Should we respect all religions?

Medieval Crusader sees it as a God-given right to kill unbelievers in the Holy Land

Medieval Crusader

This post looks at how we can reconcile extremist destructive religions with the instruction to respect all people who believe in God. Interestingly a fellow Saivite has just published a post looking at the issues at the other end of the spectrum, In “Devas on the head of a pin?” he asks how can we give enough credit to the beliefs of other religions where the teachings appear to be different but the truth behind must be the same.

I have been prompted to think about this by an interesting comment by Kodanda,  where he talks about sattvic and non-sattvic religions. He asserted that the Hindu proclamation “Ekam sat, viprah bahudhaa vadanti” or “There is one truth (God), but sages describe it differently” could only be applied to sattvic religions. Religions that promote violence, conversion by force, threats, bribes or deceit, that subjugate unbelievers should not be included in this. It is certainly possible that the sages who first wrote this had only come across Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism and not the exclusive religions who would like to see an end to all other beliefs.

At first I was worried that this would contradict the teachings of my sampradaya (Hindu schdenominationool) as Gurudeva says:

How Do Saivites Regard Other Faiths?

Religious beliefs are manifold and different. Saivites, understanding the strength of this diversity, wholeheartedly respect and encourage all who believe in God. They honor the fact that Truth is one, paths are many. Aum.

His Nandinatha Sutras also say:

Siva’s devotees properly respect and address virtuous persons of all religious traditions. They may support and participate in interfaith gatherings from time to time with leaders and members of all religions. Aum.

Siva’s devotees do not speak disrespectfully about other Hindu lineages, their beliefs, Gods, sacred sites, scriptures, or holy men and women. Nor do they disparage other religions. They refuse to listen to such talk. Aum.

These Muslims believe that they should dominate the world and subjugate those of other faiths

Islamist Protesters

How are we to understand this? Does this mean that we should respect faiths even if they clearly express a desire to eradicate Hinduism or convert through violent means? Sutra 231 above is easier than the others, because it says that we should respect “virtuous persons of all religious traditions”, which implies that we don’t have to respect those promoting or using deceit and violence. It is clear from the other passages that we should respect all those who believe in God. However I don’t think it means that we have to respect everything about their religions.

Westburo Baptists thank God for dead soldiers and proclaim "God Hates Fags"

Westburo Baptists

One way that some people try to justify respecting all religions is by saying that those who promote viloence, etc. are not “true followers” of the religion, or that they misunderstand their faith. There is some justification for that when it comes to small minorities like the Westburo Baptist Church, whose teachings are opposed by almost all other Christians. It is not as easy to say this when the accepted teaching of a faith promotes negative activity, and it is supported by the majority. This was the case with Christianity in the crusades and for a lot of the time that India was under British rule.

We hear this argument used inappropriately today, for example when people say that “not all Muslims believe that apostates from Islam (those leaving the religion) should be killed” it is true – but when people say “true Islam doesn’t believe that apostates should be killed” this is a bit far fetched when death for apostasy from Islam is widely supported, and It is the law in Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, the UAE, Somalia, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, (Northern) Sudan, Quatar, Yemen, Malaysia, Mauritia, Nigeria, and Syria.

So should we respect all faiths? My answer, which I believe is in line with the teachings of the Nandinatha Sampradaya is that we should look at it the same way that we look at respecting all people. As Hindus we believe that all people contain a divine spark, and should be respected for that. At the same time we are told to avoid bad company, and keep satsang (good company).

Similarly we should respect all religions for having some basis in truth, and potentially being right for people at some stage of their spiritual journey. At the same time we should avoid the non-sattvic religions and not encourage any of their negative beliefs and practices. After all we can say that the criminal is divine at heart and still encourage better behaviour.

In this way I think we can accept that “Ekam sat, viprah bahudhaa vadanti“does not apply fully to all religions, but that virtuous followers should be respected and all religions respected for what truth they contain.

Aum Shivaya

Picture of crusades out of copyright. Other pictures found in various places on the web and considered fair use.

29 responses to “Should we respect all religions?

  1. Namaste Tandava,
    I totally agree with your point. I think people tread a very dangerous path when they begin to lump all followers of a religion, both virtuous and non-virtuous, in the same category, and this drags their consciousness down into the lower chakras. I think all that we can do is be respectful of other faiths and the virtuous followers of such, and respond with love and compassion to the hatred and malice propagated by the extremists of both our own faith (because they are out there) and of other faiths.


