world religions pie chart

Winning or Losing?

(Or Is It a Contest?)

After the massacre at Charlie Hebdo headquarters where the editorial staff were gunned down by two terrorists the world has reacted in shocked protest to the horrific and barbaric slaughter of 12 persons because Charlie Hebdo have lampooned the prophet Mohammed and the Islamic religion. This event happened in France which has the largest Muslim population in Europe. World governments, particularly in the west, have announce high alerts against possible future attacks from jihadist influenced attempts to create terrorist situations. As I have studied and considered these events I am of a mind to consider the differences and similarities of world religions and the purpose of religion in the human experience generally.

“Religion – 1. The service and adoration of God or a god as expressed in forms of worship. 2. One of the systems of faith or worship. 3. The profession or practice of religious beliefs; religious observations collectively; pl. rites. 4. Devotion or fidelity; conscientiousness. 5. An awareness or a conviction of the existence of a supreme being, arousing reverence, love, gratitude, the will to obey and serve, and the like; as, man only is capable of religion.” (From Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1960)

The definition above is general and obviously dated to 50 years ago.

A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people may derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

The definition above is from Wikipedia, an online dictionary and gives a more up-to-date definition. Note that the later definition attempts to define religion without reference to God; but makes the definition center on origins, cosmos, ethics, lifestyle, etc. By this later definition we could actually classify atheism or secularism as religions.

Current estimates place Christians at about 32% of world population and Muslims at about 23% of world population. Why do I even mention these statistics? Are the events at Charlie Hebdo even related to religion whether Christian or Muslim? I am a Christian. The men committing this heinous were shouting about Allah and we could conclude that they were Muslim. Actually, this act was criminal and really does not fit into any definition of religion. We are dealing with a crime; not a martyrdom. This is no more religious than a person killing his fellow-workers at an office because he had been fired.

These men think they are serving Allah, the Arabic word for God, in some twisted thinking that purports to give them divine sanction for criminal acts. Christians have done, and still do, similar acts of violence against others who do not agree with their particular forms of beliefs.