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Thread: My faith isn't the only way

  1. #1

    My faith isn't the only way

    Hi,

    I think this is largely hopeful news, at least for America where there has been some problems in the past on this issue ...

    Religious Americans: My faith isn't the only way
    By ERIC GORSKI Associated Press Writer

    Jun 23rd, 2008 | America remains a nation of believers, but a new survey finds most Americans don't feel their religion is the only way to eternal life — even if their faith tradition teaches otherwise.

    The findings, revealed Monday in a survey of 35,000 adults, can either be taken as a positive sign of growing religious tolerance, or disturbing evidence that Americans dismiss or don't know fundamental teachings of their own faiths.

    Among the more startling numbers in the survey, conducted last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: 57 percent of evangelical church attenders said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, in conflict with traditional evangelical teaching.

    In all, 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.

    "The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep," said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion.

    "There's a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance and that is having theological consequences," he said.

    Earlier data from the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released in February, highlighted how often Americans switch religious affiliation. The newly released material looks at religious belief and practice as well as the impact of religion on society, including how faith shapes political views.

    The report argues that while relatively few people — 14 percent — cite religious beliefs as the main influence on their political thinking, religion still plays a powerful indirect role.

    The study confirmed some well-known political dynamics, including stark divisions over abortion and gay marriage, with the more religiously committed taking conservative views on the issues.

    But it also showed support across religious lines for greater governmental aid for the poor, even if it means more debt and stricter environmental laws and regulations.

    By many measures, Americans are strongly religious: 92 percent believe in God, 74 percent believe in life after death and 63 percent say their respective scriptures are the word of God.

    But deeper investigation found that more than one in four Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and Orthodox Christians expressed some doubts about God's existence, as did six in ten Jews.

    Another finding almost defies explanation: 21 percent of self-identified atheists said they believe in God or a universal spirit, with 8 percent "absolutely certain" of it.

    "Look, this shows the limits of a survey approach to religion," said Peter Berger, a theology and sociology professor at Boston University. "What do people really mean when they say that many religions lead to eternal life? It might mean they don't believe their particular truth at all. Others might be saying, 'We believe a truth but respect other people, and they are not necessarily going to hell.'"

    Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum, said that more research is planned to answer those kinds of questions, but that earlier, smaller surveys found similar results.

    Nearly across the board, the majority of religious Americans believe many religions can lead to eternal life: mainline Protestants (83 percent), members of historic black Protestant churches (59 percent), Roman Catholics (79 percent), Jews (82 percent) and Muslims (56 percent).

    By similar margins, people in those faith groups believe in multiple interpretations of their own traditions' teachings. Yet 44 percent of the religiously affiliated also said their religion should preserve its traditional beliefs and practices.

    "What most people are saying is, 'Hey, we don't have a hammer-lock on God or salvation, and God's bigger than us and we should respect that and respect other people,'" said the Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

    "Some people are like butterflies that go from flower to flower, going from religion to religion — and frankly they don't get that deep into any of them," he said.

    Beliefs about eternal life vary greatly, even within a religious tradition.

    Some Christians hold strongly to Jesus' words as described in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Others emphasize the wideness of God's grace.

    The Catholic church teaches that the "one church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church" alone and that Protestant churches, while defective, can be "instruments of salvation."

    Roger Oldham, a vice president with the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, bristled at using the word "tolerance" in the analysis.

    "If by tolerance we mean we're willing to engage or embrace a multitude of ways to salvation, that's no longer evangelical belief," he said. "The word 'evangelical' has been stretched so broadly, it's almost an elastic term."

    Others welcomed the findings.

    "It shows increased religious security. People are comfortable with other traditions even if they're different," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance. "It indicates a level of humility about religion that would be of great benefit to everyone."

    More than most groups, Catholics break with their church, and not just on issues like abortion and homosexuality. Only six in 10 Catholics described God as "a person with whom people can have a relationship" — which the church teaches — while three in 10 described God as an "impersonal force."

    "The statistics show, more than anything else, that many who describe themselves as Catholics do not know or understand the teachings of their church," said Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput. "Being Catholic means believing what the Catholic church teaches. It is a communion of faith, not simply of ancestry and family tradition. It also means that the church ought to work harder at evangelizing its own members."

    ———

    On the Net:

    Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: http://pewforum.org

  2. #2

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Very interesting article. I tend to think this is a positive trend. Interesting how some in authority, particularly the archbishop of Denver (a pretty conservative guy by most accounts), say the reason behind peoples' "tolerance" of other faiths and beliefs is a lack of knowledge of and faith in their own traditions. However, as one who was once described as a "cafeteria Catholic”, I tend to see peoples' willingness to take what works and leave what doesn't in their own faiths, while being open to other faiths and beliefs, as a positive effect of intelligence and examined conscious.

