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Are All Religions The Same?

No matter what you think about religion, the statement, “All religions are just the same” is just a dismissive line, intended to squelch debate about the subject.  In an age of supposed “toleration,” the one thing we don’t tolerate is the possibility that one type of religious belief trumps all others.  It’s amazing actually – we evaluate doctors, schools, political ideas, movies, food, books, business, art – everything else.  But the idea of actually saying that “I’ve seriously evaluated the options and have come to the conclusion that _______ is the one true faith” pretty much makes you a crazy person.  Perhaps it’s because we live under the threat of radical Islam.  Most people don’t commit violence over evaluating a piece of art; but religion?  We’re scared to death of offending someone.  But the truth is, what could be more important than coming to terms with the biggest questions?  Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Is there a God out there?

Plus, I’m tired of the lame idea that being confident that you’re right, means you hold everyone else in contempt.  Once again, we don’t feel that way when we express our opinions about anything else.

That’s why I think it’s time for a serious, honest, and civil discussion about religious faith.

So let’s do this: Ask your Facebook friends, re-tweet, and blog the question.  Then do the same with your answer.  (No one-word answers. We want to know why you believe what you do.)  Let’s start a global conversation that points out the hypocrisy of expressing everything but our true feelings about faith.

Let’s see what happens…

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  1. Great idea, Phil, if we can follow though.
    As for speaking the truth, Al Mohler’s commentary today about homosexuality as sin is another good one to talk about:

    Joel Osteen didn’t get where he is today by staking out controversial positions on biblical and moral issues. Now, however, Osteen finds himself in the midst of controversy. Last night, Joel and Victoria Osteen appeared together on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight and, boxed in by Morgan, Joel Osteen reluctantly confessed that he believes homosexuality to be a sin.

    Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. observes that Joel Osteen found himself forced to answer a question that every Christian — and certainly every Christian leader — will be forced to answer. In his article, “The Osteen Moment – Your Own Moment Will Come Soon Enough,” Dr. Mohler writes, “When that moment comes, and come it will, those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin will find themselves facing the same shock and censure from the very same quarters.”
    Read the details in Dr. Mohler’s blog, which is often updated several times a day.

    BTW, love the photo on your blog. You’re better looking every year. Best, Ron Keener, Church Executive

  2. I posted on my FB wall and within minutes had a nasty gram. Why are people so afraid that we hold beliefs and actually share them???

  3. There are some basic tenets of logic which reasonable persons need to embrace before going further. Among them is this supposition:

    Suppose there are several contradictory views about something. Let’s take religion, for example. Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism all have very, very different definitions for what or who god is (or multiple gods in the case of Hinduism), the source of evil in the world, what happens when you die, how to enter eternity with your god or attain enlightenment, our purpose on earth… to name a few.

    As Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University writes, “God may be one according to the Abrahamic religions, but when it comes to the mathematics of divinity, one is not the only number. Many Buddhists believe in no god, and many Hindus believe in 330,000. Moreover, the characters of these divinities differ wildly. Is God a warrior like Hinduism’s Kali or a mild-mannered pacifist like the Quakers’ Jesus?”

    Even a cursory reading of the scriptures of these religions reveal significant foundational differences from one another.

    Each of these religions also purports itself to be true, and each also purports other religions to be false (either overtly and directly in their own scriptures and sacred writings, or by inference as their foundational truth claims are so radically different.)

    So we have contradictory views from several religions about what truth is.

    Here are our two options:

    1. All the religions are false.
    2. Only one of them is true.

    There is no number 3: it is impossible for all of them to be true as they contradict each other.

    Is it then judgmental to assert that one religion is true and others are false? No more than it is judgmental to assert that 2+2=4 while 2+3 does not.

    Only when a person is willing to agree to these terms of logic is it possible for him to be open to the realities before him.

