Jesus christ blesses muhammad
RACHEL Although we had trouble convincing Jesus to travel with us by plane to the southern part of the country, here we are, standing before this magnificent mountain range, at the foot of Mount Sinai. Have you been to this desert before, Jesus?
JESUS No, I only heard about this mountain from the stories the rabbi of my village used to tell.
RACHEL In these imposing wastelands Moses received from God the stone tablets of the Law with the ten commandments, and here he proclaimed them to the Hebrew people.
JESUS In my days, the teachers of the Law used to discuss which of the ten commandments was the most important. I told them that they could all be summed up in one loving your neighbor.
RACHEL And what about the first commandment, loving God?
JESUS It’s the same thing, Rachel. Because if you don’t love your neighbor, whom you see, you can’t love God, whom you don’t see. The Pharisees also used to delight in those discussions. For them ten commandments were too few. Moses said keep holy the Sabbath. Well, from that one commandment they invented a whole bunch more on the Sabbath you couldn’t walk more than a league, on the Sabbath you couldn’t cook, on the Sabbath you couldn’t do a lot of things. I told them quite clearly the Sabbath is for people, not people for the Sabbath.
RACHEL So you dared to change God’s laws?
JESUS The thing is, Rachel, they weren’t God’s laws, they were laws invented by the Pharisees. God does not load unbearable burdens on the backs of his children. The only thing that God asks of us is love and compassion for our fellow human beings. Everything comes down to that.
RACHEL To the famous golden rule?
JESUS I see you know it then.
RACHEL I read it in the gospels.
JESUS No, you read it in your heart “Treat others the way you want them to treat you.”
RACHEL How strange! A phone call here in the desert. … Hello?
KÜNG Hello, this is Hans Küng.
RACHEL The famous theologian? How did you find us?
KÜNG I’ve been listening to all these interviews with great interest. And since today you’re talking about ethics, a topic that excites me, I wanted to take part. Did you know, Jesus, that the Chinese sage Confucius, five centuries before you lived, proposed the same golden rule “Don’t do to others what you don’t desire for yourself”?
JESUS Well, blessed be Confucius!
KÜNG And the Buddha, who also lived five centuries before you, in India, taught the golden rule this way “I will not do to others what they should not do to me.”
JESUS Well, blessed be the Buddha too!
KÜNG And the prophet Muhammad, who preached to the Arab peoples six centuries after you, said the same “Desire for others what you desire for yourself.”
JESUS Blessed be Muhammad as well!
RACHEL Tell us, Jesus, how do you explain these commandments that are all so similar, despite the distant places and the different times?
JESUS What our friend who just called has said about these men of God proves to me something that I’ve always believed God did not engrave the commandments on stone tablets, he engraved them on our hearts. Our heart tells us what we must do.
KÜNG Well, Jesus, you should be aware that you’re referring to something that’s being discussed these days in the United Nations the universal ethics of all humankind, of both believer and non-believers. This ethics has four pillars do not kill, do not rape, do not lie, do not rob.
JESUS Well, blessed be the people who work for that universal ethics, and blessed will be the house built on those foundations. It will remain standing even longer than this mountain.
RACHEL Thanks to theologian Hans Kung, and thanks to you, Jesus. And with Mount Sinai rising behind us, we sign off for now. This is Rachel Perez, special correspondent of Emisoras Unidas, sending you greetings.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
The golden rule
All the major world religions offer a supreme norm or “golden rule” like the one the Jesus taught (Matthew 7,12; Luke 6,31). Rachel reminds Jesus of the “rules” formulated by Confucius, Muhammad, and the Buddha.
The first sage to announce the golden rule of reciprocity was Confucius, who lived in China about 551-489 BCE. He stated: Do not impose on others what you would not choose for yourself. And also: Do not do to others what you do not desire for yourself (Dialogues 15,23). The development of Chinese writing spread the Confucian golden rule throughout all the vast territories of Asia that were influenced by Chinese culture.
The golden rule also appeared in the religious traditions of India long before the time of Jesus. Hinduism affirms: We should not behave toward others in a way that is disagreeable. Such is the essence of morality. In Jainism, a religion that separated from Hinduism six centuries before Jesus lived, the golden rule is expressed thus: A man should treat all creatures as he would like them to treat him. Five centuries before Jesus, the Buddha declared in India: I will not do to anyone else what they should not do to me. And Buddhism, following his tradition, expressed the rule in these words: A condition that I do not find pleasant or agreeable for myself would not be so for another person either. How could I impose on another a condition that I do not find pleasant or agreeable?
In Judaism the Rabbi Hillel, who lived 60 years before Jesus, wrote: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you (Sabbat 31,a); and also: You should not do to anybody what is painful for you. Six centuries after Jesus, Muhammad had his own formulation of the golden rule: Desire for others what you desire for yourself. And Islam teaches: None of you are believers until you desire for your brothers and sisters what you desire for yourself.
