This article is for you if you find yourself hearing or saying any of the following things:
“All religions preach the same message”… “All Gods are one”….”There is no difference between my religion and yours”…”We should all be good human beings first”.
Putting all my political correctness aside and in the interest of neutrality, let’s face something: say around 90% of the times, such assertions are made by Hindus. Yes, there is a reason I’m so sure about it. I interact with people from Abrahamic faith all the time; Youngsters and adults alike. Even the most liberal followers of those religions will differ with you if you said that all religions preach the “same thing”.
By the way, if you have made any of these statements, don’t worry. Because you are one among millions of Hindus who use “Be a good human being” as a defence mechanism in diverse crowds. Many scholars and ardent followers of Hinduism find themselves resorting to such remarks too. And frankly, I don’t blame them.
In a utopian world, that is what we’d like, wouldn’t we? A world where we all believe in the same God, have the same practices, have the same definition of “being good”, have everyone agreeing on every matter…No need to argue, debate or clash. Ah, what a perfect world! But of course, that is far from the world that we live in today. In my opinion, it is not only naïve to draw fictitious similarities, but it is detrimental to your own faith: all of which I will explore in this article.
The first area I want to look at, is something you have surely witnessed at some point. How many times, have you sat across a table with someone and had a deep talk on comparative religion, and found that the ultimate ending to all that discourse is someone saying , “well which God says you should be bad? All religions have the same concept”. Generally, when I am faced with such remarks, I smile or nod. But I have heard such illegitimate conclusions being drawn from the deepest of conversations so many times, that I feel the need to respond. So the next time someone says this (trust me, it’ll be sooner than you think) I will calmly cite this blog 🙂
“All religions say you should be good”, they claim. I could get into the amount of actual “good” within every religion to dismantle that argument. But I won’t, because I understand that political correctness is key in situations where such discussions take place. So let’s only look at the positive concepts that nobody can or will deny in the major religions. If all religions said “be good”, you must understand that every religion has a drastically different definition of “being good”. Let me give you an example. If I bow down to a picture of Lord Vishnu in a temple, that is a “good deed” in a Hindu’s eyes. But the same action according to a Muslim, is the biggest sin one can commit. The Qur’an says that that God will forgive any sin but Kufr, where a person associates any image with God. So, is imagining God, holding a conch and looking in a certain manner, a healthy practice? Or is it an unforgivable sin? You may, for instance see Christians eat cow meat, but the same thing is considered to be equivalent to killing your own mother based on Hinduism. So based on Hindu beliefs, the Christian’s action may not fall under “good”, but someone else may call him very noble.
When these discrepancies exist within different religions; when every religion has different parameters and guidelines for “goodness”- how can one claim all religions preach the same good?
Our confused Hindus are also first to say, “God has no religion” and that “We worship the same God but use different names”. Very charismatic indeed, but there seems to be a little concern. While God has no religion, people do. And people of these diverse religions worship very different Gods, with very different characteristics, which makes us question whether they worship the same being in the first place. And towards the end of this article, I will explore why it is important to be picky about this and not take people’s word for it. I say that every God, viewed by every religion has a good deal of differences. Christians, for example worship three incarnations of God (known as the Holy Trinity: the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit), where as Muslims recognise only one Supreme Being and that is Allah. Hindus stand for a supreme spirit called Brahman. But they also say he has many forms, which pervades the whole universe, and lies within every being. If one religion says, we have to submit our will to (their idea of ) God to attain heaven, another says that we need to acknowledge the sacrifice (their idea of) God made, by giving up his begotten son if you want heaven. Another belief system says get rid of all your deeds and their rewards by submitting your will to (their version of) God and you will be a part of him. The point I make, is that no God will ever be the same if they have different characteristics that contradict. If I said, “My house is made of mud” and someone else said, “My house is made of concrete”, I can conclude that our houses would not look the same. I understand that this is a shallow example for something as complex as God, but we cannot call the traits of our respective Gods the “same thing” if they have so many disparities.
But we now come to the main question. Why should we recognise the differences between every religion’s message, idea of goodness and concept of God. The first reason is that it tends to reflect a serious shallowness in the understanding of not only other religions, but your own belief system. Because when people deny it, you may have to get overly defensive to support your religion. But the most important reason for us to thrive in being different, is that we are vulnerable to others using that as an opportunity to change our individuality. We often see many missionaries capitalising on such concepts and calling Jesus and Krishna “the same thing” (in a bit of an extreme fashion). The moot issue though, is that we are so focused on being friendly and “peaceful”, that we turn a blind eye to the truth and invite trouble that digs us into a deeper hole. An example of this lies with Sri Sri Ravishankarji. By the way, his most recent statement reflects his approach:
But this wasn’t the first time Sri Sri said this. In fact, the infamous Zakir Naik, in a debate with him, picked up on this advancement of peace made by Sri Sri. Naik said, “since I proved in my talk that the concept of God is same in Hinduism and Islam, and since Sri Sri Ravishankar too admitted the similarity, Islam is the best option even for Hindus because it is more recent and the latest solution for humanity” (followed by a thunderous round of applause by Hindus and Muslims there alike). Naturally, all this bogus would have been avoided if even one of the many differences were invoked. But since it wasn’t and because we tried to play the matured person, we fell prey and lost the argument there. I hope you see the point that I am trying to make. We try so often, to cushion people of other religions. But in the process we unnecessarily play into their hands. Even under circumstances where you talk to people of your own belief system, such statements (which involve drawing incoherent similarities) are meaningless. For a peaceful coexistence, we should thrive on our similarities and respect the differences within every religion. But when we baselessly fabricate these similarities, there is a heavy price that we pay with it.