    “Tolerance” is thrown around a lot as a virtue. “We must be tolerant of all religions, as they’re basically the same…” is the dangerous mantra of the sincere but uninformed. Much should NOT be tolerated. It is tolerance of Nazis in 1930’s German that gave birth to the worst genocide of that century. Tolerance of radical Islam is even far more reckless.

    As Prothero writes, “It is not possible to agree to disagree until you see just what the disagreements might be. And tolerance is an empty virtue until we actually understand whatever it is we are supposed to be tolerating.”

    “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”
    Hosea 4:6

    1. While I agree with the bulk of your post, I would like to make a distinction about your point on tolerance. What most reasonable people expect in religious and general social discourse is respect, not tolerance. For example, no one is asking us to tolerate radical Islam (not even the radicals). What we should offer and what is expected amongst most intelligent people, is an openness that someone else can and may hold views contradictory to our own.

      Where we as Christians err, is when we proclaim our religious views as having divine authority when we should be seeking divine inspiration instead. It’s a subtle but equally powerful difference in approach and one for which I hope more and more Christians adhere to.

      1. My experience is that most if not all radical elements in major religions (and social movements) throughout history DEMAND more than tolerance. They require full-on acceptance. That is what defines them as “radical”.

        We absolutely ARE being asked to tolerate radical Islam in America, as well as to tolerate Islam in its more moderate form, which is a man-made religion inspired by Satan and is hell-bent on destroying all other religions. The Qur’an and Hadith literature make this quite clear.

        I can and choose to respect and love my Muslim friends but I will never respect a religion whose stated goal is to destroy mine.

        We certainly agree that pronouncing our religion’s views as having divine authority and expecting that to be the primary persuasive tool to a win over a non-believer is usually futile. We must win their hearts by love– and truth.

  4. To answer your question Phil, no, all religions are not the same.

    There’s the word of God from God, or, all the other gods originating from the world of man.

    One provides perfection with complete truth, peace, love, hope, joy, and the heart’s desire for all things good, now and beyond.

    Others began with man, and there they stay based on knowledge of the facts.

    As our knowledge increases so will our understanding and acceptance of God be. In this finite life we will never be able to fully understand all that is God, and that’s the way it must be for us to earn our way to Him, or return into the nothingness of our own negative perceptions. Many scientists believe in the God of the Bible because there are just too many variables that cannot ever be simply explained away as fact. The awesome power of God transcends any theories or suppositions the faithless world of man could even contemplate as is so often demonstrated by an ignorant, arrogant, and sophomoric mindset out there in all its unevenness. Those who are cognizant see beyond our inherent limitations to a Higher Authority as found in The Bible which holds the answers we need as a foundation to live the best life we can under God.

    Regardless of all the theories the world of man can conjure up, something had to be introduced somehow, and from somewhere into a nothingness to result into a so called Big Bang to become the catalyst that theoretically formed our tangible universe. That certainly didn’t happen by happenstance.

    And God said, “Let there be light”; “and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”

    With the first separation there became choice, with the second comes only darkness without wisdom found to know the difference.

  5. Hey Phil — Thanks for asking such pointed questions about what the world terms “religious faith.” I particularly don’t care much for the term “religion or religious” for one glaring reason. RELIGION always seem to get in the way of what faith truly represents. The world prefers to label and codify everything in its vision and misses the spiritual component necessary before any religious concepts can even occur.

    Before you can truly know who you are — its imperitive to define yourself at heart — understand the philosphical components of your spiritual base. Afterall, it’s our spirit: the ghost in the machine that establishes the real foundation for our life — our soul.

    And as far as where I came from; that’s quite simple. I was spawned from a loving relationship by parents who were committed true believers in what the power of genuine love can do for the human element. There was a simple carpenter who graced this planet some time ago, who walked with purpose and intent based solely on the foundation of love which forms our relationships. Without it, there would be no basis for faith.

