Religion is an essential part of the framework of our modern lives - whether we are believers of any faith or none. Many people would claim that religions poison groups and individuals against one another as if it were a Them and Us situation.

The history of religions is also the history of humanity, and their various roots identify different experiences of geography, politics, and tradition. We should also be clear that it is the successful religions - i.e., the ones that managed to gain and maintain a critical mass of adherents – that have lasted for such a long time. How many peoples and religions are only known in history books, if at all? That may seem to point to the necessity of the uniformity of religion, but it actually speaks to the need for religious diversity.

Is there even homogeneity within the same religion? Different sects and traditions have variant customs, sometimes even at odds with each other. Should we think that if everyone is the same, prays in the same way and believes in exactly the same things that there will be harmony? We know that is not true, that diversity adds texture to life. That’s why religious diversity is so important. It’s also important because in the 21st century there are global problems and issues which seemingly have religious origins and which will take a concerted effort of people of different faiths to help resolve. Diversity in religion is one of the world’s strengths, not one of its weaknesses.

If, as religious people, humans of faith, we understand that every person in the world is made in the image of God and there is a reason for their existence, how can we believe that it’s important if their religion is different from our own? As the title of a book on religious tolerance by Lord Jonathan Sacks suggests, there is dignity in our difference. Religious diversity helps us to accept others - if we are really aware of what our particular religion’s teachings are telling us. To acknowledge and understand that a person’s value is not diminished by what deity they believe in it can help enhance the appreciation of our own faith.

Perhaps we can even look at this in a slightly different way: has humanity as a whole and individual societies benefited so greatly from a shift away from religion? What are our new religions in today’s western world? In the 17th century people began to put their faith in structures and institutions; in the 18th century we witnessed the secularization of power - such as the American Revolution. The 19th century brought the secularization of culture and the 20th - the bloodiest and most gruesome century in all of human history - the secularization of morality.

Despite all that modernity and modern life has given to humans - technology, the market economy, science and the liberal democratic state -- there are still three essential questions that they do not answer: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? Religions have grappled with these questions and attempted to provide at least possible answers to them for millennia - and though they do not agree, we can and should appreciate the importance of different, rather than discordant voices.

Another facet of religious diversity and why it is important is in the realm of architecture. The different edifices constructed either to worship God or facilitate His worship are worthy of comment and appreciation. Without religious diversity we would not be able to look in awe at buildings such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, St. Peter’s in Vatican City, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or the Dohany Street Great Synagogue in Budapest. Religions, even in architecture, borrow from each other. A good idea need not be contained or restricted to one religion because its origin is specific. Sharing and diversity are ways to acknowledge the greatness and goodness of God.

Author's Bio: 

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to promote understanding between Christians and Jews, and build support for Israel. Learn more about the IFCJ here: https://www.facebook.com/FellowshipFan/
The IFCJ was founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leading advocate of religious freedom who has dedicated his work to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews. Learn more about Rabbi Eckstein here: http://www.ifcj.org/who-we-are/leadership/rabbi-yechiel-eckstein.html