Why We Should Respect Other Religions

I once heard a guru who was asked which religion was correct.  I found his response very wise.

He said religion is like trying to get to an island in the middle of the sea. There are many boats available. You select the skipper in whom you have the most trust, and the boat which seems most seaworthy. You may laugh at your neighbour who chooses the rowing boat – but then, how do you know your engine won’t break down, and you’ll be left adrift while he reaches the island safely?

But you cannot “hedge your bets” by keeping one foot in your boat and the other in his — you will end up in the water.

The lesson is that, at the end of the day, all religions are trying to reach the same God, and we all choose a different method to reach Him.   The important thing is that we choose your boat and commit ourselves to our own journey.   And we should respect the choice of others who choose a different boat.

Ah, but some would say, my God is NOT the same as the Gods of other religions.   The question is, how do you know?  All you know is that the believers of other religions describe Him differently.  That description is based on their perception of God, as described by their religion’s founder.  That founder would have interpreted His words in the context of the culture at the time.   Maybe he got it wrong – or, for all we know, God may have been clever enough to present Himself differently to different cultures, to help them understand His message.

Every major religion (and most sects within those religions) has arisen from a charismatic teacher – whether it be a prophet claiming divine inspiration, or a messiah claiming divine origin.   If we claim there is only one “right religion”, then we are saying all the other prophets or messiahs were insane, and their revelations mere hallucinations.  The problem is, how can we be 100% sure they were all mad, and the founder of our religion was the only sane one?   The more reasonable explanation is that they were all genuine — they just saw things differently.

You cannot rely on scriptures. Scriptures are not historical documents.   Even those that were written by the teacher himself are full of ambiguities and contradictions, and have to be interpreted, not read literally.  You only have to look at the number of sects that arise within each religion, each disagreeing with each other on the interpretation of their Holy Book. In the case of Christianity, the Bible was not even written down until many years after the teacher had ceased preaching. If it were any other text, we would agree such a delay would lead to distortion and inaccuracy, and we cannot suddenly pretend that the mere human beings who passed on the teaching were magically infallible.

So, what logic can we use to judge which teacher got it right?

The answer is, that we cannot use logic. We can only choose whom we wish to believe whichever one calls to us. For that reason, we shouldn’t condemn others who choose to believe differently.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]