Coexistence, Tolerance and Truth

A few years ago, I began seeing bumper stickers surface the read, “COEXIST”.  The font of each letter was a symbol for various religions.


I suppose one of the original objectives when this was created was to say that there are many religions in the United States, and we should all coexist, amidst the differences.


If this was in fact one of the original perspectives, I venture to say what happened very, very shortly afterwards was a slightly different viewpoint thinking that there are many different religions in the U.S. today, and we should all agree that they are all equal… that they are all fundamentally the same… that they are all right

But then something happened… something else surfaced more recently.  Because to say we should coexist, and believe that all of our religions are the same, or, all right, doesn’t quite stand on its own two feet.

All religions are not equal.  Fundamentalist Islam, for example, threatens Jihad on any non believer… Buddhism claims peace with all people.

All religions are not fundamentally the same.  At best they are superficially the same, and fundamentally different.  If you look at the moral code of most religions, maybe you find similarities.  But you shouldn’t be looking at the moral code of a religion, you should be looking at the more deep rooted doctrine.  Here, you find, they are fundamentally opposed.

All religions, or belief systems, are not all correct.  Since they are all doctrinally different, they all claim different truth’s.  For example, Islam states that Jesus never actually died… it only looked like He did.  Christianity, obviously, claims Jesus did die and did rise again.

So, someone got to thinking… “COEXIST… no… there must be something better… Ah, I know… we’ll call it TOLERANCE.  Because in the American post-modern culture today, it is completely arrogant, and disgraceful, rude and disrespectful to say anyone is wrong… it is, in fact, ‘intolerant’ to say that I’m right and someone else is wrong in their worldview.”  So then this bumper sticker emerged:


But it’s ironic though… For me to say that I believe that my Christian worldview is right, (thus implying that all other worldviews are wrong), I am viewed by the post-modernist, contemporary, tolerant American, as intolerant.  But those who accuse me as being intolerant for saying they are wrong, are in fact saying that I am wrong for believing what I believe… thus, they are intolerant as well.  Do you see the problem here?  Let me restate that; I am considered intolerant for saying I am right and someone else is wrong… but those who accuse me of being intolerant are saying that I am wrong and they are right… Does this not make them intolerant as well?

“Truth, by definition, is exclusive.”[1] If something is true, it excludes what is not true.  There is no other way around it.  For example, for me to say Christianity is true, Buddhism cannot be true.  For Buddhism to say it is right, it cannot say that Christianity is also right… it disagrees with the fundamental belief systems at its core!  The same goes for Islam, Baha’i, Wicca, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Jainism, Universalism, and on and on.

As far as tolerance goes, I believe it to be a red herring of sorts.  It misses the point of truth.  Human beings want to know what is true, not how to believe in a falsity.  Therefore, to get caught up in a debate about tolerance can be a complete and ineffective waste of time.  Truth is the issue.  Truth is what is at stake.

However, I do believe, as Christians, we can and should coexist with people of other faiths.  How else will you have a chance to share the Gospel message… the Good News?  Webster’s defines ‘Coexist’ as “existing together at the same time”, or “to live in peace with each other…”  That’s how I am defining it.  We should not only coexist with non Christians, we should coexist with them in love.  Let our Light shine to others so that they “may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”[2] If you have to start on this track in a conversation, perhaps share why you believe the Christian faith is right, instead of why they are wrong.  If you go stomping around telling everyone else how wrong they are, how attractive is that?  How is that demonstrating love towards your neighbor?    As I once heard, far too often Christians are known for what they are against, rather than what they are for.

1, Ravi Zacharias

2, Matthew 5:16

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9 thoughts on “Coexistence, Tolerance and Truth

  1. Great post. We stated. This has been on my mind frequently. I agree with your perspective on coexistist yet still proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
    I remember seeing a U2 concert where Bono put a bandana on that stated coexist and based on what he was singing I could get that, but later on I was concerned reflecting on the implications of that. Do those who promote “COEXIST” ascribe to a similar perspective or is this our way to redeem a philosophy? Which I’m totally for, but I’m not sure I’ll go as far to put the bumper sticker on my car…

  2. Very well thought out and written. I agree with your viewpoint on truth and also agree that as Christians we need to walk the walk of love and forgiveness and stop talking the talk of religious doctrines.

  3. Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? Romans 2:4
    Your article made me think of this verse.
    Beating people over the head with it or why they’re wrong won’t bring them closer to God. That is not even the method He uses with us.

