Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Only connect

I engage in interfaith dialogue for a variety of reasons: partly because I want to help others to realise that Wicca and other Pagan traditions are valid spiritual paths and inform them about what we do, so that they realise we're not scary; partly because I want to learn about other faiths and respect their insights into the spiritual journey; and partly because I think interfaith dialogue promotes tolerance, understanding and harmony, and is the only way to resolve conflicts between different religions.

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

4 comments:

gracerules said...

"Our task is to discern what is good, and work towards it together - offering constructive criticism rather than blame, and accepting criticism from others."

Yvonne - That is the path I want to walk - I look forward to getting to know you and more about your ideas and beliefs.

By the way - I made a mistake when I submitted the link to my post. Could you make a correction? The correct link is:

http://gracerules.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/interreligious-dialogue-risky-business/

thanks - Liz of Grace Rules

Yvonne said...

thanks Liz - yes I corrected it when the link didn't work.

Beth P. said...

Dear Yvonne--
Loved finding your blog through this synchroblog! Great stuff here!

We share much--would love to have an email dialogue with you. You now have my email--if you choose to connect, I'd be delighted!

Thank you for this post. Know that the understated pain coming from repression and suppression of many of your ideas and the millions who have suffered because of them, is acknowledged and honored.

Beth

Makarios said...

Yvonne, thank you for your very insightful post.

We are living in a time in which fundamentalists of all varieties are using religion as a wedge to drive people apart. This tactic of fomenting dualism—of dividing the world into “us” and “them”—is being exploited, as it has been for centuries, in various contexts, by people who are hungry for power and who will do whatever it takes to get it. If the rest of us do not take the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue—if we content ourselves with self-segregation and mutual disregard—then, by default, the forces of division, discord, and destruction, will have the final word. And that would be a pity.