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All Religions Are Not One


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I recommend Stephen Prothero's All Religions Are Not One.

 

Also I don't like the word "tolerance" because it implies that I have to allow something I don't like. I don't hate other religions. I try to read up on them but spend most of my time on Christian books because I'm a Christian. Most people of other religions are as Christian or more Christian than myself. I think there is truth in all religions, but the differences are what really matter. I think it is dangerous and disrespectful to say that all religions are one. Not saying anyone thinks that here. But similarities among them don't mean that they differ greatly about ideas of salvation, sin, etc. and we can't say that all their differences are not true and that only what they have in common are true.

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Matt,

 

I have a somewhat different view. First, 'tolerance' implies recognition that there are differences and respect for these differences. However, I don't think tolerance entails acceptance differences that are harmful, threatening or dangerous. Further, the differences, at least in religion, are often in the details not the broad principles.

 

Also, it seems to me that one can focus on our differences or our similarities. I think the world would a better place if the focus is on the similarities rather than the differences.

 

George

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I try to read up on them but spend most of my time on Christian books because I'm a Christian.

Matt,

 

Would you recommend this approach to people of other faiths (i.e. reading up on their own faith rather than Christianity)?

 

George

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People can read whatever they want, but to some extent, yes. I read alot of Christian books from all types - liberal and conservative. When conservatives - I have one person in mind - Ravi Zacharias - who I don't agree with on what he says most of the time - talk about how a Hindu or Buddhist converted to Christianity. In one story, he mentions the conversation he had with a Hindu woman about the idea of nm"sacrifice" in the Bhagavad Gita as opposed to the idea of sacrifice Jesus makes. He claims that the woman did not know where the sacrifice is in the Gita. If I trust him, then it seems that the woman might have been ignorant for sacrifice does exist in the Hindu tradition. It is very different that the idea of sacrifice on Christian thought. It seems that Hinduism failed this woman to some extent. Also, look at the actions of St. Theresa in Bombay. She makes accounts of people who convert to Christianity due to her actions. Did Hinduism fail these people? Were they ignorant of the truth in their own tradition? Similarly, when people leave Christianity is is because they were never told the truth of it? I think so. I'm not saying one religion is right and one is wrong. Even the Dalai Lama tells Christians to be good Christians and not necessarily become Buddhists.

 

If I wanted to become a Buddhist, I would want to read every type of Buddhist thought before deciding what type of Buddhist I wanted to be. Tibetan Buddhism is very different than Zen. Some Buddhists believe in God, some don't. Which one is true? If if doesn't matter, then why doesn't it?

 

I am all for religious pluralism. God manifests itself in all traditions, but unfortunately, syncretism doesn't work, in my opinion.

Edited by matt67
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I am all for religious pluralism. God manifests itself in all traditions, but unfortunately, syncretism doesn't work, in my opinion.

 

Syncretism doesn't work? Hmm, but Christianity is loaded with syncretism.

 

George

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Yes and I struggle with that in my own walk. For example, should I accept the notion of God that is grounded in Platonic thought, or is my faith, like all spiritual disciplines, an evolution in humanity?

 

All I am saying is that people need to know their traditions before abandoning them. I personally try to accept everyone on their own terms, not tolerate them.

Edited by matt67
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Thomas Merton, the Catholic Trappist monk, conversed with people of all faiths, and sometimes with people of none. He wrote.......

 

"The more I am able to affirm others, to say 'yes' to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.

 

I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further.

 

So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindu's, the Buddhists, etc. This does not mean syncretism, indifferentism, the vapid and careless friendliness that accepts everything by thinking of nothing. There is much that one cannot 'affirm' and 'accept,' but first one must say 'yes' where one really can."

 

(From "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander")

 

So he sought to say "yes", this without compromising his reliance upon the mercy of God or his own fidelity to Christ.

 

For me there is a beauty in difference. As Merton himself has said, while we all live within the same "silence", yet there is a diversity of voice.

