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Why We Should Respect Other Religions

I'm a widely travelled Scottish-Australian dancer-writer based in Sydney. I practised transcendental meditation for 17 years.

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?

You can't be sure, but you have to choose one boat or the other. You can't "hedge your bets" by travelling with one foot in your boat and the other in his -- you'll end up in the water.

The important thing is that we choose our boat and commit ourselves 100% to our own journey. And we should respect the choice of others who choose the other boat.

We must all choose our own boat

We must all choose our own boat

Some of you will immediately say, "But my God is NOT the same as the Gods of other religions".

My 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 his education and 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 Scriptures are not historical documents.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 Jesus had ceased preaching. If it were any other text, we would agree such a delay must lead to distortion and inaccuracy. The teachings were passed on by mere human beings: we cannot pretend that they, unlike every other human being on the planet, were magically infallible.

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So, what logic can we use to judge which religion is right?

The answer is, that we cannot use logic. We can only use faith. For that reason, we shouldn't condemn others whose faith leads them to a different conclusion.

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