The "Right" Belief and Interfaith

by: Sara on 01/16/2012
Posted in: Guest Posts

The Interfaith Alternative is a paradigm-altering book that chronicles how and why our varying spiritual paths have divided humanity for thousands of years, and proposes a life-changing way to embrace the love our faiths have tried to teach us.

The author, Reverend Steven Greenebaum, was ordained as an Interfaith minister in 2007. In September of 2010 he opened the Living Interfaith Church of Snohomish County, Washington.  Believing that Interfaith is a way for humanity to heal, the author  is deeply committed to bringing people together to realize their own spiritual path, whatever that path may be, while at the same time respecting the spiritual paths of others.

Today Reverend Greenebaum shares a blog with us discussing the idea of “right” belief. His book, The Interfaith Alternative, Embracing Spiritual Diversity will be off press March 2, 2012 but is available for pre-order now,


So, you get up one morning and realize that you’re just a little groggy.  Probably you should have skipped that late-night comedy show – but then again, it was funny!  You stumble towards the shower, dreaming of that first, wonderful cup of coffee, and you run head-first into the bathroom door.  Bam!  It’s nothing serious.  No blood.  But there’s a lovely new red crease between your eyes – a reminder that sleep really is important.

You make it to work, and sure enough, someone you work with notices that crease on your forehead. 

“Aha!” this person says.  “I know what happened to you this morning.  A little sleep-deprived were we?”

You nod sheepishly. 

“I knew it,” your work associate says.  “Same thing happened to me two weeks ago.  Let me tell you what happened.  You felt tired.  Right?  Couldn’t really focus your eyes.  You reached up high for a book on the top shelf of your bookcase, but it slipped and slammed into your forehead.  Am I right, or am I right?”

“Well, no,” you say, with an embarrassed laugh.  “Actually, I ran into the bathroom door.”

“No you didn’t!” is the reply.  “I know what happened.  I had the same experience,  so I know what happened.  You dropped a book on your head!  Why deny it?”

“I really did run into the door.  I was there.  Trust me, I ran into the door.”

“NO!  You may think you ran into a door, you may believe that you ran into a door, but I know the truth, because it happened to me.  You dropped a book on your head!  And once you realize the truth, you’ll see that I’m right!”

Does this make any sense at all?

Before you answer, let’s take a moment, step back, and ponder the argument.  Your co-worker stands there passionately demanding that what you experienced, what you know happened, in fact DIDN’T happen.  If that sounds a little arrogant, consider that this is how we’ve been discussing religion for centuries.  A person has an experience of the sacred.  Because she or he experienced it, that person knows it’s true.  And since it’s true, anyone who doesn’t experience the sacred in the same way must be wrong.  It’s no laughing matter.  One of us encounters the sacred through Buddhism, another through Christianity, another through Islam, or Judaism, or a walk in the forest.  And then the question: who is “right?”

Our arguments over who is “right” have led to segregation, discrimination, hate, violence, even war.  And it’s still happening today.  It’s happening right now. 

But what can we do?  How can we change?  Is it right to change?

The Interfaith Alternative seeks to move us away from arguments over whose encounter of the sacred is “right,” and instead helps us to embrace the beauty and wonder of our spiritual diversity. 

Embracing our spiritual diversity helps us to realize that my experience of the sacred is no more right than yours, and yours no more right than mine, and ours no more right than that of the person sitting across the bus from us who seems to dress differently than we do.   

If we think about it, we already acknowledge that each of us encounters the sacred differently.  Catholics encounter the sacred differently from Protestants, Methodists differently from Lutherans, Baptists differently from the United Church of Christ.  There are similar divisions among Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, Baha’i, whomever.  Interfaith calls us to recognize and respect that we each encounter the sacred as we encounter it.  Some of us encounter it just a little differently.  Some of us encounter it very differently.   Interfaith is concerned not with how we encounter the sacred, but what we DO about that encounter afterwards.  Has our encounter made us a better, more complete human being?  That, for Interfaith, is the crucial question. 

The theme of The Interfaith Alternative is that not only can we come together in spiritual communion, but we will be enriched as well as enlightened by sharing our sacred journeys.  We come together, then, not to convert or convince, but to celebrate our common desire to change the world for the better, and then work together to accomplish that change.  In the bargain we can learn to understand and respect each other, and perhaps, just perhaps, help to build the peaceful, loving world that all of our spiritual traditions have been nagging us about for so very long.

(The Interfaith Alternative; Embracing Spiritual Diversity is published by New Society Publishers and will be available in March.)





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