What Is “Freedom Of Religion”: Is It Freedom To Choose Your Religion? Is It Freedom To Change Your Religion?

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Dear Muslim & Christian Friends,

I have been thinking a lot about this question: “What is freedom of religion?”

I mean, what does it really mean?

Is it freedom granted by the government where you live to practice your religion (as long as it does not harm others)?

Is it freedom for mosques to built in Europe and the United States but also churches to be built in Saudi Arabia?

Is it freedom to believe differently than your family, friends, or even your religious leaders?

Is it freedom for a Christian to study Islam, to read the Qur’an, to visit a mosque – in a search for truth?

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Is it freedom for a Muslim to study Christianity, to read the Bible, to visit a church – in a search for truth?

Is it freedom for a Muslim to engage in dawa with a Christian or a Christian to engage in evangelism with a Muslim (as long as there is no pressure but rather sincere dialogue based on mutual respect, love, and honesty)?

Here is the really BIG question: is freedom of religion the freedom to choose your religion. . .to even change your religion?

Let’s take it a step further.

Should you have the right to choose. . .or to change. . .your religion without suffering negative or harmful repercussions from:

your family
your friends
your community
your government
your religious leaders
your mosque or church?

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Freedom: no rejection, hatred, arrests, interrogation, torture, or imprisonment because of your choice or change in what you believe and practice.

Freedom: no one saying, “What?! You have become a ______________? You are not my son/daughter, wife/husband, brother/sister any more! You have shamed us. You must leave. Don’t ever come back!”

Freedom: no loss of property, job, education, spouse, children, personal freedoms or even. . .your life. . .because of your choice of what faith to follow.

This is one of my great passions for all people: freedom of religion.

Freedom to choose. . .freedom to change.

Everywhere. For every person.

My Muslim & Christian friends, what do you think about this kind of freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, and even freedom of religion?

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Shouldn’t everyone have these rights? These freedoms? These choices?

In the USA. . .or in Uzbekistan. In England. . .or in Egypt. In Australia. . .or in Algeria. In Iceland. . .or in Iran.

You may not feel free on the outside to choose. . .or to change. But God has given you these rights in your heart.

It’s up to you. . .

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(edited from a post on Jan 8, 2015)

There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Yours?

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(The post below was first done in June of 2013. Because of a great conversation with two kind sheikhs and other Muslim men at a mosque, I thought it would be good to repost it. I hope it is thought provoking as you seek truth in this life and what we all want in the future – Paradise.)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I believe there are really only 2 religions – 2 religious belief systems – in the world. Sounds crazy, right? No, I truly believe there are just 2 religions in the world.

In the first religious belief system, we can use the illustration of a ladder extending from earth to Heaven.

In this illustration, most of humanity attempts to “climb the ladder” to Heaven by right beliefs, good intentions, obedience to all kinds of rules, and the faithful practice of all kinds of rituals. The adherents of this religious belief system believe if they can just do enough, they can tip the divine scales and God will let them into a place of bliss, perfection, and rewards.

This religious system is called “good works.”

Those who depend upon good works might call themselves “Buddhists” (using the 8-fold path of enlightenment) or “Hindus” (reincarnation – coming back over an over again in some new form), or something else. They might call themselves “Muslims” (practicing the 5 pillars, attendance at the mosque, memorizing the Qur’an, following the Sunnah, etc.) or “Christians” (going faithfully to “church,” practicing the “Golden Rule,” singing in the choir, reading the Bible, etc.).

A legitimate question about all of these people is,

“What – or who – are they counting on to gain Paradise when they die?”

Essentially, if they are trying to “climb the ladder” to Paradise by their good deeds, they are counting upon – and this is incredibly important – themselves. They are counting on their own performance, their own hard work, and their own spiritual achievements – in essence, their own goodness.

In the second religious belief system, we can also use the illustration of a ladder between earth and Heaven. But in this faith system, God in Heaven looks down upon humanity and lovingly sees that people simply cannot “climb the ladder” and get to Him. None of them can. All are helpless, all are hopelessly lost, and all are in need of rescue. All are in deep shame and in need of their honor to be restored.

So God sends His mercy and compassion down the ladder through His prophets. He does this especially and uniquely through Jesus – Isa Al Masih. The prophet Isa – spotless and sinless (Qur’an 19:19) – takes upon himself the sins and shame of the whole world through the voluntary sacrifice of his life. He provides restored relationship with God in Heaven, forgiveness of sins, and the honor that all people need and crave.

This is indeed Good News but. . .there is a big IF: mankind must believe in Isa (Jesus the Messiah) – who he is and what he has done – and follow him to the end.

This religious belief system is called “grace.”

Grace is simply receiving (accepting) by faith a gift that cannot be earned. In this case, the gift is the gift of forgiveness of sins and righteousness (right standing) before God and then the resulting gift of eternal life in Paradise.

2 religious belief systems: good works. . .and grace.

So yes, I believe there are only 2 religions in the world.

Which one is yours?

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(Postscript: All I want – all I passionately want – is for all people to see Isa Al Masih – Jesus – for who he is. I desperately want all people to put their complete trust in him and his sacrificial death so they can live forever in Heaven with God who certainly is full of genuine, undeserved mercy and compassion. If I can help anyone to find and follow that straight path, it is my complete joy, privilege, and honor.)