Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Comparative Religion and Worldview
How do you respond to the assertion that all religions are basically the same, only differing in minor topics?
Someone I care about said that to me recently and I’ve been wondering about it.
I’ve been noticing lately how much alike Jews and Muslims can be. Christians may share large swaths of common ground with both.
But set Islam against Hinduism or Christianity against Buddhism and the differences seem quite large, as many practitioners and converts between any two of these traditions will tell you.
And of course each of these is a global religion, perceived and practiced in diverse ways, so even defining what it “is” or describing what it is “like” suggests oversimplification.
Though we all walk in mystery – and may indeed be like the proverbial six blind men and the elephant – monotheism and polytheism, humanism and spirituality seem like vastly different views of the cosmos.
Maybe the question hinges on what we consider the big things and what we consider the small things.
Perhaps we’ve got the circle inside-out if we think “the nature of reality” and “the meaning of life” are the minor topics, while things like "the Golden Rule," the role and practice of prayer and meditation, and the exercise of kindness and discipline are the big ones.
Our platitudes and ideals are often the same or similar. Our assumptions about God, man, reality, the way life works, often not.
What do you think?