Around here we uphold the absolute freedom of individuals in matters of belief; it’s the Unity way. The Fillmores were very clear on this point; I love the way they were able to move beyond tolerance and into celebration of different paths and perspectives, while at the same time being definite about what Unity stood for. This balance can be seen all over the place in the foundation writings, and there’s a great quote from The Story of Unity that makes the point better than I can here. But here’s my version:
We believe that there is only One Presence, and so all roads lead there. We don’t have a copyright on Truth, but we do have a unique approach to It, and so there are things we do and things we do not do in Unity. We don’t curse or even judge alternative paths, but we have our own path. We’re grateful that other folks have something to say. We have something to say, too.
I’m sure you’ve heard something along those lines before. Based on that, here’s my answer to the common question “are all religions saying the same thing?”
It’s a lovely thought, in a way, but it’s a little like saying that all restaurants serve the same food. Yes, you digest it the same way (use your imagination), yes, ideally they’re making something that tastes good, and yes, hopefully it nourishes your body. But to say they’re all the same experience is a misleading oversimplification.
“do you want to go out to dinner with me on Friday?”
“no thanks, I’ve been to a restaurant before, and they’re all the same.”
How romantic. I may be exaggerating, but there’s a point in there, too. Of course religions aren’t all saying the same thing, and you know that because you’re aware that there are some religions that think others are headed for eternal damnation. Some religions have a concept of a material, personal deity who lives in the sky. Some believe that, rather than a being having qualities, God is those qualities themselves. Some have no concept of deity at all. All of those approaches are valid, and it’s important to uphold that validity, but doing so doesn’t mean I have to ignore the distinctions between them. In fact, there is great beauty in those differences. On the other hand, saying that another religion is really worshipping my idea of God, and that they just don’t know it yet, is a bit disrespectful. Let’s celebrate the differences, so that we can learn from them. Let’s not gloss over the differences by saying that they don’t matter — they matter a great deal to the folks who follow those paths. Let’s also learn to celebrate the different point of view that we bring to the table, so that others may learn from it, too.
Now I’m not interested in hate, fear, or separation, but I’m profoundly interested in standing up for what we believe in. Being able to say “here’s who and what I am, here’s what I stand for, here’s what makes my heart sing, here’s how I’m working to help people and make the world a better place” is a key to getting where you want to go in every sense of the word.
No, all religions aren’t saying the same thing, and all people aren’t saying the same thing. But we’re all working on the same thing, each in our own way. The trick is to have a way. Find a path that makes sense to you and walk it with all your heart and soul and mind and might. Be open to change and growth along the way. And the differences will resolve themselves.