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I've always been of the belief that religion is a good thing. Its use is giving people good advise that ought to help them live a good life. Since religions tend mostly to say the same thing, and give the same kind of advice, you would have thought that all religions and religious people ought to get along.

Unfortunately, outside my own little fairytale world, this is not the case. People of different religions most often feel a great animosity towards one another. What is true on the individual level is even more true when you look at different countries - Christian countries do not trust Muslim countries, Muslim countries do not trust Hindu countries. Capitalist countries do not trust Communist countries.

Something I think is symbolic of the inability of different religions to get along is their belief that they are the soul possessors of absolute truth, and that all non-believers are destined for fiery damnation. This is something I always been uncomfortable with. As a Muslim living in a Christian country, I'd always been very interested in studying about religions at school, but was disheartened by the way in which some of the teacher priests believed that I, their devoted pupil, was heading for eternal damnation.

Over the years I have come to understand the intellectual criteria behind this particular Christian doctrine. Something you will get when encountering evangelical Christians is their claim that we live in a fallen world. If you ever say to an evangelist that you believe all religions are the same, and all you need to do to go to heaven is lead a good life, they will reply that all of humanity is so burdened with this original sin passed on from Adam that we are all so infinitely unworthy of redemption it is now impossible to go to heaven in that manner. That would be why God had to become human and die as the ultimate sacrifice to redeem sins, and no one can be redeemed without believing in this miraculous occurrence.

If you ever want to lose a friend who happens to be an evangelical Christian, then all you need to do is wait for them to say:

"This is a fallen world", and reply

"Christianity is a fallen religion".

The doctrine of original sin is truly not addressing any inherent aspect of human nature. It is a dogmatic solution retrospectively concocted long after the events it seeks to explain. It was popularised by St. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th Century whilst the Roman empire was collapsing, to justify his opinion that despite his immoral past, he was no less sinful than others who had been virtuous all their lives.

I don't mean to pick on Christianity alone. The desert tribes who inherited Islam used it as a justification of their lust for conquest and plunder. This is why the form of Islam in those places where the religion was spread by trade is so different from where is was spread by military might.

Over the years I have come to realise it is not human beings who are inherently fallen, rather it is the institutionalised religions. They may have been inspired by God, but they have sought to contain him. Both Christianity and Islam, the primary evangelical religions which seek to covert all mankind, were contaminated in their early years by the desires of those who sought to spread them. They are no longer the absolute Word of God and yard stick by which to judge all morality.

Furthermore, the world has changed since the time of the ancient empires. It used to be that everyone had their own Guru, (priest or teacher), who would instruct them on how to behave. If you had a good teacher, then you would go to heaven, if you had a bad teacher, you would go to hell. This is no longer how the world works. In our world of individualism, we must all think for ourselves. It is no longer viable to entrust our every decision to some guru. The world is no longer so simple - rational thought can no more be contracted out to a monk in a monastery or hermit in the mountains, separated from the world, able to make calm decisions in place of you. To live in the world now you must get stuck in or else never leave the starting line.

So as I see it, all religions have fallen, they should never have been absolute judges of right and wrong in themselves, and have now lost their power to make decisions on behalf of their followers. They still have value in bringing together society, and in giving their followers a way to seek God, but this must be balanced against how they are manipulated by those who seek to harm others and channel their hate in the world.

So all ye believers out there, please do not be so closed minded as to think your way is the only one possible. The world is very wide indeed.

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