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If God Is One, Why do people follow different Religions?
There are people who are not atheistic, but accept that there is some Supreme God who is the Supreme Controller and Proprietor. But they still have a difficulty as to which path to follow? They wonder why God has created so many religions, if He is only one? Which could be the right path? Are all paths right? Do they all lead to the same destination? Do they lead to different destinations? Why are there different names of God, forms of God, worship of God, rituals and rites, customs and etiquettes? Is there any path that is the synthesis of all these religions? Is there one ultimate goal behind all these religions? These questions are genuine and have answers that will be discussed here.
Religions presented according to the ability of audience the to digest the Truth
God gives His message, directly or through His messenger, according to the capacity of the individuals who receive it. If the message is for the spiritually advanced, then it may be given in an undiluted pure form. If the message is for the morally and spiritually degraded it is suitably modified to preclude rejection and yet help them to make limited spiritual progress. Unawareness of this fundamental principle, which underlies and unifies the diverse religions of the world, has resulted in religious conflicts, confrontations, wars and so on throughout history. An example will help in understanding this better.
In elementary school Mathematics, a child is taught basic addition and subtraction such as 5 - 2 = 3. But if he is asked, "What is 2 - 5 ?", he will say that it is not possible to subtract a bigger number from a smaller number. But when he goes to high school, he learns 2 - 5 = -3. That is also Mathematics. When he goes to college, he learns differential cakalus, integral calculus etc. which is also Mathematics. Although the knowledge he has acquired at each level comes under the subject of Mathematics, still there is a difference of standard between elementary school Maths and M Sc Maths The teacher may himself be a Ph.D. in Maths, but he teaches according to the level of understanding of the student, depending on whether he is in an elementary school, high school or college.
The prophets and messiahs have always given their message after assessing the ability of their audience to digest and follow the teachings. We can understand that when Prophet Mohammed preached the message of the Koran as revealed to him, his audience consisted of degraded people. This is apparent from the nature of the instructions given in the Koran. For example, in the 4th Surah, verse 23-24, the Koran says, "Do not have sex with your mother and sister." If Mohammed had been speaking to civilized people, such an injunction would have been unnecessary. Mohammed himself was a God realized soul and had been selected by God to be a prophet. But since he was speaking to perverted tribesmen of that desert land, who were engaging in such sexual practices, he had to give such instructions.
Jesus was preaching to fishermen whom he addressed as, "O ye of little faith". One of his intimate twelve apostles, Judas, sold his master for thirty pieces of silver, and Peter denied that he had ever seen him. Also, most religions first try to teach people to go to God for bread and butter, or material assets, thereby teaching obedience to the authority of God. Thus they use God more or less as an order-supplier or problem-solver. Real religion has nothing to do with making material demands upon God in order to fulfill one's own selfish desires. For example, Lord Krishna spoke Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, an individual of spotless character and a product of Vedic civilization when it was at its zenith. Bhagavad-gita teaches absolute surrender to the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, without any reservations. The audience for the narration of Shrimad Bhagavatam consisted of the greatly liberated sages of Naimisharanya, who sought the welfare of all living beings in the world. Shrimad Bhagavatam teaches the path of unmotivated, uninterrupted, pure love of God, where a devotee rejoices remembering and reciting about God twenty-four hours a day out of love for Him, without expecting anything in return.
Depth of verifiable and inconceivable information in Vedas
Besides the loftiness of the quality of devotion to God, the Vedic literatures also give vivid descriptions of all types of information, whether it be material or spiritual. For example, while the Bible teaches, "God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light. God said, 'Let there be earth', and the earth was created. Although this fact is true, such scriptures do not give a detailed account of the Creation of the universe. Srimad Bhagavatam on the other hand, gives step-by-step information of how the Creation of the universe, as well as all living beings, takes place. The sankhya (or 'count') philosophy of twenty-four elements of the universe given in Vedic scriptures is scientifically explainable and provable. Also many religions say, "God is great" "God is love" "God is Almighty'', but they hardly have information about HOW God is the strongest? How He is the most knowledgeable? Etc. Vedic literatures explain how by lifting Govardhan hill Lord Krishna displayed His unlimited strength; by playing on His flute and attracting all animals, birds, gopis and gopas God displays His unlimited attractive feature. This is just a sample. The Vedas contain information about Sociology, Politics, Psychology, Metallurgy, History, Geography, Chemistry, Astrology, Astronomy and tens of other fields. The Vedic literatures stand out from all world religions when it comes to the depth of information in hundreds of areas, as well as the loftiness of intimacy in approaching God.