Our planet is large, and until recently, people have been tremendously isolated from each other. Because of things like geography, heritage, and access to information, there’s no wonder there are hundreds of religions. But we can’t help but wonder if these are all just different names for the same thing. So we asked:
Are all religions holding us to the same standards, and driving us to the same place?
For a long time, I’ve idealized this possibility that all religions tie together in the end, but it wasn’t untill confirmation class a couple weeks ago that I considered talking about my idea to someone with more knowledge than me. It was on that day that our pastor came to talk with our class about death, and what happens to us, and why we shouldn’t be scared.
After his talk we had some time to ask questions. That’s when I raised my hand and asked, “What if someone you like doesn’t go to heaven?” He responded to this question with another. He asked, ‘Do you think, that a God as loving, and forgiving as ours could not love someone that we could?’
That’s when I remembered what I had theorized for a long time, that all people on Earth ultimately worship the same God. It was later that night, while I was leaving, that I found our pastor talking with my dad outside. We said goodnight but I stopped him before he went too far and said, “I have a question for you.”
I explained my theory with immense detail. I didn’t realize how long I’d been talking until I found myself extremely out of breath. In response to my rambling, he calmly replied, “We all chose what car we like to drive. Your dad likes to drive this car, I like to drive a truck, and some people like to drive sports cars. But no matter what car you drive, we’re all on the same road, we’re all going to the same place. Some people just like to drive different cars.”
He explained how there are both good and bad people in all religions. But all the good people are headed for the same place, they’re on the same road. As I got in my dad’s car after that, I was flooded with so much joy, hope, and belief.
I have spent my whole life as a Christian. And it has worked out pretty well. So I haven’t spent a lot of time shopping the other religions of the world. However, any religion that encourages people to be their best self, to be good to others, to forgive, to be peaceable, and to participate in the annual Chili Cookoff seems good to me.
In the classic religious comedy, Oh God, John Denver’s character, Jerry Landers, says to George Burns’ character, God, ‘I don’t even belong to a church!’ To which God responds, ‘Neither do I!’ I expect that in the end we will discover this is probably true.
I expect Heaven is full of good people. I don’t know if we all go to the same place, or if it is more like we all go to our own Disney theme park. The parks are different, but related, and share a lot of the same characteristics. And maybe a monorail. Perhaps we even get a park hopper pass that enables us to hang out with the people at other parks. If so, I will give Heaven a killer review on TripAdvisor.
However, I think of religion like the Olympics. Humans are spread all over the planet, with our own conditions, resources, facilities, knowledge and traditions. In every corner of the world we follow our own local system and participate in our own local leagues. We have local coaches and follow their training philosophies. But if you buy in to a great approach, and dedicate yourself to continuous improvement, you get great results.
In the end, the best of us march into the Olympic stadium, flying our own flags, and wearing our own locally-inspired clothes, designed by Ralph Lauren. But the games we play, and rules that govern them, are universal. We finally realize that despite our different backgrounds and different names for things, we are more alike than we ever knew. We all enjoy the John Williams soundtrack that is playing throughout the Olympic Village. And we all stop by the Nike and Proctor & Gamble sponsorship booths for free swag.
We want to know what you think. Sure, we know we are not supposed to discuss politics or religion. But we think God is probably cool with it. So, are different religions actually different, or are they broadly similar? And are we headed to one Heavenly theme park or a bunch of different Sandals Resorts?