  2. Nice article, my Saivite friend……:)…..thank you !! (& Hare Krishna !)……

  3. “Similarly we should respect all religions for having some basis in truth, and potentially being right for people at some stage of their spiritual journey. At the same time we should avoid the non-sattvic religions and not encourage any of their negative beliefs and practices. After all we can say that the criminal is divine at heart and still encourage better behaviour.”

    Amen to that! 🙂

    Excellently written post.

  4. Yes, and one should also always use one’s own discernment and penetrate to the meaning of sutras and scriptures, rather than merely following them word for word or in a literal-minded way without digesting them and relating to them from within our own divine center.
    We can also invoke Sri Durga and Maha Kali for the destruction of evil in people and in the world in general. It works. Namaste.

  5. I don’t understand why you would bring up an issue like this. I cannot think of a positive purpose it can serve.

    Swami Vivekananda, I feel, said all that needs saying about this:

    “Our watchword, then, will be acceptance, and not exclusion. Not only toleration, for so-called toleration is often blasphemy, and I do not believe in it. I believe in acceptance. Why should I tolerate? Toleration means that I think that you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not a blasphemy to think that you and I are allowing others to live? I accept all religions that were in the past, and worship with them all.”

    • Art,
      I think it serves a number of purposes. Firstly, blind acceptance is often used by by unscrupulous followers of other religions to try and gain converts.

      Secondly, it is all very well to say that sincere virtuous people following different faiths are seeing the one truth written in different ways. I cannot completely accept the faith of someone who says that people leaving their religion should be killed, or that “God hates fags”, or anything else that is totally opposed to my belief. Because I cannot do so means that I have to reconcile this with the teachings that we should “wholeheartedly respect and encourage all those who believe in God”. If I don’t pursue and understand it then I cannot completely accept the teaching. I assume that other people will feel the same way, and maybe my thoughts will be useful to them when they consider the issues.

      Thirdly, the understanding lets me respect what is true in these non-sattvik religions, and understand that like bad company we should be wary of their messages. Just as we can show love and compassion to a criminal for his divine atman, we can meet these religions with a loving and compassionate response.

      Finally, as shivayatra7 says it helps us to be wary of extremism and negative ways in our own faith, something that I had not thought about before. This response alone makes me feel that it was worth posting.

    • Art,
      I have been thinking about your post some more and trying to understand why you would think that accounting for non-sattvic religions should not be a concern. I think that you must be talking from a point of view of of spiritual progress.

      I can see that if you can either ignore all the non-sattvic religions or say or somehow believe that they are equivalent paths then it would be irrelevant to your spiritual path. This might be easy if you live a long way away from anyone claiming that people who don’t follow their religion should be treated as second class citizens in your city , or using various means of force to convert others.

      If you cannot ignore it then it becomes a block to intellectually understanding some of the statements of Hindu gurus. This in turn becomes a block on spiritual progress until you can reconcile and understand how the guru’s statements can fit with the situation, which is what I was attempting to write about in this post.

  6. This brings me to the topic of moron-swamis.

    A certain number of Hindu gurus are money seeking charlatans.
    In India, to have white followers is considered to be a mark of success.
    So what these gurus do is to make statements praising Jesus.
    Many westerners are disillusioned with the Christian church, but may have residual good feelings about Jesus. So these gurus start attracting some westerners and gives them leadership positions in his organisation.
    Thanks to the colonial experience, any Hindu having white followers is considered a success, and due to band-wagon effect, lots of Indian Hindus start following him.

    Next there is the cultural aspect of Hindus, in which leaders or gurus feel hard to say ‘I dont know’.
    These gurus when asked about abrahamic religions, start faking it and embrace, Jesus, Allah and Mohammed into their pantheon.
    One guru has Jesus bhajans and Allah bhajans.

    These gurus are often propped up by mullahs and missionaries as useful idiots. and often the church infiltrates the leadership of these gurus.

    Swami Dayanand Saraswati of the Arya Samaj, has an on-line book Satyarth Prakash, wherein he damns abrahamic religions.

    Always use your own brain and dont depend on these moron-swamis.

