Do All Religions Lead To God And Point To The Same Truth?

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By Steven Bancarz| As some of you know, I am a former New Age author for thespiritscience.net and owner/founder of the website and Facebook page for “Spirit Science and Metaphysics”.  After an experience of Jesus and doing some deeper studying in the New Age, I realized that Jesus Christ of the Bible is exactly who He claimed to be.  I became a born-again Christian and gave up everything I was involved with in the New Age, and since then have received a lot of backlash.

One of the objections that got raised is that one religion cannot possibly be true and they all point towards the same Divine Truth.  Someone said “I can’t understand how it can be right to walk out my door each morning and feel in my soul that everyone around me is wrong”.

How can there be so many world religions, and only one be correct?  They must as be pointing towards a common universal truth.  Isn’t it just absurd, rude, judgmental and even arrogant to claim that YOU have the one true path to God and the majority of the world is lost at sea?

First off it’s important to point out that if we want to show a position to be false, we can’t do that by pointing to the qualities of the person holding the belief.  In your eyes, it may be arrogant to claim that almost all religions are false, but that doesn’t mean the claim itself is false.

If we want to show a claim to be false we need to present an argument against that claim instead of labeling the person presenting that claim to be arrogant as an attempt to invalidate their belief. Otherwise we are simply attacking the personality of the speaker instead of the beliefs the speaker is holding.

I think most people realize this and are just genuinely curious about how to reconcile this problem.  It is a very good and fair objection. So here we go.

Universalism is a more extreme worldview than believing in one true religion

The New Age movement holds tightly to religious pluralism and universalism, which is the view that all religions are inspired by a common Source and they all point to the same truth.  The New Age believes in a definite Creator and a Source, but maintains that all religions are mans attempt to explain the same divine revelations and that they all lead back to God in the end.

No single religion is true, but instead the truth can be found only in a universal spirituality that recognizes the common link between all religions and faiths.  Each path ultimately leads back to the same God and the same Source and no single religion is exclusively true.

The person who believes that there is no one single path that leads to God must believe that every single religion in the history of the world that claims exclusivity is fundamentally false.  They believe Jesus is not the only way. Allah is not the one true God.

The gods of Hinduism are not to be taken literally.  Judaism is not a result of the one true God revealing Himself to one specific people. The Buddhist who claims that there is no God or divine Source have got it wrong.

If someone says “I have found the only true path. It’s called Islam”, and you say “There is no one true path, Islam is not the only way to God”, then you are calling Islam fundamentally false because it teaches it IS the only path to God.

Religious pluralism itself is a claim that these fundamentalist religions and their main beliefs cannot be exclusively true, and are therefore essentially false. 

Statistically, this is more extreme than religious particularism

Here is why this is more extreme than the idea that only Christianity can be true.  Statistically, 84% of the entire world’s population identifies with a specific religions group, according to a new comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted in 2010 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“There are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84 percent of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion,” the analysis states. Here are the stats based on an analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers:

• 2.2 billion Christians (32 percent of the world’s population).
• 1.6 billion Muslims (23 percent).
• 1 billion Hindus (15 percent).
• 500 million Buddhists (7 percent).
• 400 million people (6 percent) practicing various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, American Indian religions and Australian aboriginal religions.

There are 14 million Jews, and an estimated 58 million people — slightly less than 1 percent of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, “to mention just a few,” the study says.

The religions in the category of “other” are the only religions that are even partially compatible with universalist theology, and it is safe to assume based on the list that even some of those may been too exclusive, dogmatic, idealistic, or narrow.

So the religious pluralist has to defend the claim that 99.5% of the world’s religious people believe in things that fundamentally false and the claims to exclusivity they make are delusional. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, traditional religions, and Judaism may all contain hints of truth sprinkled into their beliefs but are all inherently untrue at their core.

84% of the entire world’s population (almost all religious people) subscribe to falsehoods.

Whereas the Christian can quite comfortably say that 1/3rd of the worlds religious population has got it right.  This doesn’t mean that Christianity is true or religious pluralism is false, but it’s not extreme or arrogant to claim that 1 out of every 3 religious people have got it right, fundamentally speaking.

The religious pluralist who argues that he has got it right occupies less than .5% of the religious population and needs to provide justification for the extreme claim that all fundamentalist religions and their claims to exclusivity are necessarily false.

Even if we grant room for universalism through osmosis, it is still far more extreme (statistically speaking) to claim that every single religion in the world is false.

With that being said, let’s get to the question. Is there some common truth that all these supposedly false religions in the world are trying to explain?

All religions contradict each other, and therefore cannot point to the same truth.

A common response is that all religions may have their own different ways of interpreting God and divine revelation, but they are nonetheless all pointing back to the same universal truth.  A comparison is often made between the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus to support this idea.

This is the most common comparison that is used within the New Age to establish a common link between all faiths because they both promote love, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness.  The problem is, the Buddha and Jesus Christ have next to nothing in common.

