How does religion impact our world? So far we have looked at atheism, animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Next let’s head to the Middle East where there was once a Jewish theocracy.
Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. Since that time the Jews have been scattered throughout the world – the Diaspora. They were persecuted by the Romans for not worshiping the emperor. Later they were persecuted by Christians in the Holy Roman Empire. Muslims and Nazis have tried to eliminate them. The Jews managed to survive and sometimes thrive.
The Muslims named the Jews “people of the book”, because their beliefs were based on written historical events, teachings, and laws. It is noteworthy that the Hebrew scriptures included the human failures of their most famous leaders. This would suggest that their history is accurate – not biased.
The first and key aspect of Judaism starts at the beginning. That is human equality. The Hebrew creation story is unique in that it presents all humans as coming from the same two parents.
This concept provides the basis for an end to a class system and slavery – the concept that “all men are created equal.” The Jews were themselves slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Once they established their own nation and laws, they had a form of slavery which was more like indentured servitude. This gave a debtor a chance to pay up. All slaves had to be freed in the year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:10
The apostle Paul taught this equality concept when he preached to the Greeks at Athens saying, “God…hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26 It is important to note that he Greeks did not believe all people were kin. Indeed, they only allowed Greeks whose ancestors were from Greece for hundreds of years to vote. Our idea of human equality came from Israel, not Greece.
To be “created in the image of God” did not mean that humans became God, nor did they get absorbed into the universe, or become reincarnated. It does mean that humans have a sense of self. Each of us is a unique, one of a kind. We have intelligence, creativity, power, responsibility, and a longing for relationship. We love, we grieve, we get angry and long for justice.
Are you inside your head right now looking out? As I drove across Las Vegas today listened to the loud music of Neil Diamond screaming, “I AM…I SAID”! This is the classic line of the Hebrew God – the great I AM. This is where we humans get the sense that we are real.
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