But there are other religions that do have clear rules laid down, and yes, some of the texts of such religions seems to suggest that other religions are false and rooted in evil. For followers of such faiths who believe in the teachings of their texts, how can they possibly participate in interfaith discussions, which must be based on the acceptance that there is no one “true” faith?
I think it is possible to follow the teachings of a religious text, even one that seems to suggest that other religions are false, and still accept that other people’s beliefs are just as valid, with a bit of open-mindedness and flexible interpretation of the text.
Firstly, I’d like to make clear that I do not really believe in the concepts of good and evil. This is because I hold that morality is relative; it is all to do with perspective. That’s one reason why different religions seem to have differing ideas as to what good and evil actually are.
But I do believe in love and hate. I believe that love and hate are demonstrably real phenomena that all human beings can experience and elicit. Love is when we care deeply about someone or something because it makes us feel good, and so and want to protect and enrich that person or thing’s existence. Hate is when we want to harm or destroy a person or thing because we want to be free of the negative emotions it generates in us.
This difference between love and hate is, to me, more important than good and evil, especially when it comes to defining what “false” religions and “false” gods are. I can easily see how true love is a positive force that brings out the best in people. But I cannot see what positive things hate can achieve. Due to its irrational nature, hate simply causes destruction and pain. Because of this, I see love and hate as far more clearly defined concepts than good and evil.
It is therefore my belief that every religion that has love at its core can be considered a “true” religion. For me, a “real” religion is one founded upon all the positivity that arises for love, whether that be love for God or gods, love of one’s fellow humans or love of nature. Even most Satanists seem to embrace love rather hate – in many forms of Satanism, the belief is based on love of the self, and the positive things that arise from self-love including confidence, self-respect, inner strength, freedom and empathy with others. I would also extend this to other non-religious ways of life that embrace love; all humanists, agnostics and atheists who act according to love rather than hate are following a “true” path.
But those who follow a path based on hate, whether that path can be considered religious or not, are in my opinion on a “false” path. This is because I do not believe there is any value that can lie in such a path. Religious terrorist groups such as Daesh/Isil are most definitely following this path of hate. So are those who live their lifestyle according to their hatred of a particular group of people, such as people of a different race, sexuality or gender.
When religious texts talk about false religions and false gods, I interpret them to mean the false religions of hate and the false “gods” of hate, rather than religions that are merely different to the one specific to the text. They are talking about paths that are not rooted in love, and warning us not to be tempted to live a life that is ruled by hate, because hate only leaves to pain and destruction for both the hater and the hated.
As long as religions and other ways of life are rooted in love, I believe their followers can be assured that yes, all those ways of life are valid and true.