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Religious Tolerance

 I apologize if this question has been discussed before in this community, but I'd love to hear some dialogue about it.

How do you reconcile being Christian with being accepting of other religions? What do you think about passages such as John 14:6 being used by some to defend Christianity as the one valid religion? 

I feel like it is so important for there to be an open and affirming dialogue between religious groups. To me, it is not a matter of mere tolerance, but affirmation of other religions as true and valid spiritual paths. I was baptized Christian and both my best friend and first love growing up were Muslim while most of my other friends were Hindu. While my mother identified herself and our family as Christian, my father was often quiet on the issue of religion. I can remember asking him about his silence on the subject one day, and he answered "I just can't believe that your best friend, good person that she is, will not be saved because she is a Muslim."

Any thoughts/experiences/opinions on this subject are appreciated!

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
coranglaisman
Jan. 8th, 2011 05:29 pm (UTC)
I'll admit that this is one of those things that I haven't really thought through--rather, it's something I keep telling myself I'll think about one of these days instead of actually doing it. I was raised pretty conservative, and I'm still in the middle of breaking that and actually thinking through these things on my own.

Having said that, I think atheists should be added into your list above. I'll say that I really do not understand how someone could believe there is no God, just like I don't understand many other religions very well; if we have an open and affirming dialogue, we all stand to learn something, even if we don't agree with each other in the end.

Plus, I think Christians as a whole could stand to practice religious tolerance better, if we expect to receive it in return--I see a fair amount of open anti-Christian comments and such, and yet I don't feel like I have a leg to stand on when I think about asking people to stop because of our long reputation of prejudice and intolerance.

Edited at 2011-01-08 05:29 pm (UTC)
pastorlenny
Jan. 8th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure why tolerance, acceptance and love towards people of other faiths is insufficient -- and why it would also be incumbent upon me to affirm that, for example, a non-theistic religion is as fully truthful as a theistic one.

I also am not sure if such affirmation would include, for example, affirming the heretical and destructive assertions of a pseudo-Christian sect like Westboro Baptist.

I doubt that we can have it both ways. If I am to have the freedom to decry anti-semitism, then it seems to me I must also have the freedom to decry anti-nomianism. A separate question is how I engage with people who are anti-semites or anti-nomians.

Edited at 2011-01-08 05:53 pm (UTC)
uberreiniger
Jan. 8th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
Aren't religions, by definition theistic? I guess you could point to some strains of Buddhism but even then the issue gets murky fast.
pastorlenny
Jan. 8th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
We can use another example if that one doesn't suit you. Let's say that it might be problematic to assert that both the dotrines of atman and anatman are equally truthful.
uberreiniger
Jan. 9th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
That does make more sense.
uberreiniger
Jan. 8th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
I agree with your father.
pastorlenny
Jan. 8th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
But isn't there is a difference between the two assertions "God in His grace can choose to save Herman and Fritz" and "Herman's personal beliefs are as truthful as Fritz's?"
uberreiniger
Jan. 9th, 2011 05:50 am (UTC)
There is but if God in His grace can choose to save Herman and Fritz then there's far less reason to worry about it.
pastorlenny
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC)
That would only be true if the sole point of religion were the specific personal benefit of redemption. This does not seem to be a valid assertion in any religion or irreligion.
uberreiniger
Jan. 9th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
I've seen plenty of Christians make the case that because all other religions are untrue and non-redeeming that therefore they are not obligated to have a tolerant attitude toward them. Indeed it would seem that the "specific personal benefit of redemption" is the only criteria by which Christians generally grade other faiths. ("Don't believe in this or you're going to Hell.") So should Christians grade along this criteria or shouldn't they? Speaking hypothetically, if God can save whom He chooses, what does our relationship with other belief systems become?
pastorlenny
Jan. 9th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
I've seen plenty of Christians make the case that because all other religions are untrue and non-redeeming that therefore they are not obligated to have a tolerant attitude toward them.

