Having worked as an intern at Project Interfaith for seven months now, having met people of diverse religious backgrounds, and having learned a bit more about their religious traditions, I admit that these days I am struggling to believe in individual religious exclusivism which states that one religion alone takes us to GOD and heaven while the others take us to eternal damnation. However that does not mean that I do not believe in my Hindu religion, beliefs, values and faith, or my Indian culture and traditions. Ultimately, practicing what I know and believe everyday is how I've found meaning and purpose in a once alien culture. I love my culture and traditions. I respect the wisdom, knowledge and the insights it has given to me. However if someone were to say to me that practicing Hinduism alone would take me to that one exclusive path of self enlightenment, I would immediately beg to differ. I personally fail to understand how my creator can express himself or herself through just one particular religious faith, belief or tradition; touting and encouraging one particular religion as the only way to seek and find him or her when all religions’ scriptures talk and preach of the existence of only one GOD.
In fact if I was to live this particular notion day in and day out, I would find it terribly difficult to live my daily life. I mean just imagine my monotonous, dull and extremely boring homogenous world. I could only associate myself with people practicing the Hindu faith, beliefs, culture, values and traditions. I could never have been friends or been supported and influenced by all the awesome people I have known throughout my life who belonged to different religions, faiths, beliefs and cultures. Most awful of all, I could never have expanded my awareness and knowledge. I could never have experienced the beauty and richness of other religions by attending Jain Satsangs , visiting the Islamic center, the Buddhist monastery, Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, the Sikh Golden temple, or attending Sufi dance programs. Without religious and cultural diversity I would have turned into an ethnocentric, fundamentalist individual. I can only think with dread how such a homogenous association would affect my world views on a number of topics. Further my infamous food experiments in the kitchen associated with different religious festivities would never have seen the light of the day.
Claims of being the one and only means of achieving GOD and the divine truth lose their veracity in our technology driven modern world that is both pluralistic and diverse. Despite attempts, the major religions of the world were not able to wipe out many of the lesser known religions maybe because GOD truly wanted them to survive and flourish. Perhaps we should give credence to the saying that variety is the spice of life or, rather in this case, variety is the spice of GOD’s magical creation called universe. Of late this conviction leaves me with absolutely little doubt that GOD speaks to all of us through all the popular and not so popular religious beliefs, values and traditions of the world.
Rema Nair is the Development and finance Intern at Project Interfaith. Rema holds a Bachelor's degree in General Studies from University of Nebraska at Omaha, and also a Bachelor's degree in Accounting from the University of Bombay - India. During her time with Project Interfaith, Rema hopes to gain more experience with and understanding of the non-profit world. Rema is married to Pradeep Nair and has two daughters Shruti and Gayatri. Rema enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her family. Rema is currently concentrating on getting her Masters Degree in Accounting from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.