now I can feel him deep in my heart even if I am in one of my worst days, because something deep inside me tells me that he is with me all the time. I can feel his presence every morning when I get up and see the morning light; when I look to the ocean; when I see nature that is all around me; and even when the wind is blowing.
This verse is now true for my life. "You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed.” Joshua 23:14
Every promise has been fulfilled in my life, not one has failed.
The Christian faith uses a similar but albeit a different Bible as Catholicism and Episcopalism. It contains the same 66 books however, an additional seven writings have been added to the latter two faiths, which are not considered as part of the original canon of scripture.
The belief system, based on Biblical content, is that in order to become a Christian a person must:
In regard to Christian growth:
This is fascinating—such divergence of thoughts concerning what a person must do in each faith, and it truly does appear that everyone is sincere in their efforts.
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2R.B. Thieme Jr., The Divine Outline of History (Houston, Texas: Berachah Tapes and Publications, 1989).
3“What if a Jew has a Christian family”, 02 Oct. 2013 <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/ index?qid=20100923212758AA3zAoV>.
4“Buddha oracle”, 25 Oct. 2013 <http://en.wikiversity. org/wiki/Buddha_oracle>.
5“Confirmation”, 03 Oct. 2013 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04215b.htm>.
6Jeff Vehige. “The Doctrine of Transubstantiation.”, 2008, 04 Oct. 2013 <http://catholic-teaching.org/ >.
7“Receiving the Lord in Holy Communion”. 5 Oct. 2013 <http://www.beginningcatholic.com/communion. html>.
8“A Beginners Guide to the Anglican Church”. 09 Oct. 2013 <http://www.stjohnsroslyn.org.nz/guide_to_the_ anglican_church.html>.
9Jack Savada. “Christian Science Church Beliefs and Practices”, 05 Nov. 2013 <http://christianity.about. com/od/christianscience/a/christsciencebeliefs.htm>.
10“David J. Stewart. “Christian Science-EXPOSED!”, 06 Nov. 2013.
14“Christian Science Church Beliefs and Practices”.