The first time I heard of the concept – vocalized, anyway – of “all paths to god” was in the kitchen of a friend. El Senor and I paid Chico a visit after we spent some time talking with Reverend Adam Zuniga. And it’s strange to think that two worldly different people – Adam and Chico – could hold similar religious ideals. Chico called it the pigeonholing of God; Adam stated that one must believe in their own way. When you’re an agnostic like me – which is often referred to as a temporal agnostic – you’re pretty much that lone traveler on the road searching for a way home. Or at least someone to talk to. Every mile you step, you hope you’re closer to some answer, some guidance or comfort. We might not be looking to prove that a higher power exists or doesn’t, we just want to know the answers.
I’m generalizing a bit here – let me be clear to state that not all temporal agnostics feel lost. But it’s the closest form of agnosticism that I fit into.
Chico explained the pigeon-holing of god to us – El Senor, being an Atheist and I being Agnostic, this conversation was riddled with joke and what not. I only wish I’d taken notes on what Chico said, but the gist is this – everyone, deep down, whether they know it or not, worships, praises, and prays to the same god. We’re all living on the side of the mountain, climbing up to the peak. We might have different ways of getting there, but essentially the outcome is the same. Be it peace, heaven, nirvana, etc.
Another way of putting it is the example I found on Yahoo! Answers:
All paths to God means that all religions worship various aspects of the SAME God. Even the Christians worship only part of the one God. Here’s another way to look at this. There is a story of 4 blind men trying to describe an Elephant. One grabs a hold of his leg and determines that the elephant must be like a large tree. Another grabs the trunk and determines the elephant is a type of snake. Another grabs and ear and says that the elephant is large and flat, like a pancake. The last is on the elephant’s back and declares that the elephant is like a small mountain. Which one of these blind men is right?
Another analogy is to think of a group of riders going up a mountain riding donkeys — each donkey has a different name, but all the people make it up the hill anyway. So is it important that the donkey’s names are different?
In Huston Smith‘s words, “To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next.” It’s an interesting thought, but is it true? Considering that Buddhists don’t believe in god, Christians believe in one and Hindus believing in several – thousands? – it seems like a man who’s decided to end the battle between religions. And as Christianity is on the decline and Islam is skyrocketing, it’s no wonder that this idea is still growing. No one wants to be left out in the dark with the “wrong” idea.
Mormons come into mind when it comes to the “wrong” idea, because Mormons think they’ve got it right, down to a science even. And I’m not saying that Mormon’s are wrong – though I disagree with them when it comes to several things – but they believe that they’re church is the church of God and of Jesus. “There’s no wrong way to pray,” one elder told me. “But let me teach you the right way.”
I’m reading God is Not One by Stephen Prothero, and while I tend to claim that religions – deep down inside – are essentially the same, the book has enlightened me that it is unfair of me or anyone else – doubter, believer or non-believer – to assume such things.
And this is where Chico and Adam differ. Where Chico claims that we’re all living on the same mountain (obviously, not his words), climbing to the same goal. His beliefs claimed that God has spread different beliefs to different people in order for them to understand. That meaning, each religious group was taught differently on purpose so they could grasp the concept based on past beliefs. Yeah, my words aren’t that great when it comes to describe other people’s thoughts.
Adam, however, states a more Buddhist approach to the notion: “We must make our own creation myth.” To practice a religion in a way that best suits us. Or to practice several religions at once – incorporating Christian belief in our Buddhist practices. There is no wrong way, in other words, as long as our beliefs and practices doesn’t inflict harm on anyone else – so no cults.
As for me, I’m still searching for some sort of comfort. Some sort of solace. The solace of knowing something that I’m not to know – technically, anyway – until my death.
Currently listening to “I am Terrified” by IAmX
- The Agnostic Who Believed in Charity (cityofchapin.wordpress.com)
- Ask Richard: Asian Agnostic Perplexed by Gay Catholic Friend (friendlyatheist.com)
- Is Buddhism a Religion or a Philosophy? (releasingreligion.blogspot.com)
- Faith & Ignorance (aphilosopher.wordpress.com)