As a child, I collected Christmas cards. One of my favourites was embossed in gold and depicted 3 camels mounted by richly costumed figures. A best-loved carol told me that they were the three Wise Men, the Magi, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, who had travelled from the East following the Star of Bethlehem, to worship the prophesied "King of the Jews", the infant Jesus.
What I didn't learn until much later was that the Magi were members of a religious Persian caste in Iran into which Zoroaster had been born, and from where He founded a religion attracting many loyal adherents, some active even to this day. I learned that one of the Wise Men, Caspar, was thought to be a black king from India. I also realised that the chubby blonde haired infant of my Christmas cards must in reality have been a sweet dark haired, dark complexioned Jew.
And so my previous understanding of religion began to be vastly expanded.
Hinduism, the oldest known active religion (approximately 500 BC) prescribed eternal principles such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. Krishna is a major deity in Hinduism. He is worshiped as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu and also as the supreme God in his own right.
Abraham is a venerated patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Babi and Bahai Faiths, whose relationship with God provides the foundational story for God’s beneficial relationship with humanity. Judaism was founded in the Middle East over 3500 years ago and teaches that the unspoken divinity appointed Jews as a chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behavior to the world.
The words of the Torah given by Moses, greatest of the Hebrew prophets, are accepted as truth. This divinity knows the thoughts and deeds of men, and will reward the good and punish the wicked. (However even these very basic and general principles are disputed by the liberal movements of Judaism).
Zoroaster was born in Persia/Iran (approx 6oo years BC.). He is best known for accounts of His followers, the 'Three Wise Men', who were guided by teachings from His Holy Book Gathas, to travel and seek out the Christ child to come.
The teachings of Buddha (2500 years ago) include not to harm others and to live peacefully and gently, working towards the ultimate goal of pure and lasting happiness for all living beings.
Christianity (2,000 years ago) teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His teachings can be summarized briefly as the love of God and love of one's neighbor. Today there are countless denominations of Christianity, each with unique beliefs and practices.
Islam is another Abrahamic monotheistic religion, teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is his Messenger. The teachings of Muhammad united the warring tribes of Arabia and succeeded in establishing a great civilisation, extending at its peak from Spain in the west to Indonesia in the east, to consequently exert a powerful influence on many branches of science.
Bahá'ís see the Báb as the forerunner of Bahá'ullah. His writings introduced the concept of a Messianic figure whose coming was announced in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions.
The Baha'i Faith, established by Baha'u'llah, upholds the oneness of God, the unity of religion, and the oneness of humankind. It promotes the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.
In this extremely basic exploration of the world religions a pattern emerges. We can see humanity over the ages as pupils in one vast graded school.
The earliest of the religions offered a syllabus for grade 1 children, teaching elementary basics that included ideas around sharing, safe foods, and basic hygiene. Subsequent religions built upon and reinforced what was learned in earlier grades.
They taught principles upon which advanced societies could become developed.
The most recent of these religions, the Bahá'í Faith, teaches principles at ‘college’ and ‘university’ level, whose application can result in a harmonious global world community.
This is where we stand today. We, the collective descendants of one symbolic African woman, are working together with our newly discovered global family, to bring about the peaceful unification of our home, planet Earth.
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established" --- Baha'u'llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas.