Yousef met up with his two friends in front of the entrance to the Louvre, as was agreed.
Yousef: I have chosen this place especially in order to invite you to join me on a tour of the museum, as I hope to recall a part of human history before we start our conversation on today's subject. What do you think about this idea? If you gentleman don’t think it’s a good idea, we can always change course.
Michael: Really, Yousef! How strange for you to ask us what we think after we have already gathered here! In that case don’t you think it would have been better for you to consult with us first, before we came? Anyway… I don’t mind taking the tour ... What about you, Rajiv?
Rajiv: I also don’t have any problem with the tour, but I think that we must be quick if we still want to discuss our topic as planned. The Louvre is large and it will take us a considerable amount of time and energy to give our full attention to it.
Yousef: My friends, I apologize for this mistake; I only intended to make it a surprise, but now I see that I might have been over zealous.
Michael: Don't worry, now we must just make haste, for the full length of the museum halls is approximately 13 square kilometers, and it has more than a million pieces to look at.
Yousef: Actually, I did not intend to explore the entire Louvre, I just wanted it to provide us with some information on the subject we'll be discussing. I suspect that we’ll focus our attention on the archaeological collections of ancient civilizations, most of which are located on the ground and first floors.
After about two hours, the trio left the museum. They appeared to be very fatigued by the tour.
Yousef: Why don’t we have a rest and order some lunch at a nearby restaurant which I found on the Internet?
And while they were walking towards the restaurant, Yousef resumed what he was saying.
Yousef: Didn’t you notice that much of what we saw from the possessions of different civilizations had mostly to do with religion, in one way or another? Doesn't that indicate the place of religion for humans, whatever history they have, or wherever they come from?
Rajiv: What you’re saying is taken for granted with regards to anthropologists. In their research in human history and its effects, they found that although there may be civilizations with neither factories, palaces, sciences or philosophies, they have yet to find any civilization without temples.
Michael: The fact here is that any sane person would think that religion is not evil, but rather a core civilization component of human existence. But the problem is that the followers of one religion believe that it is the only true religion and call people to it. All those who follow a certain doctrine call people to follow that doctrine, and to glorify their leader. Followers of each faith believe that their religion is the true one, and one falls in a quandary: Is Judaism the true religion, or is it Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam? How does one exactly find out which of these is on the right path? Or should we say they are all on the right path, as long as what they are satisfies the need for religion?! Puzzling, isn't it?
Yousef: Yes, confusing, but with some thinking and insight we can quite easily find our way out of this confusion. We don't, even though we are hungry, just accept to devour any food, that is, food not fit for human consumption. We don't accept to fill our bellies with any food just to satisfy our hunger. So how much more do we need to think before satisfying our spiritual instinct too. We must pick the right food for it.
It's impossible that everyone has the truth on their sides, because there is only one truth in this regard. Therefore, it’s impossible that all these religions and human faiths come from God and that all can be the truth. If there are several - and the truth belongs to one – the question remains unchanged: Which is the true religion? There must be, then, some criteria by which we can define the true religion from the false one. If we find that these criteria apply to a certain religion, we will know it's the true one. And if there is any problem with these criteria or one of them with regards to any religion, we will know the religion is false.
Rajiv: But you mentioned now, in the context of what you've just said, the first criterion, which is that this religion must be from God. Is it necessary for the religion to be heavenly? On earth there are man-made religions that millions of people follow, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and others.
Yousef: This is self-evident because the basis of any religion is the worship of God or gods!! If we really acknowledge that the Lord alone created the universe and human beings, and He alone made all that is on earth subservient to them and blessed them with it; we must acknowledge that He alone is worthy of worship and that He alone should be worshipped and has no partner; for how can it be possible that He creates and grants alone, and some other beings are thanked and worshipped?! Furthermore, it is essential that the true religion calls for the worship of the Lord alone, and proves that He alone has the qualities of the true God, and also reveres His messengers and respects them.
We have agreed, in the last meeting, that the qualities of the true God and mankind’s need require that there be some guide to direct human beings and organize their lives and achieve happiness. This guide is nothing but religion, which is approved by Him who knows His creation.
