NEWS: Recognizing Difference is Good

In American society we have (understandably) a multitude of opinions about God. This goes without saying. But how we deal with difference has consequences. The result of multiculturalism and pluralism has, according to professor of religion Stephen Prothero, collapsed all of these ideas about God and religious belief into one manageable whole. In an attempt to be tolerant of religious difference we have, argues Prothero, missed something. His new book, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter is intended to inform the reader that there are real differences between the world religions, and to suggest otherwise actually devalues each unique tradition. Moreover, the danger in believing all religions are the same, he contends, does little to serve efforts for global peace. That is, true knowledge of how each worldview operates may result in better approaches to foreign policy and authentic tolerance. Prothero challenges the oft-held belief that “all religions [are] different paths up the same mountain,” noting that a better understanding is that “the world’s religions are climbing different mountains with very different tools and techniques.” As “repositories of unanswered questions” the many world religions offer differences that are enriching. “Why can’t we respect and even revel in differences when it comes to religion?” asks Prothero. Read the full article here.

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One thought on “NEWS: Recognizing Difference is Good

  1. Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter “Mystic Viewpoints” in my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org on comparative mysticism:

    Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

    Conflicts in Conventional Religion. “What’s in a Word?” outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

    Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

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