“They can’t all be right,” I thought to myself as the engineers took their seats around the conference table, “but they can’t all be wrong.” Although we were gathering for a technical discussion, my thoughts drifted to consider the variety of faiths represented by this group of bright young engineers. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim believers were sitting peacefully around the table in my office. We worked closely together everyday.
They can’t all be right because the dogma preached by their various faiths is inherently incompatible. When we try to agree who was the true Prophet, who died for our sins, when and how best to pray, what we can and cannot eat, how the world was created, the origin of the species, and what precisely happens in the afterlife, the debate quickly becomes polarized and contentious.
But they can’t all be wrong either. We all seek answers to profound questions and unsolved mysteries that have intrigued humans throughout the ages. We want wise guidance for living better lives. We want our lives to be meaningful. We want a powerful, trusted, and omniscient companion who is always there for us and knows what is best. We want someone we can confide in, dialogue with, and appeal to for answers, decisions, hope, comfort, and consolation. We want to love and be loved. We want the world we live in to become a better place and we dream of the ultimate paradise. We each have an innate sense of good and evil that becomes more real if it can be symbolized and manifest as specific rules and images. We tend to see the world from an intentional stance; when something happens, it seems intentional, and someone must be doing the intending.
Destructive religious conflicts persist because religious beliefs can’t all be right, despite the most righteous insistence, longstanding traditions, arbitrary defenses, and obsessive need to be right. And because they can’t all be wrong we have a wonderful opportunity for sharing a constructive spirituality.
Give it up and let it go so we can all move forward.