We also agreed that it is necessary to have a Judgment Day in which humans will be held accountable for their actions and in which all injustices will be repaid. If God alone is the One who condemns and reckons His creatures on the Day of Resurrection, it then follows that that reckoning must be according to the religion that He revealed to them. Accordingly, any religion that is brought by anybody and he attributes it to himself is inevitably false.
But I would like to point out the fact here that most of the followers of religions, when you ask them for evidence to prove what they believe, they argue that they found their fathers following this religion and behaving in this way, and then they mention unauthenticated stories and events and rely on written legacies, although it is not known who said or who wrote such material. They do not even know in which language it was first written, or in which country it was found, for that matter. These were merely an unorganized mixture, collected, then glorified, then inherited through generations without being scientifically verified. This is exactly what we must avoid, and here it is clear that from the most important components of the true religion is to prove its link to its source, and the soundness of the arguments of the apostle conveying the religion from God.
Rajiv: O.k. Then we have to start from the set of foundations upon which we've agreed, whether concerning suitable methods of verification: mind, science, and human nature, or with the facts that we've already agreed upon; such as the existence of God and qualities of the true God, and the rationale for the people’s need for the message.
Michael: If we agree on that, then the next quality, after the fact that religion is from God, and that God alone should be worshipped, would be that religion reveres science and doesn't oppose it, and is in conformity with the sound mind. If we say that true religion is the religion of God, and the sound mind is God's creation, then it is impossible that the religion of God contradicts His creation.
Yousef: I agree with that, with an emphasis on two things:
The first is that issue that we've already accepted: that there is a difference between matters whose occurrence and validation the mind asserts to be impossible, and matters that are difficult for the mind to envision. There's a topic in religion that's difficult for the mind to imagine or be convinced of, which is the topic of the unseen. For example: the existence of angels and demons, and how God sends revelation to the human prophet, and the details of the Day of Judgment. But these issues are different from what the mind asserts to be impossible.
For example, a hundred years ago it was difficult for the mind to believe that man would be able to go up into space, send a spacecraft to the moon, or hear and see someone else thousands of kilometers away. But there was nothing in the mind which said that if a matter is difficult to believe, it is then impossible. If we, however, say that the human being himself is in two different places at the same time, or that 1 +1 +1 = 1, the mind will judge that it is impossible.
The second thing, building on the previous point, is that some of the details of the religion may not appear to be reasonably explained, although they don't contradict with our minds. Here we must recognize them as long as we have established our faith on a sound basis of argumentation. If you realize by your mind that someone is one hundred percent trustworthy and that there is no doubt in your trust in him, and then that person wants to test your trust so he asks you to "sign on these blank papers". You will sign these papers without questioning, for example. If, however, your trust in him is not complete, you would inquire about these papers. Similarly, (faith or belief) is building trust in God through the mind and thought, and (details of the religion) is the proof that you present to illustrate your trust in God.
Michael: So, one of the components that makes up the true religion is that its parts don't contradict with or differ from its other parts. It shouldn't command something and then overrule it by something else. It shouldn't forbid something then allow its equivalent without a reason. It shouldn't forbid an issue or permit it for a group and then permit it or forbid it for another.
Rajiv: If we say that this religion is like a guide for humanity to what their Creator wants from them, then this religion must include guidance concerning the way of worship, and teach man the reason why God created him in the first place, as well as detailing the system that should be followed by man. This religion should also hold an answer to all major questions of life and teach us where man came from and where he is destined to go to. Moreover, this religion should achieve security and peace of mind for the soul, and be consistent with normal human nature.
Michael: I think it is important that religion calls to do good and forbids evil characters and deeds, and that it is a mercy for creation, protecting them from being unjust to themselves and from being unjust to others, whether through violating rights, or having excessive control over wealth, or by leaders misguiding those they are leading.
Yousef: There is an important prerequisite which has been forgotten. Religion must combine all these qualities, without any exception.
Michael: I would like you talk to us about your religion in some detail, Yousef. I've come to realize that my information about it is little, and perhaps even distorted.
Yousef: I promise to do that in our next meeting.