In examining the religious teachings about the values of human life using religious teachings it is easy to see that God thinks all human life equal regardless of race, gender or disability and encourages all his ‘sheep’ (followers of his, who he regards not as servants but as friends) to do so as well. This is proven in 1st Corinthians 7 18- 20 where it is said, ‘Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.
Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.’, the passage suggests that God cares not about the outward appearance or position of his followers but their obedience to his command, regardless of what life they have lived or what they were before, it also supports the fact that God was willing to take converts and so did not make distinctions between the human race or bear prejudice to those who were previously not his followers and had converted.
The belief of equality for all of mankind is further supported by the bible which (Genesis 1:27) proclaims that all were made ‘in the image of God’ and therefore bear a likeliness to him regardless of any differences we might show. This theory is known as imago dei and is one shared by the three Abrahamic religions – it is thought that our likeliness to God means all human life should be treated with respect and dignity. (Matthew 5:43-38) ‘Ye have heard it that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’. This passage states that Christians should bear hate to no one even those who wish ‘harm’ unto them and instead pray for them and still show love to them regardless suggesting that Christians should have compassionate and fair attitudes towards all individuals.
This belief of equality, understanding and acceptance no matter the past or social standing of the person is present in most other religions such as Islam, Judaism and Buddhism and now-days most religions are known to visit jails (where sinners lay) trying to convert the ‘evil’ and ‘lost’ (sinners) so that they may repent and instead become children of God an example of important converts is Charles Colson who was part of the Watergate Seven, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to Watergate related charges and the obstruction of justice before being sentenced for 1-2 years in prison.
While in prison Colson converted to Christianity and when released started Prison Fellowship – a national ministry that helps prisoners to convert to Christianity, it is said that this program ‘ has helped prisoners live a better life and strengthen their spirit’. Quakers a faction derived from Christianity believe ‘there is that of God in everybody’, meaning that no one is more important than anyone else as they are all made in God’s image by God, however even within this organisation – people still have to take charge and allocate certain responsibilities to others meaning they become leaders and therefore more important that everyone else, suggestion that they are not equal to everyone else as they are worth more.
There are two main Christian views on the truth of other religions; The exclusive view (mainly fundamentalists) who like Christians in the past believe all ‘non-Christians’ are not doing what is ‘right’ and therefore will be condemned to Hell unless converted. Fundamentalist try to convert others to Christianity through the means of ‘evangelism’ etc. becoming ‘missionaries’. This is because of their literal interpretations of the bible, believing in John 3:18 which states, ‘whoever does not believe in him (Jesus) stands condemned already’, fundamentalists do not only just extend this view towards non-believers but also to Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the son of God citing John 14:6 in which Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except though me’.
This view contrasts with the Inclusive view where Christianity is believed to be superior to other religions (or bearing more truth) but doesn’t require conversion only adhering to the ‘right’ attitude to be saved from hell. While inclusive Christians might try forms of evangelism such as becoming missionaries, they are generally more understanding of others, this means many of them become involved with charities such as Tearfund or Christian Aid as a way to help others and also convince them (without words) that Christianity holds the ‘truth’ and the ‘right’ way. They use quotes like: ‘There are many rooms in my Father’s house’ as a way of suggesting that there are different ways to get to heaven and different paths one can take, as long as one follows the ‘right’ way. It can be argued that inclusive Christians more than exclusive/fundamentalist really follow the teachings of the bible, they more than exclusive Christians can be argued to “love thy neighbour” and therefore treat others the way they’d like to be treated.
The bible teaches that Jesus treated ‘foreigners’ very well, he healed a roman centurion’s son and later had dinner with Zaccheus, a hated tax collector for the Romans, suggesting that he did exactly what he preached, loved the ‘enemy’ and treated everyone well, this behaviour is also reflected in the parable of the good Samaritan where a man(a Jew) is robbed and lies naked, hurt and poor on the road – a priest and leaders of other religions pass him by and ignore him, the only person who stops and helps him, even paying for his treatment is a Samaritan, people who were hated by Jews and who in turn hated them. This parable, not only shows ‘foreigners’ in a good light but also promotes the teaching of ‘loving thy enemy’.
In Galatians 3, the bible once again reinforces that God loves all of humanity unconditionally regardless of Gender or race, proclaiming ‘There is no difference between Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ supporting Acts 10 in declaring that God does not favour a specific group of humanity or ‘show favouritism’ but rather ‘accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right’. Some critics however argue that these teachings are presented as only favouring those who believe in Christ and therefore making an outsider of those who do not ‘fear him’ and do what God proclaims to be ‘right’ and almost exempting them from the ‘rules’ and teachings he lays down to his followers, presenting the argument of: does religion treat non-believers equally? The fact that there are many different sects of Christianity had led to many different views about the treatment of others, with the term others representing black, non-‘whole bodied'(disabled), homosexuals etc. as well as extending to different cultures and religions not just non-believers.
