I want to share with you this wonderful blog post by the Rev. James Ford, Soto Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister, titled "All Religions Are False, or Confessing My Faith."
Please read do read it all. I'm just going to discuss the title, "All Religions Are False." The Reverend Ford said,
I believe all religions are false. And I believe some are a little bit less false than others. That is in varying degree each also contains pointers to our liberation, which is our direct, visceral insight into this now separate, now one, and how our choices count.
Sometimes people complain that Buddhism is too dogmatic, by which (I think) they mean there's all those pesky doctrines in LIST AFTER LIST, and why do we have to bother about that? Isn't it all just about chanting or meditating so we can be happier and more compassionate?
The difference between Buddhism and most other religions is that Buddhism, on the whole, says the teachings are pointers to truth, not truth-in-itself. That's why merely believing in doctrines is pointless.
But while believing in doctrines is pointless, understanding them can be illuminating. Sometimes a teaching opens a door. Sometimes a ritual, or bowing, or lighting a candle, opens a door.
The Reverend Ford says that the "enterprise" of religion is "Awakening to who we are, and learning how to act from that place." If you were to ask people of other religions "What is the most basic point to the teachings of this religion, in 25 words or less," what would they say? Would they talk about waking up, or would they talk about the doctrines they've been taught to believe? That's the difference.
I also liked this paragraph very much:
It does seem to me that religious moral or ethical codes often appear to be little more than crowd control. And codes delivered with the authority of God are to be distrusted on their face. But, at the same time, I think we need a container to create our lives that is formulated out of paying attention to how we relate to life and death, how we speak to each other, how we relate to the things of life, how we treat our sexuality and sexual lives and how we choose to cloud or open our minds and hearts. I think these issues are both personal and belong to the communal sphere.
It's really difficult to explain to people why the Precepts are not a list of rules to follow, like the Buddhist Ten Commandments. Thinking about the Precepts as containers for living our lives that are formulated out of paying attention says it so much better than I could.