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My Take: How real interfaith dialogue works
November 27th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My Take: How real interfaith dialogue works

By Dave Schechter, CNN

I’ve thought for some time that if more Americans had personal contact, even friendships, with their fellow Americans who are Muslims there might be less mistrust and misunderstanding about the role Islam plays in their lives.

The years have convinced me that interfaith dialogue, particularly the one-on-one variety, is a more viable way to break down barriers between people than large-scale efforts.

Now, before we go any further: Yes, within a worldwide population of more than 1 billion Muslims (which include a few million in the United States) there are those who, for a variety of reasons, hate the United States, would do it harm or support such action.

But when the subject comes up, the American Muslims I’ve met - whether they were born here, emigrated from traditionally Muslim nations or converted from other faiths - remark how America, even amid the tensions of recent years, affords them the freedom to live, work, study and raise their children, as their neighbors do, and, importantly, worship in the way they choose, as their neighbors do.

Young people tend to be less-jaded and, as such, more open to getting to know “the other.”

As an example, I’ll point to our daughter (we’ll call her “M”), who recently made a trip home from college and brought along a friend (we’ll call her “A”).

“M” is proud of her Jewish heritage. “A” is equally proud of being Muslim; so much so that she wears a hijab. They make quite a pair and not just because they have a similar sense of humor.

Their friendship started when “M” and “A” were paired up for a project in their mass communications class at a small state university in the South. On their way to the library, “A” asked if “M” would have a problem working with her because, well, she’s Muslim.

We, “M’s” parents, figured she laughed and said something like, “Let me tell you, . . .”

There was the trip to Spain and Morocco that M and her mother took as part of a delegation of Christians, Muslims and Jews, which included visits to mosques in both countries. There was the visit to the Seeds of Peace camp in Maine that her parents subjected her and her siblings to while on vacation. There are her mother’s myriad interfaith activities, ranging from her work at a 24-hour faith-based cable television channel to a Jewish-Muslim women’s baking group.

That initial conversation lasted some two hours.

The two young women must have made quite a sight when they attended the Jewish festival in the city where they go to school. “M” wore a t-shirt that read “Shabbat. Just Do It” with the swoosh logo. “A” wore, well, her hijab. There were stares, but these young women did not care.

The point is that, as friends, they talk about each other’s religion and respect the role it plays in each other’s life.

“M” once declared interfaith activity to be her mother’s domain. Now we, her parents, chuckle at that memory and take pride in having a daughter who looks past stereotypes. When you get to know the “other” it becomes harder to accept generalizations and easier to look at the individual.

I hesitate to conclude with a comment by the President of the United States, knowing how his own religious heritage has at times been a point of controversy, but in India recently President Obama made the following relevant comment in a speech to college students:

“Whatever may be your religion we can treat each other with respect as per some of the universal principles. Young people like you can make a huge impact in reaffirming that you can be a strong observer of your faith without putting somebody else down. How you respond to each other is probably as important as any speech a president makes. It's necessary in a world that's getting smaller, where more and more people of different backgrounds, race and ethnicities are interacting, innovating and working.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Interfaith issues • Islam • Journeys • Opinion

soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. ak2190

    Most people in my generation aren't afraid of someone who's different from them.

    November 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @ak2190

      Evangelicals aren't just different. They are militant. I see little difference between them and the Taliban. Both have a bible in one hand and a sword in the other.

      Cheers!

      November 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  2. David Johnson

    This is a lot like the worship service at my church:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2CezWts6oU&w=640&h=360]

    November 28, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Mike, not me

      Find a new theologically reformed church.

      November 29, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike, not me

      You said: "Find a new theologically reformed church."

      Dude! This is worship at its finest! Why, Sister Beth, broke 3 ribs when she tried to walk on the back of the pews! Oh what a time we had in Jesus!

      Next week a guest preacher is gonna bring snakes!

      Damn! I love me some the fundies!

      Love and Prayers!

      November 29, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • Jason

      I love when atheist trolls like you show up. The level of maturity and decency always evident is.... truly telling.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  3. David Johnson

    Here is why I fear Evangelicals:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXVpqP1Uts4&w=640&h=360]

    November 28, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • David Johnson

      This woman was the Sunday School director at our church.

