We at Unity get pushback every once in awhile from people who don’t agree that there are many paths to God.
“One God, many paths,” we say in Unity. Our movement, which is positive, practical, progressive Christianity, considers Jesus Christ the great example – but it also honors each individual’s right to choose a spiritual path, and remains respectful, interested in and appreciative of other spiritual masters. Unity does not adhere to the belief that there is only one right way to worship God, nor that there is one “right” religion or one path to enlightenment.
This incenses our fundamentalist critics. Don’t we know, they ask, that there is Only One Way to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and that everyone else is going to hell?
Such assertions, in my mind, are not only disrespectful and ignorant of other religions – they are unfathomable. I am reminded of Oprah Winfrey’s response when a fundamentalist Christian challenged her on this issue. Oprah’s answer was that of course she believed there were many paths to God: “How could there possibly be only one?”
How could there, indeed? When millions of people across the globe call God by different names, read different religious texts, attend different places of worship, but still feel a sacred connection, aspire to enlightenment/awakening/mystical oneness, and hold a fervent hope for peace and unity among all people?
And what kind of loving God would send millions of people to hell, anyway?
It is “my-religion-is-right-and-yours-is-wrong” fanaticism that has fueled religious wars throughout history. Killing in the name of God; hating in the name of love. Is that any way to “do unto others”? Can’t we all move past this by now?
Let me offer a different perspective.
One Monday night each month I have the honor and pleasure of attending the meeting of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. Some 25 or so people with diverse names, diverse clothing, diverse skin color, and diverse religious backgrounds sit around a rectangle of tables, joining efforts to make Kansas City “the most welcoming community for all people.”
The religions represented include Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Paganism, Baha’i, Christian Science, Unitarian Universalist, Christian-Orthodox, Roman Catholic, American Indian Spirituality, Sufism, Jainism, Vedanta, and more. The first time I witnessed them all standing together at the end of the meeting to recite in unison a statement to bless and honor one another, I could scarcely hold back the tears. “Why can’t the whole world be like this?” I thought.
For years, I have been fascinated with spiritual teachings both Eastern and Western. I have been delighted to find that there are more similarities than differences – more that unites us than divides us, if we let it. Each religion or spiritual path is like a variation on the same theme: God is beyond our comprehension, the great mystery which we are all called to know better.
At this fragile time on planet Earth, I’d suggest we drop the need to be “right” and instead join together in espousing the sentiment in this Buddhist “Discourse on Good Will”:
May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The mean and the powerful,
The short and the long,
The subtle and the gross:
May all beings everywhere,
Seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.
Let no one deceive another,
Let no one anywhere despise another,
Let no one out of anger or resentment
Wish suffering on anyone at all.
Just as a mother with her own life
Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
So within yourself let grow
A boundless love for all creatures.
Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.
Then, as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.
Paula Coppel has been involved in Unity since 1980. She is the former vice president of Communications and Publishing at Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village, and currently attending Unity Institute as a full-time ministerial student. Paula is the editor of Sacred Secrets: Finding Your Way to Joy, Peace and Prosperity, and also represents Unity on the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. For more information about Unity, please visit www.unity.org