What is faith?
People of faith have a sense of some spiritual being, or presence, which has power, creativity and wisdom beyond any human person. Sometimes that spiritual being or presence was expressed in a person such as Jesus, Mohammad or the Buddha.
The three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – have profound connections with each other as they draw from each other’s religious writings. Buddhism and Hinduism are more related to each other as faiths mainly originating and being practised in Asia. Of course, apart from these well-known faiths, there are many others which relate to various Indigenous peoples and ancient tribes, as well as many sects who have distinctive beliefs and practices.
There have been, and still are, groups in all major faiths who believe that only they are loved and accepted by their God and that any others are rejected or punished by that God as people of no valid faith. If you reflect that it is often where people live that defines the nature of their faith, how can anyone assume that they are the only ones who know the whole truth about God? For thousands of years, some people rarely left the land of their birth and they simply inherited the faith of their families.
One might well challenge the fundamentalist conservatives of today with the question: “So what sort of God would punish or reject people who never heard of another faith?”
Could it not be that there is only one God, who created the universe and who reaches out in love towards all people, and that there are many pathways towards that one God? One of the great gifts in this possibility is that, if we respect each other across different faiths, we may learn new things from each other about our God.
We could also, respectfully, share how people of our faith view issues related to the world and our community. Maybe we could join forces in trying to end various forms of injustice and lack of compassion?
As a Christian, I know how much I have learned in engaging with members of different denominations within the Christian faith. As I did this, God became grander and wiser and invited me to walk in new ways. When I read books belonging to other faiths this experience expanded even more. It doesn’t mean that I must agree with everything, either across other Christian denominations or beyond that in other faiths, but an openness of mind and heart is rewarding in many ways.
Because none of us can ever be God the Creator, we will never know the whole truth about that God, or the world in which we live, with all its hopes, longings and complexities. This makes it all the more important to create together loving and respectful relationships within and across all faiths.
We may then celebrate the wonder of infinite possibilities.