      We let her go, when we decided we needed to take stronger measures to get the message to our kids!

      But I gotta say, Jesus just oozes from this woman! It was hard not to love her...

      Love and Prayers!

      November 29, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Thanks for posting this. I just watched it and it reinforced two things: 1) I am so glad I've actively kept our children away from religion, and 2) the $70 I spent at http://richarddawkins.net/ yesterday is a fantastic investment in "..the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, supersti-tion, intolerance and human suffering."

      December 1, 2010 at 10:07 am |
    • Jason

      Yikes, don't waste your money, HotAir. Anyone can throw some good-sounding labels on a cause for people to throw money at. Dawkins' crusade is a joke though. Go with a real charity.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    Is that in the same way that non-believers participate in discussions here, out of fear that their "house of cards" might fall? Then again if the non-believers "house of cards" falls ..... then we are talking a doomed that is a bit different and more everlasting.

    It does sound from so many post on this blog that the ones screaming the loudest have always been the ones with more to lose.

    November 28, 2010 at 9:59 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Not at all similar. I will not speak for others, but as I have said before, I read this blog to keep an eye on believer's crazy thinking (I am genuinely concerned that the US is heading towards becoming a theocracy) and to debunk religious beliefs/statements at every opportunity.

      November 28, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  5. HotAirAce

    Believers participate in these discussions because, despite the differences of each cult, they must "stand together or hang together." Religion is a shaky, more so every day I hope, "house of cards", and if one is deemed fraudulent, as they all are, then they are all doomed.

    November 28, 2010 at 4:02 am |
  6. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    Sounds like "A" is just getting close so she can plant a "B" in "M's" home.

    November 28, 2010 at 1:24 am |
    • LKJ

      Are you serious? Your comment doesn't really dignify a response, but I do hope you will work to let go of your prejudices.

      November 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  7. TheRationale

    Perhaps if people realized that religions were complete nonsense, they wouldn't feel compelled to need them in order to be nice.

    November 27, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Adrian GMV

      I mean seriously, if only everyone were as enlightened as yourself, right? I'm glad you have it figured out. I'll renounce my beliefs right away.

      November 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jason

      Completely irrelevant to this article topic. Pre-occupied with preaching against religion? You'll probably be in good company with the trolls over at 4chan. Ta ta.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  8. Enoch

    This so-called interfaith thing is like trying to connect North Pole with the South.

    November 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
    • Jason

      Hardly. You've obviously never been involved with such an effort.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  9. Peace2All

    In my opinion, I believe this was a very good and uplifting article. I truly believe for our country, and our planet to survive, one of the means that will help ensure this is through interfaith dialogue. And this article does show a path- a way that it can, and is being done.

    In the article, it says:-–"The point is that, as friends, they talk about each other’s religion and respect the role it plays in each other’s life.
    “M” once declared interfaith activity to be her mother’s domain. Now we, her parents, chuckle at that memory and take pride in having a daughter who looks past stereotypes. When you get to know the “other” it becomes harder to accept generalizations and easier to look at the individual."

    Whether you are a believer or non-believer, or somewhere in between, to truly see a changing and more peaceful world, we all need to have a better understanding of each other and our beliefs, or lack thereof.

    I truly believe that a lot of the pure 'hate-mongering' done across the globe, and even by some on this blog, is a very reflection of that last paragraph: of 'not' looking past 'stereotypes' nor really taking time to get to know others of varying and different beliefs and religious backgrounds. Especially on an individual basis.

    Because, in order to keep someone as the 'enemy' usually requires making sweeping generalizations about an entire race, religion, s-e-x-u-a-l orientation, etc... So, by getting to know the 'other' it truly becomes a way to recognize and realize respect and understanding on multi-levels for others of different religious beliefs.

    As an Agnostic, and speaking from experience, I can honestly say that at least in my life and the lives of my family, we have been enriched by our multi-cultural friends that are a part of our lives. Whether they be Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus,-White, Black, Hispanic, Asian- Male, Female-LGBT, etc...etc... Our lives are rich with wonderful people of different backgrounds, that truly help us to appreciate, understand, and respect others in being children of the universe.

