When We Say “All Religions Are the Same”

When We Say “All Religions Are the Same” October 23, 2014

I had an epiphany while listening to the talk on Sunday. I realized that when people say “All religions lead to the same goal” or “all religions are the same” or “all religions are valid paths up the same mountain” that what they mean by that can be extremely different from how it is interpreted by others. There’s an enormous misunderstanding about this “universalism.”

Many of my friends and family believe that all religions lead to the same goal. Let me tell you what they mean by that.

But first, how it comes across.

When we say all religions are valid ways to access the same divine, that can make it seem like there is no need for a variety of religions. Why should a Hindu stay Hindu? If a Christian asks him to convert, then he has every reason to because they lead to the same place, right?

Since many branches of Christianity are focused on conversion, they are saying that their path is exclusive and we’re often not saying that. So that leads people to think that it makes more sense to be Christian (whether that’s a good fit or not).

That, however, is not at all the intention of most of the people who say things like “all religions lead to the same goal.”

What they usually mean is that the goal of Hinduism is the right one, the goal of Moksha and unity with the divine. That goal can be found in other religions if one studies the mystical branches and digs really deep. Other religions can be interpreted to come out to the same goal as Hinduism.

But it’s not their mainstream interpretations.

It’s hidden. Covered by years of politics and schisms. You have to work hard to find the Truth that is plainly in front of you when you’re Hindu.

That’s what the people I know mean when they say that! That’s what I’ve meant when I’ve said it.

I have come to think that this is really obnoxious. It’s saying that people in other religions are not interpreting their own religion correctly. It’s saying that most priests, ministers, imams, and preachers are completely wrong about the faith they’re teaching.

Perhaps the Gnostic Christians had a similar goal to us but that’s not how Christianity is practiced today. Perhaps Rumi and the Sufis have a similar goal to us, but that’s not the mainstream majority of Islam. Maybe it’s time to take other religions at their word. When they say that their goal is to get into heaven then maybe we should believe them that that is the goal that their religion teaches them. We don’t know better than them their own faith.

This idea that Truth can be found in Christianity if you dig deep enough is what keeps many non-Indian Americans from identifying as Hindu. They are reinterpreting Christianity in ways that would not be sanctioned by any minister. It’s for this reason that I’ve been told to just find Truth within Christianity and stop insisting on my Hindu-ness.

But that’s not good enough for me.

In Hinduism the Truth that I believe in, the Truth that makes sense to me, is right there at the surface. It’s easy to see and easy to know what I need to do. Why would I give that up in favor of a religion where it’s obscure and tricky?




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