1. In the aftermath of 9/11, when religious understanding and tolerance were direly needed, the authors called on 12 leaders of the world's great religions for guidance. Did the religious leaders interviewed in this book respond with a critical message to the world? Did their responses add clarity to the questions and issues we face today?
2. About faith, Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, says on page 29 that “People come to faith by different ways,” and on page 37, “Family should lay down the foundation for upbringing.” Do you think it's important that children be instructed in a particular religion or should they find their own way?
3. On page 36, Rabbi Yona Metzger quotes from the Torah “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Christians know this as a verse from the Bible, Leviticus 19:18. And in Islam, the Hadith-the oral tradition of Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds-number 13, states, “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” A similar statement comes from the Hindu spiritual leader Amma on page 106. Can you think of any other beliefs that various religions have in common?
4. Religion is a source of spiritual and moral values for millions of people around the world. On page 39, Amma states, “People cannot live without belief.” Pope Benedict XVI says, “In every human heart-despite all the problems that exist-is a thirst for God.” Do you find that religion plays an important role in your own life? In society?
5. On page 38, Singh Saheb Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, the supreme Sikh authority, declares that “Those who are jealous of others for their wealth, prosperity, or their children, those who have jealousy in them, no matter what else they do in life, they will not find happiness.” Do you think that putting an end to jealousy would bring peace and happiness? Can you suggest ways that this could be achieved?
6. The three Abrahamic faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--all profess descent from Abraham and recognize Adam, Noah, and Moses; even Jesus is considered one of the prophets in Islam. All believe in one God and divine revelation. How can the three religions that have so much in common have been so at odds throughout the centuries?
7. In our globalized and interdependent society, we are required daily to acknowledge the existence of other cultures. How would listening to each other, as Lutheran Bishop Mark S. Hanson suggests on page 39, support understanding of our own faith and those of others? How can we facilitate the practice of listening?
8. To the question of “Who is God?”, the answers ranged from:
--“All the manifestations of the universe”
--“He has many forms and all forms. He is many and He is One”
--“God's manifestation is in his son, Jesus.”
Which definition comes closest for you? What is your answer to this question?
9. On page 68, Dr. Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, quotes Elijah from the Bible in 1 Kings 11-13 that “God is not found in the earthquake or the whirlwind, but in that still small voice that can only be heard in silence.” And Dr. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury says, “I'm aware of the presence of God every time I'm aware of my own breathing.” Do you think that prayer and meditation can bring a believer closer to God? Is meditation strictly a Buddhist practice?
10. About death, Shiite Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah says on page 118, “According to the Islamic faith, death means moving to another level…where people face the consequences of their deeds during their life on earth.” Imam Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, concurs by saying on page 106, ”Life is a stage in one's existence,” and on page 191, “Fortunate people are those who toil in this world as if they would live forever, and for the hereafter, as if they would die tomorrow.” Similarly, the Dalai Lama says that “The most important thing is considering death as a part of life and spending the life bestowed to us all as a good life.” Do you find these thoughts about death consoling?
11. Michihisa Kitashirakawa, High Priest of the Shinto Grand Shrine of Ise, believes in the blessings of nature, and the gods and goddesses dwelling in fire, water, trees, and grass. Are there sources of spirituality for you outside of religion that can provide inspiration and strength? How do you identify them and access them?
12. On the future of religion, Alexy II of Russia pointed out: “If one takes a look at our country, dictators wanted to substitute religion by offering people perhaps very attractive slogans. But what came of it?” In fact, religious observance in Russia has more than doubled since the fall of the Soviet Union. Do you think that suppression of religion will always bring about a resurgence? What other outcomes have resulted from religious suppression?
13. On page 216, Imam Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi says, “I think the best jihad any human being can perform in the service of his religion is to spread peace.” The term “jihad” literally means a “personal struggle to be more righteous” and refers to fighting evil and carrying the righteous rule of Islam to the far ends of the earth. How does this interpretation square with how terrorists use the term “jihad”?
14. According to the Dalai Lama, “We can't decree that this or that particular religion is the most important.” He feels that the religion a person has been brought up in is the one that's right for each person. Do you agree or should people search further?
15. In reaction to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, both Islamic leaders condemned them as criminal acts and pointed out that Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance and that Muslims are called upon to spread peace and security in Islamic countries; to embrace virtues, not vices; and to set good examples of Islam in non-Islamic countries by being righteous, honest, and truthful. They also remarked that terrorist actions are not confined to Islam and recalled shootings in American schools, the troubles in Ireland, and the Red Brigades in Europe, as well as national governments that wage war and possess weapons of mass destruction. Is this an accurate assessment? How do the actions of individuals affect the behavior of a country's leaders? How do the actions of a country's leaders affect the behavior of its citizens?
16. Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists believe in reincarnation and for that reason, that people should accumulate good deeds during their lifetime so that they can be reincarnated in a higher state. How does that compare to other religions' tenets about a moral life?
17. All faiths have certain elements in common. All profess to love peace and demand morality, charity, compassion, and tolerance from their members. Do you believe that different religions have more in common than what sets them apart? Does religion compel us to look beyond the personal good? Should it?
18. Can religion be a forum for world peace?
19. How can you apply any of these insights to your daily life?