Some people say that there would be peace if only everyone followed their religion. To those who say that there are many paths to God they say “if you believe that all religions can be a path to God, then why not be a Christian (or Muslim or whatever), because then there would be peace”. Of course believing that all religions can be paths to God is not the same as believing that all religions are equal. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami said:
I explain that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, some lead to the top and others half way up.
In my view Hinduism gives the best means, example and motivation for spiritual advancement, as I describe more fully in my blog entry “What Hinduism has to offer“. Even so, could it be true that if by some chance everyone converted to one of the exclusive religion there would be peace? At first glance it sounds like a strong argument, but look a little deeper and you will see that it is not so.
It is the nature of exclusive religions to become more exclusive, and to split into more and more sects. In the Iran Iraq war alone, in which Shia and Sunni Muslims fought had a death toll of a million. According to one site, 11,000,000 Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, or 0.3 percent, died during the sixty years of fighting Israel, or just 1 out of every 315 Muslim fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent of the 11 million who perished were killed by fellow Muslims.
Christians have also fought other Christian denominations, with the Albigensian Crusade killing 85,000 “heretics”. The Northern Ireland troubles had a religions element of Catholic against protestant,. Neither Christianity nor Islam are one happy family. This is an obvious contrast to Hinduism, where Shaivite, Vishnava and Shakti cherish each others differing beliefs. In fact, you could say to people of exclusive religions “if everyone became a Hindu there would be peace and you could still worship Jesus or Allah”.
In addition to these large scale conflicts between groups, exclusive religions have a track-record of persecuting individual heretics. The mystic Mansur Al-Hallaj was killed after torture for saying “Truth is me”, “I am God”, and “There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God”. Christians also persecuted Christian heretics, for example Jerome of Prague was killed for challenging the divine rights of the clergy. Whereas Hinduism cherishes seers, exclusive religions see them as a thereat do their divine right.
Why should so many seers and mystics come up with ideas that are common in Hinduism, that God is in everything, Reincarnation, that people are responsible for their own destiny? Surely it is because this is true spiritual knowledge, before stories have been changes and texts selected, altered and interpreted for political gains.
So, far from being peaceful, a world in which everyone followed an exclusive religion would end up with multiple sects fighting. Holy men who saw the real truth would be persecuted and silenced. The idea that all could be peaceful once everyone converted is the opposite of the truth. Peace can only come through understanding and acceptance of differences, and of cherishing spiritual insight.