  4. I very much enjoyed reading your ideas on the topic o co-existence. As an theist, I immediately accepted this idea is a kind of code of honor. I never really thought that it could apply to the religious community b/c, as you said, it would be blasphemous for some religions to be accepting of others. But then I read Karla’s comment and wondered if it would be possible for all the religions to at least tolerate each-other, and for some maybe even “walk the walk of love and forgiveness”. I may not believe in God, but i do believe in the power of religion and the strength that it gives to so many people. And while I do see that strength used very often for love, I also see it used for hate because of the intolerance in religion. When I read the bible it told me to love. 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. So I say, no matter who your God is, you can love all others, and still keep your faith.

  5. It is always good to encounter another Humanist who understands that their own beliefs can best be presented with peace and understanding rather than with declarations of falsehood.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis of the intolerance of forced tolerance!
    I like to say that being fully against closed-mindedness, is, in itself, closed-minded. For even closed-minded people need to be understood before they can be reached.
    Continue doing as you do, for even though I am not a Christian, I still think that you preach for what Christ really wanted in accordance with the Gospels.
    Well Done!

  6. To me, as whatever I am — I was raised by a fundamentalist Pentacostal mother and an agnostic father, so if asked what faith I was raised in, I just say “confused” — COEXIST is exactly what I believe in.

    To me, if you believe in a higher power, whom I call God, if you strive to follow his tenets (or doctrines, although to me, that has a negative tone), if you believe in and try to act as Christ did (or Buddha or Mohammad or whomever), if you discard the stuff that man put into my words (women are to submit and not lead in the church for our bible, and kill the infidels if they don’t convert in the Koran — all of whom say, at their basic level — love one another and spread the good news by your actions and love, then who am I to say that your faith is wrong?

    It is my basic problem with fundamentalists in both Christianity and Muslim faith. Why is it all or nothing? Even Christ said to follow the prophets’ teachings, even when he said to follow him, that he was the truth and the light.

    Sometimes I feel cursed by my upbringing. Sometimes I wish I could just blindly follow the protestant faith, but I get hung up on that this is the only way to go, and that all others are doomed to the alternative to heaven.

    My God is an awesome, loving God. That I know. I believe that Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, he is the son of God, and that he was crucified for my sins, and raised from the dead. I try mightily to follow his teachings, to do what Jesus would do. This I know in my heart to be the truth and the light, the path I am to follow.

    But do I disagree with some of the Buddhist tenets? No, in fact, I find the Dalai Lama to be a wise man, and although I disagree with his pacifist view, I find his teachings to be enlightened… but I am not a Buddhist.

    I know a lot of Muslims who do not believe that I’m an infidel and that I need to be beheaded. I have had interesting (although at times tense) conversations with them about world affairs. Once they realize I’m not going to turn them in as a Muslim radical or try to convert them to Christianity, we have very interesting conversations about our faith… but I’m not interested in converting to Islam.

    I also have friends who are Hindu, and we have interesting discussions, too, although I get confused about all the different gods, customs, and tenets they have. But then again, I get confused with all the saints and customs of the Catholic, too — especially when they start talking about the stations of the rosary… wha?!?

    But I digress… look, if Billy Graham met with the leaders of the world’s religions, then I think we should. If Jesus Christ, at a tender age, went among the Jewish rabbis to discuss the Bible, and he diverted from that to build Christianity, then why should we dismiss others’ prophets and beliefs that diverted from ours (specifically Islam, which diverted AT ABRAHAM!!!)?

    But do I believe all these people, these friends, are going to hell if they do not convert to Christianity? No, I do not. This is where I divert and everyone wants to label me as a Universalist or Humanist… but I’m not that either.

    What I believe is that my God, who I worship and adore, in his grace, looks at people of faith in this fashion: do you believe in me, no matter what my name is? Do you live your life as I have taught you, no matter what name you give my son(s)? Does your love shine through to people you meet everyday? Do you do the good works I tell you to do?

    Then I love you, no matter what your religion is, and I have a place for you in my kingdom.

    So, yes, I have the COEXIST sticker on my bumper. I love them all, I will do my good works to whomever without whether they belong to my faith or not, and I hope, by God’s love shining through me, that they become interested in my faith. But if not, then it is in God’s hands — not mine. Coexist. I will not wreck a crusade upon you to convert you to my faith. I will not harm you or your family by disparaging YOUR faith to convert you forcefully to MY faith.

    Coexist, and may God bless you and keep you.

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