Some say that religion is a way for simple minded people to feel better about life — an opiate for the masses.
Sociologists will tell you that religious traditions evolve as cultural artefacts when men are in a primitive state and they struggle to feel comforted over that which is out of their control, such as death, disease, or natural disaster. As well as religious practices are a system of control, beliefs foisted upon those without power by those who have power.
If any of these theories were true, then a person could manufacture any religious theory from a fertile imagination and each belief system would be equally valid – none right, none wrong, none absolute. Religious practice would indeed be a theory to make people feel better about themselves and their place in the cosmos.
However, one person walked our world who made this theorizing obsolete. During His time on Earth in Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth made two incredibly controversial declarations. Jesus said that He was the eternal God in the flesh. He also said that there was only one way to heaven – through Him.
Jesus’ words were recorded by those who followed Him, and preached to the thousands who personally heard Him speak. If his followers fabricated these claims and ascribed them to Christ, their contemporaries, those who actually heard Jesus speak, would likely not have allowed the lie to become established as fact. In addition, this same group of disciples was martyred for their beliefs. Would they have given their lives for a lie?
So, rather than debating the myriads of religious theories existing since man began searching for God, let’s begin with this one idea. Jesus claimed to be God, and to be the only way to heaven. Could He be telling the truth?
If Jesus was not telling the truth, only two conclusions are viable. He could have been sincerely wrong. Believing himself to be God, He was only a man. But He told others He was God, and eventually died for his claim. That depth of self-delusion is psychopathic. If Jesus was lying and didn’t know it, He could only be a lunatic, not even a good religious teacher.
If Jesus created a false persona, and He knew it, then He would be worse than a lunatic. If Jesus knowingly lead others to follow Him to their death (and standing up against the Roman occupation of their land was certainly a death sentence) then we would be worse than a lunatic. He could only be a narcissistic egomaniac, in the company of men like Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Idi Amin Dada. Are these the like-minded counterparts to Jesus Christ, men who shared His character, and thus created a similar legacy?
The remaining option is that Jesus was telling the truth. If he were God in the flesh, then his teaching regarding heaven and how to get there would be . . . well . . . true, and worthy of my attention. This may be a simple conclusion when we are discussing as weighty a subject as heaven and hell, but consider this: If I wanted to build a business, I would ask successful business leaders to guide my efforts, and willingly submit to their leadership. If I wanted to be a doctor, I would attend medical school, bow under enormous loans, and submit to residency in order to gain the title doctor. In the same way, if I want to go to heaven, or uncover more about eternal life, doesn’t it make sense to seek and learn from the one who claimed to be God?