To start off, let me be clear. When it comes to religion, I will often, jokingly refer to myself as a 'non practicing pagan'. Partly that's to indicate that I'm not a member of any particular religious order. It's also, I will admit, a bit of a slap to organized religion in general. This isn't to say I don't respect individual faith, whatever variation that faith follows. After all, nobody will know for sure what's what till we shuffle off this mortal coil. Having said all that, can someone please explain to me why there has been, and continues to be so much animosity between the various monotheistic sects?! Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, and the seemingly 150 flavors of Protestant.
Look, I'm coming at this from the outside. I have no Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or Baptist agenda. But I am amazed at the amount of distrust and friction between all the monotheistic faiths. And I don't get it! Really, I don't. Here's what I see. A whole slew of faiths that all believe in a single God. Correct? So they can all agree there's one God/Supreme Being/Universal Force, right? Sounds like on the most important point, there's full agreement! I mean, it doesn't matter what you call your God. Whether Yahweh or Allah or just God. Like Florence, Italy and Firenze, Italia. Different name, still the same city. So there's obviously no issue there!
The problems seems to start when you get to the Prophet v Son of God level. I'm not going to even pretend I am especially knowledgeable about the pantheons of the various faiths. But as I understand it, one of the big points that seems to set otherwise sane, people's brains on fire is the whole Jesus thing. Was he the Son of God, or simply a prophet? As a purely intellectual exercise in theology, I can see where you might want to debate it and quote this or that relevant passage. But come on, really? This is a huge deal in the grand scheme of faith? Every sect that believes he is the SoG can dig up things to support it and every one that doesn't can dig up just as many references that support the other side. So here's the question that would get me excommunicated, if I was Catholic anyway. Does it really matter, outside of an intellectual exercise? No matter which view you take, you'd have to agree that he's at least on God's board of directors! Does it matter if he's the CEO or only VP in Charge of Human Moral Enlightenment? Either way, isn't he's still your boss! And wouldn't you have to assume that any memos that come from him are at least approved by, if not actually copied & pasted directly from God's original email? Again, seems like it would only really matter to the bored theologian.
Then we get to the real minutia. All the rites, ceremonies and whatnot that are part and parcel with organized religion. We'll leave aside the fact that a lot of these were borrowed from historical pagan ceremonies in the interest of attracting more followers. I just find it hard to believe that God is going to give you the one way ticket to Hell, because you ate the wrong thing on the wrong day of the week. Or prayed in the direction of Melbourne instead of Mecca. Seems to me, the born again pagan, that if God loves His people, then I doubt he's going to strike them down for enjoying bacon on their cheeseburger or not wearing their church approved undergarments. I understand tradition, but when tradition becomes sacred it usually starts weaving wildly towards the edges of reason. Next thing you know we're burning people at the stake because they don't perform their sermons in Latin or don't trim their beards in the approved manner. To me, this seems like having capital punishment for parking in a loading zone.
I realize that there is more to some disputes and animosity than this. As the very accurate saying goes, 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. And is there any greater power than that over your follower's souls? There have certainly been, and continue to be individuals who use faith as a cloak for the most base of human motives. We've seen that lately in people like Osama Bin Laden, who wave a Muslim flag yet is more interested in anarchy and power than anything theological. And humanity's bloody history provides many excuses for people to shroud vengeance in the righteousness of faith. But there is still a lot of disdain and arrogance well outside these examples. Like those who talk of America as a Christian nation and can barely tolerate any other religion. America is not a Christian nation. It is a Secular nation. And that, in my opinion, is one of the reasons it is a great country and has remained stable for over 230 years. Faith in the personal sphere has much to offer. Faith in the political sphere is a recipe for disaster.
In my personal, and predominantly secular, opinion, I think it's best to follow the old saying about keeping it simple. And in Faith, the 'simple' part is a belief in one Supreme Being. Period. That is the point where all monotheistic faiths meet and agree. It's the point where every Jew can agree with every Muslim and every Mormon can agree with every Catholic. And isn't this single point, the most important one? Is it just human nature to ignore commonalities and focus on differences? Look at the Catholic v Protestant split, almost five centuries ago. Both Catholic and Protestant sprang from the same history, the same stories and the same basic faith. But somewhere along the way a few disagreements on ceremony and flair erupted and soon thousands were dying at the hands of people who they had more in common with than not. Maybe I just don't 'get it'. Maybe there is some plane of enlightenment that I have yet to attain. If so, please educate me. Because all I see are people bludgeoning each other to death over turns of phrase and interpretations of interpretations of secondhand translations.