January 23rd, 2022
I wrote a little last week about this book, “God Is Not One,” by Stephen Prothero, and now that I’m finished I could not recommend it more.
Learning about all the things the world believes in makes you believe in the world more.
The book is both expansive and intimate, covering the people, places, history, traditions and words of the eight greatest and most influential religions, and it is casually readable, like a conversation over coffee with a world-class pal who happens to be a religious scholar.
It presents the idea that religion is not one mountain or singular goal with different paths; no, each religion identifies what it considers to be life’s big problem, and then offers what it believes to be its one big solution.
And it has deeply affirmed what I already believe.
In each religion, I found at least one thing I wholeheartedly agreed with that was not to be found in any other. As the chapters on each end, you start to see them borrow and swap and integrate ideas from others into their own.
You might guess the next thing I’ll say is that means each religion is wrong.
My assessment is that every religion is incomplete.
And only by keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open might I find the thing that I’m looking for, the thing that other people might miss because they’ve already decided their incomplete thing is the right one.
One of the most interesting things I noted: every single religion in this book highly values justice, compassion and, in particular, helping the poor and the less fortunate. It’s one of the only universal traits they share.
In that regard, every single religion has objectively failed on the large scale, despite individuals who do their part to help their friends, families, and communities.
This isn’t a condemnation of any religion, but rather something to contemplate if you ever think that yours is any better than someone else’s.
One of the best ways a person can see more of the world is by seeing the same world through somebody else’s eyes. It can expand your empathy and perspective and appreciation, and this literary trip gave me all that and more.
Amen, L’Chaim, and may the Force be with you.