I used to view people who had different spiritual beliefs with skepticism and fear.
I kept to my own kind—because I thought everyone else was going to hell. Then a realization occurred to me: I recognized my behavior as bigotry. And, it startled me.
That was in 1989 while I was on a safari in Kenya. I met the quietest couple in our noisy, excited group: the Selos. I physically recoiled from them and kept my distance. As I became aware of and repulsed by my behavior, I set out to better understand the Selos.
Wael Selo, a Muslim, and I became pen pals, writing each other long letters explaining our religions. His missives enlightened me: he respected Jesus as a great prophet, even though he didn’t see him as the son of God, and the Koran taught him to love and respect his Christian brothers and sisters.
Frankly, the strength of Wael’s convictions surprised me. How could he be just as convicted about his faith as I am of mine?
Wael never tried to convert me. He never belittled my beliefs. Through our correspondence and subsequent encounters with friends of other religions I learned three important lessons:
- I am confident enough in my Christianity that I’m not threatened by someone who believes differently.
- It’s monumentally more difficult to hate a group once we’ve connected with one of its members.
- I have more in common with people of other faiths, than differences. While their religions’ messengers are different, they all reach the importance of love, respect and kindness.
As the manager of the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series, I’ve found myself in the company of people from diverse belief systems, including two I’d always found particularly worrisome: Wiccans and Spiritualists. Instead of distancing myself, though, I engaged them and learned about their religions. Once again, I found the reasoning behind our guiding principles wasn’t so different. Wiccans, like Native Americans, find nature holy and celebrate their own connection to creation—similar to the sacredness I feel outdoors. And, Spiritualists view God as the ultimate loving energy, one wanting us to commune with the divine for guidance.
By seeking others’ views, I developed a stronger understanding of my own. Hearing their different approaches to concepts similar to Christianity gave me another way to look at my own beliefs.
The support I’ve received across the religious spectrum has been heartwarming. Regardless of what we believe about the afterlife or who the greatest spiritual teacher is, we hold a commonality in seeking answers about our roles on earth and how to live a meaningful life.
Nothing pushes out the darkness of ignorance like open discourse and honest curiosity. May we all choose to live in the light.