Of Ogres, Onions and Monotheism

A 25-year-old man in Cairo, Egypt, born a Moslem, converted to Christianity at the age of 18. He recently appealed to the Egyptian courts to change the religion on his identity card to Christian, but the court denied his request. Here is the official statement from the judge:

“Monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order… As a result, it is unusual to go from the latest religion to the one that preceded it.”

Now that’s some interestung theology!!! I kinda like the logic. You can convert to a younger religion but you cannot convert to an older one. That raises some interesting questions.

Does that mean that we are like ogres and onions? We have layers of religion, which have accumulated over the millions of years that humans have had a religion. We are all pagans at the core, worshipping the Earth Mother in our heart of hearts. Then there is Baal worship over that. Those of us who have roots in Western Europe have a layer of Wicca and/or a layer of Graeco-Roman religion on top of that. Then a layer of Catholicism and, for a fair numbrt of us, all that is iced with Protestantism. There probably is a layer of Judaism in there somewhere as well.

Would that not make those people who are Christian religious bigots hyprocrits? Or, I can’t think of the official terms that psychiatrists use for this, would we actually hate ourselves? I mean, if we are pagans or Jewish somewhere down deep?

Just think about the implications if the Egyptian judge is right. We could not have religious bigotry because that would mean we hate ourselves and people tend to avoid commiting hate crimes on themselves. What an incentive to religious tolerance that ruling would be.

I certainly understand where the judge came up with his rather unique ruling. The monotheism he is referring to in his ruling is the monoetheism of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. And there is a historical succession in that tradition. Judaism was succeeded in time by Christianity, which it turn, was succeeded in time by Islam.

Now, the judge sees Islam as the last revelation in that historical line. But, if we want to be completely inclusive of all traditions in that sequence, there is a religion that sprang from that tree – Baha’i. And Baha’i is younger that Islam because Bahá’u’lláh, the Baha’i prophet, is 1200 years younger than Mohammed, 2000 years younger than Jesus, about 5000 years younger than Moses, and God alone knows how much younger than Abraham.

Both Christians and Moslems are strong believers in the exclusivity of their revelation. And borh believe that God’s revelation ended with their particular prophet. But, that is a rather narrow attitude for these religions to take, because the Jews deny the revelations of both Jesus and Mohammed. Given that they are the oldest revelation is it not possible that they are right and that Jesus, Mohammed and Bahá’u’lláh all are false prophets?

Boy, I can feel the anger of Christians, Moslems and Baha’is at that question. Relax, I don’t believe that any more than you do. But, I also reject any claims that God’s revelations ended with Jesus, Mohammed or Bahá’u’lláh as well. I believe God still speaks to people, whether we realize it or not. And I believe, if taken out of the hands of the fundamentalizts, we will find that all four historical manifestations of monotheism discussed here are preaching the same message and the same God. The only difference between the four is the messenger and the language of the message. The meaning is the same.

And that is a lesson we all need to learn, including that judge in Egypt. That is the conclusion of his ruling if you take his ruling to its logical conclusion.

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