by Star Foster, Pagan Portal Manager @ Patheos
Prothero has said the question of whether God is one is a theological question that he can’t answer, but his book’s message is that not allreligions are one. We are not all on the same journey headed towards the same goals. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus points out in his review of the book that this idea of religion being a universal concept is quite disrespectful.
I haven’t read the book all the way through, but since the contention seems to be a theological and interfaith question, and not a question of history and tradition, I feel comfortable commenting on this. It’s an important issue.
Universalism, as spun out by Theosophy, Joseph Campbell and the inclusivist movement among mainstream religions, is a well-intentioned philosophy that seeks to bring people together. It tells us to brush away the detail and focus on the major, over-arching themes. Such a philosophy is too easy (religion never is easy) and robs us of all identity and beauty.
Imagine this: with a few barrels of turpentine and some chisels and hammers we could make the Sistine chapel an interfaith facility. By removing all the detail it becomes a building like any other. I think prior to Michaelangelo it had been called “a barn” by one pope. That would be all it would take to make the chapel acceptable for use by all faiths, simply to remove the partisan detail.
Isn’t that a horriffic thought? It curdles the blood. Imagine for a moment applying the same concept to all that is Divine. Maybe you worship a Goddess with many aspects, or perhaps you worship highly individualized deities. If you are Christian, imagine stripping Jesus of anything that does not correspond with Horus, Attis, Tammuz or Odin. Imagine sanitizing your faith, wiping it clean of all intricacy and detail. Imagine combining Christmas, Channukah and Yule into some strange synthesis holiday based vaguely upon Santa Claus.
I love the intricacies of my religion and of my Gods. I love that Hephaistos prefers wine and that Inanna drinks beer. I love the graceful mystery of Wiccan cosmology, and the journey I take to reconcile the macrocosm of my community, my tradition and my coven with the quiet truths that live within my heart. I adore the moment when the blade and chalice meet, that lovely symbol of opposites uniting. I am passionately grateful when, in the most unspiritual tone imaginable, my Gods tell me to get to work and stop whining. I love the symbolism of the five-pointed star within a circle: a human in harmony with the cosmos. It is a sigil of my relationship with the universe, or at least of how my relationship with the universe ought to be. In the secret places of my heart, I do believe my Gods the best, bravest and most wonderful of all. It’s simply a by-product of my love for them, of my devotion and perhaps a little unspoken hubris lurking in my soul.
Read the rest of her post here.