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There is no one true faith

Ian Ronderos | Monday, April 24, 2006

The belief that there is one true religion has incalculably hampered mankind’s quest for truth. There is no one most true religion; every religion offers wisdom to be gleaned by the philosophically inquisitive. Most of the major modern world religions have historically refused to recognize this reality, because they have an institutional imperative to perpetuate themselves. If they should have recognized truth in other religions, they would have gained a less firm hold upon their adherents. Truth is not the private possession of any belief system, it is commonly held by all the major world religions.

All the traditions of the major world religions are necessarily flawed in several respects. Whether the great sages of history were recording the revelations offered to them by Allah, Yawheh, Christ, the Lord Krishna, the great Buddha or any other figure, it was still a human hand with human prejudices unique to the time of composition that wrote down the interpretations of divine reality. If the divine had inspired the sages so that it was rather a human hand dictating exactly what the divine desired, then a literal interpretation of scriptures would be correct. The world religious traditions and scriptures contain unethical stories, contradictions and falsehoods that preclude this from being a reality. The myths of the Old Testament, for instance, have passages that suggest entirely unethical courses of action – like the stoning of certain peoples, or the divinely inspired sacking of cities.

The great sages were attempting to capture the divine reality, and did capture elements of it. No human religion could ever capture all of it though – religions were created by human beings. Human logic can never completely comprehend or understand the divine. The divine is perfect, and hence the supreme and highest form of logic. In order for humans to be able to understand the logic of divinity, it would mean that our lesser, flawed logic would be able to contain and control the elements of this logic divine. Nothing that is inferior is able to contain that which is superior; thus, it is an impossibility for men to understand the logic of the gods.

The wise man, understanding that truth is present in all religions, and can never truly be found, does not turn away from the quest for divine. He steels himself and redoubles his resolve. The search for the divine becomes much harder, because instead of looking for truth within one tradition, the challenge becomes to search within manifold traditions. One must, like a prospector, sift dirt through his pan hoping to find nuggets of gold. Different people find certain traditions more relevant than others to their individual life and spirituality. People should go forth into the world with a mind open to receive God.

A particularly healthy approach to spirituality is to develop a fusion of religious ideas, and to mold them into a coherent and sound philosophy that can be applied to one’s life. Where one religion is weak, another is often strong. For example, the western religious tradition tends to draw hard dualities, like that of people and God. These seem to be false dualities to this writer. I find that the Hindu concept of the immanence of God everywhere, and in everyone, seems more real. God is literally in everyone; we are part of God, perhaps better seen as an absolute reality. I firmly believe the Christian ideal of fraternal love and compassion. Hence, I am trying to fuse Eastern and Western traditions, in order to create a Hindu-Christian approach. It works for me, but I don’t necessarily expect it to work for others. Everyone must find out for himself what religious traditions lie in harmony with the truth he has felt via life.

Spirituality is an intensely personal experience, and one should seek to actualize her potential to participate in the beauty and splendor of the divine. If people peg themselves within one tradition only because they were born into it, they will not know if they are getting the most out of their spiritual life. The tradition of someone’s birth may be the correct one or ones for him, and that is perfectly fine and acceptable. One can only know this through experience. All truth is experiential at its roots. Empiricism is the way to find the divine. Philosophy takes the raw, visceral experiences of our lives, and orders them in a way that our mind can process and understand them. Experience tempered by empirical philosophy is the path to the absolute reality of God. While we can never fully understand this reality, we can become closer to it, and gain a firmer, though still incomplete, understanding of it.

Ian Ronderos is a senior majoring in the Classics with a supplementary major in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Writing this column has been a pleasure. He would like to thank all of his friends for the philosophical conversations without which this column would have been an impossibility. Life is a celebration.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.