Religious Illiteracy


“By Malaakyah Lawya Yahsharaal”

Today I found an interesting article by William Edelen, a noted Biological Scientist entitled “Religious Illiteracy” I find it quite appropriate to write an excerpt from this article due to the religious season we find ourselves in.

Fourteen organizations in this country, ranging from People for the American Way to the National Education Association, have issued a document that informs parents and teachers that public schoolscan be a proper place to teach Comparative Religions as an academic disciplien. Such a course of study could make a major contribution toward erasing much of the religious illiteracy in this nation. It could also make a major dent in the bigotry, prejudice and religious superstitions that exist everywhere. But now, when this issue is proposed locally, some will say, “Oh, but we do not need or want our young people to be exposed to the other great religious traditions. all they need is Jesus Christ. That’s where truth is, for it was Jesus who said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.’ That’s all our young people need.”

What people taking this position do not know – and this is a mark of their own religious illiteracy – is that practically every religious leader or hero said exactly the same thing. Zoroaster (early Persian version of the son of god who pre-dates Jesus by 1000 years)
used exactly the same words, saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” The Buddha used the same language, as did Lao Tzu of Taoism. The vast majority of the mythological formulas attached to Jesus were borrowed from Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Egypt, Babylon and the Greek Mystery religions.

A perfect example is Mithraism (6th century B.C.E., Persia and India). Mithras was born of a virgin, with only a number of shepherds present. Mithras was known as “the Way,” “the Truth,” “the Light,” “the Word,” “the Son of God” and “the Good Shepherd.” He was pictured carrying a lamb on his shoulders. Sunday was sacred and known as “the Lord’s Day” centuries before Jesus. On December 25th until the spring equinox (Estra or Easter) wee the “40 days” which later became Christian Lent. Mithras was finally placed in a rock tomb called “Petra.” After three days he was removed with giant celebrations, festival and great joy.

Petra, the sacred rock, centuries later would become Peter, the mythological foundations of the Christian church. (Matthew 16:18: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”) Christian mythology is quite obviouslyh saturated with Mithraism.

The followers of Mithras believed that there would be a “day of judgment” when non-believers would perish and believers would live in a heaven or “paradise” (a Persian word) forever and ever. All of these mythological formulas were absorbed centuries later by the Christian cult into their rituals. Paul, who never even knew Jesus, took all of these mythological themes and attached them to Jesus, building his Christ Mythology. He took Jesus out of Judaism and borrowed the Mithraic Sun-day instead of the Hebrew Sabbath. All of the Mithraic holy days were used to fill in this mythological construct: Christmas, Easter, Lent, and the spring resurrection festival. The Christan “Mass” was, and is, basically the old sacrament of the Mithraic “taurobolia” (a symbol of a divine sacrifice and of the saving effect of blood).

Well, enough of an illustrating example. My thesis satands: the study of Comparative Religions in high school coud make an enormous contribution toward erasing religious illiteracy, which in turn would be agiant step forward in reducing religious bigotry, prejudice and the superstitions that so cripple the human spirit.

Exerpt from The Edelen Letter, Vol. 2 Issue 9, September 1992, published monthly, a publication promoting religious literacy.

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~ by tellitlikeitizsista on September 30, 2010.

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