4,300 Religions, Only 1 Empty Grave
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Have you ever successfully assembled a large-sized Jigsaw puzzle? I have. In my experience, I usually start out by clearing out the clutter from my dining table, followed by emptying out the contents of the puzzle box onto the surface in an unceremonious pile, and finally, I'd carefully identify and extract the corner pieces which are usually the easiest to identify by their closed ends. However, what earns the Jigsaw set its classification as a puzzle is not the fringe or corner pieces, but the shape, design and placement of the central pieces which ultimately brings perspective and purpose to the entire game. And that's not the most interesting thing about the game.
See, a Jigsaw puzzle's value lies in the picture that is formed at the end, only once all the pieces have come together. The individual pieces of the set are only cookie crumbs to the grand picture, not the picture itself. It is only once each piece has been returned to it's predestined slot when we begin to observe a pattern and by the time we fit the last piece in, only then do we fully comprehend and appreciate the journey and the vision of the set creator. The incredible part? With all Jigsaw puzzle sets, there is and will always be only one picture. No other piece from any other set can suitably and perfectly fit into the set in context, without perverting the purpose of the set and leaving it incomplete. That is the beauty of a game with only one ending; however intellectually endowed or not the player might be, there are no losers in a game designed to lead you to certain victory. Therefore, the only question that is to be asked is not where the set would end, but when you would insert the last piece and could finally see the picture for what it is.
If you have not already caught on, I love Biblical analogies.
According to Adherents, an independent, non-religiously affiliated organisation that monitors the number and size of the world's religions, there are approximately around 4,300 world religions today. Drawing inspiration from the Jigsaw analogy, each of the 4,300 religions claim that their 'puzzle' set best represents the exact and authentic 'picture' of our existence and existential purpose, which the other 4,299 sets failed to accomplish. There are some who say that these 4,300 sets are all fundamentally the same picture, while the pieces are just superficially different. At the extreme end, we have folks who essentially say that these Jigsaw sets do not have a creator, and that these pieces' precise design and perfect fit into the grand picture are just a product of random chance and coincidence rather than the work of an Intelligent Designer.
While I would love to delve into the last past of the analogy that references the obvious flaws of the atheistic and agnostic belief system, I would rather focus your attention to the behemoth of a problem the first part poses - 4300 WORLD RELIGIONS... Choosing your faith these days has become less about the sincere unravelling of the identity of the Creator of the Universe and more about which type of mustard you would want on the range of shelves that make up the condiments section of a Hypermart. How does one even begin searching for an answer when the options are evolving faster than the COVID-19 strains have in 2021? Well, the answer is actually very simple, and it's starts with dispelling a key misunderstanding about these 4,300 religions.
One day, I had gone up to my terrace to get some exercise a little late in the night. Now, since the terrace door is always padlocked, I carried my trusty set of apartment master keys to unlock the same. However, since the corridor light switch was installed in a horribly inconvenient position, I could not turn on the light and instead had to claw my way in the dark towards the general direction of the padlock. In a series of clumsy movements that would have made Charlie Chaplin seem graceful, I eventually reached the padlock, sighing in relief although it was short-lived as I was then faced with the next challenge of fitting each key on the key ring into the lock, hoping that unlike my golf career, I would actually get a hole in one. However, after seconds had become minutes of fruitless fiddling, I eventually grew extremely frustrated and ended up having to find the corridor light switch. After the light had turned on, I quickly found the right key and got into the terrace, although I had already completed most my cardio simply trying to open the door.
Coming to the learning curve that I took away from the entire debacle; searching for a religion or 'key' that would fit our existential padlock is the main mortal conquest for most of us. These 'keys' come in various sizes, shapes and dimensions, although only one can truly open the padlock. One could argue that duplicates of this key can and have been made or that the other 4,299 odd keys can open other locks too, but then you would have missed the entire point of this analogy. These duplicates may fit the lock, but is the lock truly secure or viable if it has alternate ways to open the same keyhole, or has a key that can be easily duplicated? Or if the other odd keys are only capable of opening less relevant locks, has it truly unlocked 'The Padlock' in the context of God? All these are 'key' (pun intended) points that have to be the cornerstone of your search for truth, as these 4,300 different religions are fundamentally different and are, at best, superficially similar. So, going in with the flawed notion that all keys essentially open the same lock makes as much sense as drinking soup with a fork. AND NO, I will not break into a Spork analogy now. Those things are cursed.
Now, assuming that I still have your attention, I'd like to share something which I have found absolutely fascinating about the Christian Faith. Out of all these 4,300 religions and amongst the graves of all their dead prophets, gurus, teachers, leaders and self-proclaimed Gods and Goddesses, there lies only one empty tomb. Not only was the nature and type of death that Jesus would die predicted (prophesied) throughout the Old Testament, but even the SMALL DETAILS surrounding the event, which makes the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ one of the most unique and historically verifiable deaths till date. And that's not the best part about Biblical History. The Bible is not simply a book of rules and punishments that dictate what we have to do to get to heaven, rather it's the oldest completed Jigsaw puzzle in existence today, with each book from its collection being a substantial piece of a far more impressive and divine grand picture when read together.
In the beginning of the Old Testament, the Bible starts out with the corner pieces of the puzzle, depicting at the fringes of the picture about how the universe came into being and why it did. It clearly states in Genesis that we aren't the product of a mindless unguided process, but were literally created with love in the image of God Himself. We were given the free will by Him to rule over the Earth and when we were manipulated by the devil to violate the instructions of God, that resulted in the Fall of Man (Adam & Eve), where we were removed from God's Garden of Eden as punishment, although we were never abandoned, as was evident throughout the rest of the Bible.
Although God could have abandoned us to our own choices, the puzzle expands and reveals to us how God chose a set of people who still loved and respected Him, and although they were not perfect and frequently committed terrible acts of injustice against of the will of God for their lives, He still loved them enough to discipline them with the ramifications of their own choices, but coming to their aid every time they called out to Him for help. Neither flood, nor rain, nor war or even the Devil could keep us away from the Love (Agape) of God. And since God is also just, He knew that we could never save ourselves from fair judgement when we die, as we are flawed from birth, therefore, as is revealed from the very first book of the Bible onwards, He orchestrated the coming of His own Son to take our place as a sacrifice on the cross, which is one of the greatest forms of love I have ever known.
In conclusion, when this puzzle reaches the last stage of completion with the Book of Revelation, it doesn't just leave us at a cliffhanger unlike most Nolan movies. Revelation is literally a prophecy about the second coming of Christ in the future, which gives us a roadmap of why it is so important to build a relationship with him while we still have time and why we NEED to understand the crucial significance of the empty tomb. When I was younger, I used to read a tiny percentage of the Bible and pass the entire book off as mythological stories, but after my encounter with Christ and these last 2 years of burying myself in apologetics research, I've come to realise that I have only just scratched the tip of the iceberg in uncovering the grand picture that the Bible depicts. My once boring Bible has now become a comprehensive library of eyewitness reports, real-life historical events and the amazing story of how God so loved the world, that He literally gave His only begotten Son, so that whomsoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Similar to the conclusion of my last article, I would like to ask you as a reflective question about your personal relationship with your Creator -
See, you and I both have the freedom to spend our entire lives putting together the existential puzzle of who God is, however, we are limited by the short duration of our own mortality. So, the bigger question is, when you complete the last piece of your jigsaw puzzle, are you willing to accept the picture for what it is or will you be disassembling it in denial about what it is not?