Walter Laqueur a man of Jewish faith, believes that sex is historically and culturally variable, with the modern idea of two separate sexes representing a shift away from the longer-established view that there is a ‘single male sex, of which the female is an inferior manifestation’, he believes these developments have led to a society which believes that both men and women should occupy and negotiate a range of different positions within the world instead of living in a ‘patriarchy’ where women do not have a main role in religion.This view is opposed by many other religions, Catholics for example believe that women can have a role in church, but cannot be priests because of the ‘fact’ that Jesus was a man, and he chose all 12 of his disciples to be men. Catholics also interpret St Paul’s teachings in Timothy 2 which suggest that women should have no authority over men as being correct, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Taking the view that ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve’ and ‘Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.’. Some fundamentalist believe that men and women are equal before God but still have different roles in life meaning women shouldn’t be offered equal opportunities in everything including religion claiming that the women’s main job should be as a home-maker – looking after the children not being in positions of leadership in the church. The Church of England however is against this interpretation and believes that women can be priests. They believe that we are all equal in God’s eyes, and also that Jesus had many women followers. Mary and others have been named in the Bible at significant points in Jesus’ life, and there are books in the Bible named after women. They use quotes such as: “There is neither male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3) to support their reasoning.
Some black theologians claim that religion has always been ‘bias’ to the white man and therefore racist and oppressing to black people. They argue that this has created a divide between ‘white God’ and ‘black God’. Only in 1985 did the Church of England announce the Church should ‘make space for and include black Christians fully’, this was almost a centuries after the freedom of Black people as slaves and many years after black liberation had occurred ( officially).
However while many Christians like Pope John Paul, who condemned the fact that Christians had contributed to the slave trade, finally got Black people some equality some sects of Christianity such as the Southern Baptists in USA up until 1900, the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa until 1980 and many Christians in the 16th, 17th and 18th century believed that certain races were inferior and could be treated as either 2nd class citizens or slaves because of two Bible verses: Genesis 9:18-27 – which states that the descendants of Noah’s third son (Ham – who is thought to be black by many Christians) will be cursed and be the slaves of his second son Japheth(thought to be white by many) and Ephesians 6:5 – which states ‘Slaves obey your masters’ -a verse that some Christians thought meant that it was fine to have inferior races and slaves.
There is also the question of disability in religion with old-age Christians and Buddhism believing it was a punishment for evil deeds/sin (or bad karma in past lives). This viewpoint however has changed in recent times whereas being disabled was once viewed as being an imperfect version of an able bodied person, a description that suggests that disabled people are of less value than an able bodied person, recent views believe in Aristotle interpretation, ‘that physical defects do not prevent a person from actualising their potential as a human being because the essence of being human does not rest on purely physical abilities’ a viewpoint which a charity called L’arche founded by a Christian recognises. Aristotle point further illustrates a verse of the bible which proclaims that we are ‘all born of sin’, which supports that no one is perfect- we’re all flawed one way or another and therefore are in one way or another – disabled.
Islam is considered an egalitarian religion meaning one that is pro-equality. There is an argument made by several Muslim Women scholars such as Al-Hibri who argues that ‘the situation of women globally is too complex and contradictory for one comprehensive critique, saying that in some nations: Muslim women experience horrendous forms of violence and oppression, often under the label of Islam whereas in another nation Muslim women may occupy positions of power in significant social and political institution also due to Islam.
Many argue that whilst there are many practices contrary to women’s rights which are done in the name of Islam, the reality is that there is no basis in Islam for them. Others make the important point that there are many factors at work which have allowed such oppressive practices to continue, such as the existence of patriarchal cultures that are often confused with religious belief or the existence of authoritarian regimes that deny more than just women’s claiming ‘undemocratic regimes have denied human rights to their citizens, and attempted to lay the blame on the doorstep of religion’ suggesting that it is not religion that is unequal, but those who practise it.
It can be argued that the term equality has different meanings in different situations – you can’t be equal to all people through one measure because everyone has different conditions that must be met etc. you can’t feed a Muslim the same way you’d choose a Hindu, you couldn’t offer a Muslim a pig as it would cause trouble due to the offer being interpreted as an insult, this however doesn’t mean you can’t treat persons of both religion the same; with kindness and compassion regardless of their religion. This has led to many arguing that the solution is not just treating everyone equally (as equality suggests same treatment) but rather introducing tolerance and acceptance. They believe that conversion in religions isn’t something that should occur forcefully but instead something that should be gently approached – through the means of missionaries (in religions such as Jehovah witnesses and Mormons) for example.
