The great religions advance great and noble truths. There is remarkable similarity in the messages of sages and saintly people with entirely unrelated ethnic backgrounds, and this is Truth.
Each version was composed by humans, designed for a particular culture. The words were passed on, in some cases orally for many hundreds of years, and even those written down were copied by hand until the invention of printing. This led to inevitable mistakes and false translations. Just one example: you know the bit about a camel going through the eye of a needle? In Aramaic, writing only represented consonants. Vowels were signalled with dots above and below. Well, the Aramaic word for “camel” and the one for “rope” have the same consonants: gml. Here is an interesting, amusing and well-researched essay about this by Stant Litore.
There is also internal evidence of the deliberate distortion of religious traditions. Read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It claims that Lot offered his two virgin daughters to the mob for gang rape, in order to protect the visiting angels. For this, he and his family were rewarded with escape, while the city was blasted. Later, the two girls got Lot drunk, then committed incest with him.
If that is the word of the same God Who composed the Ten Commandments, whose Son in the Christian tradition said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” then I’ll eat ten copies of the St. James bible. It just has to be an evil insertion.
This is why a literal interpretation of any sacred writing is… unwise, though I am tempted to use much stronger terms. Even if the message is divine, the words are human. “It ain’t necessarily so.”
One way of sorting out the nonsense from the wisdom is to study other people’s religions. Accept the commonalities. Take into account the historical background and level of knowledge it comes from. Look at the motives of the (known or unknown) authors.
This will lead you to accept universal, unconditional love for all. It will make you forgiving without tolerating evil, accepting differences, and being of service to everyone. It will negate greed, aggression, and fear of the other. One of my clichés is: we are all apprentice Buddhas, on the way to eventual enlightenment, whether we know it or not. If you study a few religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism… you will find yourself growing.
There are many hundreds of versions of the various religions. They have only one thing in common: the belief that the others are wrong.
This is correct.
Extract the seed, let go of the dross.