Silver and bronze rules
In a short but meaty text titled “The Rules of the Game”, U.S. astrophysicist Carl Sagan offers some insightful and humorous reflections on humanity’s moral codes. After reviewing a number of them, he uses a little science to analyze the bases of people’s altruistic or selfish attitudes and of their vindictive or cooperative tendencies, along with their respective costs and advantages. He concludes with this interesting schema:
FOUR RULES OF BEHAVIOR
The Golden Rule:
Whatever you want others to do for you, do it for them.
The Silver Rule:
Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.
The Bronze Rule:
Do to others what they do to you.
The Iron Rule:
Do to others whatever you want, before they do it to you.
The Give-and-Take Rule
First cooperate with others, and then do to them what they do to you.
Confucius, the Buddha, the Hindu sages, Jesus and Muhammad all chose the Golden Rule.
The ancestral ethics of the peoples of the Andes
In the Inca empire there were three “commandments”: Ama suwa, Ama llulla, Ama khella (Don’t steal, Don’t loaf, Don’t lie). That same ancestral ethics has survived among this people till the present day: respect others’ goods, respect hard work, and respect the truth. With these principles they have developed an ethics of mutual concern.
Chilean educator María Victoria Peralta relates: Every people has its own cosmovision, its way of seeing the world, its way of understanding the place of humans in the world and the values that give meaning to life. The Aymara peoples told me: “Solidarity is not a value for us.” They explained to me that for them the term had a rather paternalistic connotation. “We speak of reciprocity. In our society the great value is reciprocity: we all help one another out.” How interesting. It’s not that I, better off than you, am going to be in solidarity with you. No, I help you, and you help me. The bond is reciprocal; the relationship is more egalitarian. The concept seems to me to be much richer, and it yields a richer ethics.
“Another” ten commandments
In his book The God Delusion, British scientist Richard Dawkins argues that human beings do not need to believe in God to behave morally, and he observes that the moral zeitgeist of humanity (that is, the moral climate, the reserve of moral norms at a given moment) changes in the course of time and is always shifting. For these post-modern times Dawkins offers the following “new ten commandments” that he discovered on an atheist website. The first one is the “golden rule” of all the great religions of antiquity, but the others are less traditional:
1. Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.
2. In everything, try not to cause harm.
3. Treat human beings, living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect.
4. Don’t ignore wickedness, and don’t fear to administer justice, but always be ready to pardon the evil that has been done if it is freely admitted and honestly repented.
5. Live with a spirit of joy and wonder.
6. Seek always to learn something new.
7. Test everything, keep revising your ideas in the face of facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it is not in accord with your principles.
8. Never try to censure or cut off another’s dissent. Always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
9. Develop independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience, and don’t allow yourself to be blindly led by others.
10. Question everything.
To these ten commandments Dawkins adds still others, from his own collection:
Enjoy your own sexual life (as long as you harm nobody), and let others enjoy their own in private, whatever be their inclinations, which in any case are none of your business.
Don’t categorize or oppress others because of their sex, race, or (as far as possible) species.
Don’t indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
Value the future on a time scale longer than your own.
Three great religious currents, but the same ethics
The past colonial conquests and wars wiped out much of the indigenous religious culture of the Americas and Africa, but in today’s world three great religious traditions still remain dominant: the indigenous religions of India: Hinduism and Buddhism; the indigenous religions of China: Confucianism and Taoism; and the indigenous religious of the Near East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the Far Eastern religions the central figure is the sage; in the religions of India it is the mystic; and in the Near Eastern religions the central figure is the prophet. These three great religious currents all coincide in their ethics.
Confucius: a master of Chinese wisdom
China has the oldest and wisest civilization on the planet. Some six centuries before Christ, Chinese civilization entered into a stage of maturation, passing from a stage of magical religiosity to one of rational philosophy. Among the great thinkers of that historical moment was Kong Fuzi (the teacher Kong) known in the west as Confucius (ca. 551-479 BCE). As an itinerant teacher, Confucius appealed to people’s ethical decisions and moral strengths. He proposed “reciprocity” as a norm of conduct, and he always was guided by the ancestral past of the Chinese culture: the ancient sages, the family ties, the forebears of the nation.
Confucianism was the official religion in China until the 7th century after Christ, and it has had a great influence on Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Today it remains one of the deepest roots of the Chinese philosophical tradition, always seeking harmony between heaven and earth.
Buddha: a spiritual guide
Along with Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (the Awakened or Enlightened One), is the spiritual guide with the greatest following in human history. He was born 500 years before Jesus, on the border between India and Nepal. As a youth he sought answers to four questions: what is suffering? where does it come from? how is it overcome? and what is the path to overcome it? What the Buddha discovered was that life consists of suffering, that suffering arises from attachment to things, that attachment can be overcome by renouncing desires, and that this requires one renounce the longing for pleasure and for mortification until one reaches nirvana.
