"Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is 'truer' than other religions (it isn't), but because Islam provides me with the 'language' I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it. But I know, just as the Buddha did, that while my personal well may be different and unique, the water I draw from it is the same water drawn from everyone else's wells. Indeed, having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I consider it my mission in life to inform the world that, no matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet." - Reza Aslan
This reflection was read aloud at a meeting I attended this morning, and it really struck a cord with me. I was raised Roman Catholic, but have always had a fascination for world religions and love to learn about how other people see spirituality. I agree wholehartedly with Aslan's philosophy here. I think a lot of the hatred that exists in our world today is caused by this perceived religious superiority — that one group's ideals are "truer" than the rest. And while I do see the value in organized religion and communities of people coming together to worship, I agree with Aslan in that spirituality can (and perhaps should) be experienced as a personal journey.
Whatever tradition brings you peace of mind, whatever prayer fills your heart with love, whatever message prompts you to be kinder to yourself and those around you should be celebrated. All major world religions preach these same values, and, given the currently charged political climate, we should all take note that we're drinking from the same well.
In case you don't know him, Reza Aslan is an author and a religious studies scholar. I picked up his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth at the suggestion of a friend recently. It's a purely historical look at what scholars know about Jesus's life, and it's wonderfully written and very engaging. He also has a new show coming out on CNN called Believer, which premieres this Sunday, March 5, in which he'll examine religious practices and traditions around the world. Super excited for this one!