    And... yes, by doing so, we then can truly get to know our fellow humans, that are, without question, our brothers and sisters on this beautiful planet Earth.

    Peace...

    November 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • honestanon

      @ Peace2All

      I agree with you in the entirety of your statement, which I find to be a truth in and of itself. (a pleasant way of saying that you have eloquently and sincerely stated the obvious.)

      There must be, however, one caveat. It is ... unpleasant.. to admit, but necessary, none the less.

      The dialogue must be based upon honest disclosure, and absent of alternative agendas.

      This is a sad but necessary observation which, on it's own merit, would tend to dampen the spirit of the day. But reality is full of such difficulties.

      But very nicely stated, Peace.
      Regards.

      November 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @honestanon

      Thank you for your kind words. And, I absolutely agree with your 'caveat,' whole-heartedly. As I am sure that even something like this and what I wrote, there 'are' others who would see the whole 'interfaith dialogue' thing as a complete waist of time, and want to cling to their closed-minded beliefs, stereotypes, and agendas, and actually don't even want to make things better...at all. I have certainly seen way too much on this blog and others.

      And certainly, as you stated, full and complete honest disclosure, while being absent of alternative agendas is a key pieces to helping to make all of this work.

      Anyways, I sincerely hope that you had a great Thanksgiving, with lots of family/friends that you care for, and who care for you.

      Regards back at ya' ...honestanon.

      Peace...

      November 28, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • Peace2All

      @honestanon

      My 'bad,' as after eating all that food, you can see where my unconscious was processing. It should have been (*waste) ... not waist. Obviously, my 'waist' got a bit bigger from 'Turkey Day.'

      Peace...

      November 28, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  10. Humble

    Does the term "interfaith" mean the non-believers should be excluded from these talks?

    November 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Iqbal khan

    A very informative book "What Jesus Really Say"
    check it out you can download....

    http://www.islamhouse.com/p/193556

    November 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  12. Iqbal khan

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bUkBuw-6ck&w=640&h=360]

    November 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  13. B(iraq) Hussein Osama

    Interafaith is absurd. its like a moslem trying to teach a christian/atheist how to build a bomb!

    November 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  14. Gary

    Interfaith is a oxymoron. religious folks hate and condemn to hell folks who do not believe in "their" God .....Just ask any fundamentalist

    November 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jason

      "religious folks hate and condemn to hell folks who do not believe in "their" God"

      Heh, I love all the arbitrary slander you guys make up about things. None of my religious friends hate any other religious people. Some may think their path is the "right" way. Fine. Totally different from "hate" though. Don't just throw random accusations around or you look silly.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • Beth

      Ummmm.....why one earth do you think most religious people of any type fall under the fundie category. And not even all the fundies hate others! I used to be in a community of those!

      February 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  15. Mark from Middle River

    "have extended my hand in friendship, to all the fundies. Often, they have bitten that very hand."

    Dave, that was a good laugh to start the weekend.

    November 27, 2010 at 10:22 am |
    • Gary

      Mark you are correct fundies dont bite. They just say you will burn in hell for eternity if you do not belief exactly what they belief

      November 27, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark from Middle River

      And it is true!

      You have a Happy Holiday Season, my friend!

      November 27, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Jason

      And the non-religious fundies will call you an idiot and make snide remarks about sky fairies. Kinda works both ways I guess.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  16. Kelly Garrett

    The author made a few jumps in logic that don't seem to fit. The Jews and Arabic muslims are culturally related and worship the same god. The Jews have no genocidal eschatology that threatens anyone, and are more along a henotheist line of thought. The muslim eschatology of genocide does not include the Jews, so there is no threat to each other in their beliefs...except some aspects of "heresy." There is the islamic concept of the Mahdi, along the lines of the christian christ, that causes some tension, but in the end the Jews are spared the genocide. Bridges can be built between Judaism and Arabic islam. Both faiths are culturally/ethnically embedded, and as living cultures have the capability to evolve.

