An act of kindness or compassion generates the same merit regardless of who does it; a prayer to God is the same regardless of the faith of the person presenting it; in sum: a good act is a good act. There is no double-standard with God. One cannot do God’s work without God; thus, the religion in question is irrelevant.

If people from religions A, B, C, and D all donate $100 to charity, whose donation was the greatest in God’s eyes? First let’s assume the religions are all completely differing in beliefs, especially about the nature of God, and that they all donated to the same charity. Now we must look at the two types of merit: merit derived through physical actions, and merit through non-physical actions or mental formations (thoughts and feelings). Now certainly, physically speaking the merit could differ in terms of the sacrifice each of these individuals made of their time, energy, and total amount of wealth (Bill Gates donating $100 is not the equivalent of a homeless man donating $100), but for the sake of argument here, we will assume that these men lead equally busy lives, doing the same profession, and have equal amounts of total wealth. This removes any confounding variables for our thought experiment.

Now, I have heard the argument that God would favor the person following religion “X,” because they are donating in the name of “X’s” deity, which is the proper deity. I have also heard the argument that it is anyone but the follower of religion “X,” because they are all ignorant of the “truth” and are thereby committing the good act without the help of [proper deity X] and simply from the kindness of their own heart alone (not that this will save the person from eternal torment in hell). The really cracker-jack people (sarcasm) would say that only followers of religion X are committing a virtuous deed, and that all others are not really virtuous deeds, but are simply deceptions induced by evil which are meant to trick the good followers of X away from [proper deity X].

But today I submit to you for your own consideration that it is the intention and emotion with which the person donates the money which determines the amount of non-physical merit in God’s eyes. If person from religion A gives the money with pride in his heart, person from religion B gives the money with regret and attachment to the money, person from religion C gives the money because “deity C ‘said so’,” and person from religion D gives the money out of nothing at all but genuine compassion and kindness for the people benefiting from the donation, it will be the person from religion D whose act is most favored by the “supreme deity” whether it’s deity A, B, C, or D. If all act from true compassion and kindness, then it will be the levels of genuine compassion and kindness they each possess by which the merit or virtue of their actions is judged. And true compassion is always a more favorable reason than “because God said so.” Biblical example: Mark 12:41-44 and/or Luke 21:1-4

What follows from this conclusion is that virtue acted out from the genuine emotions of compassion and kindness are more favorable to God than acting simply because God commanded us to. God says in the scriptures of the world to love your neighbor, not just to act kindly toward him/her, but to actually have the emotion of compassion, kindness, or if realized enough: agape (transcendent, unconditional, non-dual love) – or bodhicitta for my readers familiar with Buddhist terminology. Truly virtuous and moral actions by any individual are thus inherently following God.

As for the side of prayer, any prayer is inherently directed to the same thing. The nature of the functioning of the mind itself necessitates that prayer go in the direction of what we call in the West: God. If one prays, they are establishing a relationship with God, and it does not matter by which name the individual refers to God. If you have the gall, the audacity, the sheer pretentiousness required to assert that another’s prayer is illegitimate, then you really need to look at yourself in the mirror of discriminating awareness and reflect internally on the nature of yourself and your faith.

Godliness is measured by communion with that which is the most Transcendent and Immanent, the Ultimate Reality, the seed of the clear light of consciousness itself, and, in addition, by one’s virtuous and moral actions in relation to others. To deny others of this is not only wrong, but utterly disgraceful.