Thursday, June 28, 2007
Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity, a New Thought church located in Oakland, CA, first met at the Masonic Temple and subsequently built their own facility. The church is currently independent but follows the Unity and Religious Science philosophy. On their website the Q&A webpage answers the following question:
I am a member of another church, temple, ashram...Can I retain my membership there if I join here?
Of course. Our only requirement of members is that you apply what you are learning here in your daily living. We believe every major religion sprang from the impulse to attune ourselves with the Divine; therefore, we feel Truth lies within each.
In a similar vein the organization Religious Science International, which teaches Holmes Science of Mind offers:
We believe in every church and in all forms of worship. Above all, we certainly believe in God! Because Truth is Infinite, It must be continuously unfolding in our consciousness and no one will ever have a complete understanding of Truth. A complete understanding of Truth would be a complete understanding of God, and a complete comprehension of God would be to become God. We know that more light will be given as we use that which we have. We repudiate any belief which says that all of Truth has been given.
The Lodge subscribes to a similar philosophy.
On the website of the Grand Lodge of Alaska you can read the following:
Basic Principles. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings....
The Supreme Being. Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek, and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, "Grand Architect of the Universe," and other non-sectarian titles, to address the Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private, and sacred....
Freemasonry Supports Religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.
Like the Lakeside Temple, the Lodge welcomes members of any faith, and believes that all faiths are valid expressions of truth. There is room within the philosophy of Freemasonry to accommodate a large variety of beliefs. Freemasonry is a supplement to religion, as is Lakeside Temple. Both address morality and prayer.
I would submit that within Roman Catholicism there is a place set aside to do the same thing...an area of belief set apart that will accommodate a variety of religions on an equal basis. I believe that is the area of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, something new which derives from Vatican II, and which was not a part of the Roman Catholic faith prior to Vatican II.
Interreligious dialogue is practiced all over the Catholic landscape. It's philosophy is spelled out in Cardinal Ratzinger's book TRUTH AND TOLERANCE:
...the belief that there is indeed truth, valid and binding truth, within history itself, in the figure of Jesus Christ and in the faith of the Church, is referred to as fundamentalism, which appears as the real assault upon the spirit of the modern age and, manifested in many forms, as the fundamental threat to the highest good of that age, freedom and tolerance. Thus to a great extent the concept of dialogue, which certainly held an important place in the Platonic and in the Christian tradition, has acquired a different meaning. It has become the very epitome of the relativist credo, the concept opposed to that of "conversion" and mission: dialogue in the relativist sense means setting one's own position or belief on the same level with what the other person believes, ascribing to it, on principle, no more of the truth than to the position of the other person. Only if my fundamental presupposition is that the other person may be just as much in the right as I am, or even more so, can any dialogue take place at all. Dialogue, it is said, has to be an exchange between positions that are fundamentally of equal status and thus mutually relative, with the aim of achieving a maximum of cooperation and integration between various religious bodies and entities.(Page 120, bolding mine)
While Cardinal Ratzinger does not agree with this philosophy, his actions at the mosque where he prayed are in agreement with it. In other pockets of ecumenical activity and interreligious activity within our Church there are similar relativistic actions. While the words of relativism are not spoken, the actions of joint prayer services or mutual exchange of prayer services, or Hindu services on a Catholic altar all speak of this belief that all religions are equal.
Just as the Lodge and the New Thought churches can be used as supplements to religion, ecumenical/interreligious dialogue is also a supplement to the Roman Catholic faith. We are not required to participate in these services in order to be saved. We can practice our religion quite validly without attending them. But they are there, they are advertised. They are religious. And we are encouraged to participate. And as Cardinal Ratzinger has stated, they are relativistic--just as relativistic as the Lodge and the New Thought church. They share a focus on peace as the New Thought churches and the Lodge do. They all diminish the saving power of Jesus Christ by placing Him on an equal playing field with other gods. Do they all derive from the same source?