I was raised as a Reform Jew in Kansas City, and felt strongly about my Jewish beliefs, especially that there is only one Creator.
When I was 16, I started dating. My parents made a rule that I agreed with and strictly obeyed. I could only date Jewish girls, to prevent intermarriage.
In high school, I met lots of Jewish girls through B’nai B’rith, an international Jewish organization.
But in 1964, when I began attending the University of Kansas, the B’nai B’rith chapter there had only 25 Jewish women. As a freshman, I had many dates. But by 1965, as a sophomore, those same 25 women represented the only Jewish women at the school. By that time, either I didn’t like them, they didn’t like me, or they had boyfriends. I ran out of Jewish women to date!
So ingrained was my parents’ rule in my heart that I stopped dating. For many nights, I cried myself to sleep. This was extremely traumatic for me!
One night while intensely crying about not being able to date anymore, I started thinking about how religion had become a major barrier between people, instead of bringing people together in unity and harmony. Suddenly a question popped into my mind.
Why does one God have so many religions?
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this question dramatically changed my life. I gradually stopped crying and pondered it deeply. With so many religions and denominations claiming to be the only way to God, this made no sense to me. I felt it was an illogical contradiction.
As I thought about it, I realized that usually a person’s religion is determined by his place of birth and his parents’ religion. He is then taught that his religion is true, and all others are false. This too made absolutely no sense to me.
A month later, I met a fellow student named D.J. He and I became close friends. I asked him my question, and I was stunned at his answer. Here’s what he said: “Logically, one God can have only one religion. He is not in competition with Himself.”
D.J. went on to explain that God has revealed His one religion not once, but many times throughout history. His messengers have been the founders of the major world religions: Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad.
That means all the major world religions are divine in origin, one in essence, equally true, equally important, equally valid, and all part of a single progressive process.
God, through His Messengers, has adapted His one religion to meet the needs of each age in which it has been revealed—so the major world religions are like many chapters of one book. If a chapter were missing, the book would be incomplete.
A universal loving Creator does not play favorites. He wants all of His children to know of His existence, to love and obey Him, and in so doing, to develop into the spiritual human beings He created them to become.
Unfortunately, my friend explained, the fallible clergy of each religion have tried to interpret the infallible word of God as revealed by His messengers. The result? Conflicting interpretations, sectarian strife and disunity. As if this isn’t enough, the clergy have then imposed their fallible interpretations on their followers, saying in effect, “My interpretation is true and all others are false.”
The followers have assumed their clergy are knowledgeable and wise, so they have blindly followed the clergy, instead of independently investigating truth for themselves and reaching their own conclusions.
This has led to the creation of countless sects, intense fear, self-righteousness, fanaticism, prejudice, hatred, greatly exaggerated distortions of the original teachings of the founders of the world’s Faiths, and even destructive wars fought in the name of religion.
Originally, the messengers of God came to bring unity and harmony. The clergy and the followers have created disunity.
Here was an explanation that made total sense to me! It was both logical and universal. What a contrast to the illogical contradiction of the narrow exclusive views of religion we see today.
Naturally, I asked D.J. how he came up with this explanation. He said it was from the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who said:
It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in diverse attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 153-154.
After an extremely thorough investigation of the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah, I became a Baha’i on January 14, 1967.
Then I started dating again—only this time, I went out with women irrespective of their religion, race, or nationality. What a wonderful change!