Why are there so many religions? Are they all the same?
These questions were asked by an 'ex-biologist' after a discussion at Canterbury Cathedral on 16th September when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met comedian, writer and broadcaster Frank Skinner for an "in-depth exchange of views on the state of Christianity today". Not being the greatest fan of Frank Skinner with his football fanaticism and laddish humour, when I was sent the broadcast link I was inclined to ignore it but fortunately I had much more respect for my correspondent and listened - in stages. I was in for a surprise. I found that I had far more in common with Mr Skinner than I ever could have imagined. He, a lapsed Catholic who had 'returned from the wilderness', reminded me of forgotten days in my youth when, as an Anglican, I lapsed and experienced the same sensation of returning from the wilderness. Some of our views were also remarkably similar although I winced at some of his 'Catholic' comments about Anglicans and Anglicanism. But that is not what inspired this blog entry, it was the answers given to the questions above, particularly the supplementary question, Are they [religions] all the same?
I wanted to hear an unequivocal 'No' but I was to be disappointed. Readers may have observed that I am a great admirer of Archbishop Rowan. He cares deeply, even for those with whom he disagrees as witnessed by his efforts to keep the Anglican Communion together against impossible odds but struggling to cause offence to no-one, there was no clear message that there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ. Yes we can respect the beliefs of others but not in a way that could be taken by the listener to mean that it doesn't really matter what you believe. There are inherent dangers in blanket approval as evidenced by the respect demanded by Islam which will be seen by many as adding credence to their beliefs which, in Christian terms, have to be regarded as mistaken. In the widest sense provided we 'love our neighbour as ourselves' is fine but there are many who do not and failure adequately to proclaim the Gospel message of the Way the Truth and the Life perhaps as well as anything, may explain the state of Christianity today.