Seeking the Spiritual: Dueling Monologues

Part of the interior of Hagia Sofia, a monolithic museum in Istanbul that has been both a church and a mosque in its past. The beautiful building has a stark and beautiful blend of Christian and Muslim art and symbolism. (Photo credit: Yours truly!)

I’d like to thank Musa Askari for helping me find inspiration for this post by sharing some of his father Hasan’s writings, and for broadening my perspectives on spirituality. I’d strongly recommend reading his blog to any of my readers out there. Thanks so much Musa!

Countless religions are represented in our modern world, spreading over the entire world, and affecting the lives of billions. Many consider religion and spirituality one of the most central parts of their life, and I would put myself in this camp.

But so often, this expression and belief leads to terrible conflict with those who may not hold the same views. Strong convictions born of powerful spiritual experiences or cultural forces lead many people, from all religions, to insist that only their religious beliefs are the best and only valid ones to have.

What this inevitably leads to is a dreadful and anger-ridden stalemate. When a person’s religious convictions become deeply rooted in the wrong way, they begin to lose the ability to listen to others, and only focus on how they can best spread their own beliefs.

And so the situation becomes one of dueling monologues, rather than a cooperative dialogue. For people of different religious backgrounds to truly get along and respect each others’ beliefs, those people need to abandon the notion that they are absolutely and fundamentally correct. A good image to help visualize this is that of two people shouting at one another in an argument. Both people are shouting their opinions very loudly, and being very vocal about what they think. But their voices are too loud for them to hear anything, let alone what the other person is shouting at them! The problem is, far too many religious people are so closed-minded and forthright about their beliefs that they can never manage to get along. Instead, people of different religions who fit this description waste their energy on trying to convince people of other faiths (people just as devout and rigid in their own, different beliefs), that they fail to accomplish anything.

There’s a great need to move away from this model of “monologue vs. monologue” and begin to engage in real dialogue with people of other faiths and beliefs, even if it’s a challenge to our own way of thinking. As long as people keep talking to each other as though only their own beliefs have any significance, and all other people need to believe the same, there will only be a greater distance between people of different faiths.

People of different faiths often have many goals in common, though of course they have different approaches. Religious faith can be an incredible way to satisfy our deepest needs, and often it can lead us to a greater understanding of spirituality and the world. If people of all different backgrounds and beliefs can realize that there is valid wisdom and strength to be found in other religions, then we can work together, rather than apart. This doesn’t even require total cooperation of beliefs! While different people may disagree on specific orthodoxy, or even how they think of God and spirituality, they can still set aside their differences and agree to try and learn from each other, working toward the same goals of unity, peace, and understanding. It’s time to give up our monologues, and finally learn the skill of dialogue.


Filed under Religion & Reason, Seeking the Spiritual

5 responses to “Seeking the Spiritual: Dueling Monologues

  1. Connor, thank you so much. I am glad that your prespective has been deepened. I love the tone of your piece here. Dialogue not monologue, so true. I am sure my late father would have been touched by your recognition of his work:
    Competing monologue are not only to be found with the diverse religious folds but also competing world view from sacred to secular. Above all on religious diversity I started my journey as my father did with a sense of wonderment and searching enquiry. Namely, why, why do we have more than one religion on our planet? Perhaps, as he said we need more than one for could we dare to equate the Supreme Almighty in totality with the form and practice of one faith only. All watered from the same water. We perhaps spiritually need more than one way of praising, adoring, asking for help & praying. So I wish you much happiness and growing sense of wonderment in your own life journey. I hope you Fare-Well on that journey. Much Thanks and gratitude, Musa Askari

    • Why do we have more than one religion? I’ve really begun to think about that question as well, ever since you posed it in one of your posts. At one point, I thought that the ultimate goal of religious understanding was that all religions would come together into one whole.

      But the more I look at things, the more it seems that different religions are like different colors, different music, or different trees. All seem to have the same basic patterns and purposes, but express these in beautifully different ways. I totally agree that it doesn’t seem just to say that the almighty God should only be viewed in one restricted way, and as I remember reading in a post on your blog, it makes the religion into a god, which is almost supreme idolatry.

      I hope I can continue to grow and keep finding truth on this journey as well, and thanks for your well-wishes Musa! I hope your journey goes well also, and as always, thank you so much for your thoughts!

  2. My pleasure. You are very kind. I think you have made an important shift in thinking in terms of understanding religious diversity. That shift will play out for years to come for I have found it a wealth of knowledge springs from that slight change of course. As changing one degree on the compass goes by without notice at the time almost, but after some distance we see how we have travelled. The beauty in what you say about is you seem to have sensed the change of direction at the time it happened and that will save you much time in the future in my small view. My thanks once more. Musa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s