Jewish Journal


July 2, 2007

Religions: Different paths to the same point?


They are not, according to an article in the current Newsweek by religious scholar Stephen Prothero that asks whether the major religions are all alike. But “since the first petals of the counterculture bloomed across the United States in the 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful—and all are true.”

According to this multicultural form of wisdom, the world’s religions are merely different paths up the same mountain. But are they? Religious people do agree that there is something wrong with this world. But they disagree as soon as they start to diagnose the problem, and diverge even more when it comes to prescriptions for the cure. Christians see sin as the human problem and salvation from sin as the religious goal. Buddhists see suffering (which, in this tradition, is not ennobling) as the problem and liberation from suffering (nirvana) as the goal. If practitioners of the world’s religions are all climbing a mountain, then they are ascending very different peaks and using very different tools.

You would think that multiculturalists would warm to this fact. But instead they try to flatten out diversity by pretending that the differences between, say, Judaism and Taoism are more apparent than real. How fulsome is religious diversity if all the religions are essentially the same, and a little interfaith dialogue can talk it all away?

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