The Supermarket Of The Gods

What we should and shouldn’t learn from the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

As this issue is being printed, an expected 5,000 persons of all faiths are converging on Chicago for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The event marks the centennial of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions—a landmark in interfaith dialogue and, in the view of many, the first-wave invasion of these shores by Eastern mystical religions.

The danger of such celebrations of spiritual diversity is that those who do not believe in something are likely to fall for anything. And the atmosphere of vague good will toward anyone “spiritual” may leave those who have clear beliefs and cogent reasons for their beliefs feeling leprously “intolerant.” We have found few evangelical Christians are inclined to attend this spiritual swap-meet (although CT has a reporter and friends observing).

Yet, keeping in mind the virtues of knowing what and why we believe, we want to point out the dangers of not interacting with other religions.

1. Without the careful study of other religions, we may fall for the simplistic notion that all religions reach for the same noble ideals. The traditional study of “comparative religion” tends to homogenize religion. But there are significant differences in belief systems that affect the way people relate to human need, to family structure, to human rights, to government, and to those who are outside their community.

We live in an era when non-Judeo-Christian religions are regaining political clout. The failure to comprehend how religions shape other cultures has resulted in foreign policy blunders and the inability to prevent human-rights abuses.

2. Without the study of other religions we shall not ...

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