The theme of “Can one be a Quaker/Universalist and a Christian/Buddhist?” and discussions on relations within the diverse range of Friends, are popular topics amongst Quaker Universalists. However what about relations within society as a whole? Is this where Universalist approach can make a valuable contribution?

I live in the UK which as a result of post-imperial immigration there is now a wide range of faiths, e.g. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc. and in my immediate neighbourhood there are probably all of these and many others.

Without a Universalist approach to religion, defined as many paths to one destination, it would seem difficult to co-exist in the same community (as has been observed in Northern Ireland where Protestants and Catholics live for the most parts in enclaves).

As most communities appear to be pacing greater emphasis on religion as part of their identity, a mixed society would appear to have little choice but to adopt Universalist principles in matters of religion.

In Friendship


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Your suggestion is that... the world would be peaceful if everyone had the same religious views, thus, everyone should adopt YOUR religion. Your recommendation is the definition of bigotry... if we want peace, people need to be peaceable.  Being a bigot to them will not help the situation at all.


I recommend a year in a place like China... where it is about religion, and not about political power.  You will learn that religious people, though NOT universalists, in any sense of the word,  live politely and peaceably with their neighbors.  They have a wide variety of friends, are recognize the humanity in one another.



Your Irish example is unrelated to the immigration issue.  One is bad behavior between two sets of Christians, fighting for political power.  The other includes immigration issues, which would still be there if they were all Christian (see the United States)


Seriously, you need to spend at least a year in a place like China -- where the issues of faith and politics are easier to separate.

Monkeys will throw stuff at each other over anything... If it isn't religion, it'll be how they dress.


India and much of the Middle East has yogis & Sufis with pretty much 'universalist' understandings... and plenty of religious strife fueled by secular motives.


MJ's example of China is interesting in another way. Although there used to be political strife over which sect would control the government (now superseded by the new political religion) the traditional norm was "Take one from column a, one from column b, and something from column c"-- Everyone using what he found most suitable from the available notions & practices, the very approach that most terrifies traditionalist critics of modern USian religious ways.


The Protestant/Catholic discord you mention in Northern Ireland... seems to be another one of those class/economic conflicts with religious frosting.


I think we'll get less of that if people simply start getting religious, for real. If you yourself believe "many paths to one destination"-- and that said destination is real-- It follows that people who've gotten closer to that destination will recognize this and fight less, as we do observe.

@Forrest -- I lived in an (interior/poor) area with a large population of minorities.  There were Christians (mostly Han), Muslims (mostly Hui), Jews (not a recognized minority... but claimed to be descendent of Jewish merchants)... and of course lots of Buddhists, and the traditional mix of local religions. (I of course... am not putting this in numerical order.  I really don't know who goes were.)  I do know what it was like to share a meal (in a Muslim restaurant, of course),  with my various friends.  I also listened to them talking with each other about their faiths.


I did not hear anyone suggest they were all the same... or they were a path to the same.  They were just friends, talking.  I appreciated the sign of respect, that the group chose a place where they all eat. 


Of course -- all of these people had a traditional common enemy... the government which is currently in power (but has really taken a pragmatic approach, and realized that they don't need to treat religion as an enemy, as long as religion accepts politics temporal authority.)

I haven't been there... but rely, for this purpose, on accounts by people who visited China in earlier times, to learn from religious 'scholars' etc.--  from people to whom spiritual matters were more than just handy markers of family and social affiliation. 


Your friends' involvement in religion was probably on a more conventional level, in what Stephen Gaskin called the "retail" level (in which differences between religions seem most important.) I'm talking about the people who see the similarities because "The wholesalers all get it from the same Distributer." 

You are judging people you never met, from a place you have never been as having an inferior connection with the divine, because they do not share your religious bias.... and you will not admit that you are an exclusivist?  You are exactly the same as a calvinist -- but a calvinist admits what he thinks.

