I'd like to know, where does Christianity stand when it comes to respecting religions and spiritual beliefs of others (those not Christian). Please give pointers to the actual biblic verses, to support the answer, too
In this context, 'respect' is defined as: due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. In order to show respect for other religions, it is not necessary for Christianity to defer to other religions or to accept that they hold any theological truths, although they may teach moral truths. It is only necessary to accept the rights of others to disagree with what the Christian believes to be established truths.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:32: "
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:" Nevertheless, Christianity soon became a most intolerant religion, not accepting nor respecting any diversity either within the faith nor beyond.
Anti-Semitism is the most notorious form of religious intolerance of modern times, but after the events of Nazi Germany, respect for the Jewish faith is quite high among Christians.
Perez Zagorin, in How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West, pages 308-310, describes how the Catholic Church came to accept the notion of religious toleration, the respect of other religious beliefs, in the Second Vatican Council, convened in 1962. He says the council's Declaration on Religious Freedom bears the subtitle 'On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Religious Matters.' When debated, it met with considerable resistance from some Vatican officials and a number of bishops. The Declaration on Religious Freedom was passed by the Council in December 1965. It stated, “the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
In defining this freedom, it asserted that “all men are to be immune from coercion” by individuals, social groups, or “any human power,” so that “in matters religious no one is forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”
The Declaration on Religious Freedom signified a complete reversal of the Catholic Church's former inimical attitude to toleration and announced its adherence to religious freedom as a universal principle and contemporary obligation and necessity.
The Declaration on Religious Freedom represents the Catholic Church's official attitude of religious respect, but there is some evidence that Catholic leaders choose to ignore the spirit of the Declaration. One witness in Mother Teresa's Calcutta hospice is reported to say that sometimes Hindu patients were simply asked whether they would like their fevered brows wiped with a damp cloth, and while doing so the nun would whisper some words of baptism. The patient would die unaware that he or she was supposedly now a Christian (see Hitchens interview at: http://www.thebereancall.org/content/october-1996-q-and-a-1)
Among other major Christian denominations, respect for non-Christian religions is now the norm, and inter-faith services are increasingly common.
Starting with a definition.
What is religion?
Religion, broadly speaking, means the voluntary subjection of oneself to God. It exists in its highest perfection in heaven, where the angels and saints love, praise, and adore God, and live in absolute conformity to His holy will. It does not exist at all in hell, where the subordination of rational creatures to their Creator is one not of free will, but of physical necessity. On earth it is practically coextensive with the human race, though, where it has not been elevated to the supernatural plane through Divine revelation, it labours under serious defects. - Source: - Religion | New Advent.
What do all religions witness to?
All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God. - cf. CCC 2566.
The above number in the Catechism of the catholic Church references scripture. St. Paul in Acts 17:26-27 preaches:
26 And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us,
Therefore while the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life", it also recognizes that in their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them.
The Church further teaches that "Outside the Church there is no salvation" and that to reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled."
It will be good at this point to end with an example respecting another's religion drawn from the Old Testament Exod 8:25-26:
25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so; for we shall sacrifice to the Lord our God offerings abominable to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?
The footnote to Exod 8:26 in the Jerusalem Bible Popular Edition has In the Delta there were gods represented as rams, goats and bulls.