Of course they don’t! But sadly enough, in my Christian days, that took me a while to understand.
As I traveled across Asia and met devote, kind, thoughtful, loving people who believed things very different from my Christian view, I began to doubt my version of Christianity. Many Hindus & Muslims claim to feel the presence of the Divine, or the presence of God but my Evangelical Christianity would not let me believe that. Sure, they may feel it for a moment, but if they constant worship someone other than Jesus, that presence can’t be the real God.
Simply put, here are the beliefs I was told and which I came to partially believed that led to that conclusion:
- there is only one god, his name is Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Spirit.
- there is only one way to heaven, that is by right belief in Jesus
- religions are all-or-nothing: right or wrong
- Christianity is the right religion and all other religions are wrong
- Part of the privilege of being Christian is communing with the true god.
- Non-Christians may claim to commune with god, but they are self-delusional or talking to an evil spirit or a demon.
After my trip across Asia, I realized that the wonderful Hindus & Muslims I knew could not be doing anything much different in their heads than I was doing in my head. See here how my own prayer shocked me into understanding this. So after I decided that my dear Muslim and Hindu friends must also be communing with God, my Christianity began to change.
But most doctrinal Evangelicals believe Hindus & Muslims must be talking to demons. Yeah, that is shocking, but I think I have part of the answer for why they jump to this strange conclusion.
One of my refreshingly honest Evangelical commentors, clapham, when asked by myself and MichaelB why he was sure Hindus must be talking to demons, he said:
“I suppose in either case i don’t think that otherwise sane [persons] are prone to persistent delusions of that sort [talking to an imagined presence]. So if it persisted i’d be inclined to think its not a delusion, but something real [a demon or evil spirit].”
You see, I think this is clapham’s inner Evangelical logic [with my comments in brackets and red]:
If a Hindu feels, like me, that he/she is communing with the Divine then there are only three possible explanations:
- they are talking to Jesus under a different name [but the beliefs listed above exclude that].
- they are delusional [but as he says, if they seems sane for a long time, they can’t be delusional]
- they are talking to a demon [yep, that must be it, below I explain that jump]
This thinking is obviously faulted and it is common. But obviously these exclusive Christians have forgotten option four:
4. They are talking to themselves, though they explain it as talking to a god. As they surrender their worries and their burdens to a felt listening presence, they sense an emotion of peace and love which they call “God”.
Why do they miss that option, well, I’ve written about the two main causes of such faulty reasoning before. Here they are with links to longer explanations:
- Partitions: people have partitioned minds and can easily have inaccurate beliefs while otherwise carrying on very sane, social lives.
- Many Selves: people who say they are communing with the divine are often having a very real subjective, deep experience but that is because they are talking to themselves. I explain this in terms of many selves — which explains why we often don’t know ourselves and can be surprised by insights that seem to come from outside ourselves.
But there is a third reason that an Evangelical immediately consider option four? Simply put, because option four could clearly implicate the Christian. Option four easily explains what an Evangelical Christian is possibly doing when they too claim to talk to a divine presence.
For an Evangelical and other exclusivist Christians, it is easier to believe that Hindus talk to demons than to wonder if they themselves may be sane and yet talking to themselves too. Their rationale, of course would be that the Bible demands that they believe such an unpopular belief, and they are pursuing truth and not popularity. But I think the reason is simpler than the theological knots they weave.
Acknowledgement: My thanks to clapman for his honesty on this blog and trust I have represented his statements faithfully, though I am sure he’d want to disagree with my interpretations. I look forward to his challenges or those of other exclusivist Christians on this thread.