I recently wrote Why to Choose Jesus: Reason#1. He is the most credible religious leader. Jesus rose from the dead as prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ was killed by the Romans in Jerusalem before many witnesses. He rose from the dead spending 40 days with 500 of his followers. Jesus’ disciples died horrible deaths proclaiming that Jesus had risen and that all should follow His path to eternal life avoiding the punishment of an eternal Hell.
The other authors of religious ideas are not so credible. Some these say they encountered an angel-in private (no witnesses), other religions were born out of unfounded ancient tribal beliefs and another re-wrote the Bible in the 1800’s. Oh, I almost forgot about Judaism. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah in the Old Testament. Many Jews followed Jesus believing him to be the promised Jewish Messiah yet many more rejected Him.
Let’s look at this from another perspective: a worst case analysis. This approach determines the worst possible scenario and develops a plan to avoid it. As in rock climbing; doing an easy climb well beneath the climber’s capabilities wouldn’t require protection: ropes and harnesses. But if it were performed on thousand foot cliff, it is still necessary to use protection. It is not because it is likelihood of a fall but the consequences; being sucked a thousand feet to your screaming death. We will take a similar approach to avoid the screaming, terrifying fall to Hell; punishment for past sins.
This is a worst case analysis perspective. The worst case is Hell for eternity. How do I avoid it (punishment after death)? If our one goal were to avoid Hell or any other type of punishment after death and this were the only criteria, who would we choose just to be safe? Who would we trust: Jesus of Christianity, Siddhartha Gautama of Buddhism, Bahaullah of Baha’i, Joseph Smith of Mormonism, Jews, Hinduism, Mohammad of Islam or Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (J.W.s)?
All these religions except that of the J.W.s teach a type of Hell. They describe the experience differently and have a different duration of suffering. But all contain the idea that the “wicked” will be punished. Here is how punishment is described and how to avoid it for each:
Punishment is being a larger distance from God. So if you’re really good you’ll be closer in proximity after death. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be “good”.
Hell in Buddhism is a cavernous place of torment under the earth. It isn’t eternal. Karma determines when one is released and to what level of reincarnation after release. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be “good”.
The guilty are punished in Hell for twelve months and then released to Heaven. If one is still not worthy then the soul ceases to exist or is eternally punished, there is dispute over this. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be “good”. In this case good means to follow the Law of Moses and be charitable.
The punishment is annihilation. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be a Jehovah’s Witness and follow their practices.
Punishment will be in a type of prison for souls. After the thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, a future prophesied event of the Bible, these will be resurrected and permitted to enter the lowest level of Heaven. The very wicked and unrepentant will go back to the outer darkness forever. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be “good”. To enter the high heaven you need to be a practicing Mormon.
Punishment is eternal with no escape. The Koran is conflicted on the issue of Judaism and Christianity. In some Suras (Chapters) they will go to Heaven and others state they will go to Hell. For this analysis we will assume the more restrictive case; Jews and Christians go to Hell. To avoid punishment all you have to do is obey Allah as prescribed by Islamic teachings.
There are 28 hells. Given a special body to withstand the torments one is eventually released to re-start the cycle reincarnation. To avoid punishment all you have to do is be “good”.
Hell is eternal punishment. To avoid it one needs to obey Jesus. Then your iniquities are forgiven.
Doing a worst case analysis for this is interesting. There are four groups of people. You can decide which you fit in: the Liberated, the Pragmatist, the Moralist and the Religious.
For each group the equation is a little different. The Liberated want to live unhindered by social mores, doing what they desire. Their equation looks a little different than someone who is the economist.
The Pragmatist is economical. This is a person who isn’t too good or too bad. They determine good or bad by the risks and potential gains. It isn’t that they do not have morality but it floats with culture and circumstances. An example is a person who lies on their taxes because it is unlikely to be audited.
The Moralist does well almost always. They enjoy being nice and above-the-board in their dealings. They avoid conflict and like giving the perception of being good.
The Religious have chosen a certain religion. They adhere to the norms of their religion; good people. In good, I mean from a human, cultural or religious stand point, not good like God.
Worst Case Analysis Chart
X=Punishment for Eternity Xa=Punishment with possible release Xn=No longer exist Xd=Greater distance from God
From a worst case analysis the real concern we have is with the X’s. Notice in the columns under Islam and Christianity. Of course Baha’i has a X but is different; it isn’t punishment but existences at a greater distance from God. It is like getting bad tickets to a big rock concert. Islam and Christianity especially need our attention. Before we do that lets analyze the others.