OK, but I don't see what the imperfections of a particualr set of people have to do with the point we're discussing.

Indeed it would seem that the "specific personal benefit of redemption" is the only criteria by which Christians generally grade other faiths. ("Don't believe in this or you're going to Hell.")

Yes, there is a certain folk-form of evangelical American Protestantism that mistakenly and rather hetetically reduces the gospel of Christ to the personal benefit of redemption. I'm again not sure we you and I would allow that to cloud our discussion.

So should Christians grade along this criteria or shouldn't they?

I'm not sure what you're asking here. If you are asking if Christians should "grade" other religions according the the heretically reductionist criteria of personal redemptive benefit, then obviously not. I don't think anyone should assess the truth of any ontic claim using the yardstick of ontic falsehood.

Speaking hypothetically, if God can save whom He chooses, what does our relationship with other belief systems become?

Our relationships with other belief systems would probably vary depending on their ontic claims and our understanding of the validity of those ontic claims, I suppose. And we would probably be wise to differentiate between our relationships with other belief systems and our relationships with people who hold to other belief systems. I think this was my original point.
uberreiniger
Jan. 9th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
Since you don't know what I'm talking about in regard to anything I guess we're done.
pastorlenny
Jan. 9th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
I didn't say I don't know what you're talking about. What I said is that I dont know what the logical connection would be between A) the heretical beliefs of certain poorly catechized Christians and B) the appropriate relationship of Christians to various non-Christian belief systems.

I am uncertain as to which comment of mine led you to conclude that I "don't know what you're talking about."
elizabby
Jan. 10th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
I've seen plenty of Christians make the case that because all other religions are untrue and non-redeeming that therefore they are not obligated to have a tolerant attitude toward them.

That's just rude. Unfortunately, there seem to be rude and intolerant people everywhere, and under every creed.

Speaking hypothetically, if God can save whom He chooses, what does our relationship with other belief systems become?

One of theological ignorance, as it should be, IMHO. If I understand the Eastern Orthodox position correctly (my hubby is one but no guarantees given by me) this is their official position about all other religions, including heterodox Christianity (IOW the rest of us not Orthodox.)

I don't know that I need to have a relationship with other "belief systems". I don't personally feel the need to have a very "complete" theology - there are lots of things I'm happy not to know the answers to, as I have enough on my plate coping with my own life and family. I'm happy to dialogue with people of other faith traditions, if they want to, and talk to them about how Christianity has helped *me* and might help them.
uberreiniger
Jan. 10th, 2011 07:10 am (UTC)
Seems like a good way to go. I've heard that Eastern Orthodoxy believes that, but I don't know much about them in general so I didn't know how accurate it was.
alasthai
Jan. 8th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
John 14:6 does not say that Christianity is the only valid religion: εγω ειμι η οδος και η αληθεια και η ζωη ουδεις ερχεται προς τον πατερα ει μη δι εμου ('I myself am the way the truth and the life; none comes to the father except through myself'). The syntactic form, with the sentence enclosed by the references to himself, and the lexical choices, using grammatically-unnecessary emphasis for himself, very loudly proclaim that it is the person of Jesus, not his teaching, not the Church found upon that, and not the faith in that, which is the only way to the Father.

After all, a God who damned people because they failed to tick the right box in an abstruse theological exam on unprovable metaphysical propositions would be a monster.
pastorlenny
Jan. 8th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
So you take issue with Tickism?
alasthai
Jan. 9th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Forsooth! Tickism is a Heresy Most Foul, which must be eradicated root, branch, and nobbly stump!!
evilnel
Jan. 10th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
I am coming to agree with this more and more and I am glad you posted this comment!
darksakura
Jan. 10th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
maebeth
Jan. 8th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
I know I've found the the path to that works for me. I know that the good news I have received is worth sharing with others.

I'm quite comfortable not knowing what works for other people and their path to God. I don't know much ELSE about other people, either. Nor, for that matter, do I know that much about God and how God decidees things. But I TRUST God to be merciful, just, and to share grace.