  3. #3

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    a few years ago i got a chance of a life time, i went to a lecture by the dalai lama ( it is very rare that someone like that comes to israel ).

    it was a great lecture and i really enjoyed it.
    at some point he mentioned that he once went to spain or something like that to meet religious catholics and discuss their religion and his. and actually learn from each other.
    he said they went to some church and prayed... they prayed to god and he set there meditating.
    and when he went out of the church he turned around and saw a statue wink at him he said it might be his bad eyesight though, but he did feel something well divine.
    and when those christens came to sit with them in Dharamsala they came to him after meditation and told him they also felt something...

    for me it was very interesting to see someone like the dalai lama who is supposed to be the highst religions figure in Tibetan Buddhism say such things about other religions... but i guess all religions are ment for the same thing to help mankind transcend itself.

    the good thing about zen is it is pretty much part of everything and it is nothing at the same time... it actually sips in to other religions...
    i have even seen jewish prayers for a safe journey and road writen on bodhi tree leaves

    i guess there is no right or wrong way, its just the way you make it.

  4. #4

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Ok, maybe it's better that people develop tolerance to others' faiths and do not accept tenets of their own tradition so unquestioningly. But if the former conservatism is replaced by a New Agey shallowness, a spiritual tourism that blurs the distinction between religions, is that necessarily an improvement? I attended some meetings in Second Life recently based on 'A Course in Miracles'. I felt distinctly uneasy with what seems to me a blend of Christianity and Advaita teachings. The facilitator of the group told me 'it's all right to disagree with the teachings, I don't like some of it either'. But if you spend most of the time just disagreeing, I kinda start to think I shouldn't be there. Similarly, I no longer believe in the idea of a creator God, so I find it difficult to sing hymns praising such a being when I attend funerals. I would also want to ask Dalai Lama who he is praying to when there is no God to pray to in Buddhism :?:

    Oprah Winfrey seems to have popularised and promoted this new shallowness of belief:

    "— Many Americans, said Nelson, are drawn to a "practical, how-to, self-help, just-do-it" approach to faith and personal growth that meshes smoothly with the parade of counselors, doctors, writers and ministers — of every conceivable faith — featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It's crucial that the host looks straight into the camera and says: "This works."
    Thus, noted Nelson, Winfrey has "been roundly criticized for making the spiritual too psychological, too therapeutic, too soft, too easy, too self-centered. The gospel according to Oprah doesn't appear to require some kind of doctrinal commitment or a community to ensure that the life-changing 'Aha!' moment of decision is more than a new year's resolution that is quickly made in isolation and broken two weeks later."
    http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2007/ja ... e-beliefs/

    I find myself getting drawn into different beliefs in my reading that seemingly are saying the same things on the surface, but when you examine them carefully you start to find big differences. I only just realised that there is no idea of guilt in Buddhism (I hope I'm right about that! )so that creates a large gap between it and Christianity, to my mind. It seems better to me to try to follow one path deeply regardless of the correctness of others, so I'm trying to stay on the path of Soto Zen at the moment

    Gassho,
    John

  5. #5

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Hi John,

    Great points. I agree. While I tend to think being "tolerant" (I'm not crazy about that word) of other faiths/religions/philosophies is positive, I do think it can lead the kind of shallowness you're talking about. The Oprah reference was apt. She and her ilk (Dyer, Chopra, Williamson, Walsch, and the author of The Secret) seem to be peddling a brand of easy, self-centered "spirituality" which doesn't require too much commitment or too much work.

    However, the universalist in me says, whatever works for you, God bless. As I mentioned somewhere else here, whether someone is praying the rosary, or chanting, or doing 108 prostrations, or saying the Jesus Prayer, or whirling like a Dervish, if it helps bring some kind of stability, balance, and peace, while it may not work for me, I say "what the hell."

    Best,
    Keith

  6. #6

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Very interesting article. I tend to think this is a positive trend. Interesting how some in authority, particularly the archbishop of Denver (a pretty conservative guy by most accounts), say the reason behind peoples' "tolerance" of other faiths and beliefs is a lack of knowledge of and faith in their own traditions. However, as one who was once described as a "cafeteria Catholic”, I tend to see peoples' willingness to take what works and leave what doesn't in their own faiths, while being open to other faiths and beliefs, as a positive effect of intelligence and examined conscious.
    I am not surprised. That's the usual response from the hierarchy. I mean, he has to defend his side of things. :mrgreen:

  7. #7

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    It isnt what you believe its THAT you believe thats important.
    interesting article.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  8. #8

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Quote Originally Posted by Filur
    It isnt what you believe its THAT you believe thats important.
    But beliefs can also be a way of trying to freeze reality into something that appeals to us, IMO. I'm reading Barry Magid at the moment. I like this passage:

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Magid
    ...The same is true of Zen, yet over the centuries Zen students have persisted in trying to nail down the meaning of Zen. In koan after koan we hear an earnest young monk entreat his master, "What is the Way" or "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the west?" They are looking for something solid, something essential to hold onto, but Zen can't be nailed down. If you think Zen is something lofty and esoteric, the master will give you a shout or slap for an answer. If you think it is abstract, you'll be told it's three pounds of flax or the oak tree in the garden. If you think it is beyond words and abstractions, the master may quote the sutras or a poem by Han Shan. If you think Zen is nothing but our everyday life of eating when hungry and sleeping when tired, you'll be told it's the dance of a stone boy to a tune played on a flute without holes. Or as one old teacher replied when asked about the great immutable truth of Buddhism, "It just moved."
    Over and over in our practice we try to nail down what practice is to some technique or some picture of who we think we are and what we supposed to be. But every picture we have of our path slams shut the gateless gate. Zen can't be nailed down any more than life can be nailed down. For awhile, we may get away with our techniques and conceptions and have our practice or our life go the way we want, but eventually life will refuse to stay within any boundaries we try to impose.....
    Gassho,
    John

  9. #9

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Thanks, Harry. It looks interesting. I'll check it out.