His “interior path” produced a new religion, one that rejected the religion of his time and his culture, the religion of bloody sacrifices of the Vedas and the Brahmans. The Buddha was a teacher, a kind of psychotherapist, who sought to cure people of their attachment to themselves and announced a way of becoming free of egocentricity, in order to open up to universal compassion. The religion he began, Buddhism, is an ethics of life. Buddhism demands that human beings live humanly and that they become humanized through the exercise of altruism, benevolence, solidarity, and a quiet, serene joy.
Muhammad: the founder of Islam, the religion of the book
In the 7th century CE Muhammad founded the religion of Islam, one of the three monotheistic religions, along with Judaism and Christianity. Next to Christianity, Islam has the largest number of adherents in the world, some 1,600,000,000 adherents. The word “Islam” means “free submission to God’s will”. The faith is based on the Koran, the “uncreated book” which Allah (the name of God in Islam) sent to Muhammad, the prophet who unified the Arab peoples under this faith.
For centuries the Koran was transmitted orally, before being set down in definitive written form. Although the religion was born in the Arab world, today Arabs represent only a fifth of the Muslims that exist in the world. In demographic terms, Indonesia, Pakistan and India are the three nations with the greatest number of Muslims. At the present time Islam is increasing in the western world through migration and conversions. Despite this, Islam is still intimately linked with Arab culture. Two of the three great places of pilgrimage, Mecca and Medina, are found in Arab lands, and the third site, Jerusalem, is in territory that is divided between Arabs and Jews. The Arabic language, since it is the language of divine revelation, is a sacred language. The Koran, when translated into other languages, loses its divine value. For the Muslims, the Word of God did not become man, it became a book.
Muslim temples, called mosques, have no images. They are decorated simply with words of the Koran, which are traced artistically in large letters. There are also other adornments, but nothing that represents the human figure. They use no choir or music or instruments, only the solemn recitation of the texts of the Koran. In the mosques any Muslim may act as an imam, directing the people in prayer. Muslims profess their faith by hearing, memorizing and reciting the Koran, from the time they are born till the day they die.
Jesus: also Buddhist, Sufi, Confucian…
Scholars who have studied the Gnostic gospels claim that the Jesus who appears in them turns out to be more universal than the one presented in the four gospels that were accepted as authentic and wo are found in the Bible. They further claim that the message of the Gnostic Jesus contains much thought similar to that found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Islamic Sufism.
According to Elaine Pagels, a professor who has specialized in the Gnostic gospels, the Jesus found in those texts is a spiritual guide who seeks to open the hearts of those who hear him to spiritual understanding. He speaks of inner illumination, and not, like the Jesus of the canonical gospels, of sin and repentance. She cites, for example, the following fragment from the Gospel of Thomas: Examine yourself and understand who you are, how you live, and what will become of you. … You should not remain ignorant about yourself, for one who does not know being knows nothing, but one who knows being has already acquired knowledge of the universe’s depths. Pagels points out the similarities between these messages and those of modern transpersonal psychology.
In her best-seller, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), Pagels contrast this gospel with that of John. She claims that, while John emphasizes that Jesus is the light of the world, Thomas teaches that there is a light within each person, which illuminates the entire universe. If it does not shine, there is darkness. According to Pagels, Thomas teaches that Jesus is not God, but a teacher who seeks to reveal the divine light that exists in all human beings; she argues that John’s gospel was written as a reaction to the message of the Gospel of Thomas.
Morality written on the heart
Besides being a prophet, Jesus was a mystic. This is shown in his vision of God and in the way he related to the law and the world of human relations, giving priority to the latter over the former and over all human hierarchies. The German Benedictine monk Willigis Jäger explains the difference between a morality based on laws and an ethics emerging from mystical experience and born of the heart: Christian morality is based on a dual conception: God is a being external to the world, and people must keep the commandments of that external God in order to be rewarded and gain future salvation in the hereafter. Mysticism, in contrast, claims that human beings are able to find God in the world, in themselves, and when that happens, they will act morally.
Küng is a Catholic theologian from Switzerland, perhaps the most universally recognized thinker in contemporary theology. Bold, prolific and polemical, he was suspended as a professor of theology in 1979 by the Vatican. He participates in our program by virtue of his serious research into world religions, aimed at building bridges between those religions and thus finding a road toward universal peace.
Küng bases his work on this principle: There is no peace among nations without peace among religions. There is no peace among religions without dialogue among them. There is no dialogue among religions without universal ethical norms. There is no survival possible in our world without a worldwide ethics, without a universal ethics.
Hans Küng takes an active part in the Project for a World Ethics, begun in 1990, and since 1995 he has been president of the Foundation for a World Ethics. Among his many works we especially recommend In Search of Our Tracks: the Spiritual Dimension of the World Religions (2004), in which he delves deeply into the history, beliefs, rites, and traditions of all the great religions of humankind, presenting them in a way that allows us to find in each of them points of contact, shared values, and common denominators.
Kung states in the introduction: With this book I invite you to get to know better the world of the great religions, which is as h