You need at least TWO religions

This article, Seeking Common Ground in Faith – washingtonpost.com, is just standard ecumania, but at the end comes a staggering statement: “Intolerance means demanding that people practice only one religion.”

I have heard others express the view that a person in this day and age really needs to practice more than one religion. (Thus we have the female episcopal priest who is also a Muslim.) Only postmodernists, having rejected reason with its sensitivity to contradictions, could think it is possible to assent to the beliefs of two different religions at the same time. But notice how this latest position (to which, according to the article, no one at the ecumaniacal gathering dissented) ups the ante: You are “intolerant”–the postmodernists’ One Deadly Sin– if you do NOT allow for more than one religion.

The old relativism allowed for the diversity of the various religions. The new relativism does not allow the various religions to be diverse, in the sense of their being separate and different, but rather insists that they all be amalgamated into a new polytheistic pantheon.

This is how Rome handled the religious diversity of its empire, bring all of the different deities into one Pantheon and allow all religious practices under the auspices of the Divine Emperor. Religions that would not go along, of course, such as Christianity, had to be exterminated in the name of religious harmony and toleration.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    A good Japanese friend told me that it is often said that Japanese are born Shinto, marry Christian and die Shinto. Of course, that pattern precludes (a very superficial) ecumenism which some think is a knee-jerk reaction to the hyper-religious Shintoism that existed prior to WWII. To be a devotee of any particular religion in Japan is frowned upon and seen as intolerant. Western culture has definitely adopted that way of thinking.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    A good Japanese friend told me that it is often said that Japanese are born Shinto, marry Christian and die Shinto. Of course, that pattern precludes (a very superficial) ecumenism which some think is a knee-jerk reaction to the hyper-religious Shintoism that existed prior to WWII. To be a devotee of any particular religion in Japan is frowned upon and seen as intolerant. Western culture has definitely adopted that way of thinking.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    How do we know that we didn’t export that way of thinking into Japan after WWII with the influence of our “melting pot”? If you are right, pre-WWII America was much more anti-hyper-religious than Japan.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    How do we know that we didn’t export that way of thinking into Japan after WWII with the influence of our “melting pot”? If you are right, pre-WWII America was much more anti-hyper-religious than Japan.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    I have no idea which came first; it is merely observation. I am merely sharing what my 49 year old Japanese friend (lives in Japan) told me. If someone knows more, I’d love to learn. Off topic, but I do know that Japan and Christianity have had a tumultuous relationship in the 1600 – 1800′s. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    I have no idea which came first; it is merely observation. I am merely sharing what my 49 year old Japanese friend (lives in Japan) told me. If someone knows more, I’d love to learn. Off topic, but I do know that Japan and Christianity have had a tumultuous relationship in the 1600 – 1800′s. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    More on topic, this reminds me of Paul in Acts 17:16-34 in that people are curious about various religions and may adopt bits and pieces of several to suit their own needs and interests, but do not adopt/believe in any one religion.

    “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”

    In the end, they said they wanted to hear more, but never invited Paul back that we are aware of. Scripture says that a few believed, but not many more.

    This quote from the article was disturbing: “Shadeed said he remained focused on the idea that there is a unifying truth for all people, not one that involves certain images or men or women in biblical history, but one divine concept. “We have to keep challenging people to see this.”

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    More on topic, this reminds me of Paul in Acts 17:16-34 in that people are curious about various religions and may adopt bits and pieces of several to suit their own needs and interests, but do not adopt/believe in any one religion.

    “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”

    In the end, they said they wanted to hear more, but never invited Paul back that we are aware of. Scripture says that a few believed, but not many more.

    This quote from the article was disturbing: “Shadeed said he remained focused on the idea that there is a unifying truth for all people, not one that involves certain images or men or women in biblical history, but one divine concept. “We have to keep challenging people to see this.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I was all set to get upset at the notions present in that article … until I read it. I don’t think your take on the article — well, that one sentence, really — is right, Dr. Veith.

    The thing that struck me was that I had made it almost all the way through the article and no one had mentioned a person having two religions. “Are they going to shoehorn this in at the end?” I wondered. Then I read the sentence in question, and it didn’t sound at all like what you’ve made it out to say in your comments above. Perhaps the sentence could be written to clear up any confusion: “In his view, intolerance means demanding that [a or the] people practice only one religion and not tolerating diversity.”

    But I don’t see anything about advocating for any one person holding in himself two distinct faiths.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I was all set to get upset at the notions present in that article … until I read it. I don’t think your take on the article — well, that one sentence, really — is right, Dr. Veith.