    Best,
    Keith

  10. #10

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    Quote Originally Posted by Filur
    It isnt what you believe its THAT you believe thats important.
    But beliefs can also be a way of trying to freeze reality into something that appeals to us, IMO. I'm reading Barry Magid at the moment. I like this passage:

    [
    Quite so. Thats why we others poking us with sticks.

    May the force be with you.
    Tb

  11. #11

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    .

  12. #12

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    I have just filled in the survey for the development plan in parish I live in (area where a few thousand people live). There is a section on faith. The questions are "Would you describe yourself as a spiritual person?", "Has your spiritual journey led you to a major religion", and "If yes tick which", the choices being Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Other (please specify), which suggests there is not a huge Buddhist presence round here. So I filled in "Buddhism" and I am looking forward to seeing the result of the survey to see how many other Buddhists there are in the area, and whether I am the "only Buddhist in the village"
    A cool fact is that there has been quite a lot of these polls done in japan.
    many have signed up for the option "unfaithful", but quite a lot of buddhists...
    an odd fact is that there seems to be more "spiritual" people than there are japanese, a fact that has been explained with that many japanese see themselves as "multifaithful"...

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  13. #13

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    I'm subscribed to "Behind the News by Doug Henwood" podcast. I was happily surprised that he has a short interview with Greg Smith from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

    http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Radio.html#080626

  14. #14

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    "Some people are like butterflies that go from flower to flower, going from religion to religion — and frankly they don't get that deep into any of them," he said.

    I confess--I am so much a butterfly (although I prefer dragonflies). I've spent decades reading, and listening, and trying to nail down what is right (or right for me) and find that one place that will be a fortress unasailable. (looking for 'the only way').

    I finally gave up. Someone here in another thread said that comparisons are worthless, and I've found that to be true. This morning I read in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" in the chapter on Constancy "It is quite usual for us to gather pieces of information from various sources, thinking in this way to increase our knowledge. Actually, following this way we end up no knowing anything at all."

    So, Suzuki nailed it, and I came here feeling like I know nothing, after years and years of studying. I've lived like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, constantly looking for 'home'.

    I tend to default to a hyper-analytical mindset, but I think I'm understanding, now, finally, that wherever I am, is 'home'. I drive 2 hours to work, and while trying to keep my sense of 'presence' while on the highway, I'm also looking forward to my time on the floor, and the first time in my life that I do not have to 'think'. Do I learn to not-think? I promise--I'm not here just to relax! I have a lot of unlearning to do, and relearning. Many thanks for the encouragement I find here. Ann

  15. #15

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Quote Originally Posted by chessie
    ...
    I tend to default to a hyper-analytical mindset, but I think I'm understanding, now, finally, that wherever I am, is 'home'. I drive 2 hours to work, and while trying to keep my sense of 'presence' while on the highway, I'm also looking forward to my time on the floor, and the first time in my life that I do not have to 'think'. Do I learn to not-think? I promise--I'm not here just to relax! I have a lot of unlearning to do, and relearning. Many thanks for the encouragement I find here. Ann
    This made me smile. Thank you. Yes, we are the "wherever is is home" school.

    And driving can be Zazen too, together with sitting on the floor.

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16

    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Chessie wrote:
    So, Suzuki nailed it, and I came here feeling like I know nothing, after years and years of studying. I've lived like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, constantly looking for 'home'.
    Me too, Ann. My particular variant of this is a mental attempt to escape the world I'm in. Since starting shikantaza I have noticed how many times a day my mind is seeking "more" than what is in front of me. So, I daydream, worry, have regrets, etc. all because the world in this present moment isn't enough for me . . . but, this is changing. I'm learning to be "at home" anywhere. I went to a social get-together last night and normally during one of those there would be times where I would really feel out of place. This didn't happen last night. I didn't have to try either, it just happened. More and more, this is happening to me . . . I'm learning -- slowly but surely -- to be happy (or at least satisfied) with the life I have instead of the one I might dream up in my head.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  17. #17
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    Re: My faith isn't the only way

    Great comments Ann & Bill.

    I believe I have much to learn (or unlearn) from you and the rest of the sangha. As a newbie I try to resist my temptation to ask millions of questions because I think I have to let things just be and come as they will or won't. I'm still in the place where I dread the long drives and feel incredibly self conscious at social gatherings. I don't imagine that these things will just disappear, but it does make me feel like such things are possible when I read posts like yours. I already got a comment from Jundo over email that has sent my brain into a state of "Huh?" which I really don't know how to process even now. But I think I can learn to be with "Huh?" for awhile and see what develops.

    Gassho,
    Scott

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