A nice Jehovah’s Witness came to my door wanting to tell me his religion’s “truth” about God. He came armed with a Bible, publications from his church, and arguments to every objection. No doubt he’d been through hours of preparation to cover every contingency. He had an answer for everything.
Well, not really everything, but everything that falls within his narrow scope of interest. Everything outside of those borders is “not God’s word” and “not truth.”
I respect people who back their beliefs with action. It’s why I humor the Jehovah’s Witness, Mormans and others who show up at my door. But there comes a point in our conversations when I tell them that I cannot live within their box. That their “truth” is only part of the story. That long ago the truth about God was divided into pieces and scattered to the four corners of the globe, same as in the story of the Tower of Babel when one language was divided into many and people stopped understanding anything but their own language.
In that story, a united people build a tower which they believe will extend to heaven and bring them close to God. A tower is a symbol of knowledge. A person’s knowledge is built piece by piece, brick by brick, stacking one on top of another. Those pieces are like bits of truth about God pieced together.
In the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s big error is they eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They too wanted to know the truth, and like the Tower of Babel they were struck down.
Apparently, knowing the truth is dangerous. If you know the truth, what good is organized religion? You don’t need it anymore.
“I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.”
I have found my truth by piecing together what resonates with me from the world’s religions, philosophies, spiritual practices, and belief systems, including science. My main religion is Christianity, and within Christianity I have been exposed to nearly every denomination, having attended services in Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Assemblies of God, Seventh Day Adventist, Unitarian, and Christian Science churches. I found something good in all of them, as well as in many other nondenominational churches I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
But in none of them did I find the complete truth. They all have a piece of the puzzle, a brick in the Tower. Some of them recognize that their picture is incomplete. To others that idea is heresy. Stack the wood, start the fire, and burn the witch!
The churches that insist only they have the truth remind me of salespeople who insist that only the product or service they sell will meet every need. Why buy a Ford when you can buy a Chevy, or a Samsung when you can go with Apple? A salesperson’s job is to convince you that what they’re selling is the best. When it comes to religion, that means they have to claim they have exclusive rights to the truth. The Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door truly believed his religion taught the truth, and that is what he had to sell. What the good man is really trying to sell is a brick.
My break with Christianity began when I went to representatives of three different Christian denominations and asked them the proper way to be baptized. This is a really important question because if you believe what the New Testament says, you have to be baptized to go the Heaven. You know what happens to everyone else, and I’m deathly allergic to fire and brimstone. So I asked my question and was given three different answers.
One group said I have to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
One group said I have to be baptized in the name of God.
One group said I have to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Each group pointed to scriptures to back their assertions. Each claimed to know the truth. Each dangled the keys to Heaven and said I can only buy them in one place—their place.
I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.
Since that time I have been on a journey of discovery. If I stayed in the box of one belief system or another I would still be struggling at the base of the tower of knowledge of God. I would have a foundation in my faith, and might have a few bricks stacked up based on what I could learn from one particular system, but wouldn’t be any closer to heaven. My tower would have stopped rising soon after it started being built.
Instead I sought out the Buddhists and learned about the truth of reincarnation and compassion for all. I sought out the Hindus and learned about the many faces of God. I sought out the Wiccans and learned that God can be found in nature. I sought out the physicists and learned that they have found God in the structures and natural laws of the universe. I sought out the philosophers and learned to think critically for myself. I learned something from all of them and the many, many others to which I have been exposed.
I am very happy to be able to speak the languages of multiple belief systems. It creates a common ground that is broad and deep. However, I still long for the day when we will all speak the same language again. Then we can build that tower.