    The thing that struck me was that I had made it almost all the way through the article and no one had mentioned a person having two religions. “Are they going to shoehorn this in at the end?” I wondered. Then I read the sentence in question, and it didn’t sound at all like what you’ve made it out to say in your comments above. Perhaps the sentence could be written to clear up any confusion: “In his view, intolerance means demanding that [a or the] people practice only one religion and not tolerating diversity.”

    But I don’t see anything about advocating for any one person holding in himself two distinct faiths.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Oh, tODD, so you are construing the quotation to mean that people as a group, say, everyone in the USA, can have more than one religion. Maybe I misconstrued that, though I’m not sure. “People” can be an ambiguous term. But I have heard calls for individuals to have more than one religion, including from a big Newsweek article on religious tolerance after 9/11. Consider this site, which does call for individuals to have more than one religion, in the same sort of New Agey context as that ecumenical conclave.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Oh, tODD, so you are construing the quotation to mean that people as a group, say, everyone in the USA, can have more than one religion. Maybe I misconstrued that, though I’m not sure. “People” can be an ambiguous term. But I have heard calls for individuals to have more than one religion, including from a big Newsweek article on religious tolerance after 9/11. Consider this site, which does call for individuals to have more than one religion, in the same sort of New Agey context as that ecumenical conclave.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    That article couldn’t have been more vague if it tried, and that includes that particular quote and its context.
    I think the ‘problematic’ verses referred to earlier in the paragraph made vagueness imperative, lest we identify too strongly each religion’s real stance on other religions.
    I don’t imagine for one instant, however, that the participants in such an endeavor have as their goal the furtherance of tolerance of a true or right religion, or one that’s faithful to what any God has had to say about it. I think they’re more interested, and more invested, in a god who mirrors themselves and their notions.
    To me, the killer sentence is next to last, talking about there being ‘one divine concept’ that might be a ‘unifying truth.’ Reminds of the Jesus Seminar, trying to mediate a real god, by leaving the essence of Him out.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    That article couldn’t have been more vague if it tried, and that includes that particular quote and its context.
    I think the ‘problematic’ verses referred to earlier in the paragraph made vagueness imperative, lest we identify too strongly each religion’s real stance on other religions.
    I don’t imagine for one instant, however, that the participants in such an endeavor have as their goal the furtherance of tolerance of a true or right religion, or one that’s faithful to what any God has had to say about it. I think they’re more interested, and more invested, in a god who mirrors themselves and their notions.
    To me, the killer sentence is next to last, talking about there being ‘one divine concept’ that might be a ‘unifying truth.’ Reminds of the Jesus Seminar, trying to mediate a real god, by leaving the essence of Him out.

  • fw

    It appears that the article was written by someone who is probably not religious. I agree it was poorly written and left alot hanging on some key points…

    I thought that the last statement about there being some unifying thing among all religious was the most interesting, and nothing in the article attempted to identify what that was…. it seems to be morality.

    This is EXACTLY right. If religion is about some transactional weighing about right and wrong, ALL religious SHOULD unite. The law written in man`s heart is not a plural law even if it is darkened in understanding. the pagan greeks came remarkably close to revealed law…. it CAN be done by pagans….

    Make Jesus one of many doctrines or even the center and not EVERYTHING leads logically to the exact conclusions of the participants reported on here.

    There really is only one religion. That is the one where we seek out and reach up to God in love and offering and sacrifice.

    Then then is He who destroyed religion , suspended between heaven and earth on one very good Friday between noon and 3. You can`t cut a religious deal by being good with a dead Jew on a cross who happens to be your Creator. He has promised to find those least likely to look for Him. The lost , the last, the undeserving, the sinners, the filthy dogs who eagerly eat the bread from the Master`s table.

    Me. You too. Every last one of you.

  • fw

    It appears that the article was written by someone who is probably not religious. I agree it was poorly written and left alot hanging on some key points…

    I thought that the last statement about there being some unifying thing among all religious was the most interesting, and nothing in the article attempted to identify what that was…. it seems to be morality.

    This is EXACTLY right. If religion is about some transactional weighing about right and wrong, ALL religious SHOULD unite. The law written in man`s heart is not a plural law even if it is darkened in understanding. the pagan greeks came remarkably close to revealed law…. it CAN be done by pagans….

    Make Jesus one of many doctrines or even the center and not EVERYTHING leads logically to the exact conclusions of the participants reported on here.

    There really is only one religion. That is the one where we seek out and reach up to God in love and offering and sacrifice.

    Then then is He who destroyed religion , suspended between heaven and earth on one very good Friday between noon and 3. You can`t cut a religious deal by being good with a dead Jew on a cross who happens to be your Creator. He has promised to find those least likely to look for Him. The lost , the last, the undeserving, the sinners, the filthy dogs who eagerly eat the bread from the Master`s table.

    Me. You too. Every last one of you.


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