“Introduction” to God Is Not One

This week you read the “Introduction” to God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero (the book that I used to use as a textbook for this course!) as well as “Unity of Religions” by Swami Sivananda, a Hindu yogi.

In these readings they make very different claims concerning the relationship between the religions of the world. Prothero emphasizes that the major religions of the world are very different from each other, and that those differences matter. According to Prothero, therefore, we should learn about the specifics of each religious tradition so that we can be respectful of those differences.

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Swami Sivananda, however, believes that when we do study the world religions in-depth, we will see that they are simply different paths to the same destination. Sivananda claims that while there are differences in the details and names they give to the ultimate reality – God, Jesus, Allah, Nirvana, etc. – they are the same in their essentials.

What underlies both of these arguments are two different beliefs as to how we should create religious tolerance in the world. Both Prothero and Sivananda want to see people of different (or no) religions respect each other and live peacefully together – they just have very different ideas about how that is possible!

For this discussion, I would like you to tell me:

1. Which argument do you agree with more? I know that we haven’t studied the religions in-depth yet, so you may change your mind by the end of the course! But do you think that you will find the religions of the world to be very different from each other, or do you think that they will be very similar?

2. If we also want people of different religions to respect each other and live peacefully together (I’m assuming we all want that in this world!) which do you think is more powerful to emphasize? The similarities between religions or the differences?

Your initial response must be at least 250 words and include two direct quotations from the readings (along with the page number)

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