Unique theology, common good
Q: Are all religions the same? The Dalai Lama, who just celebrated his 75th birthday, often refers to the 'oneness' of all religions, the idea that all religions preach the same message of love, tolerance and compassion. Historians Karen Armstrong and Huston Smith agree that major faiths are more alike than not. But in his new book "God is not One," religion scholar and On Faith panelist Steve Prothero says views by the Dalai Lama, Armstrong and Smith that all religions "are different paths to the same God" is untrue, disrespectful and dangerous. Who's right? Why?
There is something beautifully simplistic and unifying about the concept that all religions "are different paths to the same mountain." And while I earnestly want to believe this, today's world has so many different religions --big, small, philanthropic, corporate-like, sincere, others with questionable sincerity --that I find such a conclusion unrealistic. And it's not just the theology. It's also how that theology is practiced.
Take my religion, Christian Science. Like so many Christian religions, my theology's foundation comes from a God that is Divine Love, whose Messiah, Jesus Christ, brought a ministry of compassion, forgiveness, redemption as well as the healing of physical disease and suffering. Every day I strive to better emulate this ministry in my own life. And while I'm so very grateful for the abundance of evidence I've seen in service to Him, I would be the first one to say there is so much more to do--so much more that is required of me to fulfill the demands of my faith--of Christianity itself.
At the same time, let's face it, there's a prevailing public skepticism, if not cynicism, that dismisses the goodwill and good works of any religion in the light of repeated church scandal, self-interest and hypocrisy. Is that our only recurring commonality? I think not.
I see a commonality of good, unselfish giving, and real spirituality that goes way beyond religious distinctions. It may not be seen in every religion universally, but it is common and is something that most religions share in common.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a Christian Scientist because I have experienced a communion and practical understanding of God that is unique and which literally saved my life. However, I see elements of this divine Love's influence on the lives of people in various religions and philosophies. I've been moved to tears, moved to action and moved to a different attitude by their example.
So maybe the need is not to try and devolve all religions into one motive or goal as much as it is to celebrate the good that religious people actually accomplish with their lives. I'd rather look for commonality there.
Posted by: ronkrumpos | July 16, 2010 1:45 PM
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