DARE TO ASK: Hey kids, ours isn't the only religion
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Do most Christians encourage their children to explore other religions?
Lauren, 18, atheist, San Antonio
From my experience as an ex-Catholic, no. It seems most religions . . . think
they're right, and everyone else is wrong, and if you believe even parts of
another religion, you're going to hell. A religion like that would not promote
an open-minded approach to worldly religions.
Derrick, 19, Maple Grove, Minn.
It's important to have a basic understanding of other religions, but . . . we
only are told to "explore" when our current religion does not seem right after
much deep thinking about it.
George, Catholic, Jacksonville
True Christians know there is only one way to eternal life: belief in Jesus
Christ as Lord and Savior. Because no other religion adheres to this teaching,
true Christians not only do not encourage their children to "explore" other
religions, we actively discourage it!
Melody, 43, Missouri
Since Christians believe that not believing in Jesus will lead you to hell,
most Christian families would be horrified at the idea of their children looking
at "those other" religions.
Dina M., Chicago
Studies do suggest that members of more strict denominations would be less
likely to encourage their kids to go on a binge of religious exploration,
according to Stephen Merino, research associate at the Association of Religion
Data Archives at Pennsylvania State University.
As one might guess, people of more liberal faiths, for example Unitarian
Universalists, would likely be more open to their kids learning about other
religions because they value free expression, he said.
However, nothing in life is simple, now, is it?
Al Winseman, specialist in religion with The Gallup Organization, says what's
most important to look at is how deeply committed one is to one's faith,
regardless of denomination.
Surveys by Gallup have found that, generally, the more "engaged" people are
in their faith, the less threatened they are by other religions, the more open
they are to actively seeking to know about others' religious traditions, and
more likely they are to feel respected by and respect those of other faiths.
For example, Gallup found in 2004 that among members who felt a strong sense
of belonging in their congregations, 61 percent were "integrated" - wanting to
know more about others' faiths. But among "actively disengaged" members, only 27
percent had an integrated view.
What's more, Gallup found that nearly 90 percent of Americans have a
"live-and-let-live" stance toward those of other religions.
Misconceptions about who's tolerant and who's not often can be traced "to a
difference between leaders' viewpoints and the person in the pew," Winseman
said. "There's a gap there. Tolerance doesn't make the news. Intolerance does."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.