Every Path Leads Homes
Every Path Leads Homes
"Like the bee, gathering honey from different flowers, the wise man accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only the good in all religions."
spiritual text of Hinduism
"There's only one way to God-and it's my way!"
Every time I hear that claim-in one form or another-the muscles in my stomach tighten, my jaw clenches, and I go on the defensive. Who do the people making this claim think they are?
I was attending the funeral of a close friend when one of her relatives approached me. After introducing ourselves I said, "I'm sorry for your loss. She said thanks, and then asked if I followed the news. Hesitantly I said, "Not too much." Embarrassed by the admission, I feebly added that my wife did, and she kept me informed.
"Would you like to know what's going on?" she asked.
The reaction I described above happened again: stomach muscles tightened, jaw clenched, and I prepared for an attack. Something out of the ordinary was going on. Her serious expression boded evil, doom, and gloom. Not knowing what to say next, I asked her to explain.
"I'll show you," she said.
She walked to her car, retrieved some papers, and handed them to me.
"Read this," she said.
I didn't want them. I had come to mourn my friend, and I didn't want whatever propaganda she was proffering. But, thinking my refusal would seem unkind, I took the material.
As she released the papers she added, "This will explain everything."
"Thanks," I said.
She nodded and walked away.
What is this? I thought to myself. Did this woman come to grieve the death of a relative or to hand out tracts?
Later I took time to glance through her information, and it was worse than I expected. The flyer condemned our country for having lost its Christian heritage and the United Nations as ungodly. It condemned other religious belief systems and predicted the end of the world because the rest of the world didn't believe in her professed form of religion.
Of all days to be approached by a religious enthusiast, a day of mourning is one of the worst. Having the papers near me made me nervous and uncomfortable. The scent of evil associated itself with the documents, and I wanted nothing to do with the condemnations they preached.
Frankly, I was angry.
In its purest form religion yields happiness, purpose, love, and serenity. How many religious people do you know who demonstrate those qualities? Speaking about one form of religion, Christianity, I heard someone once say, "The problem with Christians is that I've never met one," which sounds similar to what Gandhi once said: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
In its toxic form religion produces followers who are judgmental, angry, hateful, fanatical, and miserable. They make the people around them uncomfortable with their smug attitude that says, "I know the answers, and if you'll listen and believe as I believe, you can have them too." I've met my share of toxic Christian believers. But Christians don't have a monopoly on toxic religion. Muslims have followers who believe their faith is the only way home-to Allah. Some insist that Buddha and the path to enlightenment is the only road home-to Nirvana. I've been there. I've been that kind of believer.
I once believed that my form of religious Christian faith was the only right path, the only road home to heaven. That only those who believed in Jesus and followed the "Romans Road to Salvation" 1 or "The Four Spiritual Laws" 2 would be swept away into a heaven paved with streets of gold. I taught, preached, and tried to convert people to my way of thinking. Truth is, it wasn't my way of thinking, but only the d