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Interfaith Dialogue, Conversation and Action
A Matter of Survival

In the opening years of the millennium it has become even more obvious that inter-religious dialogue is not a leisure time activity: it is a matter of survival. There are at least nine reasons why Christians, particularly, should study, rather than either ignore or dismiss other world religions:

1) In an increasingly pluralistic society people of all faiths are neighbors. (You know what Jesus says about our responsibility toward the neighbor.)

2) As a purely practical matter, since we're all going to work, study, and play together with people of different faith traditions, we'd better understand who it is we're relating to and what they believe.

3) Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, among others, are, like Christianity itself, an important part of the culture and history of the world. Learning about these and other world religions is simply a part of being a well informed citizen of the world.

4) Religions are often involved in situations of dire conflict that could affect your life in important ways, as became abundantly clear when the US invaded Iraq. It's impossible to understand events happening on a global scale without taking into account the role of various world religions.

5) Your personal faith may actually grow wider and deeper as a result of encountering the religious other.

6) World religions are fascinating and fun to study. Learning about them is part of the joy of discovering what it means to be human.

7) If you are convinced that it is your calling to convert people of different faith traditions to Christianity, understanding where the "other" is coming from is the best starting point for communicating what you believe.

8) If you are convinced that the Bible contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then you ought to be confident that in the free marketplace of ideas, those truths will stand the test of comparative shopping. Comparing the Biblical text side-by-side with texts from other traditions allows people to see for themselves which teachings ring true.

9) People of faith are in a far stronger position in a largely secular society if they stand side-by-side with an attitude of mutual respect. Denigrating those of other religions only serves as evidence of what our critics often charge: that religion by its very nature leads to conflict and even warfare in the human family.

The religions of the world: who are they; what are they; where are they located. Here is a helpful table and map ranking them by membership statistics, showing their relative size, their locations, and more.
The Top Dozen Religions of the World

More about Christianity
More about Islam
More about Hinduism
More about Buddhism
More about Judaism
More about Zoroastrianism
More about Jainism
More about Sikhism
More about Scientology

CrossCurrents magazine has assembled a list of the most informative Internet resources concerning world religions, including Christianity. All of the sites under each heading are among the very best on the Net.


Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.