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A Jewish guy I know believes wholeheartedly in the Buddha. He called himself a “Jewdhist,” but it sounded too much like Judas, so he changed it to “Buddhish.”
Lately I’ve encountered lots of people like my Buddhish friend—they follow one prophet and one Faith but surreptitiously add one more or even a few other great teachers and messengers on the side. A Christian I know really loves Hinduism, and practices transcendental meditation, so she confided in me once that she prays to both Jesus and Krishna—and secretly hopes she isn’t committing a sin. A Muslim friend told me once that she truly respects and adores Musa (the Qur’an’s Arabicized name for the prophet Moses) and sees him as equal in rank to the prophet Muhammad. She hopes none of her fellow Muslims find out.
We’ve obviously entered a period of human history some would call a spiritual smorgasbord.
No matter what Faith we claim, or even if we don’t claim any religion at all, we now feel freer to browse that smorgasbord a bit, and select what we want to believe based on its appeal to our inner spiritual appetite. The lines between prophets and their religions, at least in some places, have blurred significantly. I know a Methodist minister who built a huge wooden sculpture, for example, to honor eleven of the major religious traditions in the world. He put the Baha’i Faith in the center and at the top, because he felt it exemplified what he was trying to say about the oneness of God and the universality of true faith.
That probably could not have happened until fairly recently. In the past, the borders between religions seemed harder to cross—but much like the modern world, travel across borders has become easier and faster. We live in a time when my Buddhish friend isn’t so unusual.
Today, a more accepting consciousness has started to pervade the spiritual universe. Greater and greater numbers of people see and understand the validity of various religious traditions; have dropped their previous prejudices against them; and want to educate themselves about the truths they represent. A new era of understanding, tolerance and even welcoming interfaith pluralism has begun.
I can hear the groans of the skeptics and pessimists out there, so please don’t think I’m trying to sugarcoat the intolerance we still face. Yes, religious hatred and bigotry still exists. The ugly strains of faith-based prejudice, narrowmindedness and fanaticism still haunt much of the world. Baha’is know that reality better than most, since Baha’is in various lands still reside in brutal prisons solely because they’re Baha’is. In places with low levels of religious diversity, where few people depart from the religious norm, that prejudice can still turn deadly, causing contention, violence and even war:
… the establishing of the divine religions is for peace, not for war and the shedding of blood. Inasmuch as all are founded upon one reality which is love and unity, the wars and dissensions which have characterized the history of religion have been due to imitations and superstitions which arise afterward. Religion is reality, and reality is one. The fundamentals of the religion of God are, therefore, one in reality. There is neither difference nor change in the fundamentals. Variance is caused by blind imitations, prejudices and adherence to forms which appear later; and inasmuch as these differ, discord and strife result. If the religions of the world would forsake these causes of difficulty and seek the fundamentals, all would agree, and strife and dissension would pass away; for religion and reality are one and not multiple. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 117-118.
Clearly, though, the world is changing. Fanatical religious sects and the people who claim to believe in them still kill others, but for the most part, the nations of the world no longer base the rationale for their wars on who they worship.
As educational levels rise; as the world becomes more pluralistic, as urbanization increases, as religious intermarriage rates go up, as understanding and friendship among different faiths continues to build, as the borders between religions become more porous and less foreboding, this new consciousness of the essential unity of religion will continue to pervade the consciousness of humanity. We have entered a new phase in human evolution, the Baha’i teachings tell us:
A new era of divine consciousness is upon us. The world of humanity is going through a process of transformation. A new race is being developed. The thoughts of human brotherhood are permeating all regions. New ideals are stirring the depths of hearts and a new spirit of universal consciousness is being profoundly felt by all men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 7, p. 8.
Baha’is attribute this global trend to the growing influence of Baha’u’llah’s teachings:
Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 78-79.
O people! I swear by the one true God! This is the Ocean out of which all seas have proceeded, and with which every one of them will ultimately be united. From Him all the Suns have been generated, and unto Him they will all return. Through His potency the Trees of Divine Revelation have yielded their fruits, every one of which hath been sent down in the form of a Prophet, bearing a Message to God’s creatures in each of the worlds whose number God, alone, in His all-encompassing Knowledge, can reckon. – Ibid., p. 104.
So if you’re one of those spiritual smorgasbord lovers, the Baha’i Faith welcomes you—because Baha’is already believe in the oneness of all of the great teachers and messengers the Creator has given us.