“The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Where do you stand on God? On Jesus? On heaven? On hell? Do you have to “play the belief game” for your family, friends and co-workers to fit-in, to live in harmony? I consider myself a Universalist if I had to put a label on it. I believe in the divine, the spiritual, but I also believe in the divinity of humanity and nature. I think there is a place for all faiths, all religions, and all practices, provided, at least for me, one of their core beliefs is to do no harm to others.
As I have written before, I have attended the same Presbyterian Church for thirty years. I sit in the same pew every Sunday. I sing the hymns, I read the bible verses, I listen to the Sermons (sometimes I draw) and I put money in the plate. But I can do all this without feeling like I have to believe or accept all of my denominations ideologies.
Now some of you more pious Christians may believe that I am a heretic, hypocrite or simply a fraud. I have even had one fine aristocratic southern Baptist gentleman describe me as a wishy-washy idiot. I really didn’t think that was a very Christian thing to say to me but it is the kind of sentiment that has helped me form my beliefs.
I am not a religious scholar with an advance degree from Princeton or Yale but I know a fair amount about the Christian faith, its origins, its players and its history. I have studied the words and thoughts of many of the great theologians. Thinkers that had all the answers and others that were full of questions. I have had an interest in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and Buddhism for twenty years. I have skirted around Hinduism some with my Buddhist studies but have never spent the time nor have I found the resources I needed to delve into a deeper examination of this faith.
But back to my point about a faith’s core belief to do no harm to others, it is my opinion that these communities of faith, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and Buddhist all subscribe to this doctrine. It is also my opinion that all of these religions have and continue to disregard this very basic and simple tenet. There are examples of this throughout history and even in the newspaper today. If you want to debate the definition of “do no harm to others” then you are part of my problem with your faith. Harm is harm, it is physical, it is mental, it is everything you and I can or could do to hurt someone.
So why am I a Universalist? There is no perfect faith but there is a perfect path, a path of respect, compassion and love. If your faith, if your beliefs have you on this path then carry on. But if you feel an obligation to convert, to proselytize, to defend as a starting point before you can dispense respect, compassion and love then maybe it’s time to reexamine your journey.
“God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.” – Ramakrishna