    Islam, like christianity, has a serious problem with those not of their faith. Unlike henotheist Judaism, they both subscribe to an absolute, totalitarian universal god and faith system for all of mankind. They both have an eschatology that requires the genocide of all that do not believe in their god, AND their way. The Jews can say of others "their god(s) and way(s) for them", which is something christians and muslims can never say. With christians and muslims it is "our god, or else." The "or else" is the stick...and in todays' world that stick can kill a whole lot of people in a very short time. In the end, their eschatologies just may self-fulfill. There is nothing more peaceful than a dead, radioactive cinder hurtling through the vacuum of space...if one's idea of peace is the notion that humans will get along together. The dead get along just fine.

    The Jews and muslims may very well be able to build bridges, and that would be a good thing. It would be good for them, and the world in general if the tensions in the middle-east will subside because of it. In that case it would be good for the global community. That would also be good for the west, in general. However, with less than 5% of the population of America being Jewish and muslim that does not mean that internal tensions in America will subside.

    While they have recently shrunk to about 40% of the population, the christians still pose a considerable problem over here. They are not the majority they were, but are still a plurality. While christianity COULD be wrapped into "those of the book" from a muslim perspective, islam cannot be wrapped into those that have accepted their christ from the christian perspective. The best they can do is detente...smile to each others faces while cursing each other under their breaths. All non-christian Americans have a problem with christianity, whether they are Jewish, muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Traditional Native American, paleo-Gael, neo-pagan or secular. The "culture war" is a euphemism for "christian" versus the "godless." That will not change because the Jews and muslims build bridges, but I do applaud their efforts in the matter. There should be peace, somewhere, over here. Over here, it is hard to take anyone seriously that thinks your beliefs, and god(s)/goddess(es)/creation concept(s) are false, and their god will dump you in a burning trash heap for all of eternity because they do not believe as they do. They can never take a henotheist approach to dealing with others. That is why they have a fellowship that separates them from the rest of humanity...their faith has truly set them apart from the rest of us. It is that inherent, immutable “spiritual elitism” that prevents christians from any possibility of a “real,” transcendent understanding of anyone else.

    November 27, 2010 at 10:06 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Kelly Garrett

      Well Said...

      Peace...

      November 27, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
    • JesusisLord

      We're happy to pose a problem for the world around us. Our allegiance is to God's only Son, and no other. The real issue is what's going to happen to you when you die? How will you account for your sins? Me....I'm covered in the Blood.

      November 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      'Our allegiance is to God's only Son, and no other. The real issue is what's going to happen to you when you die? How will you account for your sins?'
      Well the Jews do not follow Christ and yet are supposed to be the chosen people. I'm guessing someone is wrong.

      November 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Reality

    The "curing solution" for all Christians in single step which also only takes two minutes to digest.

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology grad school notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    The single Step continued:

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    So where are the bones? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    November 27, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  18. Reality

    Because of the "randomness of birth", we all start life suffering from the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in somekind of belief. To cure this malady, one must review the history and theology of said beliefs and then come to a curing solution. There are aids to this review. One such aid for Islam is posted below:

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
    alone."
    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave attended to by his wives before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Three B Syndrome!!!!

    November 27, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • LKJ

      Why would someone use an article about interfaith to ridicule another religion?

      November 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • johnnyever

      Because ridicule it just what religion needs. Ridicule was a major part of the secularization of the West, from the Enlightenment on.

      November 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Reality Check

      @Reality -You have a naive blind faith in randomness, emptiness, and chance. If you were asked "Why is there something rather than nothing?" - your answer would be "evolution" and "The Big Bang", which of course doesn't even begin to answer the question. If we asked you how St. Paul's Cathedral came to be, you would likely reply– carpentry, masonry, and plumbing. But carpentry is a method / trade involved in the functional framing of a building's structure - "carpentry" doesn't explain the creative will and impulse BEHIND the initiation of the design and building of St. Paul's Cathedral anymore than "evolution" explains why there is something rather than nothing! I find it amazing that a rational person can experience life, contemplate the mystery of Being - and come away with a fixed notion that it's unreasonable / irrational to believe in a First Mover, an Infinite Source of Being & Intelligence. Your reductionist world view falls short of explaining anything meaningful at all about why the Universe exists vs. not existing. What of the purpose, will, and reason BEHIND the design and creation of the Cathedral? Let alone the Cosmos! No need (in your view) for the "Idea" of the Cathedral to precede the actual design and building of it. Heck no, nothingness and chaos (and a lot of time, eons upon eons of it) is all that is needed for you to rest assured that that the Cathedral and the Cosmos would manifest as we know of them today from the dark abyss of absolute nothingness. What I can’t help but admire is the audacity behind such an incredible leap of faith at the expense of reason. I wish my own faith was so reckless and abandoned!

