I am intrigued by the blatant as well as the subtle claims that, "my religion is the only true religion," by numerous religious leaders. Of course it would be a truthful statement, if they consider adding, "...to me, as others are true to others."
Indeed, it is a common utterance and rarely gets questioned. However, those who have matured in interfaith dialogue have learned that the truth is a larger tent and seamlessly accommodates other versions of truth. The vainglorious security in "my faith is the only true faith" is a transparent veil to them.
As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, religion is in the heart of the believer. Your faith is as dear to you as mine is to me, religion is like the mother, no matter what anyone says or tells, my mother remains dear to me, as your mother remains dear to you, she always has her back for you.
If your taste bud relishes medium rare steak, then that is the medium your palette delivers pleasure to you. You may try raw or a well done steak, but you are likely to go back to what you were tuned with.
So, your religion is the only way for "you" as my religion is the only way for "me" to find the balance, peace and tranquility.
Your faith does not negate mine nor does mine negate yours. It should not bother you if I prostrate on the floor to be humble, similarly it should not bother me if you worship God in the form you are comfortable with. I should not be arrogant to tell you that you are wrong. Indeed, it would be wrong of me to believe that you are wrong, who am I?
You have a right to disagree with me, but you cannot build your faith by negating mine, as that would be a foundationless belief.
Your faith stands on its own merit as mine. The version of Scripture from God to you is flawless, but it is for "you" and those who co-believe with you, but not for me. My version is flawless to me, but it is for me and those who co-believe with me and not for you. Neither is wrong, you will enjoy your well done steak and I will enjoy my medium rare.
This is the most difficult thing we cope with. Faith is how you feel, it is not logic or mathematics or a fact, it is purely faith, and nothing but faith, and it is beautiful to have one.
Religion in the simplest terms is an instrument that brings the balance, peace of mind, hope and the energy needed to live on a secure life, and each religion delivers on its promise, provided it is followed sincerely. Half-assed belief yields half-assed results.
Religion is not meant to denigrate others, but living our own faith. It is a positive experience and appreciating the God given uniqueness of each one of us.
By the way, God has not signed a deal with any religion behind other's back.
What is the need to understand other faiths?
As an observer of future religious trends, I believe that by the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, playing, marrying and doing things together.
We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts, and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies. Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past. If you live amidst others, you had better respect their beliefs, as you expect them to do the same for you.
Pluralism is not a religion; it is an attitude of respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. I will be happy to speak to your group at church, school, college or work place as well as political meetings. Pluralism is our future.