Not sure why, but I’m seeing an upsurge in the frequency of people becoming more hostile about their religion being right and everyone else being wrong (and even for the people who aren’t making a big deal out of it, there is a certain ‘my religion is better than your religion’ arrogance in lots of groups, and it just feels like its getting worse). And I’m not just talking about the psycho-fringe here (or I’m really underestimating the size of said “fringe”). I always find this a puzzling concept. Sure there are a few really insane beliefs out there–mostly the ones that dictate ‘my way or else I’ll kill you!’–but for the most part, most religions all have the same core values and differ only in forms, names, and rituals. And quibbling over these relatively minor issues is pointless. First off most of these people who want to scream for their own religion and no others seem politically motivated (I’ve seen all sides engage in this religious idiocy) given that it only alienates people away from your political causes. Further, reason doesn’t hold this up? I mean, do you seriously believe that God, a being of supposed infinite love, compassion, understanding and wisdom, cares about what ritual you use to get closer to him, rather than if you actually get closer to him or not?
And it’s not just implicit in reason, recent scientific research into reincarnation and near-death experience also demonstrate this. Scientific studies have shown that reincarnation is a fact and that you change from religion to religion based on your life—if that’s the case it can’t be that God loves one religion and hates all others. Similar studies have also shown that during near death experiences everybody goes to heaven, doesn’t matter what their religion is…it’s almost as if God doesn’t give a shit what name you call him by.
So does this mean that all religions are worthless? That there is just God and his children and it doesn’t matter what you believe…not exactly. Now, with that knowledge of near death experiences and reincarnation studies, it seems to be that the majority of religions are correct, that life is a series of rebirths, a progression of lessons and stages of learning all leading to Enlightenment…but that still doesn’t invalidate the idea that you should follow the religion you feel called to. If the soul is on a journey toward Enlightenment, let’s think of it as a journey. For the sake of metaphor let’s say all souls start out standing in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. High in the Himalayas, disconnected from the rest of the world. And you know you have to get somewhere (Enlightenment) you have had it roughly described to you, but you don’t quite know where you are going or exactly how to get there.
How you get there would be comparable to the mode of transportation you take. Some ways like Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, New Age belief and modern Paganism might be equivalent to walking, taking a bike, a boat, a car or a plane*, other religions maybe more like trying a unicycle with a flat tire, spinning in a circle believing you will magically teleport, digging through the center of the earth using a rusty spoon or launching yourself into orbit using high explosives and hoping you land in the right place. ** While in the minority there are religions that are all but useless in all cases…however most religions are more dependent on where you are in your journey. In this example if one religion is equivalent to riding in a car and you’ve hit the Pacific Ocean, it may have gotten you to this point but you need a different mode of transportation (a different belief system) to advance on the next stage of your journey.
Now for the sake of argument in this travel metaphor let’s say that Enlightenment exists at the Devil’s Bridge in Northern Arizona (chosen for the fact that it is beautiful, and the irony was just too good to pass up).
Now to get from our stating place in Tibet and ending place in Arizona there is no way a single mode of transportation is going to cut it the whole way. You are at best going to have to walk part of the way, either take a boat or plane part of the way, and probably have to travel in some other forms of transportation for part of the journey.
Let’s add to the fact that you’re not always sure where you’re headed. Granted as long as you’re moving you may be getting closer, or at least have a better chance to learn where the right place is as opposed to the stupidity of staying still, but that still doesn’t always mean you’re moving in the right direction (as some religions that could be used to progress can be misused to put you further away from God…Westboro come to mind).
You could use this metaphor for a lot of things, and show it flawed in numerous other ways. I just want to show that even on a journey you may use different modes of transportation, as different religions may serve different souls on their journey to Enlightenment.
And my overall point here is that reason tells you God is too perfect a being to care what name you call him by or what rituals you go through to honor him, it’s silly to think that one religion is the right one and all others are false. Yes there are some blindingly stupid beliefs out there, and there may be beliefs that are wrong for you in your life (take a car when you’re on the ocean) but just because your religious beliefs work for you don’t assume they would work for everyone. The most you can do is ask if you find that your beliefs are leading you to God (if they are, bully for you) and if someone else’s beliefs could never in any way, shape, or form lead a person to God (a religion that calls for stoning people in the 21st century for instance) and oppose those vile beliefs will all your heart and soul.
So even if you aren’t decrying that your religion is better than all others, it might also be best to not always believe that (I know some will think I’m only critiquing Christians here, but really this my religion is better than your religion arrogance can be found in almost every religion)…your beliefs may be exactly what you personally need in your journey right now, but don’t believe that your beliefs will work for everyone at every time.
*Try not to match those up, the religions are in more or less chronological order and the modes of transportation are more or less random.
** I may or may not have had Scientology, Atheism, Keynesianism (it denies basic reality so much and requires so much be taken on faith it’s pretty much a cult) come to mind here…oh and I can’t think what religion I had in mind when I mentioned strapping high explosives to yourself…certainly not a religion of peace. Not everyone following those beliefs is stuck at a stand still, it’s just highly, highly unlikely they’re going to be making a major push forward in that life. And this is the balance to an acceptance of other beliefs, admitting that there are some really dumb beliefs out there.