Jesus taught that the single most important thing to do was to believe in him.  In fact, he said to believe on him is the ultimate will of God (John 6:29).  The reason for this is that Jesus was the sacrifice for human sin (Mark 10:45) and only faith in him can reconcile us back to God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus taught about a Kingdom of Heaven and a place of eternal torment called Hell where the wicked will be punished (Matthew 13:41-42).  Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons from people, and was resurrected from the dead by the God of the Jews who is also the personal Creator of the Universe and the moral law giver for humanity.

He taught He had the authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6), that we need to be born again in Him (John 3:3), that we should be water baptized, and that we will be rewarded in the afterlife according to our works for His Kingdom on judgment day (Matthew 16:27).

Jesus taught that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody will go unto the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  Salvation comes through Him alone and those who are not born again in Him and don’t repent of their unbelief and sinful nature will not inherit eternal life (John 3:18).

These ideas are absolutely fundamental to Christian theology and don’t even appear on the map on Buddhist philosophy.

Here are a list of core beliefs of Buddhism as listed on Buddhanet.

  1. There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposed Judgement Day.
  1. Buddhism is strictly not a religion in the context of being a faith and worship owing allegiance to a supernatural being.
  1. No saviour concept in Buddhism.  A Buddha is not a saviour who saves others by his personal salvation. Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha as his incomparable guide who indicates the path of purity, he makes no servile surrender. A Buddhist does not think that he can gain purity merely by seeking refuge in the Buddha or by mere faith in Him. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash away the impurities of others
  1. A Buddha is not an incarnation of a god/God (as claimed by some Hindu followers). The relationship between a Buddha and his disciples and followers is that of a teacher and student.
  1. The liberation of self is the responsibility of one’s own self. Buddhism does not call for an unquestionable blind faith by all Buddhist followers. It places heavy emphasis on self-reliance, self discipline and individual striving.
  1. Taking refuge in The Triple Gems i.e. the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha; does not mean self-surrender or total reliance on an external force or third party for help or salvation.
  1. Dharma (the teachings in Buddhism) exists regardless whether there is a Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha (as the historical Buddha) discovered and shared the teachings/ universal truths with all sentient beings. He is neither the creator of such teachings nor the prophet of an almighty God to transmit such teachings to others.
  1. In Buddhism, the ultimate objective of followers/practitioners is enlightenment and/or liberation from Samsara; rather than to go to a Heaven (or a deva realm in the context of Buddhist cosmology).
  1. The idea of sin or original sin has no place in Buddhism. Also, sin should not be equated to suffering.
  1. Buddhist teachings expound no beginning and no end to one’s existence or life. There is virtually no recognition of a first cause — e.g. how does human existence first come about?
  1. The Dharma provides a very detailed explanation of the doctrine of anatman {anatta in Pali} or soullessness , i.e. there is no soul entity (whether in one life of many lives).
  1. The concept of Hell(s) in Buddhism is very different from that of other religions. It is not a place for eternal damnation as viewed by ‘almighty creator’ religions. In Buddhism, it is just one of the six realms in Samsara [i.e. the worst of three undesirable realms]. Also, there are virtually unlimited number of hells in the Buddhist cosmology as there are infinite number of Buddha worlds.

As you can see, Christianity and Buddhism cannot possibly lead to the same truth since they hold completely contradictory views and their core doctrines and theologies stand polar opposite with each other.  Every essential belief of the Christian faith is the exact opposite of Buddhist philosophy.  And the differences between Islam and Hinduism, Judaism and Chinese religions, and African religions and Wicca are just as extreme and contradictory.

For example, in Judaism, God is a transcendent personal being outside of the universe who is a moral law-giver and despises sin.  In Hinduism, the idea of a personal God does not exist and is replaced with a impersonal universal consciousness they call Brahman.  God can’t both be personal and transcendent and non-personal and non-transcendent at the same time. This is just a contradiction.

Christianity and Islam contradict each other

In Christianity Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the grave so that we can be reconciled back to God through faith in him.  Jesus is the only way back to the Father, because he is the only solution to the dilemma of human sin:

“CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES, THAT HE WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES,” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-4

The truth of the Christian faith rests upon Jesus dying on the cross and being resurrected on the third day.  The Quran teaches that:

“THAT THEY SAID (IN BOAST):  ‘WE KILLED CHRIST JESUS THE SON OF MARY, THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH.’ BUT THEY KILLED HIM NOT, NOR CRUCIFIED HIM, BUT SO IT WAS MADE TO APPEAR TO THEM, AND THOSE WHO DIFFER THEREIN ARE FULL OF DOUBTS, WITH NO (CERTAIN) KNOWLEDGE, BUT ONLY CONJUNCTION TO FOLLOW, FOR OF A SURETY THEY KILLED HIM NOT.” – QURAN 4:156-158

Jesus either died on the cross for our sins so to lead us to God, or he didn’t.  If he did, Christianity is true.  If he didn’t, maybe Islam or some other religion is true.  But Islam and Christianity can’t both lead us to God if they contradict each other in telling us how to get there.

They all have radically opposing views on sin, the afterlife, the nature of God, the will of God, God’s plan for humanity, the purpose and meaning of life, moral accountability, how to have a relationship with God, self-conduct, salvation/liberation, atonement, and the nature of the soul.  If they all contradict one another they can’t be all true.

