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Different beliefs need not be opposing

 

Last updated 10/20/2006 at Noon



Ms. Holman’s letter titled “Opposing Beliefs” expresses the religious prejudices I am concerned about — whether held by Christians, Muslims, Jews or Hindus. Certainly it’s good to embrace the “fundamentals” of one’s faith, but what I’m worried about refers to the anti-modernist movements, which includes literal interpretation of scripture, combined with a quest for political power.

Does anyone really take the Bible literally? For instance, Matthew: 5:29, 5:30 and 5:32 — I don’t see many eyeless and handless Christians and many good conservative Christians have married divorced women but don’t consider themselves to be adulterous as a result.

My understanding of these teachings is that Christ spoke in parables, not intending them to be taken literally. Literalism is the idolatrous worship of words, mistaking words for the things they represent. If we try to take the Bible literally, we run into the same problem that cartographers encounter when they try to represent the globe on a two-dimensional page. Scriptures express God’s message through parable.

Ms. Holman also quotes from John 14:6, cited as “proof” that Christianity is the only true religion. But, 500 years before Christ, Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, “I am the birth of this cosmos, its dissolution also, I am He who causes, and no other besides Me. For I am God within this body, life immortal that shall not perish: I am the Truth and the Joy forever.”

I think a more appropriate way to think of the different religions is analogous to the blind men and the elephant. Each is feeling a different part of the elephant. Feeling the tail, one man declares it’s like a rope, another feeling the leg declares it’s like a tree, another feeling the ear declares it’s like a fan, etc. Each is true from their own experience, yet each truth is incomplete. We cannot conceive of God in total, much less describe Him in words. And wouldn’t it be silly if the blind men fought with each other over who was right?

We can understand that God can reach people in many ways, besides the very real way He reaches us.

Jon Monday

 

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