      November 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  19. Gary

    This article kind of proves my point. The main reason I am agnostic besides all the scientific evidence of evolution old earth ect. The acceptance of interfaith is the start of accepting a universal God. A universal God creates a better culture for human independence. Religions which argue who is God and are separated by cultures and continents breed war. They also breed ignorance,close mindedness and non productive societies..

    November 27, 2010 at 9:29 am |
    • Kelly Garrett

      @Gary

      Well, that is what christianity is. A universal god and way of worship. That quest for the "universal, absolute truth" god has led to them slaughtering tens of millions of those that would not kneel to their god. Christianity did not rise to prominence in the west because the won hearts...they did it because they cut them out. What does one do with those that will not subscribe to the "universal" god? Humanity does not need a universal god, it needs a universal philosophy that allows all the have their gods. It is called henotheism...different paths to the same destination. Gods are always human constructs, and will be different between peoples with different cultures, histories, environments, etc. The ":unfathomable supreme being" cannot be described by pathetic little human minds...it does not have human attributes like pettiness, jealousy and vengeance. If that supreme being is the destination, then the "religion" each person takes to it is their path to it. Everyone is right, for themselves...and everyone is wrong, for others, to some degree. We are henotheist, and accept all paths to be right for those practicing it. However, someone's personal path should not affect anyone else.

      Human diversity will not allow one universal god. It will not even allow universal henotheism. There are some religions, like islam and chsitianity, which cannot accept henotheism because it is against their base tenets. How can a christian be henotheist and still have the one and only true god, and the one and only true way?

      November 27, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Neil

      Actually, Gary...relativism or pluralism, does not weed out ignorance, on the contrary it increases ignorance. If we hold to the believe that there is no truth, it results in utter stupidity. Relativism works in very few things. If I have an ink pen in hand and decide that I want to eat it because I believe it is a banana. Will I get potassium? No. I will get ink poisoning, though. So, also the idea that there is only one God, and not many is equally not absurd. If someone has polio, can they cure it with Nyquil? Probably not. If your car runs out of gasoline, can you put milk in it, and it still run properly? Probably not. Why is it that very few things in this world are truly relative, yet religion is?

      The answer...because we are all afraid of the possibility that either ourself or someone else may be wrong, and that we may have to lovingly in dialogue discuss it with them. Especially, if we know that there belief will be harmful to themselves and/or others. Just as you need to bring medicine to someone who is sick.

      Relativism will in the long term breed an extremely high level of ignorance. This idea of treating every religion as equal, simply for the sake of equality is stupid. We should indeed show respect and love for people of other faiths. However, it is possible to respect a person without accepting everything they say. As Aristotle said, "It is the mark of an educated mind, to entertain a thought without accepting it." (I was paraphrasing, apologize if the quote isn't exact.)

      December 1, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • N

      Could not agree more. Religion is so filled with hate and fear. Everyone is so worried about being right. Who wants a jealous, spiteful God? I sware the less religious the person is, the better person they are.

      December 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jason

      So, all sorts of non-religious issues breed war too. That's human nature for you. Stop blaming religion for everything. Also, Jewish-Muslim-Christian interfaith is far from acceptance of universal god(s). They all share the same origin and they essentially just worship slightly different ideas of the same God.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  20. David Johnson

    This is a great article! I have been doing this very thing, for some time now, on these blogs. I have extended my hand in friendship, to all the fundies. Often, they have bitten that very hand. *sigh*

    Well, it's another day. No sign of the baby Jesus, coming in the clouds. If Jesus is to come in the clouds, does that preclude His coming on a sunny day?

