Religions can't restore paradise...

Every culture has its religions, from ancient times to present day. As I've studied the beliefs of both the past and present, I find one common element among them; they seek to appease and please their gods. Sacrifices, praises, petitions, and prayers are made on behalf of the people to the gods to either beg reprieve from calamities and future dire circumstances or to appease their wrath for wrongs committed or perceived to be committed against them. The gods are seen as distant and unknowable, but who watch over humans with a calculating eye. The gods could be perceived as playing games with men and women, often cruel and punishing. Love did not cross the barrier between humans and the gods unless it tended toward erotic sensual feelings, not self-sacrificial, unconditional actions. Because of the punishing nature of the gods, men and women worked hard to live in a way that pleased them. Religions today teach the same things. People caught up in religions work to adhere to whatever the religion deems important - whatever is necessary to live righteous, devoted lives. But the one thing religions, both ancient and present day also share is a complete lack of confidence in having achieved their goal. Has their religion promised them eternal life? Can they know this side of death whether they have achieved it?

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3 "I write these thing to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13

Most people caught up in religions also do not know they are infinitely loved.

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

Soon after God created men and women, he taught them about relationships. The man and the woman walked with God in the garden, had intimate conversations with him. They knew him and he knew them in a way we can only begin to imagine. But after they ruined that fellowship by breaking God's trust, that intimacy was broken. And nothing they could ever do would fix or restore it.

Though that would not stop men and women from trying.

"I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right...Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save...there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me." Isaiah 45:19-21 selected

Every attempt to restore what was lost in Eden, has resulted in a religion. Some with creative, imaginary gods, others with the true God distorted. Often, the gods were superhero types made in the image of men or animals or heavenly bodies, or some kind of combination, who controlled the lives of those beneath them.

Religion cannot save a single soul. Religion does the opposite in that it drives a wedge of pride between the person following the rules, rituals, and regulations and God. Religion cannot offer true peace and love and hope.

Even today, if you ask most people in any religion if they know for certain they will gain heaven or paradise by their good, righteous lives, they will tell you no. Their faith has no assurance, no intimacy with the god they serve.

There is also a distinct lack of love.

That is not to say religious people are not loving. Nor even to suggest that people of various faiths in differing cultures lack the capacity for love. Their religions may even teach love for each other as brothers and sisters in their shared faith. But they don't see God as a loving father who longs for them or Jesus as a loving, self-sacrificing bridegroom, who for the joy of spending eternity with his bride (his people) submitted to the shame of the cross to win her.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

And I wonder - do religious people of the world feel loved?

"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have ever-lasting life." John 3:16

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." I John 4:9-10

Most religions, ancient and present-day, understand the need for the sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. What they don't see is that only one faith teaches that God was already appeased by his own son's death on our behalf. The great, gracious love of God gave us paradise regained when he sacrificed himself for us - to restore the trust, the intimacy that was broken. Jesus did this because he loves us and wants to be with us forever. No other faith on earth has ever been able to say that. But it is up to us to believe in Him.