Interfaith Reflections

Bill Dougherty


     I would like to share a recent experience that I found very wonderful. My wife and I recently attended a dinner hosted by the Acacia Foundation. This is a group of Muslims in the Seattle area who are devoted, not only to their own religion, but also the ideals of brotherhood, religious tolerance, and mutual understanding among all people. As a practical expression of these ideals they invited a wide selection of people from our metropolitan area to dine and converse together. At the banquet they presented five speakers: a Lutheran minister, a Jewish Rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Muslim, and a university professor giving a secular position. All presented various viewpoints on “Respect for the Sacred.” Of course, the individual talks were thought provoking. But the overall impression was much more striking. For it was obvious that the underlying spirit behind the evening was one of mutual respect and sympathy for other people and faiths. It is all too easy to see the beliefs of others as more or less imperfect expressions of our own beliefs. We tend to say to ourselves, “Oh yes, they got that part pretty accurately, but this other point is way off the mark.” Comparative study does not mean comparing other beliefs to our own and then grading them on how well they conform to the “correct” answer. It means taking ideas into our hearts as well as our heads. Treated with respect and sympathy, the ideas of others can offer us new insights not only into other people but also into ourselves and the universe. 

     There is no religion higher than the Truth. This is not just a motto, it is also a warning. If we think that we have the Answers to the mystery of life, if we think that our books have the real stuff and everyone else has just an approximation at best, then we have lost our way. We have placed the blinders of self-righteousness over our eyes, we have locked the doorways to our hearts, and we will certainly stumble on the path. The Truth is everywhere, and in every heart. So let us be like these wonderful Muslim brothers, open to truth wherever it be found, full of love and sympathy for all. – From The 21st Century Path, Volume 1:2, December 2006

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