Monday, October 15, 2012

What If All Religions Viewed Other Religions As Equal?

First let’s start with some basic facts.  For millennia now, three of the world’s major religions have believed in one God. Whether one is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, when one speaks or prays to God, one is praying to the same being. Indeed, the ancient history of these religions are to be found in the same story.  Where they separate is in their belief of who the true prophet of God was and then they further separate based on the institution that best represents the faith or the sub-prophet that is more worthy of adoration.

Religions, from the earliest forms to the present, exist to make the universe, nature and man sensible to man, setting up an orderly relationship between nature and man, and between man and man. As such, religion has been central to the core identity of its adherents, be they individuals or nations. While in the modern world, the ties of religion have been markedly reduced for many people as they have found other ways of explaining the universe and man, it continues to be a primal force for probably the vast majority of mankind.

It is this primal identity with religion coupled with the belief of most religions and sub-sects that they are the true and only source of communication with God ... the exclusiveness of religion ... that has made religion, either on its own or as a tool of nationalist leaders, the cause of much conflict, persecution, and death over the centuries. Indeed, it is safe to say that religion has either been the cause of or lent itself to the cause of more human misery over the ages than any other force. How ironic and how sad. 

And we’re not only talking about conflict between Christians and Jews or Jews and Muslims. As we know all too well, there has been deadly conflict between Protestants and Catholics (most recently in Northern Ireland), and between Shia and Sunni (still ongoing). And while the conflict has usually not been deadly, the conflict between ultra-orthodox Jews and all other Jews is intense.

All of these religions have an institutional authority, some more formal and absolute like the Catholic church.  Conflict has continued over the centuries because the people in leadership positions have seen it to be in their religion’s or sub-sect's  best interest to foment discord and conflict with the members of other religions or sub-sects.  

Now of course, such individuals always speak in the language of faith ... that God has ordained whatever the object is.  But really it is man who has ordained these conflicts and positions just as it was man who created each of the religions or sub-sects, whether it was the result of a received vision or otherwise.

If someone truly believes in God ... and remember here that we are in all cases referring to the same God ... can he or she honestly believe that God would wish such misery on the members of another religion? If man is made in the image of God, then even those who don’t believe in Yahweh, let alone those who believe in a different prophet, are still his children.  Do Christians believe that Jesus would do what they have advocated over the centuries? Yes, the God of the Old Testament was often wrathful and jealous, but for most people, Jews included, that God of the ancient Hebrews has been replaced by a loving God.

My point is that all it would take ... and I know this is an over-simplification, but its impact would be enormous ... would be for the leaders of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and their sub-sects to come together and say, in the presence of the leaders of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, 

“Enough is enough.  We all believe in the same God.  We are all children of the same God.  We may have our own prophets, our own rituals, our own institutions, but there is no question that it is against the will of God to continue to fight with one another.  We choose to reject the conflicts and forgive the misery that has been inflicted over the centuries.  What is past is past.  And beyond our religions, today we join with leaders of the eastern faiths ... Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism ... and say with them that from this day forth, we declare an era of peace and respect between us and all other religions.  

We therefore say to our followers: may you love your fellow man regardless of their religion, or indeed regardless whether they believe in God. May you always follow the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And so the world would come to a point where all religious conflict, or religious-abetted conflict, would be a thing of the past.  No longer could a nation claim that God was on its side and not the other’s.  The waging of war would be made much more difficult for political leaders if the world’s religions took the position I advocate in a steadfast and very visible way.