As a committed Catholic Christian, I often get asked how the Church feels about other religions. From my personal experience, the people I get along with best at work are the Hindus. Firstly, they don't think I'm crazy for being religious. And the woman who sits next to me likes the chance to share her faith with an American who doesn't think she is crazy either. She invites me to the temple and tells me about how God is One, and the other demi-gods, and I love to talk about it. I did major in Religious Studies after all.
But the most profound thing she said to me is that her Hindu faith teaches that all those who study and follow their own
scriptures are equally following God. She emphasizes that you really have to follow it as it is written. She doesn't mean the pick-and-choose style of faith. Interesting.
That's how she feels about other religions: so how does the Catholic Church as a whole feel about other religions? Let me quote the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations). Though these are a tad out of order...
1. "This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."
2. "Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines."
3. "Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:2528), and since the Savior wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4)."
4. "[Of others]
Whatever good or truth is
found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for
the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may
at length have life."
5. "Throughout history even to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life....This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense."
6. "Thus in Hinduism men explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insights of philosophy. They seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love."
7. "Buddhism in its various forms testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing world. It proposes a way of life by which men can with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help."
9. "So. too, other religions which are found throughout the world attempt in their own ways to calm the hearts of men by outlining a program of life covering doctrine, moral precepts and sacred rites."
10. "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions
. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men."
11. "Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 1:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life."
12. "The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the bidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God's plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of
judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.
Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values."
13. "The Church therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.
What's the take away message? The Church respects the truth and good that comes from many religions, but affirms that the most correct way is through Christ.
Obviously, we wouldn't practice our religion if we didn't think it was best. So that aside, I think this is pretty fair-handed. There are lots of opportunities for engaging in substantive dialogue with those of other faiths.What do you think of Catholic Church's take on world religions? What is your take on other religions? Is anyone in your life willing to engage in real conversation about it?