    Cheers!

    November 27, 2010 at 7:29 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      Try putting down the finger...

      November 27, 2010 at 7:54 am |
    • JesusisLord

      Jesus will come, my friend. The real issue is whether you're in His camp; are you? Where will you spend eternity?

      November 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Garthe Kindler

      The only thing this article conveys is the author's naivete. He may sincerely believe in interfaith dialogue and may even believe his sentiment is shared by muslims. However, should those muslims he's met ever become the political majority, he'll learn how quickly the dialogue will change and he will be consigned by them to the status of dhimmitude prescribed by the Quran. And his daughter's muslim friend, "A", this girl must be ignorant of her own religion. As a muslim, she must accept that the Quran is the inviolable, immutable word of God. The Quran commands in Sura 5.51: "Believers, do not take Jews or Christians as friends They are but one another's friends. If anyone of you takes them for his friends, then he is surely one of them. God will not guide evil-doers." By befriending a Jew, this muslim girl is disobeying God. And it is obligatory for all muslims, not just fundamentalists, to fight until islam is the dominant religion and the entire world submits to Allah. In other words, no muslim can sincerely or honestly believe in interfaith tolerance and dialogue. Such a sentiment is quite literally against his or her religion. Before any more people comment about how warm and fuzzy they feel reading this feel-good pap, they should take the time to investigate islamic ideology and discover that Jews, Christians, and muslims DO NOT worship the same God.

      November 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Matt

      David, you extend a hand in friendship to "fundies"? Your post doesn't really sound very friendly as you then proceed to make fun of a faith. I'm guessing your hand got bitten because you used it to poke and did not extend it in friendship.

      November 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Jeri

      Garthe Kindler.....way to twist the words of the Quran.

      Surah 5:51
      "You who believe, do not take the Jews or Christians as ALLIES: they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them–God does not guide such wrongdoers–yet you, Prophet, will see the perverse at heart rushing to them for protection, saying, "We are afraid fortune may turn against us." ...........

      And Surah 5 continues with verse 57:
      You who believe, do not take as allies those who ridicule your religion and make fun of it–whether people who were given the Scripture before you, or disbelievers–and be mindful of God if you are true believers.....

      So, Garthe Kindler, way to take things completely out of context and DELIBERATELY for the use of your selfish agenda.
      What is being discussed here is that Jews and Christians are considered "people of the Book" to Muslims and they are our friends and allies...what is being discussed before and after the small bits that you quoted, is to NOT befriend those people of the book who mock us or claim that we have different Gods (which violates any monotheistic belief in the first place and it shows your complete lack of faith when you yourself Garthe, say that we do not have the same God. Is there more than ONE GOD? That is not a Christian nor a Jewish belief). ANYWAY, back to the subject...God is warning against becoming an ally with a Jew or a Christian who shun the Muslim, who ridicules them, who denies the Scriptures before them and after them. THOSE are the only Jews and Christians God says not to be ALLIES with in the Holy Quran. The word FRIEND is not used, but again...nice try to push your own hateful, deliberate, shallow and deceitful agenda.

      When you look for hatred and prejudice and reasons to be different, you will find them. If you so choose to live more as God has told us, you will find more PROOF that shows how much we are alike. You have proven that your only intent is to be hateful, to spread lies and to deceive your fellow man. YOU, Garthe Kindler, are the person God warns of becoming an ally with.

      November 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Darlene

      I am a Christian David. Is your hand extneded to me? If so, I accept. If not, I offer you the hand of friendship, just the same.

      November 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Adrian GMV

      Seriously, man? You think evangelicals are like the taliban? I've heard this kind of BS statement before and it frustrates me but at the same time I have to laugh at such blatant generalizations as this. It shows a real lack of discernment. I'll admit, some of us "evangelicals" are over the top- a fact which is embarrassing to the rest of us- but so are many atheists, environmentalists and a whole host of others who preach their respective religion. It seems that for all of the talk about Christians being intolerant, we are often the prime victims of everyone else's intolerance.