You have NO right to judge all people who value their own religion as being having an inferior understanding of their own faith.  then again... maybe you are a bigot, like all the other universalist I have to endure in my daily life.  From open antisemitism, to mockage, to just being a general ass.  I am sick of it.


Imagine taking an Old Testament class, and hearing someone complain about reading a Jew every time we meet... because she only wants to read liberal feminists... I am starting to realize that she's a bigot, not because she's an anti-semite -- but because universalist culture is bigoted... and, they feel too superior to admit  that about themselves.

While I am being judged here, I was not "judging" anyone, but rather starting from the observed fact that most adherents to any religion tend to be loyal to its tenets rather than searching more deeply into the subject matter those tenets are about, in which people often do find common understandings.


While their understanding of their own faith, as a belief-system, may be as exemplary as thy own, this no more renders them closer to God (or whatever alternative designation one prefers) than it renders them good, or bad, as human beings, or (as you evidently assume I mean) approved or disapproved by God.


The subject I thought I was talking about was whether having a deep connection to God would make people less likely to war over religious affiliations, while we find shallow (though intense) understandings often leading people to link up along credal lines when hardships and political disputes get too intense. I don't think I said anything about people having the same religious affiliation as me, or about them agreeing with my particular ideas about God, only about them knowing God (to whatever extent) first-hand rather than second-hand.


Should I take your attack as confirmation?

Forrest, you did offer a judgement, or at least a speculation, about the religious involvement of his friends, and it seems that you were implying that they could not be deeply involved, because if they were, they would naturally tend to have a more universalist view.

The conversations, as described, did not suggest that his friends were sharing or gaining insights by them-- but rather that these people were friends in spite of religious beliefs. That's a good secular way of interacting, but can readily break down under the kind of social/economic stress that's led to the Nazi regime, Hindu/Moslem riots, tribal genocides etc. As far as my conjecture that these friends weren't particularly religious, I would consider that a question of fact-- or error-- and not an evaluation of anyone's personal worth or culpability.


I do, as it happens, believe that deeper involvement does eventually lead to seeing the Spirit at work in other traditions-- which is not at all the same thing as the notion that universalist views, in themselves, are more or less deep than any other.


If I said anything I didn't mean, or meant anything I shouldn't have said, then I should have thought this out better. ?

Yes -- you may take my attack as confirmation, if you like.   I rather like my friends -- and do not take insults lightly.


Yes, you are being judged. I think it is bigoted and inconsistent to say that 'any path' is right and good, and then say "they do not understand their own path -- because they are not on my path".  

I have heard this discussion at least 15 times in the past year.  I know it well, I do not know where it comes from... I have the theory --- people, in general have a tendency to be self righteous bigots.  Some, are told that their worldview is not bigoted, thus they feel no need to correct this tendency in themselves.  Likely, this is not the fault of the worldview itself -- but of the lack of correction of the human tendency.

By the way, about my friends -- how can friends talk about faith and life without gaining insights?  I gained a lot of insights about Christianity from a very-conservative Muslim friend.  It is hard to say how much I learned from Jews, and Chinese-traditionalists.  I gained a lot from listening and answering questions -- I have no reason to think it was different for others.


I have no wish to diss thy friends, and am sorry I left you with any impression that I thought anything bad about them.


I can certainly make a reasonable argument that God, "if He is God at all", must bend all paths towards unity (not necessarily uniformity) with 'His' Spirit, because that is the life, at work in all his living creations. This as a logical proposition does imply that someone who does not realize it has not yet followed his path far enough, whether that pleases or displeases you or me.


Now I am not "following" this as a path, to commend anyone for being on "the same path," or blame anyone for "not being on it" (which looks impossible, not because I'm trying to reduce all paths to inferior versions of mine-- but because it isn't the sort of thing one can be "on" or "not on." Each one is within the love of God, and that leads to a good place, whether one's path be smooth or otherwise.)

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