    Truth is one, and there are many paths to salvation – however, all paths dont lead to salvation. A person is not damned because he is a non-hindu
    Even atheism is OK, Jains and Buddhists are atheists.
    But we worry about what a person does , than what fairy tale he believes or disbelieves in.

    However, abrahamic religions must be clearly demarcated as poison, because they have declared war on us and want to see us killed or converted.

    I will go further and say, that any Hindu guru lineage, that does not warn against these abrahamic religions is a faker.

    Hinduism today actually has a good record in this.
    They frequently write against Christian missionaries and Islamic jihadi attacks on Hindus

  7. interestingly Zorastrianism has a bad history

    Pre Zoraster, It was Hindus all the way upto Turkey
    The Mittani was in Turkey-Syria border.

    The Sassanian Zorastrians did persecute the Buddhists in Iraq.

    Ahura – Asura was one of the vedic gods.

    Zoraster made Ahura the only god, and himself the prophet

    He deemed Indra as a demon and got brahmins persecuted and ethnic cleansed.

    As a result, most Hindu puranas start showing Asura as a demon.
    Most normal Hindus simply think Asura is a demon, and the real truth is that Asura referred to Iranian Zorastrians who were the religious enemy of 1100BC

    Zorastrianism influenced Judaism and later islam and xtianity.

    The irony of Karma is that Zorastrians were exterminated by their Abrahamist progeny and they had to take shelter with the followers of Indra

  8. only on hindu blogs i witness this ‘all faiths are good, all are equal, all are same’ and the like. Looks like there is some inferiority complex bothering a section of this faith. Instead it is a better option not to mention about other faiths at all, both good and bad i mean. This sad tendency is of recent origin. When Rigveda asserted, ‘truth is one and wise call it by many names’, the vedic scholars were not talking about nonexistent abrahamic faiths at that time. Proving the vedas wrong, they entered the religious landscape much later and started their crusade and jihad. Hindus cannot force feed these later faiths what they dont want to hear. Hence talks of equality by hindusmust cease pronto , let others say these things for next hundred years or so, then hindus can reconsider their position at that time.

  9. I feel this Us vs The Other must be predicated on the fact of Humanity & humaneness.There were/are instances of Inhumanity & dehumanising behaviour amongst the Hindus.Where ever this kind of debates was centered around a “Saint”{a devotee of God[whether Shiva,Vishnu or Devi etc.]- I am talking about the Hindu Context Only} It was shown that He was helped by the Divine, especially when he overcame barriers of Caste,[then,that was the only category] or creed[within Hindu fold, like Shaivites vs Vaishnavites],sometimes even morality.There are numerous instances of such happenings;Not many are retold nowadays,sadly. Off hand, I am reminded of Shri.Shridhara Ayyaval,[15 or 16 or 17. CE] of Thiruvisainallur,who was a brahmin devotee [a smartha]I am not sure of Whom.It seems at the time of the Shraardha Ceremony of his Father,he had fed a poor man,in the throes of hunger,not withstanding the fact that on that day, he was not supposed to look at or talk or feed any one else except his ancestors & the brahmins who come representing them.He fed him gladly ,too; & offered to do a cseparate meal etc for the guests.But they refused & insisted that unless he goes to the Ganga & comes back within the next thithi [28/29days] with the Ganga Jal,not only will they not help him with the ceremony but also excommunicate him.Hearing this impossible penalty,Sri.Ayyavaal,prayed to His Deity &.Immediately,The water in his house well started bubbling & Gushing forth.Not only that ,it also had the tell-tale marks of coming from the Ganga at Varanasi,the til seeds,the Darbha & other offerings usually made to the Ganga there,proving that it was really the Ganga.Hearing of & seeing this miracle,the brahmins who were abnoxiously snobbish,immediately fell to the ground before Sri.Ayyavaal,in remorse asking for forgiveness.To this day,they say that the water ,still has the indicatoions of being the Ganga.& Sri.Sridhara Ayyavaal’s memory is honoured with an Araadhana.BTW, Sri.Sridhara ayyavaal was one of the leading figures of the people who propagated Bhagavan Nama Sankeertana of his time,which helped sustain sanatana Dharma,till this day.I haven’t been there but heard from people including my mother who went there for the Aradhana. This is only one of the many. Others were Sant.Eknath of Maharashtra,Bhadrachalam Ramadasa. Even in the Bhagavatha Purana there is the instance of the Uddhava learning about this Humane-ness from Krishna.

