Imagine a large circle of faith tradition possibilities; 360° of options. Standing in the center, an earnest truth seeker might be daunted because he has to somehow carve a thin slice of faith out of the whole. This faith has to fit his life, circumstances, experiences and ambitions. Where does he begin, in which direction should he head?
Is it any wonder that many people get confused and either stop their investigation or haphazardly undertake it because they’re constantly wondering about the taste of other slices? They might even speculate whether any sliver is worth the effort at all.
“I’m busy, I have a life to live. I’m a good person, does it even matter?” Or worst of all, they condemn the whole faith exercise as a fool’s folly.
Huston Smith succinctly highlighted crucial differences between the major religions. “Buddhism does not have a concept of the afterlife or God. There is only one other religion that Christianity entirely embraces as divine revelation: Judaism. Christianity views itself as superseding Judaism, Islam views itself as superseding both Judaism and Christianity.
Islam considers Moses and Jesus prophets, and Muslims even endorse the concept of Christ’s virgin birth, but they do not regard Christ as the Messiah, and they do not believe he was crucified or resurrected into heaven.”
I’ve observed that some spiritual people don’t take the time to dig into the theology of their faith, whether it’s established or an offshoot. They have basics down, which allow some level of contentment, and they enjoy being spiritually and socially connected to a community. But ecclesiastical inquiry? Some devotees would rather not.
I don’t agree with their approach but I must be respectful of their religious exercise even so. I was in that camp as a young man and ultimately it wasn’t comforting. As it happens, my ignorance of any teaching enabled an easy transition to atheism.
I’ve also been intrigued with a simple fact of logic. All religions and more specifically, all Christian denominations can’t be true––yes, there are shared beliefs but I’m referring to the totality of faith––since they teach different things that are sometimes in conflict with one another.
What’s more, there are, what, thirty-eight thousand autonomous branches, some scripturally isolated and self-interpreting that may or may not have a handle on true Christianity. To my way of thinking, this contrasting nature of religion was a fascinating invitation for inquiry.
As a start, whatever I discovered in my research needed to be juxtaposed with, at the least, two basic litmus tests: who founded the religion and do the originator’s teachings hold up to the moral compass that is inside all of us. Since I’m not a theologian, this lay approach seemed reasonable.
This compass reacts to an unchanging set of moral principles, the natural law etched on our hearts, which I view as a buttress to my faith. It also reinforces objective right or wrong and counters the relativist dribble quite aptly.
(to be continued in Part Two)