I read an article today in the St. Petersburg Times by Stephen Prothero, author of God is Not One.
In his essay, Prothero refutes the growing popular notion that religions are essentially the same, an idea proposed by the likes of the Dalai Lama and one of my heroes, George Lucas. He makes the valid point about the Iraq War and how our misunderstanding of Islam has created lots of problems for the U.S. I agree that if Americans had a better understanding of the Koran and its role in politics, we probably would not be trying so hard to turn them into a democracy. On the other hand, history has proven time and again that thinking the other guy’s religion is a heresy never leads to any Kumbaya sing-alongs. Prothero makes the point that each religion has different goals and ideas, that Buddhists are atheists and don’t believe in sin, unlike Christians and Muslims. But I don’t think that what the Dalai Lama or George Lucas meant was that all religions are identical, but that all religions end up in the same place. It’s like many highways going to the same city. Granted, Buddhists care about ending suffering, Christians about salvation, and Taoists well, if I were to say it wouldn’t be Taoism—but aren’t those things more similar than not? Isn’t Heaven a place where suffering does not exist? And wouldn’t Buddhists call a world without suffering a kind of Heaven?
I do think, we can all agree, that all religions do have certain things in
1. Religions strive to better mankind.
2. Religions generally advocate good over evil. (Aside from Satanism and
Norse God-ism, hurting others is a No-No).
3. Religions deal with the Other; in other words; they deal with things
beyond normal everyday experience.
4. Religions make life meaningful.