I just heard the first few minutes of a radio interview with Stephen Prothero, the author of the book God Is Not One. The thesis of the book is that the common claim that “all religions are the same, at their core” is actually patently false. From the bit I’ve heard, it actually sounds like an interesting book, and I’m hoping to read it over the summer. Since I haven’t read it, I’m not going to comment on the larger idea behind it, yet. But, one thing he said got my attention.
In the interview, he offered one insight as to why he thinks that it’s silly to claim that we’re all the same. He says that each religion is actually attempting to solve a different problem. And, since that’s true, the answers they give will be radically different.
I found that framing to be really interesting. Christianity, he claims, is trying to solve the problem of “what do we do about sin,” or, perhaps, “how do we gain salvation?” Buddhism is trying to answer, “why is there pain, and how can we stop it?” Those two religions are going to be totally dissimilar, because they have totally different goals. It would be crazy to expect them to wind up in the same place.
In the interview (at least, in the part which I heard), he didn’t offer what Judaism’s problem might be. I have a theory, but I thought it would make for an interesting discussion. What problem do you think Judaism is trying to solve?* If you’re part of a different religion, what problem is that religion trying to solve? And, if you’ve read the book, feel free to offer a quick book review!
* answer: does anything NOT taste better if it’s pickled or fried?