When I was growing up Christian, I was taught that I was so lucky! Those poor souls in Africa, who’d never heard of Jesus, were doomed.
Some Muslims claim that all children are born into a state of Islam –submission to Allah. Parents then infuse other religions into them. When they grow up and discover their real religion –Islam –they “revert” to the original state. This is why some converts call themselves reverts.
To the extent that all of us had no control over our births, and little more control over our deaths, we are indeed born into a state of submission.
What would happen if a child were to be brought up without any system of religious thought? I don’t mean atheism– that has its own peculiarities. What if a parent were to teach a child that God (Allah, G-d, Yahweh, Buddha, etc.) is up there, and that, “Surely, we are from God, and to God we shall return.”?
What if the family lived in a multi-cultural, free society where each resident practiced a different religion and all residents acknowledged the paths of all others as legitimate?
This question used to engage me because every person in my family practices a different religion– that’s six of them! How can I believe that only one of them will enter Heaven (ME! Me! me?), and the others are doomed? I prefer to think that Allah sits above it all, and that He permits various religions because he permits various approaches to Him, and that all systems have flaws as well as profound wisdom.
I know, I know, the Qur’an says that no religion other than Islam will be accepted, but Christianity says the same thing. Are the two equal? Hardly! Just ask a Muslim– then ask a Christian. Sometimes I wish I could become indifferent to religion. Someday I might develop that capability, but for now I still ponder the nature of divine reality, and I wonder whether we’ll all get to Heaven in the end and say to each other, “Oh! Now I understand!”
Thoughtful post! I really struggled with the fact that I could not identify one religion as being flawless and correct in all respects, as well as the fact that I could see good and bad in all world views. It seems impossible to fully believe in one religion and also believe that there are many valid paths… at least for the religions I was looking at… because in each religion, there are tenets that are held as crucially important that are not shared (and even contradicted) by other religions. There is a lot of broad similarity, of course, but annoyingly it’s the very core tenets that differ. For example in Christianity you have to accept Jesus as your saviour, whereas in Islam this violates tawheed and such shirk is the biggest sin. It seems inevitable that each would have to view the other as deeply in the wrong, and this black-and-white view is unsatisfying for anyone familiar with other faiths!
So I like your use of the word “permits” rather than “ordains”, and I agree that “all systems have flaws as well as profound wisdom.” I think that’s the only sane conclusion to draw. 😉
Sarah, you’ve hit an interesting point, in that the position of Jesus is a major place of fracture between Islam and Christianity.
At the same time, evangelicals of either faith will point out that both worship the same one, true God, so here is a major convergence.
In my experience, the position of Jesus is a deal-breaking affair for anyone of either of these two faiths. I had an interesting conversation with a nun recently, to whom I had been confiding that I missed certain aspects of Christian worship.
She suggested that if I could not longer look upon Jesus in the traditional Christian way, I could appreciate him in a more philosophical manner. Rather than as a personal savior, I could remember his message of rebirth and renewal. According to her, the message of forgiveness and renewal was the essential element in the resurrection story. One needn’t accept the literal interpretation.
Now, shall we move on to Buddha?:)
Yes, there’s definitely potential for less literal interpretations of religion. I view religion as a human creation now and so it’s much easier for me to be comfortable with it evolving and people adapting it to serve their changing needs as time goes by. In fact I think it’s crucial!
Lovely post. I think the same, we all think we’re right. So many people think every one else is wrong. Christians are as convinced of Christianity as we are of Islam.
Thank you, ladies. I always hesitate before posting something that might irritate someone. I have no interest in fanning flames.
I am heartened to read your responses. I wonder how many more of us feel the same way but are hesitant to speak out, for fear of being branded weak in our faiths?
I really enjoyed this. Sometimes I think to myself, “I wonder one day – when life ends – will we find it was far EASIER to get to heaven than we thought…or will it be far HARDER?” Like are there more ways than the set way we have been taught or is it more rigid than most of us believed.
This post reminded me of these thoughts. Thanks for sharing!
There cannot be common ground about heaven, hell, or who is god or goddess between people of different faiths. To each one his own. Religions are probably about how a society or a group of people conduct life without family, law or order breaking down. It’s a way of life. And in societies where there more than one systems, it’s possibly better to have a civil law that’s common to all and faith becomes a personal or a family matter. To each one his own heaven, hell, god or goddess.
Also in Buddhism, there’s no concept of god. it’s probably how one lives that matter.
And in some religions like hindusim, where one is free to worship any of the many gods, even being an atheist is fine.
We humans are a funny lot. Aren’t we?