By Rudy Barnes, Jr., December 4, 2021
Heterodox beliefs question orthodox beliefs that ignore reason and advances in knowledge and reason and that claim supremacy over other religions. Both orthodox Christianity and Islam assert that their religion is the only means of salvation and condemn all others. In a world of increasing religious diversity, such exclusivist orthodox beliefs prevent peaceful coexistence.
The greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves is a universal heterodox belief. It was taken from the Hebrew Bible, taught by Jesus and accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of Faith. It can reconcile exclusivist beliefs, but its universality makes it heterodox to Christianity.
Jesus was a maverick Jew who never asserted his divinity or promoted the supremacy of any religion, but he alienated his own religious leaders with his heterodox teachings summarized in the greatest commandment. If Jews, Christians and Muslims could give those universal teachings priority over exclusivist beliefs, then religious reconciliation is possible.
Tribalism has shaped America’s political and religious culture and reflects the moral conflict between exclusivist tribal values and universal values. A healthy democracy requires altruistic values that promote the common good. Religion is the primary source of moral values in America, but most churches promote exclusivist beliefs that conflict with the common good.
If we consider Judaism, Christianity and Islam as religious tribes, each tribe needs a universalist clan to promote their reconciliation. Exclusivist Christian doctrines on salvation were initiated by Paul, not Jesus, who never equated himself with God and taught that God’s will was to reconcile and redeem people of all religions, or of no religion, as children of God.
There are many differences in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and many variations within each religion. Religious conflict is not caused by religious differences per se but by exclusivist beliefs that God favors one religion over all others. For Jews, Christians and Muslims to be reconciled they must believe that God does not favor one religion over others.
There is every reason to promote religious reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, but also every reason to be skeptical of it succeeding. Religions are social institutions that promote exclusivist beliefs in mystical concepts of God that defy reason and science and promise eternal life; and religions measure their success by the number of believers.
Traditional Christianity and Islam have long promoted exclusivist salvation, so that religious leaders will likely oppose any efforts to promote universalist heterodox beliefs. Religious reconciliation will be a formidable challenge since it requires a transition from exclusivist to universalist beliefs; but it’s needed to promote peaceful coexistence in a world of increasing religious diversity.
The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Essence of Legitimacy is an interfaith study guide based on the moral teachings of Jesus selected by Thomas Jefferson. The Introduction relates the greatest commandment to religious reconciliation, human rights and justice. It’s posted at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/p/resources.html.
Additional commentary on Christian universalism and heterodox beliefs:
(12/8/14): Religion and Reason http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2014/12/religion-and-reason.html
(1/4/15): Religion and New Beginnings: Salvation and Reconciliation in the Family of God http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/01/religion-and-new-beginnings-salvation.html
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html
(1/2/16): God in Three Concepts
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(6/17/17): Religious Exclusivity: Does It Matter? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/06/religious-exclusivity-does-it-matter.html.
(7/22/17): Hell No!
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(4/20/19): Musings on the Resurrection of Altruistic Morality in Dying Democracies
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of the Church and Democracy in America
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority
(2/22/20): Musings on Why All Politics and Religion Are Local (and not Universal)
(4/4/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of America’s Values
(12/23/20): Musings on the coming of a light that can dispel the darkness of the world.
(1/2/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Making a Covenant with God for the New Year
(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities
(5/22/21): Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America
(6/5/21): Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics
(10/9/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Relevance of Jesus Today
(11/6/21): Musings on the Need for Political and Religious Reconciliation in America