To figure out what is good and just in the world, people tend to turn to three different things. They either seek solace in a friend, in loved ones, or in religion. However, when religion enters the picture, there can often be a recoil from other beliefs. When that happens, I find myself asking why should it matter if I pray to God or Allah? In a larger retrospect they are the same thing, aren’t they?
I believe in pluralism. That is the belief that my religion is right in its own way, but so is yours. It is more than toleration for other religions, it is acceptance and respect that we are all too small to grasp the larger picture. I feel the greatest honor that someone can bestow on me is the honor of respect. Without mutual regard for each other, there can’t be genuine conversation. I feel that we should have the common courtesy to respect the things that make us different without condemning them in the back of our minds.
When I was younger, I attended a Bible school program. We learned several biblical verses and we doodled various religious depictions on a daily basis. One day, the teacher taught us about the creation of the world. Being an outspoken youngster, I made it a purpose to explain exactly how I believed the world was created. Once I brought in any scientific explanation, however, the teacher cut me off with a horrified look.
His reaction signified what is known as an exclusivist viewpoint. Naturally I did not realize that during the time, but as I have grown older and experienced more, I have come to learn that the world is not open to foreign ideas. Many people feel that it has to be one way, no questions asked. On the other hand, I have always questioned why, because without questions we become no more than robots.
In her article, “’Is Our God Listening?’” Dr. Diana Eck explains that “Truth is not the exclusive or inclusive possession of any one tradition or community.” These are words that I have gravitated towards, because they are undeniable. There are always two sides to a fight, and in their own perception they are both right. The same can be said about religion. One side may say one thing, and another might say another, but they are both correct in the fact that they believe it wholeheartedly.
So who am I to tell you what to believe? As long as you believe it from the depths of your soul, I am going to tell you that you are correct. Free will is the one thing that humans have in unlimited supply, so why squander it on arguing? I find that religion, in itself, is more like an instruction manual: It can tell you the steps to completion, but you don’t need to follow them to have a secure end product.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.