However some religions have a zero tolerance on those they consider ‘outsiders’, this include Zionism and it’s treatment of the Palestinians and some Jewish sects which refused to assimilate into the societies they lived in (Ashkenazic Jews), preferring to stay ‘outsiders’ because they believe the Torah forbids mixing with ‘gentiles’ due to their interpretation of Avoda Zara 36b which states “You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son and you shall not take his daughter for your son; for he will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others.” Many Christians (and some Jews) thoroughly disagree with this verse with Christians believing it is directed ad them and painting them as immoral idolaters and some Jews believing the passage to contradicting (with the rest of the Torah) and too brief to be fully understood. This raises the argument among theologians that the bible and other ‘holy books’ are too contradicting, confusing and sometimes too lacking of Context to be fully interpreted and rather, the teachings should not be taken at face value but rather, used to regulate but not to set iron cast laws .
However there are many contradicting verses in the bible which suggest otherwise.
Islam states: ‘O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with God is the most pious.Verily, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.’ (49:13) about the difference within human beings, suggesting that they are deliberate and diversity is God’s gift to humankind.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam
The founder of Quakers, George Fox
but instead of seeking primarily to convert, the upmost goal is to establish the principles of Christianity in others’ lives etc. love, humility and compassion.
And the Qur’an which states: ‘I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labours in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other (3:195)’
The Qur’an states ‘For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise,- for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward. (33:35)’ suggesting that everyone, not just Muslim men and women will get the reward as long as they are ‘humble’ and adhere to Muslim practises even if they do not adopt the religion…
The most beloved and respected historical Christian thinkers and theologicans are amongst those who believe the role of women in religion should be subdued with John Crysostom considering the female sex as “weak and fickle” ,Augustine claims Satan’s reasoning for deceiving Eve was because he was “making his assault upon the weaker part of that human alliance eand Epiphanius declaring that the “female sex is easily mistaken, fallible, and poor in intelligence” even Martin Luther King supports this argument stating “it was not Adam who went astray” 265). an idea that men systematically dominate, oppress and exploit women I many believe that a patriachical state doesn’t and didn’t ever exist and instead we have just been living in a world dominated by a complex set of differences; ethnic, racial, gendered, class hierarchy and not just gender.
In this generation, although there are many verses in the bible to suggest that women should have and did have a very important and immensely valuable role in founding and shaping Christianity.
For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man…In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (New International Version, 1 Corinthians 11:1-3;8-9;11-12).
1 Corinthians 14 says, ‘Women should remain silent in churches’ which many interpret as saying- women shouldn’t be in positions of leadership in the church.
Proverbs 31 implies the place of a woman is at home – ‘She watches over the affairs of her household’
But women will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety”(New International Version, 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
This is known as Christian egalitarian. The opposing view is Complementarianism.
Although, when the decision was made to allow Women into the church in 1992, many people left the Church of England as a result and converted to Catholics. This shows that there still isn’t equality in Religions such as Christianity as while some may be ‘for’ the inclusion of women, the one who aren’t may simply join a different fraction and practise their ‘anti-feminist in religion’ perspectives there. This supports the view that freedom in religion is in conflict with notions of gender equality.
A prominent Muslim mother to an autistic child once wrote to a follower who also had an autistic child – ‘As with typically-developing children, every special-needs child has his or her own personality, temperament, strengths, and abilities. Every child has his or her God-given potential. This is from the mercy of Allah and one of the signs of His strength that He created such diversity among human beings. We should rejoice in the creative power of Allah and accept His qadr, or decree, for us. I believe that Allah created disabilities so those of us who are able-bodied would not become complacent and ungrateful. Taking care of a child with a disability brings out the best and most compassionate in all of us. So many of the things that parents of typically-developing children take for granted, we have to fight and struggle for. I think this helps us draw closer to the All-Merciful, the Forbearant, and the Loving.’
This supports the view that all human life is sacred and must be treated with the rights given to it in the Shari’a and that no one has the right to take the life of another except according to God’s command. It also gives way to an argument that could claim moral worth of a person does not depend on birth, gender, race or wealth or whether or not a person is disabled.
“Class background, as well as the degree and severity of impairment, ethnicity, sex, sexuality and age can exacerbate or modify the experience of disability” (Vernon, 1999:394)
Many may argue that this isn’t a religion; however most agree that it is a branch of Judaism – if a very distant branch.
Different from Sephardim (who chose to assimilate into the nations they moved to and Mizrahi Jews who also assimilated into the nations they found themselves in.
Courtney from Study Moose
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