More Muddled Religion Writing

Review of Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One.

I was disappointed to read that the book did so poor a job of what it set out to do.  We do need to understand what the world's religions teach, but more importantly what those teachings really mean.  None of the media generalizations about religion(s) do justice to the complexity of thought, and more to the complexity of metaphor and sign that encompass most religions.  As a result, we too often hear half-truths--a sound-byte reduced resum√© of religion.  Islam is this, Islam is that.

Speaking from within the Catholic fold, I can say with some assurance that I can't even say, "Catholicism is this, Catholicism is that."  Catholicism itself is a strange and elaborate plexus of beliefs--an array of spirituality that have many common elements at the core, but some radically different approaches to the world.  Merton believed that there was much to be gained by studying the methods of Buddhism.  I would say that there is much truth in that--not only the methods, but even the ends, if one limits ends to mean not samadhi and extinctions, but true at-one-ness, true compassion. 

The world religions differ in their systems, they differ in their outward signs, rites, and practices.  There are fundamental and unbridgeable differences in the beliefs.  However, fallen humanity will never approximate the perfection of the simple God who is indivisible in His attributes.  Humanity as a race mimics the blind men encountering the elephant.  Depending on which part we have hold of, we will have an image of the truth but we are unlikely to encounter it in its fullness.  (At least until we learn to open our eyes.)

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