Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Aren’t all Religions Pretty Much the Same?

America is a very pluralistic society (Pluralistic means that “multiple religions are practiced and each one should be viewed as true and valid). Therefore it’s not uncommon to hear statements like “all religions are the same” and “there is truth in every religion.” Over the next few moments we are going to take a brief look at some of the major religions and see how they compare with each other in the three most basic and fundamental components a religion can have; Existence of God, Salvation (how to get to heaven), and Who was Jesus. After this brief look you will see that the major religions are not only, not the same, but in most cases are complete and total opposites.

The first area we will compare is whether or not a personal God exists. Buddhists deny the existence of a personal God. Hindu’s believe in millions of Gods with the two main ones being Vishnu and Siva. Muslims believe in one God but he is non-interacting with humans and very impersonal. Christians and Jews believe in one God that created humans in his own image, loves them, and longs to have a relationship with them. Here we can see that 4 of the worlds 5 largest religions have very different views about whether God exists, how many of them there are, and how God interacts with the world.

The second area we will compare is that of Salvation; that is, how to get to heaven. Buddhists believe “salvation” is by reaching “Enlightenment” through self-effort. (It should be noted that Buddhists don’t believe in a “heaven” per se, it is more like they are breaking the cycle of reincarnation to achieve a state of peace). The Hindu equivalent of heaven is called “Moksha” (It is a "uniting with the Brahman"). One achieves this state by doing good works through the cycle of reincarnation. Once one has achieved the ways of activity, devotion and knowledge, they break the reincarnation cycle and go to Moksha. Muslims believe they go through life with a good angel on their right shoulder and a bad angel on their left shoulder. Each angel records the good and bad deeds the Muslim has done throughout his lifetime. When the Muslim dies he stands before Allah (God) and hopes his good list outweighs his bad list. Even if the good list is longer, Allah still doesn’t have to let him into paradise (heaven). Allowance into paradise is completely at Allah’s will and there is nothing a Muslim can do to secure salvation. (The only exception is to die as a martyr fighting for Islam [which explains why there are so many suicide bombers]). Christians believe they are sinners separated by God because of their sin. Jesus Christ came to pay that price for our sins by dying on the cross and rising again on the third day. Christians believe that if you believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins you can KNOW FOR SURE that you will be in heaven when you die. There are many reasons for believing this but 1 John 5:11-13 is one of the strongest verses because it uses the word “know.”

Okay are you still with me? We’re almost done. The third area we’re going to look at is who is Jesus Christ? Buddhists believe that Jesus was a good teacher. But for the most part they don’t feel that he did anything particularly special and therefore don’t pay any special attention to him. Hindu’s believe that Jesus was just one of many incarnations or “sons of God” Yet they believe he wasn’t a unique son of God. He was no more divine than you or me and he certainly didn’t pay for anybody’s sins. Muslims recognize Jesus as one of, if not the, greatest of all the prophets. However they don’t believe Jesus was God, he didn’t die on the cross, and he didn’t pay for anyone’s sins. Judaism has a very strong stance on Jesus. The Israeli Supreme Court has issued a decree that says “anyone who believes in Jesus as the Messiah is no longer a Jew.” Jews have many different beliefs on who Jesus was but usually it boils down to he was either a great teacher or an imposter Messiah. Christianity has a different view about Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God (that is he was 100% God and 100% man). Christians believe that Jesus was sinless, he died to take away the sins of the world and offer salvation to anyone that wanted it, and he rose again from the dead on the third day.

Whew! That took a little while but I think it was very important. As you can see, the religions of the world are very, very different. We didn’t look at some obscure teachings hidden deep in the sacred texts of these religions, we looked at the basic fundamental belief structure of these religions. I hope you now understand that all religions can’t all be the same. God either exists or he doesn’t. If he exists he is either personal with his creation or he is not. Reincarnation either exists or it doesn’t. Salvation is either guaranteed or it isn’t. Jesus Christ was either God or he wasn’t. Jesus either died for the sins of the world or he didn’t. These are fundamental questions that can only have one answer. Therefore, when the world’s religions disagree on them, we see they CAN'T all be right. It is impossible. It has nothing to do with being intolerant, it's just simple logic.

I do think there is some truth to the statement “there is some truth in every religion” in the sense that many religions teach us to love one another and embrace morality. However, as we have seen, there are some fundamental differences when it comes to who God is and what is necessary for salvation. After studying the evidence, I do believe that God exists and desires to interact with his creation. I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins. You may disagree with my viewpoint, that’s okay, but you can’t argue that all religions are pretty much the same.

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