What seems like good news to one person may seem like faith crushing bad news to another. I've been reading Karen Armstrong's "A History of God." In this book, Armstrong talks about the histories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I have hesitated to recommend Karen Armstrong's writings to some folks because her writings could be extremely challenging to people who hold certain points of view. It could be shocking for some to discover many aspects of the story of Jesus are not unique in comparison to the stories of revered figures in other traditions. For example, if one holds Jesus to be the one and only true revelation of God and stories of the Virgin Birth as evidence of this identity, it might be troubling to learn many legends surrounding revered people include a story of virgin birth. To discover many of the ideas and ethics taught in Christianity are also taught in other religions can make it seem as though these ideas sprang from the human experience rather than from the mind of God.
Yet I find reading such things brings me a sense of peace and hope.
I guess it has never made sense to me the transcendent, awesome God who brought into creation all of humanity would then have chosen one particular group of people, at a particular point in history, to reveal Godself in a particular way and rely on those particular people to share the message with others. This seems inherently biased and somewhat one dimensional. So, to read other cultures have arrived at similar truths about life, love, and God lends more credence to these beliefs. It makes sense God would find a multitude of ways to communicate love and truth to the world. It makes sense some truths would surface from within humanity itself arising from experiencing those truths at work in life. For me, many religions having similar ideas about God makes those ideas more likely to be true rather than less.
So, when I read about branches of Judaism which, prior to Jesus, had strikingly similar beliefs to those Jesus demonstrated in his life, I don't think, "well crap, what was Jesus for anyway." Rather I see a more consistent and beautiful story arising out of human history. I see God at work in the world in a multitude of ways. I see a greater chance my faith might be more than a combination of wishful thinking and the brainwashing of growing up in a predominantly Christian culture. I see something more to this world than what meets the eye, not just for a particular chosen people, but for all people and all of creation.
Maybe everyone else doesn't have to be wrong in order for us to be right. In fact, maybe the thought of us being right about everything and everyone else being wrong about everything is pretty laughable. Maybe we could find hope by learning from each other.
It works for me, anyway.