You know....it really shouldn't matter what your relationship to the Divine is--monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, even atheistic. Nor should your view of the world matter--dualistic, pluralistic, etc. Can't we all just agree to disagree and get on with our lives?My reply was turned out to be very long. I'm posting the full version here.
We should be able to disagree and get on with our lives. In the end spirituality is a personal experience. The better question is why do people disagree? I think the biggest answer to this is that people confuse religious practices with a relationship to the Divine. Additionally, there is a guardianship aspect over religious practices. This plays out in several ways.
Religious practices are wonderful things. They provide the tools and direction for having that divine relationship. The ways that work are passed on to others. Relationships with entities are shared. These provide 'short-cuts' to the personal relationship with Divine. Many practices exist to facilitate the group participation in religious observation. People are told how to place nice with each other. Other religious practices are there to keep people safe when they poke at the 'dangerous' edges of the spiritual. Some doors are only opened after proper preparation.
While religious practices are useful, they are only tangential or ancillary to the real task of having that relationship with the Divine. An analogy would be that achieving a divine relationship is like moving from the top of a mountain to the bottom of the mountain. People could throw themselves off, with the likely result of reaching the bottom in a badly damaged state. The religious practices are like the instructions of where the trails are, what time of day to make the journey, and what equipment to bring. While this is terribly important information, the knowledge of how to make the descent is not the descent itself. The map of the descent is not the journey of the descent.
Confusion and disagreement occur when people forget that the map is not the journey. To judge a person by their practices is shortsighted. In the mountain analogy there are several paths to the bottom. A person can jump, rappel, take the quick and steep path, take the slow and winding path, use a pogo stick, wiggle on their belly, or just sit at the top of the mountain contemplating their belly button. Some ways are more efficient than others, some are quite silly, others are quite dangerous, but none represent the arrival at the bottom of the mountain.
There should be no grounds for disagreement if a person can say, with integrity, that they have a personal relationship with the Divine. In this place they have gotten to the bottom of the mountain, alive and relatively in one piece. How they did it should not matter.
The how does matter in one way. At this place I do have to mention that a 'rule' for the journey to a personal relationship should be that of minimal harm to others. The path to the bottom of the mountain should not be over the gently sloping pile of dead and damaged bodies. One could argue that a personal relationship with Divine is not possible for a person with sufficient malice in their heart. I don’t know if this is entirely true. I’ll leave that to another article or debate. The point is that purposeful harm should not be part of the journey to the personal relationship.
I have one last reason that people disagree on the how of personal relationships with Divine. This is a murky point. People can go into guardian mode when religious practices are similar but different. A proprietary feeling is placed on actions and words. The use of a particular word can trigger assumptions of a specific religious practice. Apparent deviation from the 'accepted' religious practice can cause people to react aggressively as they come to the believed defense of the word and the associated practices.
The irony here is that the personal relationship with Divine is not being attacked. Instead, the tapping of the religious practice is the target. This may seem trite, but can be incredibly ferocious battles in areas were people believe they have religious ownership. A person seeks to do some slightly different from an ‘established’ way. The modification, intentional or not, is seen as an attack on the institution and the personal relationship of the practitioners. Most of the time neither of these transgressions are true. The fault is only seen in the eye of the guardian.
Here is my summary. Religious practices are not the one-to-one equivalent of a personal relationship with the Divine. The practices are instead tools, guidelines and suggestion for good living. Disagreements occur when religious practices are equated to personal relationships. Disagreements also occur when a guardian of a religious practice perceives their system to be under attack, misrepresentation or appropriation. While there is a valid place to argue theological correctness in reference to a given word or set of actions, these should have little to do with the end results attained. In the end, the disagreements are about the 'correctness' of human constructs instead of the personal relationship with the Divine.