My friend was a Catholic by upbringing, but couldn’t stomach returning to the church as an adult. (“I can’t buy it anymore,” he said, “knwoing what I know.”) Of course he’d be embarassed to become a Hindu or a Buddhist or something wacky like that. So what could he do? As he told me, “You don’t want to go cherry-picking a religion.” Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree.
I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It’s nothing to be embarrased about. It’s the hisotry of mankind’s search for holiness…
I have reservations about cherry-picking from many different religions. I agree wholeheartedly that we should not interfere with anyone else’s spiritual path. If someone wants to cherry-pick from various religions we should not even try to force them to do otherwise. That said, if anyone wants to take part of our faith I think we should advise them that it is better taken as a whole. Cherry picking is unlikely to give most people the best or quickest path.
I see cherry-picking religions like going to a cafeteria without any concept of what a meal is or any idea about nutrition. Just picking what you want might result in eating three portions of chocolate ice-cream and a doughnut, or even tasting the cafe’s cleaning supplies. People who have an exceptional awareness of their bodies might eventually find healthy balanced meals on their own. but most people would not.
To New Age groups visiting our ashram on this Garden Island in the mid-Pacific I give a simple analogy. I explain that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, some lead to the top and others half way up. But the New Age approach is to take none of these, but instead to go around and around the base of the mountain, sampling the most basic out-front teaching and disciplines each faith puts forward. This, I point out, is a nonproductive procedure.
It could be argued that there is plenty of time, everyone will find their way to God in the long run. This is absolutely true, everyone will eventually find God and attain moksha. This is not just a random wandering, like a drunkard’s walk, staggering in all directions eventually coming to a lamppost. It is an unfolding, a slow realisation. It may start out without deliberate direction, but eventually people will come to a path which they are meant to follow. If we give the impression that it does not matter, everything will lead to God, then some people will become confused, and maybe have many bad experiences or bad births.
I think we need to be clear, we have a path to God. It may be right for other people or it might not. You are not forced to follow it, but if you want to become more aware of yourself as a spiritual being, and of God then you will need to make an effort. For the vast majority that effort will be to follow some existing path.
Cherry picking could also lead to the attitude that I have seen within Unitarianism, where it is seen as too “politically incorrect” to express any firm belief for fear of offending those who believe differently. If everyone within a group is cherry-picking, any suggestions, criticisms or even enthusiasm for one path could be seen as unwanted.
People may seem to cherry-pick at the early stages of their spiritual path, but for most people a commitment to a particular path is needed to go beyond a certain stage. We should respect people’s freedom to follow whaterver belief they like, including cherry-picking, but offer them the wisdom of our faith if they want it. I have heard it said that religion should be offered like sweets on a plate. People should be free to take them or leave them. But if someone comes and licks the sugar off a sweet and drops it on the ground we should at least tell them that they have not tasted the full thing.