The State of Religion

Understanding global religion in SJ County

San Joaquin County is riddled with houses of worship. Within the confines of the county, wee see people from all walks of life, a true testament of diversity in this melting pot of a community.  And many of these people practice different religions. From Hinduism to Buddhism to Catholicism, there is a place for everyone and every belief nearby. As different as these religions are from their languages to their customs and garb, it’s surprising just how similar each one is to the next, as well. We set out on an expedition to explore the different religious fabrics of our county and learn what we could about the varying belief systems. What we found is that deep down every religion is about love, and every group is working toward peace. Every one is giving back to its community, and every house of religion supports and respects the next.


Reverand Yukiko Motoyoshi, Resident Minister

Buddhist Church of Stockton

What do you most want people to know about your religion?

Buddhism is not a mystical or exotic religion, but it is an universal religion directly related to everyday livings of all people at all times.

What do you think are the unifying qualities of global religion?

I believe all religious faith expound kindness and compassion to all people.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

Respecting each other regardless of race, faith, ideology, and gender.

How is your religion similar to others?

Like other religious faith, we, Buddhist, aim for the betterment of one’s life and lives of others through faith and practices.

What does being a good Buddhist mean to you?

Truly understanding the Buddhist teachings (such as impermanence, interdependence, and non-self) and implementing them into our daily lives; that is respecting all living and non-livings beings, being kind, compassionate, and tolerant of others, and being responsible of one’s own life instead of relying on superstitions and incantations.

Come Worship:
Buddhist Church of Stockton
2820 Shimizu Drive, Stockton
(209) 466-6701
BuddhistChurchofStockton.org


Father Panagiotis Sotiras (Father Pete), Pastor

St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church

What do you think are the unifying qualities of global religion?

How we treat others, how we value people, the understanding that all people are created by God.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

A: It’s something that God desires. God wants to unify people; God wants to overcome the hatred and divisions that exist, but its up to human beings to work with God to make that a reality. God is the source of love and peace and humans are called to work with Him by showing compassion, mercy, and not judging others. It means to be able to respond to hatred with love and to be able to respond to the darkness with light.

What does being a good Christian mean to you?

First it’s important to remember that no one is perfect, and that includes Christians because only Jesus Christ is perfect and sinless. Having said that, being a good Christian means that you take your relationship with Christ seriously. It means making God a priority in your life and striving to make His teachings a way of life. It means to share the love of God with others and to remember that our relationship with God is intertwined with how we treat others. Love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand. Being a good Christian means having humility and not judging others or being self-righteous and holier than thou.

Come Worship:
St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church
920 W. March Ln., Stockton
(209) 478-7564
GoSaintBasil.org


Gurdev Prakash

Shiva Vishnu, Temple of Stockton

What do you most want people to know about your religion?

In Hinduism we believe that all the beings in the universe belong to one family regardless of color, religion, race, or origins. All are the children of one god.

What do you think are the unifying qualities of global religion?

Completion and respecting understanding and loving one another.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

Peace within ourselves and a world free of wars and hatred.

How is your religion similar to others?

All religions teach the same human values just in different forms. We just need to learn not to discriminate toward each other and practice the teachings of our dharma.

What does being a good Hindu mean to you?

Following the right path of righteousness and doing good karma towards every being

Come Worship:
Shiva-Vishnu, Temple of Stockton
4714 Foppiano Lane, Stockton
(209) 931-1197
StocktonHinduTemple.org


Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff

Temple Israel Stockton

Q: How is your religion similar to others?

A: Judaism shares so much in common with other religions, especially the other monotheistic faiths (Christianity and Islam) that have evolved from the same roots. Like these other faiths we take inspiration and guidance from the biblical canon, and we strive to bring order and structure to a chaotic world. We also strive to give meaning to human existence and stress the importance of giving of oneself to others.

Q: What does being a good Jew mean to you?

A: If you are a traditional observant Jew there is a major focus on observing the 613 commandments of the Torah, especially the ones that deal with daily and weekly observances like the dietary laws, and the strict observance of the Sabbath. For less observant Jews the focus is more on the ethical laws of the Torah. Since I am a Reform Jew (a liberal and progressive expression of Judaism) my litmus test for being a “good Jew” is someone who embodies, in belief and in action, the Biblical idea that all human beings are created in the image of God. That means showing upmost respect and uplifting the dignity of every human being.