Those who want to live a liberated life are in trouble with every religion. The only hope they have is that they may be able to get out of punishment eventually if Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism or Baha’i. Yet if J.Ws are right they wouldn’t be in bad shape because they simply wouldn’t exist any longer.
The Pragmatist, Moralist and Religious all have nothing to concern themselves with in the view of most religions. If either Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Baha’i is correct then none of these groups have anything to worry about. Live the quasi-good-life and you’ll be fine. All that is required is to be good to avoid punishment in the afterlife.
The Religious have no advantage over the other types. Religion may only be an asset in being good to avoid punishment. However if one chooses the correct religion, adhering to their teaching, they will be delivered from punishment. An example is that if Islam is true, a good Muslim will gain Heaven. But it wouldn’t help to be a Muslim if the J.W.s or Christianity were true. In this case, depending on who was right, they would be punished by not existing or by torment in Hell eternally. This logic applies to Christians and J.W.s also.
As you can see there are only three religions that are exclusive; if you do not follow their way you go to Hell. It doesn’t matter how good you have been; if one did not follow the precepts of the particular religion. The religion in this case defines good. If you follow the particular religion then you are “good”. But there is one distinction. The J.W.s do not have a Hell but a punishment of non-existence for not adhering to J.W.s teaching. Since this is a worst case analysis the punishment of the J.W.s isn’t considered. Not existing isn’t as harsh as eternal torment.
Therefore the most concerning religions in this analysis are Islam and Christianity. For a worst case analysis these are the two most necessary to consider. If one is wrong by choosing Islam or Christianity and one of the others is true the worst thing that will happen to that person would not exist: annihilation. And in the other cases, one would still go to Heaven or go up in the chain of reincarnation on the way to a good place.
Therefore from a worst case scenario perspective the safest religions to adhere to would be Islam or Christianity if one were only trying to avoid Hell. Remember this is just a perspective, not the whole truth.
This analysis assumes we have no idea what is true and we are only concerned about Hell. It also assumes a given religion is right while the others are wrong.
Now we are left with Islam and Christianity. We need a method to differentiate the two. They both attest the same end to those who do not adhere to their religion and practices. At this point you go back to probability. Which is most likely true?
The easiest way to do this is by looking at the claims of the Koran. Since the Bible precedes the Koran, the Koran references it to legitimize itself. The Koran states that its authenticity can be verified in the Bible. It says that the Koran agrees that the Bible is true from its perspective. This causes a problem for the Koran because it differs in a variety of ways. It tells stories of the Old Testament and gets important facts wrong.
Here is a quote from the Koran that shows that the Muslim believes the Bible is from God.
The Noble Qur’an, 42:15 “I believe in the Book (of the People of the Book) which God has sent down…”
People of the Book are understood to be Jews and Christians.
Here are a few Suras in the Koran that confirm the Bible to be true. They use the word “Book” for the Bible.
The Noble Qur’an, 5:48) “To thee (Muhammad) We sent the scripture (Qur’an) in truth confirming the scripture
that came before it, and guarding it in safety.”
The Noble Qur’an, 10:94 “If thou (Muhammad) are in doubt as to what We have revealed, then ask the People of
So the Koran is self-refuting. It say look at the Bible to validate it: but the Bible doesn’t. It is like saying “I can prove I don’t have any drugs; just look in my coat pocket!” Then the Principal reaches in this guy’s pocket pulling out a baggy with an ounce of marijuana. Oops! Or it is like saying to the cops “Ask my mom if I smoke marijuana!” and to Johnny’s surprise she tells them how much!
Islam states the Bible is true. It proves by its own words that the Koran is not to be trusted. This is one more reason to choose Jesus. If it were simply a matter of not going to Hell, worst case analysis is a great tool for helping choose who to follow. This is a safety first approach.
However, simply voting for Jesus and calling yourself a believer won’t quite cut it. Remember what you choose will determine what you do. Do what Jesus says and you’ll be just fine.
Note: To the horror of many Christians I have made this an analytical choice. Some Christians feel uncomfortable with this because it sounds filthy; it has no feeling. But I’m satisfied to sully myself in this discussion so that some might be saved from punishment. Trust stands on facts not feelings.