A recent article on the Huffington Post grabbed my attention with this headline, “My Religion Is the Truth — For Me” written by Mike Ghouse. Following are some of the key excerpts from his article.

I am intrigued by the blatant as well as the subtle claims that, “my religion is the only true religion,” by numerous religious leaders. Of course it would be a truthful statement, if they consider adding, “…to me, as others are true to others.”

Indeed, it is a common utterance and rarely gets questioned. However, those who have matured in interfaith dialogue have learned that the truth is a larger tent and seamlessly accommodates other versions of truth. The vainglorious security in “my faith is the only true faith” is a transparent veil to them.

As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, religion is in the heart of the believer. Your faith is as dear to you as mine is to me, religion is like the mother, no matter what anyone says or tells, my mother remains dear to me, as your mother remains dear to you, she always has her back for you…

Your faith does not negate mine nor does mine negate yours. It should not bother you if I prostrate on the floor to be humble, similarly it should not bother me if you worship God in the form you are comfortable with. I should not be arrogant to tell you that you are wrong. Indeed, it would be wrong of me to believe that you are wrong, who am I?…

This is the most difficult thing we cope with. Faith is how you feel, it is not logic or mathematics or a fact, it is purely faith, and nothing but faith, and it is beautiful to have one…

By the way, God has not signed a deal with any religion behind other’s back…

Pluralism is not a religion; it is an attitude of respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. I will be happy to speak to your group at church, school, college or work place as well as political meetings. Pluralism is our future.

But just as important as this post, is the conversation that ensued.

Professor Ahmed: This opinion falls short on a number of grounds. There is a fine line between respecting a belief that is a fundamental matter of faith and allowing nonsense to persist in the name of pluralism. Am I to respect the person who believes he/she needs to kill thousands of innocent civilians to attain the love of God? What about the parents that refuse life saving medical treatment for their child? Lines need to be drawn, whether or not we like to admit.

Tesarra: yes, we should respect the belief for what it is and where the belief intersects action in the public space we should also expect the person(s) to abide by the public laws. the point is exactly that the arena for action where belief is concerned properly begins and ends with the person and property of the belief holder.

ME: Who’s “public” laws should we respect. The laws that in many countries say women have no rights to education or that societies that allow rape of women because the man has the right to decide? Are those the laws we should respect and uphold? After all, how could you possibly say their truth is not good?

Tesarra: I’m not sure I understand what you’re driving at. In my comment, I never said anything about respecting laws. I said we should respect the beliefs of other people while still expecting them to follow the public law. So, for instance, if someone believes that adultery is a sin punishable by stoning, we should respect their belief as a matter of faith but we should expect that if they live in the USA that they won’t go around stoning people who are caught in adultery because US law calls that murder no matter what their religion might call it.

ME: I understand, which is why I asked, whose “public law” is morally “right’? Is it just a matter of cultural opinion? If so, what right do you have to impose your cultural viewpoint and pressure other countries to accept your moral standard?

so, take your example, what IF the Public Law did accept stoning as a punishment for adultery, would that be okay with you since it was not a religious law, but a Public one? If it is not acceptable, why? Since you disparage religion as a valid source for determining “Public Law”, what is your foundation for imposing your Public Laws on others? What gives you the moral authority to use the UN as a way to coerce other cultures to accept your moral standards? And why do you even want to impose your views on others? These questions are not answered in what you write.

Tesarra: Matters of belief are deeply individual and personal and, as the blog post above asserts, there is no particular “right” or “wrong” way to believe. Matters of public policy, on the other hand, involve interactions between people, groups, societies, cultures and nations. As a result, public policy ends up being the arbiter where beliefs conflict within the scope of that policy. The big challenge, of course, is that we humans tend to set public policy based on beliefs about the “best” or “right” policies and since those beliefs are only valid within our own reference framework sometimes the policies of one nation or group will conflict with those of another nation or group and we have to figure out some way to create a reference frame for resolving that conflict. Sometimes that resolution framework has been war and sometimes it has been international negotiation.

Historically, the “moral authority” for one nation imposing it’s view of “right” law over that of another people or nation has been “might makes right”. The use of power has shifted somewhat from military power to money power, but it still largely comes to the application of power to achieve compromise. Whether this is the “best” or “moral” solution is the substance of large tomes of philosophical work and not suited for a short blog response here.

ME: I appreciate your candor in answering my questions. I appreciate your consistency in that you believe all “morality” is determined not, in your view, by an eternal Truth, but by each culture and the strongest culture determines what is “right”. Although, that is where readers will have to make an informed decision. I believe it is always wrong to rape a woman, but in your system it is only sometimes wrong and always dependent upon whose “laws” are backed by the strongest ruler.

I would also point out the one glaring falsehood in your post. You write, “You have a right to disagree with me, but you cannot build your faith by negating mine, as that would be a foundationless belief.”

My faith is built on the foundation that there is absolute truth found in the person of Jesus Christ and this truth is not determined by cultural standards or who has the strongest armies. Your belief, if true, DOES negate my faith OR mine negates yours. Both cannot be true at the same time because fundamentally they disagree. So despite your best hope, people must still chose between faiths and not all faiths are equal.

Again, thank you for your candor and patience in answering my questions and clarifying the fundamentals of your faith.

As you consider each side of this discussion, where do you stand? Is this kind of pluralization good or will it only lead to moral decay?

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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