 

Much of this post is "cut and paste", and here is more that is relevant.......relevant in the sense that though perhaps in theory each faith is complete in and of itself, nevertheless there can be a little room for maneuver as each moves forward through time.

 

The forms of Buddhism must change so that the essence of Buddhism remains unchanged. This essence consists of living principles that cannot bear any specific formulation. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

 

There is a story from one of the Tibetan traditions, that speaks of a guy doing a stint walking around a monastery. He was addressed as follows.."All well and good, but should you not really be practicing the Dharma?" The man thought about this, and began to read the scriptures. Again he was addressed...."All well and good, but should you not really be practicing the Dharma?" Again the man got to thinking, then began to meditate. Again he was addressed...."All well and good, but should you not really be practicing the Dharma?" The man became totally confused and asked, "What should I then do?" And was told....."To practise means that there should be no distinction between the Dharma and your own mind."

 

Maybe when we each realise and live the truth of our own faith, there can be a meeting with all others beyond any of our current capacity to comprehend.

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Angel

 

I think it also depends on who you talk to.

 

Some Christians argue that you shouldn't engage in interfaith practices (with Muslims for instance). Some have this notion that contemplative prayer is an influence of Eastern meditation. Some think that Roman Catholicism is syncretic and like celebrating Christmas and Easter are syncretic. Some evangelicals believe that if you are a follower of Christ and you gather in a Church, then you are engaging in a syncretistic practice that blends Christian, Jewish, and Greco-Roman paganism (like priestly classes, preaching from a pulpit, the garb that priests don). For me, I wonder too much maybe about the influence of Greek Philosophy in scripture and the notion of God. Then again, I have a hard time conceiving of God in Hebraic terms. Maybe I think too much.

 

I try and keep my faith as simple as possible and try to balance the need for symbols (not idols) in my worship.

Edited by matt67
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Hello Matt,

 

It is very different that the idea of sacrifice on Christian thought. It seems that Hinduism failed this woman to some extent. Also, look at the actions of St. Theresa in Bombay. She makes accounts of people who convert to Christianity due to her actions. Did Hinduism fail these people? Were they ignorant of the truth in their own tradition? Similarly, when people leave Christianity is is because they were never told the truth of it? I think so.

 

I'm a bit perplexed about your words here; I'm not sure what you're implying. Doesn't every religion, including Christianity, "fail" people? If by fail you mean "does not communicate its purest values" to the person, or simply does not speak to the person as much as another religion might.

 

Also I don't like the word "tolerance" because it implies that I have to allow something I don't like. I don't hate other religions. I try to read up on them but spend most of my time on Christian books because I'm a Christian. Most people of other religions are as Christian or more Christian than myself. I think there is truth in all religions, but the differences are what really matter. I think it is dangerous and disrespectful to say that all religions are one. Not saying anyone thinks that here. But similarities among them don't mean that they differ greatly about ideas of salvation, sin, etc. and we can't say that all their differences are not true and that only what they have in common are true.

 

Individual religions are themselves not monolithic. Even within the Christian tradition there are ideas that differ greatly. I agree with you that syncretism just-so isn't very realistic, and might even be seen as disrespectful. But if there is truth in all religions, why is it that only the differences matter? If it is dangerous to say all religions are one, it could be construed as more dangerous to suppose that they have nothing in common. Is this not the root of sectarian violence?

 

I agree that differences are meaningful and should be respected. Fruitful dialogue comes from differences. But without commonality, no dialogue can take place, and there is merely opposition.

 

Peace,

Mike

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I think there are some undeniable similarities in the contemplative traditions within religion -- many teachings concerning compassion, non-attachment, union, etc., are interchangeable. This is because they are experiential/phenomenological paths, and human experience is their common wellspring of truth.

 

And again, as far as differences go, this is an avenue for constructive dialogue. I've been very interested in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, which has shaped my Christianity irrevocably. Even no less a Christian theologian than John Cobb has displayed his interest in Buddhist metaphysics, devoting a couple of volumes to the subject.

