All organized religions -- by definition -- are contradictory to each other.
Either: their God is THE God, or their Messiah is THE Messiah, or their Prophet is THE Prophet. They cannot ALL be right. This is their inherent definition.
There’s the metaphor of the blind men feeling the elephant... the trunk, the tail, the feet, the hide... and each coming to a different conclusion as to what is really the shape of the one being. This is more of a mystical interpretation. But at what point -- if ever -- do they, or can they, come to an agreement. Rather rare.
Another metaphor: Religions’ different believers are climbing a mountain...each on different sides, taking different routes... heading for the peak which would lead to The One God... But would it? If each of their assumptions -- beliefs -- are different, they will therefore come to see a different God at the top of the mountain.
You are what you believe. “Convictions cause convicts.”
Even the adherents of the SAME religion frequently disagree on the meaning of their texts. Does the holy text actually say we should do A, B, or C, etc...? What is canon? Who is the final authority? Is nuance allowed, or possible?
Every day in the headlines we see the conflicts caused by the different interpretations of the precise meaning of the religion. Because these works are ancient, old concepts have new meanings, and the context may no long apply. For example, how do two thousand year old works deal with stem cell research, etc.? Much of the language inevitably causes the works to be multi-faceted; this is fine for poetry, but not particularly useful for establishing indisputable principles. What is the Ultimate -- and indisputable Law? The Final Word? What is canon? Says Who based on What? And there is midrash, Apocrypha, palimpsest.
As Joseph Campbell said, many of these myths are quite lovely and beautiful. The problem is that when they are taken LITERALLY, we lose the essence of what may have some truth to it, and get hung up on historicity. “Not seeing the forest for the trees.”
Personally, I find the philosophy of Taoism the most useful; Tao is the Way of Nature. And the I Ching, the Book of Changes. Buddhism, especially Zen, is quite wonderful in many ways; and somewhat akin to Christianity, as it was an off-shoot of Hinduism. Hinduism’s pantheon is populated with fascinating beings... the primordial Brahman branching off into the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
I also quite like the beautiful imagery and ideas of Kabbalah; mainly from the Western Hermetic tradition. The symbol of The Tree of Life -- is fascinating and complex. I see it as Myths and Models, i.e., as Metaphor. Somewhat parallel to Hinduism, The Tree of Life has the highest realm, Kether(Crown), at the top branching in a downward path into the ten Sephiroth -- from the higher abstract elements -- moving down to the more clearly defined, the physical, Malkuth, where we reside.
Sadly, in the mid-2000’s Madonna popularized Kabbalah with silly affectations, such as the red string worn on the wrist to fight off “The Evil Eye.” And there are the many New Age interpretations. So it goes.
In the interpretation of Kabbalah and Hinduism which I prefer, we are not dealing with literal gods, but the energies or primordial forces that create the world. Models and Metaphors.
Do I digress? No, not really: I want to show that some religions are capable of complex meaning and deeper nuance. Of course, these systems do have their fundamentalist or watered-down versions, too; for example, on the streets of India, Taoism is akin to Astrology. But the best elements of religion I would call Philosophy.
As Joseph Campbell has suggested, the iconic photo of the Earth seen rising above the Moonscape, taken by the Apollo astronauts, would be an excellent symbol for the 20th -- and now the 21st century. Carl Sagan popularized the iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image of the Earth. No borders or boundaries... just our small delicate world, floating in the infinity of space.
If you want a sense of “God” -- the Ultimate -- look at the Deep Field (and Ultra Deep Field) photo of the millions of galaxies in the universe. If the vast scale of the universe could be truly understood, our petty differences would fade in comparison.
Look at the night sky (if you can find a clear night), or look through a telescope, or use an astronomy app.
Many people tremble at the questions: Why (or How) are we here? Why is there Something rather than Nothing? What is the meaning of life? Is there meaning?
Or course we are inevitably going to propose explanations, conceive a variety of answers. But at what point do we decide we have the FINAL answer? Living with un-answered questions is the great existential dilemma. And a part of being human.
Believe what you wish to believe, of course. But I suggest you remember to always ask yourself: WHY do I believe what I believe?