Why are there so many different versions of religion, with each one saying they are the correct path to God?
This is the question I have each time a religious milestone is celebrated worldwide – Christmas for me is the greatest example of this.
I was at a major shopping centre just recently, in fact two days before Christmas, when a young woman of Muslim faith asked me if I celebrated Christmas. To her surprise I answered, “No I don’t.” She paused and then asked me if I celebrated Eid Al-Fitr? When I responded with no again she was perplexed. I continued on and said, “I do not believe in or practise the beliefs of the organised religions today. I do however have a deep connection with God. I know that there is only one God and that God is Love, and not the emotional love we are sold but true Love – Love that is non-judgemental, it does not condemn or separate races. This God is where each of us come from, and where we will all one day return to.” She said to me, “I have never met anyone like you,” and I replied with, “There are many that know what I do, they just don’t allow themselves to live it or dare say it out loud.” I said, “You know it too,” and she nodded with a quiet but firm yes.
I walked around the corner to my next shop and met with another young woman, this time of Christian faith and she asked me the exact same question, “Will you be celebrating Christmas on Sunday?” When I replied with, “No, I don’t celebrate Christmas,” she went quiet and wasn’t sure how to continue the conversation. I asked her, “How about you, will you be celebrating Christmas on Sunday?” To my surprise, she said, “No.” She explained her family were Orthodox Christians and they celebrate on the 7th January. To which I asked the question, “Really, how is it that there can be two dates for the birth of Jesus?” She said, “I don’t think there is and I don’t believe either one of them is true, it is just what my family believes.” I then said, “Maybe the whole message of Jesus is lost on us today?” She agreed and said, “Yes, it definitely is.”
What if true religion was about relationships? And the first step to being truly religious is to first have a loving relationship with yourself, and then naturally with all others.
I was raised as a Catholic and, as such, attended a Catholic School for 12 years. In years 11 and 12, I chose a subject called Study of Religion. In this subject we studied not only the Catholic Religion, but also many other religions. We were required to apply the theological study tool of Ninian Smart’s Six Dimensions to learn about each religion. It was broken up into six different areas: Doctrinal, Mythological, Ethical, Ritual, Experiential and Institutional.
I remember thinking at the time (and confirming this as my studies progressed), if we can apply the same six categories of study to each different religion, then all religions must be the same, they just have a different story. It is a bit like people really; each person has a different story but at the core we are all the same.
What if at the core of each religion, the message was the same? Did Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammed all not bring us the same message? Different story yes, and in a different time, but at its essence it was the same message.
What if organised religion, or religion as we know it today, has strayed away from that original message? What if I was practising true religion when I spoke with the two young women in the shopping centre? That is, I know who I am and I know who God is – Love.
What if true religion is just simply a relationship with the Love that you are, the Love that is God and therefore the Love that everyone else is, innately so?
By Terri-Anne Connors, aged 40, Melbourne, VIC