    Why am I here? I’m here to be a shadow taker. One who is willing to take that deep dive into the murky depths to share the light of love with those whose spirits have been lost to uncertainty and hopelessness in their lives. It’s sad that some fall from a dutiful path they’d once set based on a committed belief system, which was originally spawned by faith and courage to face a new day.

    Is there a God out there? Well if you have some feeling in your heart from a received kind act that brings a smile to your face and let’s you know that you matter and the resulting rush of warmth that crosses your heart with a safe and secure feeling from another human being’s hug or kind words — then I’d have to say that yes: some Higher Being — Source — God — The One of infinite intelligence — had a pretty good idea of how things should work.

    You know this “God concept” didn’t evolve from what is stated in the #1 world-wide best selling book of all time — The Bible — there was an individual who lived during ancient times long before the Bible took it’s original form. You want an interesting read to help that “faith” issue along? Google up The Emerald Tablets of Thoth. See how many times “God” is mentioned here from the time of the Atlantean’s and Atlantis. That’ll raise the hair on your arms.

    Thanks for the blog Phil. All the best with your endeavors to make the right difference in this world… Kevin “James” Richardson — Founder/Director “One Ray of Hope Productions”

  6. In less than 24 hrs after posting this question to my Facebook status, I’ve only had 4 comments. One person said, “What a brave Question to ask”, two brief comments and another “Are you kidding?”. Seems to me no one wants to dialog on the subject, but rather distance themselves either by not commenting or post a surface answer. FB is probably not the best medium to open dialog on for such a subject, but I do agree the question could spark a great dialog in another medium. You made some great points in your article. Thanks for keeping things stirred up!

  7. I agree Phil, that the “tolerance” mentality only applies to issues that the tolerant person agrees with! I also believe that Christians who believe that Jesus is the only way, as He says that He is, should be wise as serpents but gentle as doves with their answers. If I were a non-Christian I would be angry if a Christian told me that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in Jesus. However, he should never be afraid if he says, “A misunderstood aspect of my faith is that Jesus says He’s the only way to get to heaven. That offends many people who don’t understand that Jesus also says that His desire is that ALL people are invited to believe in Him. And it’s up to all of us to decide if we want to accept His gift or not. We can’t make them. So, he is not exclusive in His invitation to get to heaven. He just has a stipulation to the invitation – we have to accept it!” Christians should get over it and just be confident in their faith and stand firm, with love. Come on Christians, let’s not be wimps!

  8. I would like to see the question qualified. What do we mean when we say we “tolerate” all religions in the first place. There are many people who I must tolerate, though they aggravate and irritate excessively. I do not tolerate them by joining in with their ignorance or arrogance, but by allowing them their right to express themselves even if their expression is disgusting. After all, when I express my views as I am convicted of them, they quite possibly sound puffed up and self exalted to the people within ear shot.
    So I can tolerate other religions without participating in them. I may believe that my faith is sound, and should be shared and explained to others even with the expressions of supposed superiority. But I must remember that they have the right to accept or reject what I say and believe. Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, if I explode and retaliate and persecute when someone does not go all “oh wow” over my presentation of “truth”, TOO BAD!! Shut up and leave them alone. Because there are at least three reasons why they may not have been impressed, 1 maybe it just isn’t true, 2 they don’t care and don’t want it even if it is, and 3 maybe I messed it all up when I tried to explain it.
    I am a Bible believing Christian, and I believe that the Bible is the Word of God the Creator, and I also believe that He is the author of the same book in contrast to Mr. Cooke, however, how God gave that book is to be considered. I do not believe that it was given by dictation, rather God inspired the minds of the writers and they put those inspired thoughts into the best language and prose they could produce. God watched over this and it is therefore a trustworthy declaration of His will and an accurate description of His character.
    I take the Bible just as it reads, and my determination of what is true and what is not is decided by “it is written.” This is how Jesus determined it and I will say with all confidence (for “it is written”) Jesus is the very one who inspired those writers in the writing of this book.” John 8:58 “Before Abraham was: I AM.”

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