I was born in Old Delhi, which remains one of the most religiously pluralistic places in the world. As a child, I was exposed to the living traditions of many religions. In our family temple we had the picture of Prophets from all religions and a copy of holy Quran, since there is no picture of prophet Mohammed. My dad would read from various scriptures and say that God has incarnated as Krishna, Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, and so on. He would quote the Rig Veda (1.64.46): “Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti” (truth is one, but called differently by many). I was always convinced that there is only one God, and in adulthood the commonalities of religions were reinforced as I have looked more closely at the scriptures of all major religions.
If there was more than one God, we would expect to see more than one structure of life. But we have only one sun as the source of all energy. We all have the same anatomy, the same internal systems. The structure of our brains and nervous system is the same. We are born the same way and 99% of our genes are identical. We have the same emotions—joy, anger, sadness, curiosity, fear, etc.—and the same facial expressions for those emotions. Different gods would have made life differently.
But if there is only one God—a God that represents love and unity— and we are all his children, then why do people kill in the name of religion? In India, when leaders are addressing a crowd they address them as brothers and sisters. Then why do people kill in the name of religion? Why is there so much antagonism between followers of different faiths? Different languages do not pose the same problem. It is regrettable that the way people have been taught to think about God—their God—triggers irrational emotions, and that any other person’s version is deemed to be an assault. This remains one of the biggest challenges in the world today.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
—The Hebrew Bible, Jewish scripture
“[Believers], argue only in the best way with the People of the Book, except with those of them who act unjustly. Say, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God is one [and the same]; we are devoted to Him.’” (29:46)
—The Qur’an, Islamic scripture
“Objects are frequently known by different names according to different aspects that they present— the god Indra is sometimes known as Shakra, and sometimes as Purandara. These different names are sometimes used interchangeably and sometimes they are discriminated, but different objects are not to be imagined because of the different names, nor are they without individuation.”
—Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism
“[F]or us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
—The New Testament (1 Corinthians, 8:6), Christian text
“It is as if they have a Supreme Guidance, but there is no way of grasping such a One.
He can certainly act, of that there is no doubt,
but I cannot see his body[…]
There must be some Supreme Ruler who is over them all.”
— The Book of Chuang Tzu, Daoist text
“Neither gods nor sages know my origin, for I am the source from which the gods and sages come. Whoever knows me as the Lord of all creation, without birth or beginning, knows the truth and frees himself from all evil.” (10:2-3)
—The Bhagavad Gita, Hindu scripture
“There is one god, named truth, the creator, without fear, without hate, timeless in form, beyond birth, self-existent, (known by) the grace of the Guru.”
—Guru Nanak, founding prophet of Sikhism
“Inasmuch as our God is one God and the Creator of all mankind, He provides for and protects all. We acknowledge Him as a God of kindness, justice and mercy. Why then should we, His children and followers, war and fight, bringing sorrow and grief into the hearts of each other? God is loving and merciful. His intention in religion has ever been the bond of unity and affinity between humankind.”
—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i leader
Modern Psychology and Philosophy
“In all theistic religions, whether they are polytheistic or monotheistic, God stands for the highest value, the most desirable good. Hence, the specific meaning of God depends on what is the most desirable good for a person.”
—Erich Fromm, social psychologist and philosopher
“The essence of the notion of God is that all diversities and contradictions in the world achieve a unity in him.”
—Georg Simmel, sociologist and philosopher