Many religious traditions espouse the notion of the Messiah, a person who will be sent to redeem the world from sin and suffering.

In Judaism, the Hebrew Bible doesn’t really mention the idea of a personal Messiah who will end evil and usher in an age of peace. But the idea became popular as a result of rabbinic teachings, after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. It is understandable that in the wake of the Temple’s destruction, and the scattering of the Jewish people, the notion of a personal savor was a source of solace for a battered and beleaguered people.

Christianity, more than any other religion, has celebrated the idea of a Messiah, and portrayed Jesus as sharing in God’s divinity. Jesus is revered as the bearer of God’s grace, as a sacrificial lamb whose death erased original sin and saved humanity, as a spiritual being who bridges the gap between God and humankind, and who tells humankind that it is loved and saved. Especially in the Book of Revelation, Christianity speaks of the End of Days, and the battle of Armageddon between good and evil, after which the world will experience a Second Coming of the Messiah, and a reign of peace for 1000 years.

In Islam, the Qur’an does not mention a Messiah, but he crept into Islamic tradition as al-Mahdi, the divinely guided one. He will bring peace and justice, restore the true religion, and usher in a golden age that will last seven to nine years before the end of the world. The Shi’ites in particular believe that the Twelfth Imam will be al-Mahdi, who will herald the coming of the golden age and the Last Day.

I, for one, without intending any disrespect, prefer to believe that there will be no Messiah coming; that we, in effect, are the Messiah who can usher in the golden age, if we only choose to make it so. I offer a simple common sense principle for your kind consideration: If you know something to be true, then believe in it. If you don’t know something to be true, then ask yourself, “Is this thing worth believing in?” If the answer is yes, believe in it. If the answer is no, then let it go.

For me, the idea of a Messiah coming here to make thing right doesn’t seem to coincide with current realities on the ground. And waiting for the Messiah to come, can make a dangerous world even more dangerous. It makes more sense, and is less risky, to assume that making things right is up to us. If we’ve messed things up, doesn’t it make more sense that it is up to us to undo what we’ve done, and to bring a semblance of order to this good earth?

Suppose I’m wrong. It could happen. Suppose the Messiah will eventually make his presence known. Well, if we assume that it is up to us to make things better, and if we do just that, then his coming will be like the icing on the cake. He will come only to find that we beat him to the punch by taking things into our own hands, and making things better. If, however, he never comes, then we would have still made the world better, relying on our own redemptive powers, instead of waiting for things to come.

You see, that’s how common sense works. It covers you coming and going. Any way you turn, it’s right there, ready to guide your way along the path of life, like a compass you carry with you, the universal moral compass of common sense.

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Comment by Nissim Dahan on December 28, 2008 at 3:34am
Marwa, I don't believe we're necessarily evil, or good, for that matter. We're born with a relatively clean slate, and we have a choice as to what we want to become.

My guess is that when God created the world, He was looking for the possibilty that it would all mean something. An artist who creates a work of art usually wants his work to mean something. Our appreaciation of his work gives the artist some validation that his work means something.

I don't think it is that different with God. He created the world, in all its glory, but it makes sense that He would look for some validation that His work is indeed "good." And so, He had no choice but to create a world where there would be a clash between good and evil, each force defining itself by its juxtaposition to its opposite. We wouldn't have known what is good, without comparing it to evil.

If we, as a species, opt to become good, even as we struggle with evil, then it would be a validation for God that His creation was good, that it is capable of sustaining some meaning. And so, it's not about some Messiah coming to save us. It's about our decision to save ourselves by using our common sense, and by living up to the potential that is within each and everyone of us.
Comment by Maria on December 27, 2008 at 7:45pm
I don't believe in the Messiah at all. All three religions describe the Messiah as an evil person actually. For all of them, he is a person who will come, kill all believers in other religions and forces people to convert to his religion.

Your description makes more sense to me. But still I believe that the Messiah is an evil characteristics because humans are evil.

By the way, muslims don't believe that al-mehdi is the Messiah. They belive that Jesus is the Messiah and some believe that al-mahdi will accopany him and others believe that al-mahdi will come before him.
Many Sunni muslims don't believe in al-mahdi at all. He is a Shia character. this is not our subject though.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on December 27, 2008 at 7:31pm
Paul, there are times, like these, when common sense seems scarce. But really, our God-given common sense has always been around, and is accessible to all of open mind. Whether we like it or not, it is only with common sense that we can even hope to bring a semblance of order into our lives. Instead of believing what we want to believe, it may well be time, before time runs out, to begin believing in what makes sense. In a more perfect world, common sense will inspire our thinking, and inform our speech.

What is common sense? It is the wisdom of the common man. It is the collective wisdom born of shared experience. It is the intuitive wisdom to conform our thoughts and actions to universally accepted truths and values. In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.
Comment by Paul RETI on December 27, 2008 at 5:32am
Such common sense, unfortunately, is very uncommon. :-(


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