Thank you, dear readers, for your thoughtful comments about my Jan. 29 column, in which I said that we are all climbing the same mountain up to God, just on different paths. I appreciate those of you who do not believe this to be true. For Christians, the proof text for Christian exclusivity is John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me."

R, from Boynton Beach, Florida, put it this way: "As an 88-year-old, (whole) Bible believing Protestant, I wish to take a stand against your acceptance of all religions ultimately seeking and reaching a heavenly end together."

He then quotes John 14:6 and says:

“You, my (hopefully still) friend, are certainly aware of these promises Jesus Christ came to fulfill. It is such a shame that so many are clouded about accepting Him as Lord and Savior. It would be an answer to prayer to learn that you had accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”

Dear R, you may be right. I do not believe you are right, but I am in sales not management, so who knows. This will be resolved when our souls gather in Heaven. I do not blame you or resent you for holding your view that there is only one path up the mountain that leads to the top. You believe that Jesus taught Good News and, if that is true, sharing that revelation is your joyous duty.

However, you may be wrong because: You are adding a second belief to John and that is the belief that in addition to being saved by Jesus one must also acknowledge and affirm that one is saved by Jesus. The theologian Karl Rahner thought that if non-Christians live a life of kindness and charity they will be saved by Jesus, even if they do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and savior. He called such people “anonymous Christians."

Christians like you believe that Jesus who has not fulfilled the various proofs of Messiahship will do so in the second coming. So, until and unless Jesus returns, the promise of John is as yet unfulfilled.

The belief in John as you state it requires us to believe that clearly righteous people like Gandhi, the Dali Lama, Buddha and Native American sages are not going to be allowed entry into Heaven. This corollary belief seems to me both wrong and cruel. Spiritual giants should be treated as giants not just on Earth but in Heaven.

And finally, a pragmatic concern. We live in a world and a culture that is increasingly secular and often hostile to organized religion. Since our message to the world is basically identical, what good does it do to spend our time in interdenominational bickering? Let us band together to bring hope and love and unity to the world and leave the final resolution of thorny theological issues to the end of days. Anyway, that is the belief of the God Squad, and I pray that in the time to come that will be proven to be the belief of God.

R's was not the only email I received. Many readers wrote in with touching stories of interfaith affirmation.

J, from Amityville, wrote: "I would simply say, every single living being on Earth is walking up the mountain during their time on this planet, hopefully humbled by a faith in something larger than themselves. If we all realized life is precious, maybe we would act differently. I wholeheartedly agree and find comfort in your words, 'The mountain is only true for those who believe that God did not give all the truth to one faith.' "

B, from Little Neck, NY, wrote: "As a child I moved to a house on a cul-de-sac. My family was the only Christian family on the block; all the other families were Jewish. Ten years after we moved in, my mother died unexpectedly in her sleep. Most of the neighbors had never attended a Christian wake before and many were somewhat uneasy, but they came to show their respect and to express their condolences. The following evening, a few of the neighborhood men came to the house with some food and sat in the living room talking with my father. The same thing happened the next evening, only this time the rabbi came with them. This went on with the neighbors for several days. We were probably the only Greek Orthodox family that ever 'sat shiva.' It is now a little more than 54 years later. I will never forget the generosity, love and comfort of my neighbors. It mattered not at all that we came from different backgrounds and practiced different religions. Grief and friendship know no bounds."

Happy climbing!

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