I do think, however, that the basis for interfaith dialogue has to be mutual respect, with no hidden or overt agenda of proselytising or evangelising. In listening to the other points of view in the dialogue, I should be open to them to the point of willingness to change my own position, but they shouldn't be trying to convert me. It's rather a paradox, but it's the only way to make it work.
Sometimes interfaith dialogue can be slow, and one is sometimes rebuffed by people who don't consider Paganism a "proper religion" - but patience is a virtue. It's precisely the people who are hostile to the ideas of interfaith and religious pluralism that most need to engage in interfaith dialogue; there's no point in "preaching to the converted", otherwise it just becomes a cosy little club. The whole point is to try to build a world where religions can co-exist peacefully, and if a whole tranche of religions fail to engage in interfaith dialogue, then the goal won't be achieved.
My position is that I would always encourage people to follow the spiritual path that is right for them. For me, the goal of the spiritual path is to transform the world by raising the consciousness of everyone; and whatever symbolism best represents that process for you - whatever speaks to your soul - is good. Only connect, as E M Forster said.
But I don't think that all denominations or all practices of all religions are equally valid; there are some really unpleasant practices and beliefs with disastrous consequences in many religions; but there is also good in all religions. Our task is to discern what is good, and work towards it together - offering constructive criticism rather than blame, and accepting criticism from others.
We now live in a globalised world where every religion has to rub shoulders with the others; we have to get along and learn from each other. No single religion will ever appeal to everyone in the world; each has different strengths and weaknesses, focusses on different issues, works in a different philosophical paradigm, and has different blind-spots. That's not to say that their truth claims are entirely irreconcilable, because they're not; just that diversity is a good and natural way for the human race to be.
This post is part of the interfaith synchroblog on interfaith dialogue.
List of participants
- J. R. Miller (Christian) of More Than Cake on A Christian Approach to Interfaith Dialogue
- Liz Dyer (Christian) of Grace Rules on Interreligious Dialogue: Risky Business
- Matt Stone (Christian) of Glocal Christianity on Is Interfaith Interfaith enough?
- Steve Hayes (Christian Orthodox) of Notes from underground on Interreligious dialogue and of Khanya on Matters arising
- Phil Wyman (Christian) of Square No More on A Christian Presenter at Pagan Pride!?
- Beth Patterson (Liberal Christian with Celtic undertones) of Virtual Tea House on Same Stove, Different Teapots
- Yvonne Aburrow (Wiccan Unitarian) of the dance of the elements on Only connect
- Jarred (Pagan/Vanic Witch) of The Musings of a Confused Man on Interfaith relationships
- Andii Bowsher (Christian) of Nouslife on More tea Wicca?