  10. What I had meant to say was that in Hinduism the Devotee was helped especially when he showed respect or Consideration for the Humanity of the Other.not when he held on to dogma ignoring others humanity.This lesson is something we should carry with us every day.especially in our interactions with other people,whether Family,Friends or with people ‘Outside’ the circle.I don’t know about the presence or absence of such views in other religions.but as Hindus,we have the guidelines in place.& it is our individual guna/karma combine that make us react righteously or otherwise with “Others”.This does not mean being a doormat in face of abuse;nor being Dogmatic at times of confrontation,but about being Assertive with ourselves & with others.

  11. It is difficult to talk in innuendos.

    Putting different faiths under the dharmic and abrahamic belief systems is enough to make a point. Both of these are different from each other. One is open while the other is closed.

    I secretly ask myself if the people of this world will yield in front of brute force or “power”. Historic events are a good case study. I feel that there are people who submit to “power”. But these people are outnumbered by people who don’t. Do not forget the FACT that india was under islamic rule for more than 500 years which left millions dead in the attempted conquest. Look at india now; it is still pre-dominantly dharmic. While it is difficult to ignore persecution, know that it will not stand in the long run.

    I will present you one fact which is commonly known in the indian military circles but it is not talked about in the open. The region of “punjab” in northern india was historically ruled by kshatriya hindus for many centuries. The punjabi’s are a warrior race/caste. After the islamic conquest and after the britsh left india, punjab was divided into two(east punjab and west punjab). Do you know why? 70% of punjabi’s became muslims; they live in pakistan today. The other 30% are hindu/sikhs who live in india.

    The kshatriya’s are the first line of defence but they are also the first to fall and submit to “power”. It is in a kshatriya’s nature to be one among the “authority”. The second to fall is the brahmin. The last to fall are the vaishyas and the shudras but they have never fell because they had always been spectators to the whole show and knew what was right. India is STILL dharmic because of these last two groups. They are powerless yet they are the most difficult varna to break or concur.

  12. I was going to write a nice long explanation of my feelings on this matter from both a historical and personal interpretation. Then I remembered Sri Krishna already discusses this in the 17th chapter of the Gita. According to HIS definitions Abrahamic faiths would fall under Rajistic with Tamasic undertones. Never the less, they are not Sattvic and as they are not sattvic, they should be kept separate and should not touch or overlap. Yes, respect those of other faiths, it is their gunas and inherent natures and their path on in this life. This intermix of Spiritual Guna’s should not be done. Jesus next to Krishna on an alter should be avoided.

    • …Jesus next to Krishna on an altar should be avoided…

      I don’t agree with that. Why should we avoid haveing a picture of Jesus next to pictures of Krishna or any Hindu deity? In my years as a Hindu, I have been taught that Hinduism does not object to any of its followers keeping pictures of Jesus, Buddha, Guru Nanak etc on their altars alongside pictures and murtis of various Hindu deities.

      • First of all, it is historically certain that Jesus never existed.

        *Swami Vivekananda when on his trip to USA , when his ship was on the mediterranean, he had the vision of a white buddhist who told him that Jesus never existed, and that xtianity was a hijacked version of buddhism.

        *The xtians made the buddha into a xtian saint, saint Josaphat and mistakenly dated the buddha after jesus.

        *The bible says that the 3 wise men who saw the baby Jesus also saw King Herod. King Herod died in 4 BC
        *The bible says that Jesus was born during the roman census. The roman census occurred in 6 AD.
        *How does jesus be born both in 6AD and 4BC
        *Nazareth did not exist until 600 AD.
        *The Church in jerusalem where jesus is supposedly buried and the Church in Bethlehem where jesus was supposedly born are both built after tearing down a pre-existing pagan temple.
        *Christmas is the hijacked winter solstice celebration of the vedic god Mithra/

        *By adding abrahamic religions, what we hindus are doing is moron-swamism.
        You cannot mix in an intolerant, single-birth abrahamic religion, with a beef-eater Jesus with hindu religion which is multiple-birth, tolerant and bans beef-eating.