      November 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • Garthe Kindler

      Jeri – So People of the Book are friends and allies of muslims? And I'm taking things out of context? Perhaps you'd like to put into context Sura (9:29): “Fight those who believe not the Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth even if they are the people of the book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” You're going to argue, I suppose, that the first clause pertains only to atheists and agnostics – those who do not believe in Allah. But the other clause says you as a muslim must fight against those who do not accept the "religion of truth" i.e. islam, even though they are "people of the book." And how arrogant, presumptuous, and insulting of you to assume I have no faith. Saying we do not believe in the same God is in no way saying I believe in nothing or in multiple Gods. It merely observes that the attributes and characteristics of Yahweh in Judaism or God or the Christ in Christianity are opposite those of Allah in islam. The Quran itself insists on this difference in Sura 5:73 "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them." And interestingly, this statement shows that Mohammad completely misunderstood and misrepresents the Christian doctrine of the Trinity by assuming that Christians worship three gods. In Sura 5:75, the Quran asserts that "Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!" No Christian would accept that description of the Christ or his spiritual role. I noted several other of your comments (assuming it is the same Jeri) which indicate your astonishing misunderstanding of the respective theologies involved. In one you say, "It's a good thing Muslims believe Jesus is the Messiah." Do you even know what the term Messiah means? Clearly not. Islam considers Jesus a prophet or messenger as the above quoted Sura says, but it would never call him the Messiah. Then there is your statement that "few things are as rewarding as making friends with Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas, etc when you are a Muslim." The Quran and the Sunnah make absolutely clear that Buddhists, Hindus, and all other such groups are pagans and are not accorded the same treatment as the people of the book, Jews and Christians. They are not offered the opportunity to continue practicing their religion under the protection of islam by paying the Jizya. The only alternatives open to these people are conversion to islam or death. Now I have no doubt you are sincere in your efforts to accept people of other religions and even to form friendships with them. But islam does not advocate or even allow this. For you to insist otherwise simply flies in the face of the evidence and the actual practices defined by your own clerics. If you persist in your efforts, I can only applaud your behavior as courageous because it is un-islamic.

      November 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Darlene

      Of course it does, Darlene! Freethinkers love all people!

      But, if your idea of friendship is to post a ton of bible verses, then maybe not.

      Fundies always want to start the conversation with two assumptions: 1) There is a god. and 2) The bible is this god's word.

      Let's start by establishing that there is indeed a god.

      Love and Prayers

      November 29, 2010 at 9:03 am |
    • Frogist

      @Garthe: Is that what you want muslims to be? You seem disappointed that "A" is being friendly and kind and tolerant of others. You want others to be realistic; these two women becoming friends is the reality. The here and now. It seems you want to fear some worst case scenario future by denying a best case scenario present. It's unfortunate that instead of taking the lesson of generous friendship from these two people you choose to be more intolerant and biased than both of them.

      November 30, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • CRAIG

      When he comes and he will, only God the father knows this, everyone will see and know who it is. I pray you are ready

      December 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • Beth

      @Garthe Kindler

      Your sensibilities for understanding the Muslim faithful are Protestant, and this works against you.

      Protestantism in general emphasizes literal interpretations of the Bible, and that it is appropriate that it be interpreted by every man for himself. Catholics on the other hand, have a rich tradition of professional/scholarly interpretations that are both literal and allegorical. There is an emphasis on the presence of allegory and symbolism in the Bible.

      The written and oral traditions of Judaism and Islam have an equal, if not more pronounced, emphasis for the allegorical in our religious texts. For example, Jews in general don't freak out over evolution because the time period of creation in the Bible has a long tradition of being understood allegorically.

      Similarly, just because in such and such a surah objectionable things are said does not mean that even the most devout of Muslims take them literally or without caveats. And just consider how many nuances the different sects of Christianity bring to the table. Rest assured, the same thing happens in Islam. If you are the violent type, you will find an Imam and a community that indulges you. If you are not, you will seek the opposite. Just the same way individual Christians and Jews search for the religious communities best suited toward their individual temperaments and theological nuances.

      February 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.