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The God Squad: Theological blitzkrieg

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: Being a religious spiritualist and studying many types of religions, how does one know what is REAL and what is not? I grew up Lutheran and heard how we were THE religion, when we had a Catholic Church right across the street!

I presently am a member of at least three churches, and also do online practices through many other groups. I've attended a Hare Krishna Temple, and have practiced Eckankar and some Ascended Masters groups. I enjoy mystical studies from Kabbalah to Theosophical Society. I can read the Bible, but I also enjoy the Gnostic Gospels, and many books omitted from the Bible. I love Jesus as a powerful guru and mentor. While the three desert religions agree Jesus existed, only Christianity sees him as the 'only' Son of God who died for us. How can I believe in one book over the other? We have the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Zohar, Book of Mormon, just to name a few, and who would agree they are all valid? I also had a vision of a Divine Feminine figure tell me I was Hers! -- (From B)

A: To my dear seeker B, you seem to me to be the victim of theological blitzkrieg. It is basically impossible to consume all the teachings of all the religions in the world for the same reason it is impossible to eat all the foods of the world. You may have spiritual indigestion.

The Dalai Lama, in a forward to "How do You Spell God?," one of my books with Father Tom Hartman, wrote these words that I have quoted before because of their wisdom and clarity:

“All the world’s religious traditions are similar because they help us become better human beings. For centuries millions of people have found peace of mind in their own religious tradition. Today, the world over, we can find followers of many faiths giving up their own welfare in order to help others.

I believe that this wish to work for the happiness of others is the most important goal of a religious practice. Human beings naturally possess different interests. So, it is not surprising that we have many different religious traditions with different ways of thinking and behaving. But this variety is a way for everyone to be happy.

 

If we have a great variety of food, we will be able to satisfy many different tastes and needs. When we only have bread, the people who eat rice are left out. And the reason those people eat rice is that rice grows best where they live. For most of us, our religion depends on our family and where we were born and grew up.

Usually, I think it is better not to change that. However, the more we understand of each other’s ways the more we can learn from each other. And the more easily we can develop respect and tolerance in our own lives and in our behavior towards each other. This will certainly help to increase peace and friendship throughout the world, which is one of the aims of all major religions.”

I would echo these words and suggest that you begin (or rather continue) your spiritual journey by eating what grows best where you live. You are a Lutheran and you might want to begin by figuring out what are your most important questions about God and the spiritual life. Then study your Protestant faith for the answers.

If you discover after serious and sustained study that the answers are not there for you, then, and only then, try one other faith tradition and see how it confronts the mysteries of human existence and our need for hope and salvation. I have discovered that, in general, the Eastern faiths of Buddhism and Hinduism begin with the individual worshiper and then proceed out to the world.

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