Think about that and ask yourself if you believe it. In a world where thousands of religious beliefs define its people, have you ever wondered why these differences divide people who must coexist together?
Joshua Liebman said, “Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.”
That's not a bad start, is it? In his book “World Religions — From Ancient History to the Present,” Geoffrey Parrinder, a former professor of comparative religion at King’s College London, said, “To study different religions need not imply infidelity to one’s own faith, but rather it may be enlarged by seeing how other people have sought for reality and have been enriched by their search.”
Personally, I find it beneficial to know a little about a lot of different subjects, including people their language, culture and faith. At the very least I will be enlightened. It also makes everyone more interesting — including myself.
A similar attitude may have been adopted by the Apostle Paul who came in contact with people of different nationalities and faiths. How did he approach people with different beliefs?
At 1Corinthians 9:20-22 Paul said, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” — New King James Version.
Could increased knowledge of others lead to better understanding and such understanding lead to our being more than tolerant of people with different viewpoints?
In a world where most people follow the religious ideals of their parents and grandparents, many people’s faith has become a matter of tradition. Learning why people believe as they do, simply to be informed, can lead to more meaningful communication and conversation between people.
Of course, people may disagree about their beliefs. That’s OK. This is not about being converted, is it? It’s about trying to understand others. When you think about it, is that a basis for hating a person just because they hold a different viewpoint? What would that say about us?
Jonathan Swift said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” That need not be true if we approach our differences with a sincere desire to understand.
For example, Buddhist scholar Dr. Walpola Rahula said, “A being is nothing but a combination of physical and mental forces or energies. Do all these forces and energies stop altogether with the non-functioning of the body? Buddhism says ‘No.’
“This is the greatest force, the greatest energy in the world. According to Buddhism, this force does not stop with the non-functioning of the body, which is death; but it continues manifesting itself in another form, producing re-existence which is called rebirth.”
Maybe you agree. Maybe not. Perhaps you believe the dead are unconscious, resting in peace, until a day of resurrection? You might believe, based on their actions, people are instantly sent to a place of eternal torment or heavenly bliss upon death? Maybe you believe when a person dies that is the end of all life forever?
Whatever you personally believe is your right and it should be respected. But does that mean it cannot be discussed reasonably?
For example, at the moment of conception, we inherit 50 percent of our genes from each parent. So, there is no way we can be 100 percent like someone in a previous existence, can we? Is the process of reincarnation or rebirth supported by any known principle of science? Why not sincerely ask a Buddhist and listen carefully?
Perhaps someone will ask you how one man can die for all the billions of people who have ever lived? What would you say? If people asked questions about each other’s beliefs to learn, not be converted, wouldn’t that go a long ways in promoting tolerance and understanding? Even Paul quoted from Greek poets in Acts 17:28.
Does my learning a little about Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism or Islam mean my views will change? Not necessarily. But if something is reasonable and rooted in truth, it may be worth looking into. If it promotes understanding and help people get along, why not show a little interest? Why not go beyond tolerating to investigating?
Perhaps someone will return the favor. Then we can share our faith, explain our beliefs, show others the honor they deserve and bring a little more harmony and understanding into this divided world. But clearly when Jesus said to "love thy neighbor" he was promoting a love beyond toleration.