One of the greatest causes of conflict among people has always been religious intolerance. Consider world history: How many wars have been fought for the glory of the Divine? And, how many crimes and atrocities have been committed in the name of one God or another? These wars and crimes generally originate in fanaticism which can be defined as beliefs or behavior involving uncritical zeal and very strict standards with little tolerance for contrary ideas or opinions, or with a wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication or obsessive enthusiasm.It is the mark of fanaticism to hold a conviction that one’s own religion is the only True religion, the only path to salvation, and is superior to all others. It is nonsense to hold such a view – no religion represents Absolute Truth – how can it? To represent Absolute Truth the religious statements must be true for all people, in all places, across all time. Can it possibly be fair to say something like the only path to salvation and liberation is obedience to the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Of course not. And substituting the name of some better known hero, prophet or deity in place of the Spaghetti Monster doesn’t make the statement any more tenable. Such convictions, whether acted upon or not, generate particularly negative karma for those who teach or defend them.
Something that is common to most, if not all religions is Mysticism: the belief in the possibility of a direct connection to the divine. This is also one of the most dangerous threats to organized practices, especially those espousing Absolute Truth. Mystics are the people who breathe life into religions, but also the people who are likely to push past the accepted boundaries of religious orthodoxy. The mystic sees through claims of Absolute Truth and religious superiority and promotes a more individualistic approach that all people can participate in. Mysticism is the opposite of fanaticism.
It is expected and perfectly acceptable for religions to have strong beliefs. But belief statements are not truth statements. A person or even a whole nation’s belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t validate the existence of such a being. The Monster might actually exist – but not because anyone believes in it. If everyone in the world believed in a falsehood, it would still be a falsehood. And if no one in the world believed in a truth, it would still be true.
An Absolute Truth is true for all people all the time. Truth has to be a justifiable belief. It needs to be proven at least logically and agree with reality. For example, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, what country you’re in, what race you are or what religion you practice if you fall off a building you will hit the ground. Gravity on Earth is a universal principle for all people. Your beliefs and opinions cannot circumvent the laws of nature.
Religions, especially the major religions of the world, have a historical context and have borrowed heavily from ideas, philosophies, and religious concepts and rituals of the past. They also owe much to the society and culture out of which they emerged. For any religion to assert that it represents Absolute Truth and offers the only path to salvation, liberation or enlightenment, for all people, across all time is to negate and demonize all other religions – including the past religions that provided it with its doctrines and inspiration. Those who make such claims would condemn people who do not agree with them to some form of hell.
A more enlightened position, one held by the majority of informed leaders of the world’s religions, is that there are many paths to salvation – some are more suited to our individual or cultural needs than others. The seeker must investigate and align with the path that connects best with his or her inner spiritual base. Other paths are not wrong, they are just not as effective at bringing out our own, individual and innermost spiritual nature – perhaps due to previous training, value systems, or even environment and climate. Many cultures and societies had perfectly good spiritual practices, some of them going back thousands of years, but were forced at sword or gun point to change their beliefs by invading armies of Christian, Muslim and other powerful religious cultures. Consider the rich heritage of the Australians, Africans, Oceanic and North and South Americans that are all but lost due to the fanaticism of military backed religious practitioners claiming to own Absolute Truth.
As seekers of Light, we should release ourselves from such fanatical beliefs that would destroy the spirituality of others. We should strive to be tolerant in our mystical quest. That doesn’t mean we have to embrace, accept or support all the various beliefs and religions that come our way, but we should remember that in the eyes of the Divine Spirit all people are brothers and sisters and all are evolving toward the same goal: the perfection of their soul.