Q: What do you most want people to know about your religion?

A: Judaism encompasses an ancient tradition that has evolved and changed through the millennia to meet the challenges of a world that is in constant flux. While the essential core of our faith has not changed, we have survived as a people and as a faith because of this ability to evolve. Our sacred scripture, the Torah, is a living document because through interpretation it speaks to the issues that face every generation. 

Come Worship:
Temple Israel
5105 N. El Dorado St., Stockton
(209) 477-9306
TempleIsraelStockton.com


Pastor Mark Price

St. Paul Lutheran Church

What do you most want people to know about your religion?

That it’s about love.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

A: Peace is harmony not melody. Melody everybody has to play the same note at the exact same time with the exact same rhythm. Harmony says we can play different notes at different rhythms at the same time and this gives the song depth and richness. Peace is harmony not melody. Peace does not demand uniformity or conformity. Peace says everybody has the same access to resources.

How is your religion similar to others?

It seeks truth. It seeks peace. It seeks meaning and purpose. I really do think that’s what we share with others.

What does being a good Lutheran mean to you?

We see ourselves as part of the  atholic (but not Roman Catholic) side of the Christian spectrum of traditions. Being a good Lutheran means going to mass or worship every Sunday and doing an act of charity on a regular basis. It’s a way of living. To live as a child of God and to see that the other is also a child of God. It means you’re my sister. It means that I’m going to work for those things that enhance your life. I’m going to see to your protection and that which benefits you. I’m going to consider your needs ahead of my own.

Come Worship:
St. Paul Lutheran Church
701 S. Pleasant Ave, Lodi
(209) 368-2747
StPaulLodi.com


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Scott A. Jensen, President of the Stockton California Stake

What does being a good member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mean to you?

To me, it is ultimately about being a follower of Jesus Christ to the best of my ability. He is a personal God. It means to work each day to admit to and repent of my wrongs and to seek to become better in my various roles as a husband, a father, an employee, a supervisor, a friend, a community member, etc. 

How is your religion similar to others?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and the need to follow His teachings. Similar to most, if not all religions, the purpose of the church is to teach morality and to encourage and assist all individuals in finding peace in this life and joy in the eternal world to come.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

To me, “peace on earth” ultimately means a state in which mutual respect and kindness is shared by all. As we seek the benefit of others as much as our own, we will ultimately achieve a state of true peace. Uniform beliefs—everyone believing the same things—are not necessary for such peace to occur.

What do you think are the unifying qualities of global religion?

Two of the best unifying qualities that we share are those of being outward-oriented and believing we are brothers and sisters in one human family. This trait assists us in encouraging social engagement and civic duty. 

Come Worship:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
7030 N. El Dorado St., Stockton
(209) 474-1788
ComeUntoChrist.org


Islamic Center Of Manteca 

Imaam Mohammad ElFarra

What do you most want people to know about your religion?

It is a religion of peace where kindness, good character, patience, generosity, honoring your neighbor, and loving for the people what you love for yourself are stressed.

What does “peace on earth” mean to you?

Peace on earth to me will only be achieved when humans submit to God’s will and not to their desires, whims, lusts, intellect, and opinions. I say this because it is when we submit to those inner desires and thoughts that we act in a way that usually leads to some type of violence.

How is your religion similar to others?
Islam is similar to others in what you would consider the basic commands to do good to your neighbor and the needy and the less fortunate, to be good to one’s parents and honor them, to forgive and not hold grudges, etc. I would say that Islam is unique with respect to its monotheism even above other claimed monotheistic religions because only in Islam is Allah (the One and Only worthy of worship) worshiped alone without any partners, without any sons or daughters or parents, and without any intercessors needed between the individual and their creator.

What does being a good Muslim mean to you?

Being a good Muslim to me means that one believes in the oneness of God with respect to worshiping him only, with respect to his Lordship over the heavens and the earth, and with respect to his names and his attributes that He gave himself.

Come Worship:
Islamic Center Of Manteca 
1058 S. Union Rd., Manteca
(209) 647-4461
ICOManteca.org

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