 

A few essay examples of such Buddhist-Christian engagement: The Incomprehensibility of God: A Buddhist Reading of Aquinas (this essay is a PDF file directly downloadable from this link).

 

John Keenan's essay, The Emptiness of Christ: A Mahayana Christology.

 

Robert Aitken's essay, Formal practice, Buddhist or Christian

 

Of course, one could also find comparative, interfaith studies going on between Christianity and any number of other faiths (Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.)

 

Peace,

Mike

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As re the observation that the Hindu woman's religion had "failed" her, in that she didn't know something about it, I would say twothings...first, no matter what the religion, or at least in most religions, there is not some practice of forcably holding people down, opening their heads and pouring knowledge of the religion into their brains. there is going to be a wide range of variation in just how educated any are in termsof their partiucalr relgion. Most Christians have little real knowledge or understanding of even basic Christian principles and doctrines, and really give little thought or effort to gaining that, as well.

 

I would agree that before one ventures much off into looking at, studying and trying to understand other relgions, it might be best they take time and effort to first understand their own. First, without that, you don't HAVE any way to compare or relate your own religion to another, and second, its sure to lead to a lot of confusion, disorganized thought, about either the other or your own religion.

I recently sat silently and listened, (yes, I refrained from input!) a conversation among a little group of fundamentalist evangelical Christians in a public place, on the doctine of Blood Atonement. My initial thought, no, sure they don't mean....no,surely they aren't talking about....but yes, they were....they were discussion the MORMON doctine of Blood Atonement as they are accepting it as a CHRISTIAN doctine!

Jenell

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Oh yes, Christianity is I think quite syncretic. Let us first accept that protestantism derives from Catholicism, as a reaction against one or more aspects of Catholic practice, then look at some practices:

  • In Catholic and Anglican practice, morning worship takes place facing east where the sun (Son) is rising: an adaptation from Roman worship of Apollo.
  • We celebrate the birth of Jesus at mid-winter (Northern Hemisphere), celebrating the birth of the sun (Son) - again Apollo. We even have continued the mid-winter feast with turkey and mistletoe and candle-lighting in mid-summer down under.
  • As missionaries transported Christianity to other parts of the world, so the religion was regionally adapted to fit existing relgions (cf Mexico and the Dia de los muertos, or the cargo cults of the South Pacific)

I have long been interested in world religions and find they have so much in common at base. One onoly needs to read the Sufi mystics, the Upanishads and the Christian mystics to see how much they have in common at this deep level of experience. The differences that I see tend to be culturally based. The differences between, for example, Islam and Christianity seem not greater than, say, the differences between the Fundamentalist Right of the USA and the Unity movement.

 

The bottom line for me is that I can learn much from others and I find new insights everywhere.

 

—Jim

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Jim i agree, We are all different so we have different styles for learning. The diversity of journeys, philosophy, theology and spiritual practices seem to meet our spiritual needs if we just open the inner and outer realms. I see everyone on a beach watching a sunset. We all see individual paths of light to the same sun. It seems there is no right and wrong path just different.

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  • 2 months later...

We have to remember that when we talk about God and about "things of the spirit" that we are using words for things that we don't really know from daily experience. So to some extent we're always going to be a bit like the blind men and the elephant.

 

Another thing that's relevant is the weight given to details of dogma/doctrine. If you give a lot of weight to that, differences are going to seem larger. If, on the other hand, you see the central idea of Christianity as love and Buddhism as loving-kindness, then you might see more similarity.

 

Syncretism for syncretism's sake doesn't make any sense to me. But neither does insisting that we must have all the details right and everyone else must have them all wrong. I don't think we should ever think we've got God all pinned down under glass.

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I have found the following idea difficult. Are there an ever increasing number of colors in the rainbow each acknowledging the light as source not destination? Our unity is not in the end but in the beginning.

 

...life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.

 

C. S. Lewis, the Great Divorce, Preface

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