But don’t they all teach love?

The main defense of the position that all paths lead to God is because they all teach a similar morality. “Well they all teach forgiveness, kindness, and love, and therefore all have a core Truth they all share. And this is ultimately the path to God”.

Aside from the fact that social morality makes up a very small percentage of the teachings in fundamentalist religions, the main problem with this is that the doctrines of love vary from religion to religion as well, and therefore it’s not even true that all religions have a core of truth they all share.  The discussion of love in each religion is contextualized by a very specific theological and philosophical backdrop.

Yes, love is love. But we can’t isolate commands from their religious context in an attempt to prove universalism. For example, when Jesus says to love our neighbours as ourselves in Matthew 22: 34-39:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'”

Jesus commandment to love our neighbour as ourself is to be properly understood in these verses in the context of mono-theistic Judaism, for Jesus taught love as a requirement to fulfill the moral will of Yahweh and the commands he laid out in the Torah.

All religions don’t simply teach love, they teach it as a part of their theological model and in reference to their own religious ideologies.  Jesus didn’t teach us to forgive because it creates good Karma for the next life or helps us leave Samsara, he taught us to forgive so that we may be forgiven by our Father in Heaven for our sins.  Every single moral virtue for each religion is woven into a very specific theological model.

Just because most religions teach a few similar things does not at all mean they point to the same higher truth.

Comparing Jesus to Buddha is like comparing Hitler to Kennedy

To say that that Christianity and Buddhism are essentially the same because they both teach love as a moral virtue is like saying Adolf Hitler and JF Kennedy endorsed the same politcal model because they both believed citizens should pay tax.  Tax, makes up a very small percentage of their political models, and even their tax models themselves different from each other.  They are different concepts of love contained within totally different ideologies.

So they both believe people should pay tax. So what? So Jesus and Buddha both taught love. So what?

By cherrypicking a handful of moral virtues that most religions have in common and removing these virtues from their religious context, all we show is that a very small percentage of the moral doctrine in some religions is somewhat similar if we ignore the theological models they are woven in to.

I once saw a video with Jim Carey where he said “I’m a Jew, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim…I’m whatever you want me to be”:

So Jim, you are saying you believe in sin but don’t believe in sin, that we need a saviour but don’t need a saviour, in Heaven but no afterlife, in eternal damnation and reincarnation, and in polytheism, monotheism, pantheism, and atheism all at the same time?  Here is what is going on here:

We can’t draw historical and religious assumptions from personal spiritual pursuits

People want to be in loving relationships with one another and want to experience mystical states of consciousness that are blissful and peaceful.  They want to experience inner stillness and be masters over their own minds to improve the quality of their own life and the lives of the people around them.

But there is nothing about the pursuit of psycho-emotional health or spiritual wellness that can allow us to step into the field of religious studies and make the historically inaccurate claim that all religions teach the same thing.

If we want to know what they teach, we need to study a book in comparative religion or better yet read the primary texts for these religions. We can not infer from the experiences we have in silence that all religions are fundamentally false or that they all teach the same thing.

There is nothing about adopting love and compassion as core virtues or meditation and mindfulness as core practices that allows us to conclude that religious beliefs are all somehow exclusively about these subjective personal experiences we have, or that the truth or falsity of religious beliefs can be deduced exclusively from our subjective experiences.

There is no personal experience you can have in the boundlessness of your heart, the stillness of your mind, in the solitude of your spirit, the alteration of your consciousness, the homeostasis of your nervous system, or the spaciousness of your energy field that will allow you to conclude that God did not raise Jesus from the dead in first century Jerusalem.  Or that Jesus and Muhammad taught the same thing.

It does not follow from spiritual practice and holistic pursuits that no religious beliefs are fundamentally true, or that they all point to the same truth.

Tying it all together

contradict

Religions do not all point to the same truth. Most are logically incompatible with one another.  Some religions don’t even believe that God exists, while others are entirely centered around the existence of God.  The vast differences between religions cannot be remedied by simply isolating a few moral qualities away from their theological context.

Going up to the leading defenders of each world religion and saying they are all true because they all teach morality in some degree is like going to the top chefs for each different country and saying the recipes for their national dishes are all the same because they all contain salt in some degree.

Just because a small percentage of their teachings are similar (when removed from their theological and philosophical contexts) does not mean they all point towards the same universal truth anymore than saying all recipes that contain salt point towards the same universal dish.

This article is not to establish the truth of Christianity or the falsity of any other religion.  In fact, if Christianity were false (which it isn’t) that wouldn’t impact the point of this article. It is simply to point out that they all can’t be pointing to a common universal truth and some must be false by virtue of the fact that they directly contradict one another.

So how do we know which ones are true or false? By assessing religious beliefs the same way we would assess any other belief by holding it to the light of reason and evidence.  And as it turns out, Christianity blows every other religion out of the water in all of these categories, as we are currently exploring in other articles on this site.

For futher consideration, here is a great video debate between a Christian apologist and a member of the Baha’i faith who believes all religious paths ultimately lead back to God:

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