        Jesus is also based on the foundation of the old-testament, which has a cruel god, who urges holy war and genocide against all other religions.
        The old-testament is also the foundation of the intolerant and violent koran.

        For a Hindu view of abrahamic religions, read Swami Dayanand’s book
        ‘Satyarth Prakash’ available on the internet

        • @Shan Barani
          You are crazy

          Btw, most hindu’s do not consume beef because of the same reason why the west does not consume a dog. A dog is respected as it’s a man’s best friend. Similarly, a cow is respected because it is our second mother. It nurtures us just like our mother. We grow up drinking it’s milk. We don’t kill the mother. It’s a moral choice.

          All these religious overtones surrounding the abstinence of beef consumption is bullsh!t. The practice represents respect for this particular animal. Do not degrade this practice by calling it an obligation to meet certain religious requirements.

      • The main reason is that it will be exploited by unscrupulous Christians. First they will argue that you might as well have Jesus on your alter. Next, maybe to the following generation they will say that you should only have Jesus, why not if the Devas are all the same? To the following generation they will say – look your parents worship Jesus. Listen to what the church says, that God hates non Christians and will see them burn in hell.

        It is the first step to your children abandoning Hinduism and the tolerance it shows. Sometimes you have to be intolerant of intolerance.

        • Actually, I, like many here, am a white person who had converted from an Abrahamic religion, namely Christianity, to Hinduism.

          Also, I am extremely intolerant of intolerance. I too have heard many fundamrntalist Christians say that non Christians will “burn in Hell”. But I know that those people are just shooting their mouths off and are intolerant and afraid of things they do not understand.

          If some Hindus prefer to keep only pictures and murtis of Hindu deities on their altars, then that is alright. But, we should never go to the extent of telling other Hindus not to keep pictures of non Hindu deities or religious figures in their altars. In the temple, it is a bit different.

          Also, Jesus never said that non Christians will burn in Hell. This was added by fundamentalist Christians after the time of Jesus to scare people into following Christianity.

  13. We must discourage fundamentalism in any relgion .Respect all religions minus fundamentalism .Humanity or human Religion is the best to follow and practice .

  14. Pingback: Virtuous followers of all religions should be respected | Western Hindu

  15. nice article..:)

  16. Tandava I fully with you… Actually all Religion teachings is NOt same..If .Islam says kill or murder those who are Kafirs../Idolaters etc..Non -Muslim will go to Hell Irrespective to any faith ….Taliban are supposed to be true believers of Islam..Rest Non Violent may be Ignorent..Yes Our scriptures talks about “Ekam sat, viprah bahudhaa vadanti” or “There is one truth (God), but sages describe it differently” . but this for only Satvik Religion or Paths …Swami Dayanad actually condemned the abrahmic faiths in his book Satyarth Prakash…Whole world is worst affected by the blind believers of Abrahmic faith..we should talk openly to condemn them..

  17. correcting my sentence above ..Non -Muslim will go to Hell Irrespective of his deeds..

  18. Pingback: The Goal of Muslim Immigration According to Muhammad’s Teachings | The Counter Jihad Report

  19. The poor Jesus has nothing to do with the current Christianity. Remember, Christianity started as a full religion only after he was crucified or his body died. He was a simple man in vedic terms, a sage or yogi who realized the Atman. The problem was that he was talking to people who have almost zero spiritual experience. Jesus’s plane is very high but the plane of the people who were listening to him were extremely low. For example, When he was talking about love, he must have actually meant the absolute love(Atman, bhraman or being in supreme consciousness) but the people understood his love as the emotion(opposite emotion to hate). Absolue love has no emotions, no emotions that we call love or hate. When he said, his paradise is full of love and has no time, he actally meant the absolue which is not bound to the materialistic things like matter, space or time, ie., Bhraman. But now hell and heaven are materialistic places bound in time and space, understood by the Christians. Almost all his teachings were misinterpreted in materialistic terms. I think Jesus is the most misunderstood person in the west.

  20. Other Abrahamic religions: Judaism, I don’t know anything about Judaism so I cannot comment on that. Islam: Sorry, Islam is not a spiritual religion but a political ideology.

  21. Pingback: The Goal of Muslim Immigration According to Muhammad’s Teachings | BLOGGING BAD: Gunny G

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