I admit, this is a difficult question for me to answer. I strive every day to accept others’ beliefs while holding confidence in my own, and make it a personal goal to never confuse belief with truth. From my perspective, and through my belief, I do not think that anyone knows or can know the real truth of god. If a human could know such truth in its entirety, it seems to me that person must be beyond human, as god is beyond human comprehension. If it were possible for a human to know the entirety of god (its will, its wants, and its needs), I believe there would be evident proof upheld by god, directing us in a way that could not be misinterpreted. It would be truth available for all people, and god would not make it a point for us to pick and choose from multiple interpretations.
In this, I believe that god shows paths to its true nature in all things, in all lifestyles, and in all walks of life. Each person experiences some aspect of god in their lives, and each person reacts to those aspects of god differently. Some people call them gifts of god, god acting in their lives directly. Others call it enlightenment, of the Tao, or chi. Still others personify god into figures such as Jesus Christ or Muhammad. There are some who simply call it science, attributing the nature of god to nothing but the constant workings of nature and the universe. To me, all these are acceptable. They are all beliefs (ideas which require not only experience, evidence, and proof, but also faith, to follow), all which have a little bit of universal truth to them, and that truth is translated into a particular language, a style of teaching which each individual can understand on a mental and spiritual level.
Now there are come who consider the idea of other paths to god besides the one they follow to be impossible. They are so confident that their belief is truth, that to consider even the acceptance of others’ beliefs would go against their own beliefs. Additionally, many people who claim their belief as truth are taught through their belief, their religion, to convince all others that this belief is truth for them as well. This can sometimes lead to disrespect of others’ beliefs, which in turn leads to disrespect of people with different beliefs. When this view becomes apparent in a discussion on belief, how can a person like me respond?
On the one hand, I respect any individual’s right to believe as they will, I commend that person for upholding his or her belief, and I appreciate the fulfillment that particular belief brings to that person. On the other hand, I advocate acceptance of all belief, and find acceptance and tolerance as a path to peace. It is disheartening for me to see those who insist their belief is truth demand that all other beliefs are false, and those who follow other beliefs are going down the wrong path. Although I can accept another’s perspective on god as a possible option for the truth, I can and will still hold to the belief which brings me the strongest spiritual fulfillment and understanding. When I do not agree with another’s practice of their belief, their insistence that others’ beliefs are false simply because their own belief is truth to them, am I therefore not accepting their belief as a whole? Where do I draw the line between accepting others’ beliefs while following my own?
In practice, this is how I try to answer these questions for myself, and how I take the most accepting middle ground possible. First, I acknowledge my respect of all individual’s beliefs, in any form. I attempt as well as I can to understand that individual belief, in order to respect it fully. I then present my own belief; belief is not necessarily truth, and so I do not treat any belief (not even my own) as anything but belief. This view, in turn, established that my path of belief may differ from another’s belief, but that does not make either belief any better or worse than the other in my eyes. It also establishes that I will not agree with any person insisting his or her belief as truth upon another individual. Finally, despite my disagreement with such a view, and disagreement with a person acting on that view by insisting their belief as truth upon others, it is not my place to stop stop person from doing so, according to my own beliefs and values. It is not even my place to tell someone to stop telling me that my belief is false, and that theirs’ is the truth. It is only my place to share my view as a rebuttal against that belief, and if my view does not stop that other person from continuing their practice of their belief, I must shrug and move on.
So I will discuss with any and all who wish to discuss with me. I will respect their beliefs while upholding my own belief for myself. Even if those who discuss with me act as stones, rigid in their demand that their belief is truth, with no interest in considering or respecting others’ views, I will remain the flowing current, confident in the path I carve for myself. I will work my way over such stones, allow myself to be redirected by those stones, or wind my way around the stones, but I will not be commanded by them, nor dissuaded from my path by them.