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06 March, 2009

THE PRINCIPLE OF UNIVERSAL RELIGION

All scriptures are "inspired"
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There is a golden thread that runs through every religion in the world. There is also a common golden thread that runs through the lives and teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages and saviours in the history of the world and through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power. All that they have ever done or attained has been in full accordance with the devine law of the universe which has its basis in truth and love.
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I may be open to criticism for what I am going to write here. "Schooled" theologians may even say my views are simplistic and if that is the case I am pleased because simplicity in religion has been a long sought-after goal of mine.
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The "oneness" in religion is often ignored in an elite sort of way and it is to our peril.
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Let us not be among the number so dwarfed, so limited, so bigoted as to think that the Infinite God has revealed Himself to one little handful of His children, in one little quarter of the globe, and at one particular period of time. Consider for a moment that at last count there were 19 major world religious groupings, subdivided into a total of about 10,000 distinct religions. Within Christianity alone, 34,000 separate faith structures have been identified. Lump in the other three major religious groups -- Hindus, Muslims and Jews -- and you have a tip-of-the iceberg feeling for the enormity of world religion.
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Most religious groups teach that their own beliefs and practices are the only true ones, and that all other faith groups contain some degree of error. We must understand, however, that the sacred books, the inspired writings, all come from the same source -- a God speaking through the souls of those who have opened themselves to the inspired message they have received, or perceived. Some of the ancient scribes may have been more inspired than others, depending entirely on the relative degree of how open they were to the Devine voice.
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The great fundamental principles of all religions differ only in the minor details according to the various degrees of understanding of different people. When we fully realize this truth, we will then see that it makes little difference what particular form of religion one holds to, but it does make a tremendous difference in how true one is to the vital principles of their chosen religion or faith. It makes a difference in how we love self less and love truth more, and in the degree to which we care less about converting people to our particular way of thinking, but all the more in how we aid them in coming into the full realization of the truth through the channels best suited to them.
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-- "Whatever road I take joins the highway that leads to Thee," says the inspired writer in the Persian scriptures. "Broad is the carpet God has spread, and beautiful the colors he has given it."
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-- "The pure man respects every form of faith. My doctrine makes no difference between high and low, rich or poor; like the sky, it has room for all, and like the water it washes all alike," says the Buddhist.
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-- "The broad-minded see the truth in different religions; the narrow-minded see only the differences," says the Chinese philosopher.
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-- The Hindu has said: "The narrow-minded ask, 'Is this man a stranger, or is he of our tribe?' But to those in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family...Alter flowers are of many species, but all worship is one."
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-- "Heaven is a palace with many doors, and each may enter in his own way...Are we not all children of one Father?" says the Christian.
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Religion is a complex human institution that we should at least try to address and understand in order to get a better handle on who we are as human beings. There are, of course, the numerous complicated creeds of the various religions arising from the interpretations of different people. The more open the soul, the less important these differences become in the mind of a contented, fulfilled, understanding person of faith.
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To my mind, the moment we lose sight of the aforementioned we depart from the real, vital spirit of true religion and allow ourselves to be limited and bound by form. To the degree that we do this we build fences around ourselves which keep others away from us, and which also prevent our coming into the realization of universal truth. There is nothing worthy of the name of truth that is not universal. The "us and them" syndrome has potential to destroy the world, in fact it is destroying the very society in which we live today.
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It was Tennyson who said: "I dreamed that stone by stone, I reared a sacred fane, a temple, neither pagoda, mosque, nor church; but loftier, simpler, always open-doored to every breath from heaven, and Truth and Peace and Love and Justice came and dwelt therein."
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I was both surprised and pleased to recently read an article by Rev. Dr. Joseph McLelland, professor emeritus at McGill University and Presbyterian College, Montreal, where he posed the question: "Instead of assuming that Christianity is the centre (of a universal map of faiths), with other religions moving around it as errors, what if we see them all as moving around God, with their own varieties of faith and truth?" McLelland suggests further the need to listen to the witness of others, "shifting from the old imperialism of mission (which assumed that we speak and they listen), comparing Saviors for instance -- before expecting them to hear our part."
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Religion in its true sense is the most joyous thing that the human soul can know, and when the real religion is realized, we will find that it will be an agent of peace, joy, happiness, and never an agent of gloomy, long-faced sadness.
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Adequacy for life, adequacy for everyday living here and now, must be the test of all true religion. If it does not bear that test, then it is simply not a religion. Our churches and religious institutions fail if they do not provide an everyday, this-world opportunity for eternal life -- bringing people into a knowledge of their true selves and encouraging them to make the best of each moment of time as it presents itself day after day.
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If we fail in doing this, we fail in everything.

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