What is religion? According to an Oxford dictionary, religion is the belief in the
existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator and controller of the universe, who
has given to man a spirtual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body.
Religion appears to be a simple idea on the surface, but in reality it is a very complex
system of ideas that many base their lives upon.
There are many religions in the world. Christianity seems to be the one religion
believed widely in the modern world. However, this is not the case in a group of five
people in a World Religion class. These five people share common knowledge on
several aspects of religion, yet they have some major conflicts. The focus of this paper is
to explore the ideas and beliefs of the group, analyze the importance of religions
dialogue, and to discuss the challenge of religious pluralism in the contemporary world.
The first group member states her firm Christian views. Melissa recognizes all
the religions of the world, but she holds Christanity to be the only true religion. To her,
Christianity is the only way one person can attain salvation. All other religions are false
and those who do not follow Christanity are misguided and will not attain salvation. It is
only through Jesus Christ's death on the cross that one can repent, be forgiven, and attain
Melissa feels that others who are non-Christians believe that their religion is true.
Afterall everyone is brought up to believe in the faith or religion they are taught. If this
was not the case, no one would have any beliefs. Although their religions are not true
religions Melissa respects their views of being true.
Quite similar to Melissa's opinion, Jason feels that there is only one true religion
in the world, which is Christianity. However, he recognizes that there are many other
religions in the world in which their followers believe are true. He does not believe that
one should criticize others for their beliefs, and that they should respect each person's
beliefs even if they are different from his.
For Jason, Christianity is the true religion. It is the only religion that he believes
has the right answers for life, and the correct way to salvation through the Lord Jesus
Christ. So his position is that there is only one true religion in the world, but that there
are other religions in the world that people follow and their followers hold their religion
to be true. Jason feels that other religions of the world are important and are held true by
their followers. If this were not so, then why would anyone follow a religion that they
did not believe was true.
Michele believes Christianity is the one true religion. However, she recognizes
that other religions exist, and they are held true by their respective adherents. She does
not believe that non-Christian religions are right, but she respects other people's rights to
choose whatever faith they want to follow.
Michele has been raised a Roman Catholic and is checking out other Christian
religions to see what they offer. She still believes that Christianity is the one true
religion, but she is curious to learn more about the other Christian denominations.
Lori believes that since there are so many diverse religions today that it is
impossible to say that only one religion is correct. Lori feels that if she said there was
only one true religion she would be forcing her religion onto others. For her, religion is
an opinion. If you were to ask almost anyone which religion was the one true religion of
the world, they would say their religion. She also feels that there are so many
unanswered questions in every religion therefore, she can not justify saying there is only
one that is right. She does believe that there is only one true God. Overall, she believes
in one true God, while recognizing the fact that there are other religions besides the one
of which she is a part.
Finally, Tony expresses his views which are quite different from the rest of the
group members. A few years ago Tony was a Christian and believed that the god he
worshiped was the one and only true god. He not only had a strong faith in his relgious
beliefs, but also felt that all the other religions in the world were false, and that the
followers of these teachings were misfortunately misguided. He was going to heaven
because he was right and they (those of other faiths) were wrong and unfortunately going
to hell. In the past few years Tony questined his Christian faith and the holy writings
upon which they were based. Now he is an agnostic.
Although Tony does not believe or have evidence that there is any true religion or
religions, he now gives equal credibility to all religions to which previously he had not.
He has concluded that those persons of the various religions show just as much fervor in
their faith as do their religious counterparts of opposing faiths. It is apparent that there
are many persons and just as may religious perspectives. This does not necessarily lead
to the conclusion that there is a true religion and a false religion(s), but that religion is an
entirely subjective experience whose truth is decided by its value to its adherents.
Further discussion on other aspects of religion took place as well. For example,
the topic of the Christian Bible posed conflict among two of the group members. Jason
boldly stated his opinion of the Bible. He believes every word in the Bible to be true. He
thinks that everything in life should be based on how the Bible tells you to live. He feels
that the Bible is the true word of God. He also feels that the Bible has told the past and
fortells the future as well. According to the Bible, Israel is God's chosen nation and that
any country that goes against this nation, they will be punished by God. He relates this to
the recent incident of Israel's Prime Minister being assassinated. He believes that if this
was a direct act of a certain nation, then there will be other events to follow. However,
Tony has different beliefs which controdict Jason's completely. Tony has no belief in
Christianity, therefore, he has no belief in the Bible. He feels there is no way the Bible
can be the word of God because there is no proof and there is no foundation. Tony also
questions the presence of a heaven and hell. For Tony, Christianity is nothing but
brainwashing. He thinks one's beliefs are determined by the way one is raised. If one is
brought up a certain way, then he will only believe a certain way. The group came to a
meeting point from this statement. We all agreed that one's religion is his or her own
personal belief built from the foundation of one's upbringing.
The group also discussed how we as a society are supposed to handle the
problems that religious pluralism causes. There is no greater enemy to humankind than
fear. It is undoubtedly the germ of hatred, contempt, disdain, resentment, disapproval
and therefore all forms of discrimiantion. When we are unable to understand or
encounter the unfamiliar, we fear. The only way to understand amd become familiar with
the source of our fears is through exposure. This is imperative to mutual understanding
in any matter. This is especially true in religion, where those of the various faiths are
adamant in the belief of the superiority of their relgious faith. An invaluable means of
coming to terms with those of differing faiths is the process of dialogue. The importance
of interreligious dialogue cannot be understated.
In our discussion group of five members (consisting of four Christians and one
agnostic), the majority is of the opinion that their religion is the only one true religion in
the world. This majority simply beleives that those of other faiths are misfortunately
misguided. Nonetheless, there is unanimous agreement that there is considerable
importance in intereligious dialouge amongst the religions of the world. This dialogue
will bring understanding and hopefully promote tolerance and acceptance of those beliefs
not similar to one's own. The idea is not to bring about conformity, but to exploit the
benefits of religious diversity.
Our group agrees on how the challenge of religious pluralism is to be met in
contemporary world. The most important tool to help deal with religious pluralism is
dialogue. People of different religions need to communicate and listen to each other.
Because of all the diversity in the world, we feel people need to be open-minded and
non-judgemental of other people's views, especially if their views do not necessarily
agree with someone else's views. We think trying to understand different religions takes
compassion and understanding. Often, people fear the "unknown."
So, another way to meet the challenge of religious pluralism is through
education. People can learn about different religions and respect the diversity that exists.
Further, to help understand a different religion, our group thinks that going to check out
different religion services will give people personal experience of that different faith.
People do not have to feel they have to accept the other religion, but going to visit
another service will broaden their horizons. We believe that if society can respect the
religious diversity in the world, the challenge of relgious pluralism can be met. W.C.
Smith says it best, "Unless men can learn to understand and to be loyal to each other
across religious frontiers, unless we can build a world in which people profoundly of
different faiths can live together and work together, then the prospects for our planets
future are not bright" ("The Christian in a Religiously Plural World" 11).
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