Sunday, July 29, 2007

Interpenetration of Faith...

This is a heavy subject, but I intend to make it as light as a breeze. What's the significance? Many people say that human beings all over the world are always fighting because of differences in religion, in their beliefs and in their faiths. One writer, Sam Harris suggested that we should do away with faith and its rediculous, unproven, unscientific, and irrational sources in order to avoid
killing each other in this world ( The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W.W, Norton & Company, USA, 2006). A frightening book with a lot of distortions on Islam especially pertaining to the fanatics and suicide bombers.

Yes, there are many religions in this world based on different scriptures and teachings. Each inculcates its own set of beliefs and faiths, nurtured by customs, traditions and different cultural heritage as found in different parts of the world. The proponents and preachers of each religion or faith will maintain that theirs is the most "authentic" and the "truest" of the religions. The history of the world is full of clashes between major religious communities, with fanatics who are willing to kill each other in the name of their God and beliefs.

Years of promulgation, research, modification and adjustments with maybe millions of people dead due to the religious war or crusade and US's version of liberating the people including those in Islamic countries, have failed to bring a happy compromise
between the various religions and their subdivisions. Christian's Roman Catholics are always at odds with the Protestants. The Muslim Shiites are always at war with the Sunnis. The various dynasties in Cina, each with its own faith and beliefs, were also often at war. The Tamils and the Hindus are never too friendly, especially with the Muslims. " Never the twains (opposing sides) shall meet," says Mark Twain.

Can we, therefore, ever hope to have peace between the various religious communities, especiall among the belligerent ones?
Are they so different and divided that the world is doomed to everlasting conflicts, fighting and skirmishes? Is there no way at all to make them appreciate and respect each other beliefs and faith?

Yet, a brief study of many of the religions will show up some very striking simililarities, especially on the exultations for what is good, honest, sincere, trustworthy and piety towards their Lord(s) and Master(s). They all prohibit the spilling of human blood ( except when attacked by their enemies), stealing, cheating, adultery, blashphemy, causing cruelty to animals and men, and most of the behaviors that are punishable by the laws of the country.

These then are the the areas of interpenetration of faith and beliefs, of values and sanctions although they do not amount to formal acceptance of similarities. No religion would admit such a thing unless their religion is accepted as having influenced the others. What then prevents such interpenetration of faith and values from being recognized as a COMMON THRESHHOLD

Certainly it's human beliefs, values and pride as promulgated by the leaders of the cult, which stand in the way of such recognition and respect. The Sunnis and the Shiites in Islam can never see eye to eye nor can the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, the Christians and the Jews, the Serbs and the Bosnians, the Tamils and the Hindus, the Taoists and the Budhists,
But areas of interpenetration of beliefs and faith certainly exist, commonalities or similarities which can become the basis of a compromise.

The Commonalities can become the basis of a mutual agreement, an understanding and respect so that all other Differences
can be prevented from causing illwill, misunderstanding, hatred and a commitment to exterminate each other since such extermination also means destroying a part of one's own faith and belifs. A simple formula rto encapsulate the idea would be:
C - D = U
where C = commonalities, D= differences and U= the zone of Understanding.

The task of various religious communities would be to explore, elaborate and expand on C while D should be played down to the minimum without sacrificing any injunctions from the Lord and Master. This will lead to a continuous expansion of U, to enable the zone of understanding, mutual comfort and respect for each other to keep on expanding so as to improve interreligional relations, avoid conflict and spread universal love, compassion and goodwill.

One may immediately ask: How can the differences borne by the different Scriptures and spread by centuries of preaching, teaching and conditioning be played down or reduced? You cannot change change or reduce them, you cannot change the words of the Scriptures etc..etc.. But interpretations do change over the years and beliefs also change with time, mutual exposure to the same experience and the imposition of modern scietific knowledge. Blind faith is slowly receeding with the advance of logical and rational eveidence. All these can reduce and perhaps overshadow the D factor in the equation without
casting aside the words of the Scriptures and offending the All-Knowing and All-Powerfull.

Most important of all, the authenticity and purity of any religion at all should not be questioned or disputed! That would be a sacrilege which cannot be excused.

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