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Too many believe there is only one 'right religion'

Thursday, October 22, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:25 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A commenter on my blog, Hugh, sent me a short note concerning a commentary on my site, Ink and Voice. The column concerned the First Amendment, freedom from a state-sanctioned religion, but the ability to practice our own personal beliefs, and comments made by some well-meaning but ill-advised senators.

“I absolutely agree that ‘Even true heretics and atheists have beliefs and can be "spiritual" without western gods,'” Hugh wrote. “But I'm still confused as to why you would juxtapose that statement with the statement that 'there is no "right religion."'”

Too many believe that there can only be one “right religion,” one’s own preferred belief. In those terms, I believe that everyone should be an Eclectic.

I was bar mitzvahed in New York, baptized as an evangelical Baptist in the Ohio River (it did not take) and attended a Jesuit university in St. Louis. I am a minister in the Universal Life Church.

I have studied all four Western religious texts. I believe that the Jefferson Bible is a must-read. The Sagas of the Nords, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the tales of the Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses are as important to me as the Torah.

I have sat in the audience listening to renowned Christian, Jewish and atheist leaders, as well as Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama. I practice Aikido meditation and read about Quantum Mechanics, String Theory, evolution and politics for fun.

Just call me Rabbi, the Reverend, Brother, Guru Dave.

With all of that, I cannot tell you what the “right religion” is. We all take different avenues seeking our personal truths and we stumble when others believe differently.

God lives within one's heart. Unfortunately, there are times when that heart is hardened by politics, economics and man's misinterpretation of the "Word" for evil. Equally, there are people who use the words of their God or "gods" to do great things. The two seem to balance out.

A bumper sticker states, “Maybe God did it Darwin’s Way.” Maybe God did — who knows? Maybe Darwin understood that chaos is not as bad as it sounds. Until there is empirical evidence, I lean toward that which I can prove and recreate. I will stick to the science.

These are my beliefs and they are right. Your beliefs are yours and they are right. No person, society, government or God has the right to say different.

Robert Ingersoll said in an 1882 eulogy to a young child, “We, too, have our religion, and it is this: Help for the living – Hope for the dead.”

As a Jew, I believe in free will, man’s personal ability to distinguish between good and evil and act “godly.” My humanist teachings bring me an understanding of Original Good. My Buddhist and Aikido backgrounds have shown me the path to peace and teaching. My Catholic education brought light to others' long-held rituals.

The search for “the truth” can be summed up in three questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? What happens when I die?

We spend years studying religion, philosophy and science to answer this paradox. We are stymied and frustrated when we believe that we have found the “truth” only to find that someone else’s “truth” is different. We find change most difficult and acceptance even harder.   

Those three questions should have been asked to author Douglas Adam’s great computer, Deep Thought, instead of “What is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.” Either way, the answer may remain 42.

It is not that I am on a higher intellectual plane than anyone else. I am not. Remaining open to different thoughts and listening are my only skills. Accepting beliefs and rituals for what they are, philosophical opinions and scientific theory of the creation story, the justification for our existence and what happens after we die.

These questions seem to converge at a single point – what was there before God or the singularity? Maybe Adam’s interpretation of our confusion was right and God’s last words really were, “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Maybe a Buddhist monk was right when he told me, “What is, is and what is not, never will be.”

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.  Read his blog at InkandVoice.wordpress.com.  He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.

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Comments

Gregory Mitchell October 28, 2009 | 11:19 p.m.

Spot on Rabbi, the Reverend, Brother, Guru Dave, I love the fact that you have studied all religions. I have been preaching this same augment for years. I’m not sure what I would ask Deep Thought, but I know the answer would be 42.
Greg (A fellow Minister in the Universal Life Church)

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2009 | 11:32 p.m.

I began my spiritual path in New York City.
During my college days, I remember having a religious experience in Washington Square Park.
I asked this guy with a Sabrett sign to make me one with everything.
He did.

(Report Comment)
Larry Nossaman November 5, 2009 | 9:59 p.m.

David,

On September 17, you wrote that journalists need to present the truth to their readers/listeners. You said they need to practice seeking the truth, have a critical ear, ask questions and seek answers.

Yet in this opinion article you seem to state that truth is relative when it comes to religion (we all take different avenues, seeking our personal truths). Why is religion so much different from journalism? If truth is able to be found in the realm of journalism - and I think we both believe that it is and should be - why is it not able to be found in the realm of religion? Your positions seem inconsistent to me, particularly when all the different religions are incompatible with each other. Could it be that people don't approach the topic of religion by practicing seeking truth with a critical ear, asking questions or seeking answers?

(Report Comment)

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