After my sophomore year of college, I got to take a trip to the great country of India for a “missions trip.” There wasn’t a whole lot of missionary work involved (which is probably a good thing), but I did get a chance to see a country that is truly a melting pot of many different religions that live side by side. It was an experience I’ll never forget, to be certain, but it’s also the reason I like to read about and study other religions.
Now, if you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am a Christian. My major in college was theological studies on the philosophy and religion track, and I spent more time learning about my religion and my religion’s philosophy at my rather conservative Christian college than I did about any other religions. Going to India was supposed to be a time to tell people about Jesus. I don’t think I mentioned Jesus to really anyone, except maybe two girls when I was explaining Christianity to them with some friends. While I was there, though, I learned about Hinduism like it was nobody’s business, and I loved it. It amazed me how easily Hinduism thrived not by the sword, but by absorption. Come to India preaching about some God? Awesome! They’ve got room for ’em!
Reading about other religions can teach people a lot of good things. Here’s why I recommend you check it out:
1) Sift through the bullcrap. The media tells you LOTS of things about how some muslim threatened to blow up Times Square (which did happen, but follow me here…) or how some Christian nutbag in Norway turned a machine gun on 80-some people, leaving you with a negative view on that religion. While religions do com with fanatics, that doesn’t make the religion itself bad, or the majority of its adherents bad, so you’re better off doing the research yourself rather than the things you hear on the news.
2) Search for truth. I’m a firm believer that all truth is God’s truth, and God’s truth exists in other religions in one way or another. This leads me to number three…
3) Find common ground with people different from you. Christians and Muslims worship somewhat different gods, but both the Bible and the Quran emphasize caring for the poor (Ithe Quran lists it as one of the five pillars). Both Christians and Muslims seek to rectify the human condition, and while we disagree on the primary method, there’s still work to be done together if we’d just get together and do it.
4) Find something beautiful. Islam is known for its beautiful poetry. Judaism views the world as shattered pieces of a whole that we, as humanity, must put back together. Christians speak of a loving God who reaches out to His creation. The world religions each lend their own view to the world and how their deity interacts with it. It’s not always pretty, but sometimes the beauty of it is astounding.
Go. Read. Enjoy. :)