There has been an increased growth of non-western religions in the United States. This diversity can be welcomed as a greater tolerance towards a greater understanding of unknown practices, lest they be feared. It’s hard to be frightened of something you understand. We have a religiously pluralistic society that demands tolerance and recognition of commonalities. That is, if we are to co-exist as God seekers.
If we are illiterate about non-western religions, we are illiterate about those vast non-western cultures who practice them. Our ideas vs their ideas turn into clashes which can get deeply confused even into war. There does remain a critical look at the importance of teaching, studying, learning about religion. The study of religion - not my or your religion, or my or your religious beliefs, but about the main terminology, beliefs, symbols, historic events, scriptures, people and places of each religion that is not ours. How can a person be a diplomat to a foreign country without understanding their major religion and all that it entails? To know the religions of other countries is to know the culture, and drop the fears. It doesn’t mean to have judgments about the differences, but to see the commonalities, and maybe even learn about your own religious belief in a deeper sense.
There are some common themes in most religions, and they are worth getting acquainted with.
- Most religions agree that seeing oneself as separate from the Creator. We tend to perceive ourselves as autonomous from our God. Most teachings are that God is everywhere (not separate), and that is not easily remembered because we have ego traps that clamp down on the insistence of separatism.
- Most religions have believers who follow those specific religious or spiritual paths, and embrace the ideology and fundamental truths passed on to them. The ideas are not new, but ancient teachings.
- Most religions acknowledge a divine presence that exists within and without our beings. It is eternal, before time and beyond time.
- Most religions admit that the greatest hindrance to spiritual growth is that seeing ourselves as separate from. The contact with the Divine is more from simple innocence (trust) than theology of the religion.
Just coming to the understanding of those common religious themes is a step towards greater tolerance and understanding.
The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits our government from endorsing religion. They are found in the free exercise clause, and the establishment clause. I’m sure I didn’t remember that until I read it recently. This may be a sign of religious ignorance. I’m not the only guilty one here. How many of you readers have had world religion courses? How many have studied even the three largest (adherents) religions, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism? Those are not the largest western religions, but the largest religions worldwide. The three major western religions are Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. All these great religions share a system of principles for followers to use.
There should be a better way for us to study religions academically. Devotional studies are plentiful, and that is a good sign, but what if one needs to understand a certain celebration by a friend or neighbor, or a whole country for that matter? I believe religions should be studied in our public schools in order for us to get to a peaceful world.