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 Asmstrong 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.
Both are right. And both are wrong. It just depends on the lens you are wearing. And, it depends on how you define God, religion and religious identity which is often influenced by the history, the philosophy and the practice of its people.
In my religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we take seriously the promise made in Romans that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ -- meaning that our eternal potential is actually to become like our Heavenly Father. In other words, as concerning the ultimate destiny of man, there are great differences amongst religions.
Posted by Clayton Christensen, on July 15, 2010 12:54 PM
As long as religious narrow-mindedness and arrogance continue, so will the hatred and violence these views inspire, and the supposedly religious who promote them will remain a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.
The various religions are NOT the same (Prothero is right), but this conversation - about how religions, and ultimately human beings, relate to one another - is an important conversation with (as Armstrong would argue) universal consequences.
There is a unity without uniformity in religion. It is important to honor the differences. At the same time, all religions, at their best, take us to a place beyond ourselves and beyond their own doctrines, disciplines, rituals, laws, philosophies and experiences.
Posted by Valerie Elverton Dixon, on July 9, 2010 11:29 AM
I walk the Christ path faithfully because I know that it leads me beyond all human limits, even the limits of Christianity, into the experience of the divine. That has also been the experience of those who walk the Jewish path, the Islamic path, the Hindu path and the Buddhist path.
Posted by John Shelby Spong, on July 9, 2010 10:39 AM
Most great religions are mostly right, but "mostly" is not good enough. Christianity proves to be the best explanation for the world as it is: both the metaphysical and the physical. Or so it seems to me.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on July 8, 2010 2:03 PM
Pluralism for these faiths means not that all religions are essentially the same; pluralism simply replaces an exclusivist claim that mine is the only path with an acceptance that while my path is the best for me, others may find the same spiritual fulfillment using a different road map.
Differences among religions are not only about social behavior, but also about what it means to be closer to God. In this, there are many different paths. Some paths may be completely contradictory, or have very little in common with one another.
Posted by Adin Steinsaltz, on July 7, 2010 11:03 PM
It's true. All "religions" are the same. They are attempts by Man to earn the favor of God through human effort. But unique among faiths is the relationship that Jesus of Nazareth came to re-establish between sinful Man and a Holy God.
A certain kind of "all religions are one" theory is obviously untrue; it is disrespectful since it doesn't allow for true variety in religions and doesn't respect others' religious choices; and it is dangerous, because it quickly leads back to the long established dangers of religious fanaticism and the lethal intolerance or crusaders.
Posted by Robert Thurman, on July 7, 2010 10:12 AM
If religions were all essentially alike, religion could never have been the source of conflict it has been throughout human history. The very different things expected of humans by God in different religions is far more important than any general belief in providence.
It is an error in the first place to speak of religions as paths to God or to whatever is considered Ultimate Reality. Religions are not paths, but are responses, to whatever is considered responsible for the universe in which we find ourselves. They are humanly devised forms built around what already has been found, or perhaps what already has found us.
All religions have to deal with life and death, hope and desire, fear and the need for acceptance. And each has come up with a system to offer meaning to humanity in a world that ultimately kills us. The elements of that system are very different in many respects. Codes of ethics are often very different. But as brothers and sisters, offspring of the same "parent," we can find common cause.
Religions are not the same. One claims a man can become God; another claims the distance between human and God is unbridgeable. One claims that God is not personal; another insists that God is personal. Differences can be multiplied. They are real; they are significant; they are not ultimate, however.
I think most religious believers are guilty of wishful thinking, a belief in an afterlife of eternal bliss for which there's no credible evidence. I think the Dalai Lama is also guilty of wishful thinking when he assumes that religions that preach love, tolerance, and compassion will also practice what they preach. We have all too much evidence to the contrary.
Those who emphasize the similarity of all religions are interested in peace. They're worried that when differences are emphasized, feelings of religious superiority or supremacy will rise, resulting in inter-religious conflict, violence, war, and death. Things well worth being against!
Those who emphasize the distinctiveness of all religions are interested in identity.
Posted by Brian D. McLaren, on July 6, 2010 1:23 PM
While we can and should work toward tolerance and understanding, we should not trivialize or overlook theological differences that can be very important. We may be more alike than not, but there are competing world views. Many people have fought and died over religious differences. That is not a good thing, but it is a reality.
Posted by Ronald Rychlak, on July 6, 2010 12:52 PM
As a secular humanist, I hold that all religions are human creations. Though I view them therefore as all equally wrong, they are anything but equal in the abundant diversity of concepts each has developed.
Posted by Tom Flynn, on July 6, 2010 12:35 PM
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r_t_norris: To say all religions are the same is illogical. Only those who deny truth could accept such an argument.
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PeterFrankWomack: Peace, Friends.
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