As I read about Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammed, the well-known prophets, I find all of them were depicted as humans and surprisingly all of them originated in the desert lands of the Middle East. The prolific historian, Professor Harari nicely narrated in his book on the brief history of humankind showing the incidence of the Big Bang around 13.5 billion years ago. Chronologically, it appears about 2.5 million years back, the genus Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. And it was only sixteen thousand years ago, sapiens settled in America.
As we don’t have any historical evidences, we don’t know whether any other prophets came before Abraham, known as the father of mankind.
Please note that all of these prophets started giving sermons just to ensure harmony and manage social order in different tribes. I am sure all these prophets had charisma to attract ordinary peoples. With a little scientific knowledge whatever these wise men talked about, people were mesmerized. The number of followers made these three desert faiths great no doubt. However, Christianity and Islam forced ordinary people to come under their umbrella. They fought wars because of their faith and killed millions.
Think about Buddhism, Baha’i or any other small sectoral beliefs that couldn’t flourish even though may be far better than the major faiths. Unlike the two major faiths, they didn’t force people. Interestingly, it is only Hindu who don’t believe in conversion. You have to be born in a Hindu family to become Hindu. That’s why in the seventies, our neighbor, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to the U.S. and started the Iskcon movement. The central theme of Iskcon is to reach God through chanting Lord Krishna’s name.
An ancient people of the Indian sub-continent started worshiping whatever they find forceful and strong, for example, fire, wind, water even snakes. As history tells us, around 2,500 years back Lord Buddha started giving sermons on how to get to God, almighty. What a powerful and people-oriented lifestyle Buddha used to preach! Definitely, a great prophet at that time in India.
I find interesting when the Vatican Pope declares sainthood to someone such as Mother Theresa. Some evidences of miracles are required for sainthood. So did Lord Jesus give life to a dead man? Some prophets fought wars, killed enemies and were involved in numerous other atrocities on both large and small scales.
The three desert faiths have now spread to over two-thirds of the world. I wonder why in a world with so much fertile land that the prophets chose infertile lands to establish their influence on people’s mind. In the absence of democratic norms in the society in those days, the ordinary peoples were a prey to stronger forces.
Think about Mother Theresa, who couldn’t or didn’t start a new religion but possessed all the charisma and did many miracles in curing thousands of distressed and diseased people. She reinforces humanity in humans.
Think about Gandhi – he is the one who didn’t have any racial prejudice, no religious biasness. How about Nelson Mandela? What about Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore? Or even Karl Marx?
On the other hand, there are countries or the leaders who enacted a blasphemy law for which a rumor can kill or jail innocent people like Asia Bibi in Pakistan. Are thousands-year-old religions so sensitive in the 21st century?
Dr. Harari in his book of 21 Lessons for the 21st century narrated a tragedy that occurred in 1839 in the holy Shiite city, Mashhad in Iran. A Jewish woman was told by a local quack to use blood on her skin disease by sacrificing a dog. The Shiite public took this incidence as mockery of Karbala and killed almost three dozen Jewish people.
I wonder, have we changed ourselves? Whatever happened in 1839 is still happening in these days. In the name of God, people still slaughter innocent humans around the world. In fact, religion encourages hate and bigotry in both literate and illiterate people. There are no proofs that a particular faith contributes to longevity or saves lives when disaster strikes. It’s all statistical probability – a real science.
Let’s go back 1894, when Tagore wrote:
In this eternal surrounding of heaven & earth,
The deepest crying of all,
Will not let you go,
Alas, still have to let go, still go away.
This is what is continuing from the ancient past.
Thus, believe in natural processes. If there is heaven and hell, they are on Earth, we are facing them every day.
Jiben Roy, a native of Bangladesh, teaches chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at Mississippi University for Women. His email address is email@example.com.