There’s a thread of ignorance, Stephen Prothero notes in Religious Literacy regarding world religions. We hear about clashes in the world with deep seeded meaning, but we to explore the reasons why.
I’m convinced that much of this clash has to do with deep, spiritual convictions that we inherit from those before us. From a Christian perspective, the aim is for each generation to explore and articulate the hope they have in Christ within their own words, a hope that is informed by the Bible yet is also guided by those who have gone before.
However, in today’s large (or is it small) world, we come in contact with far more religious/spiritual premises than our old neighborhood’s used to experience back in the day, when the main theological voice was the local parish pastor. Today, we’re challenged by none other by the perplexing question: Why are there so many religions in the world and how can I ever know mine is the right one?
Enter Hamilton’s concise book, Christianity and World Religions. It’s a good, simple read, that gives a person an elementary take on a few religions in the world. As anyone can guess, it’ll take a lot more than 20 pages per religion to really understand the depths of the threads of ancient thought that the religions in the world convey, but in light of the tenor of Prothero’s book mentioned above, Hamilton gets us going in the right direction. A start is a start; it will facilitate some good dialog.
These things said, here’s where I diverge from agreement with Hamilton. I admire, like he does, the beauties and stories and people of the various religions explored in his book; yet I challenge this concept: that God looks at a person’s “good intentions” and if that person is sincere enough in their religion, then they’ll be ok come judgment day. That is what I understood some of Hamilton’s conclusions to boil down to when he faced the question, “What about this or that religion’s eternal outcome come judgment day?”
I hope not to pose as a judge to to disclose what I think God will or won’t do come that day and time. But, there seems to be something deeper about God – as Christianity and all even other world religions express. Sincerity and good intentions fall far short of depth in life as well as the character of God. It’s like saying, “Oh, if you’re just a good enough person and try to walk in the right direction, you’ll get there,” yet the essence of good and right direction are clouded. The foundation of sincerity and good intentions seems to reduce life with God (within any religious perspective) to whim and fancy. At the extreme, it replaces God himself from the scene, making God no longer important as long as sincerity and good intention are in place.
There’s a lot more to think and process with all this.