Only My Beliefs are Right
One of the most amusing and ridiculous complaints about religion is this, “You believe that your religion is the only way” as if this were an especially cutting critique.
Of course I do! If I thought another belief system was better, more coherent, or more true, why in the world would I continue to hold my own belief system? If I thought all religions and beliefs were equally valid then why would I bother to hold any of them?
If, as a Christian I said to you, that I thought Buddhism was an equally true, and valid belief system then you would be incredulous. How could I possibly believe both systems are equally true, when they are fundamentally contradictory? How could I believe both are valid, when each would have the other totally dismissed as incorrect? It doesn’t make sense.
Another amusing aspect to this argument is that it actually holds the same belief as it condemns. You think your way is the only way, therefore my way is better. Therefore my beliefs are more loving, more equal, and more politically correct. My friend, the emperor has no clothes.
This argument sometimes devolves into, “You believe that your way is the only way, and everyone else will go to Hell.” This always makes me smile. Again, yes, I believe that my beliefs are the only way, as a follower of Christ, I acknowledge Christ when He says I am the way, not a way but the way.
If I believed that Islam was an equally valid path to God I would be violating the law of non-contradiction and undermining my own beliefs. It would work the same way if a Muslim claimed that Christianity was an equally valid way to God. It doesn’t make any sense from a Muslim perspective, Christians worship Christ as God, and Muslims call Christ a prophet and nothing more. In fact it goes further than that, assigning a “partner or equal” to the Islamic god Allah is called Shirk, and is one of, if not the single most grievous sin of Islam. Both cannot be right, and both are not paths to the same God. One is a path to God. One is not. This is a dichotomy.
The implications behind this argument are the belief that all religions are inherently the same and teach the same morals, values, and messages. Let me tell you that the world religions are fundamentally different.
Let’s start with Judaism. This is a belief in the God of Abraham, the God depicted in the Torah. Here there lies common footing for other religions. Islam and Christianity both believe in the God of the Torah. So where do these three religions differ so greatly? In their understanding of the person of Christ.
Judaism does not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. They do not believe that he was a prophet. They believe that worshipping Jesus as God is idolatry, and that the way to God is by keeping His commandments and laws. The way to God is through our actions.
Islam holds that Jesus was a great prophet, that he was never crucified, and that he was not God. Worshipping Jesus as God is idolatry. The way to God is through following the teachings of Mohammed, and fulfilling the five pillars of Islam.
Christianity calls Jesus the Son of God. Worships him as God. Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized of extensively in the Torah, and that Jesus died to atone for our sins. The way to God is through faith in Jesus’ and nothing more.
Tell me how these three religions are the same? How do they lead to the same teachings, morals and values?
They don’t they all differ greatly on the role of Jesus of Nazareth.
I find it even more amusing when people claim that these three monotheistic faiths are the same as religions such as Buddhism, Paganism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and other large faith systems.
It is an absurd claim. Some of these religions claim reincarnation some claim that you have one life and one chance at life. Some claim that pain and suffering is an illusion, a choice. Others claim that pain and suffering are a punishment from God or gods, and others yet claim that pain and suffering are a way in which we can grow and nurture our character. Some call for sacrifice, some claim that sacrifices are worthless and unnecessary. In some you can eat whatever you want, some you cannot eat beef, some you cannot eat pork, and in some, you may eat nothing that once had a pulse. Some claim you can marry many times, some claim once. Some claim that heaven and hell exist. Some claim they are imaginary.
Most teach salvation through works.
One claims salvation through grace.
These religions, these gods, these lifestyles are very different. Some people may argue that sure they are different in the way they worship or dress or eat, but fundamentally they teach the same messages. They teach love, kindness, caring for the poor, and humbleness.
Sadly this is not true.
Even if it were, I ask you this – even if all the world’s religions had everybody acting in a way of love and kindness, what is the outcome? Is it to earn a place in heaven? Is it to be a higher life form in the next life? Is it to be happy in this lifetime? Is it to serve God? Is it to escape their idea of Hell?
The motives behind the love and kindness would drastically change the way that love is shown, if at all. It would also change the way love is defined and expressed in each religion.
The bottom line is that each religion is different. Each definition of God or gods is different. Each type of worship is different. The way people of different faiths live out their lives are fundamentally different.
Islam and Christianity both teach love. The pinnacle of each religions understanding of love is their God. The love demonstrated by Allah, and the love demonstrated by Jesus are very different. That means that Christians and Muslims are going to love in very different ways. They are following different role models. They are doing it for different ends. They are claiming mutually exclusive definitions of love.
Bringing us back to the argument that makes me smile, “You believe that your religion is the only way”.
Yes, I do.
It is more coherent (not to mention less naïve) than believing that all religions teach the same thing, and take you to the same place. Different religions are just that, different. It isn’t the nice, ideal belief that everybody is equally right and pursuing equally right paths, in the worship of equally real gods.
To take the opposite stance, that all religions are wrong, is equally incoherent. That would not make any sense because it is a stance that believes itself to be the only true and right stance, while claiming no stance is true or right. Amusing, but contradictory.
The fact is, we are going to believe our opinions and beliefs are true. Otherwise we wouldn’t hold them. Unfortunately just believing that they are true, doesn’t mean that they really are true. The important thing to remember is that opinions and beliefs should never be set in stone. They should change and grow as we learn, as we understand new facts. It is when we stop seeking truth, and knowledge that we become doomed to ignorance.
My belief is that ignorance is not bliss, it is Hell.
More by this Author
Arguing for the positive side of ignorance.
My run in with the type of person I dreaded the most...a Christian.
A brief essay on the role of women in Shakespeare's Othello and Ann-Marie Macdonald's Goodnight Desdemona.