The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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A Shockingly Premature Book Review

I just picked up a copy of God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why their Differences Matter by Stephen Prothero at the local library. It was published just a couple months ago. I have only read the introduction thus far, but already I am fascinated by this book. I will likely want to do a discussion on it at some point, so I thought I would go ahead and post this if anybody else wanted to read it and maybe plan one with me in a month or two.

In this book Prothero attacks that notion at that all religion are the same, or that all religions lead to the same God. This is simply not true, he writes, because all of the religions address different problems, use different methods to solve those problems, and follow different examples. By ignoring these differences, as is so common in secular and even most religious societies, out of a desire for peace we are only promoting ignorance and disrespecting the religions themselves. He rightfully sees religion as one of the primary motivators of human actions and to ignore or purposefully misunderstand them makes it impossible to understand the world or address global issues.

Here is a long sample of his writing, taken from the introduction, that I found illuminating:

There is a long tradition of Christian thinkers assuming that salvation is the goal of all religions and then arguing that only Christians can achieve this goal. Huston Smith, who grew up in China as a child of Methodist missionaries, rejected this argument but not its guiding assumption. “To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion,” he wrote, “is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next.” It might seem to be an admirable act of empathy to assert that Confucians and Buddhists can be saved. But this statement is confused to the core, since salvation is not something that either Confucians or Buddhists seek. Salvation is a Christian goal, and when Christians speak of it, they are speaking of being saved from sin. But Confucians and Buddhists do not believe in sin, so it makes no sense for them to be saved from it. And while Muslims and Jews do speak of sin of a sort, neither Islam or Judaism describes salvation from sin as its aim. When a jailer asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” he is asking not a generic human question but a specifically Christian one. So while it may seem to be an act of generosity to state the Confucians and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews can also be saved, this statement is actually an act of obfuscation. Only Christians seek salvation.

After the introduction he has a chapter discussion on each of the eight most important religions trying to dissect the differences between them. They are, in the order he ranked them as most influential in the world right now, Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Judaism, Daoism, and Atheism.

It seems like this will be a fascinating book, so if you are interested pick up a copy at the store or library (I had to wait a month after ordering it from Columbus Public because it was just published). I will post some more thoughts once I have read more of it. Finally, I heard about this book on the Colbert Report in June. Here is the interview if you want to find out more. It is pretty funny.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Prothero
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News


Ron Krumpos said...

Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter "Mystic Viewpoints" in my e-book on comparative mysticism:

Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

Conflicts in Conventional Religion. "What’s in a Word?" outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

Jesse said...

Thanks for posting this Nick. I'm not quite sure I fully understand what the author is arguing - is it a typical evangelical statement that "not all religions lead to salvation" or something more nuanced that "not all religions seek 'salvation', so not all religions are the same."

I just read an interesting section of C.S.Lewis' sci-fi books. From the second book, "Perelandrea," there is a conversation b/w the human and the "alien." And basically, the "alien" realizes something like "this isn't an issue for your world, because your world is very different." I thought it applied somewhat to religions and cultures. Christians/Westerners think about "salvation" a lot, but this is not a "problem" or "issue" for others. Not sure if that makes sense....sorry I'm being a bit vague.

Regardless, I'm interested in this discussion as well. Religious plurality is a challenge for me. I feel the need to create some sort of macro-story to explain it all and feel good about where everyone is "going" (trite, I know). But I also resist that for many other reasons, I'm sure you can guess some of them.

I'll look for the book at the library, and look forward to the discussion.