I also think Pastor Lenny brings up a good point on whether we can judge what is right or true. I feel more strongly that I can judge, for example that the the actions of the Westboro church are not chrisitian because I have studied christianity, and have a great deal of experience of it. (Although in the end i trust that God knows more about what is going on there then I do.)

For a muslim action, I could, theoretically, answer the question of whether what they did was "christian" but obviously then, I can be pretty sure they weren't trying to be christian. But still surely I can suggest that their action was not right... (or that it WAS right).
but I can't really make a claim as to whether their action was muslim. I don't have the training or experience to figure that out, and I"m sure not going to trust what the news tells me.

All that I guess to say that I can judge people who are Christian based on christian concepts, and I can judge all others based on some sense of universal concepts, and in all cases I must trust that I don't really know the full of it, so I should be careful with my judgements.

But I don't see any way that being Christian requires that I judge other people. In fact, since it DOES require that I share the good news, good practice certainly suggests I might want to be open to dialogue, make friends, listen to their story, etc.
finding_helena
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
I take comfort in knowing that I can't evaluate other people's spiritual paths, nor do I need to. Maybe they're on the right path for them. Maybe not. But God will sort it all out... I don't have to know everything. I just have to show God's love.

Of course, this would be a smidge easier if my husband had religious beliefs any closer to mine, but whatev.
pastorlenny
Jan. 10th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
But if someone claims to be on a "spiritual path" -- and that spiritual path includes becoming rich and ignoring the poor -- don't I have some basis upon which to assert that such a path is faulty?
elizabby
Jan. 10th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
To me, it is not a matter of mere tolerance, but affirmation of other religions as true and valid spiritual paths.

I can't go quite that far. I don't think I can (or should) accept any and all lifestyle/religious choices as equally good. I have good reasons for knowing that God works through Christianity. I don't know if God works through other religions or not, so for this reason I would never *tell* people that they are definitely going to hell - that isn't up to me to decide. But I will try to convince them that I have found help and assistance along the path of my life in following Jesus Christ, and that this same help and assistance is available to them in this form and under this Name.

I agree that open and affirming dialogue between religious groups is a good idea - but I don't think such dialogue *requires* each group to affirm all the others are equally good. It had better not, because I don't see such a thing happening.
pastorlenny
Jan. 10th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
I would think that if someone's religion claimed that "We are good and everyone else is bad -- therefore we must kill those who don't follow our religion," we could rightly make assertions about the disorderedness of their doctrine.
_entactogenesis
Jan. 11th, 2011 01:23 am (UTC)
To be honest, I am beginning to regret that I included the third paragraph in my post rather than simply positing my questions.

I will, however, clarify the following:

I am not prepared to assert that the major world religions with which I am familiar (having studied at least their basic tenets and/or having personally known people who practice these faiths and have shared their experiences with me) are less valid than Christianity as ways of living _spiritually and morally fulfilling lives_. This would include Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism and Native Canadian spirituality.

I do not agree that all individual spiritual paths are equally valid, whether they exist within or without the context of one of the world's major religions. I do not believe that if one's spiritual path includes obviously morally objectionable beliefs and/or actions that I need to affirm, accept or even tolerate it. I don't agree with factions within a major world religion that consider violence a part of their doctrine, for example. I am likewise not prepared to invalidate an entire religion because some groups/denominations/individuals within it do horrible things.

I suppose it boils down to my being unable to look my good Muslim and Hindu friends in the eyes and say "My religion is more truthful than your's," while I, as yet, see a beautiful and other-worldly love at work in their lives through their experiences of their own religions. Do those of you asking me questions believe that I simply cannot reconcile that with being a Christian?

Having said this, I do really appreciate hearing the ideas and experiences that have been shared with me here. I also appreciate Alasthai's well-written clarification of John 14:6. Thank you to those who have answered my questions.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )