Sunday, 23 August 2009
This is a very, very common way of thinking. People of all stripes and occupations hold to it. Let's pause and think about this for a bit. Is it true to say that all religions are basically the same and/or all religions lead to heaven? Think for a moment and you'll see how vacuous this belief is. First, some religions don't stress loving one's neighbor. Doing good isn't on their central radar screen. Moreover, if you look at the main beliefs of the world's major faiths, you'll see they are quite different. Christians believe Jesus was crucified on a cross. There is no Christianity without that belief! Muslims, however, reject that; what's more, to Muslims, holding to the crucifixion of Jesus is no small thing--it's a big no-no! Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus was the archangel Michael, and Christians reject such a thing. God is a personal creator who is separate from His creation in Christianity, whereas all is one in Hinduism. All these beliefs are main pillars of each faith. Even each faith's beliefs in the afterlife are worlds apart--heaven, reincarnation, nothing, etc.What sense does it make to say that these beliefs can all be true? God can't be both personal and impersonal. He can't both exist and not exist. Jesus can't both have died on a cross and not died on a cross. These are not claims about personal tastes; they are claims about reality, and therefore they are subject to the laws of logic.
I've heard an objection that when it comes to religion, "what's true for you might not be true for me." Is this a good way of thinking? It is not like we are talking about food tastes, which are subjective. No, these are all claims about what really happens after you die. They apply to reality. That doesn't mean they are false; it just means that they can't all be true. Yet another comeback is that this is an "either/or," overly-western way of thinking, but in the east, many think in "both/and" terms and are thus okay with embracing contradictory beliefs. The notion that God is both personal and impersonal is not strange to the eastern mind at all. Is this a good response? No. As Ravi Zacharias often notes, even in the streets of Shanghai, they look both ways when crossing the street, because they understand that it's either them or the bus, not both. Also, when thinking about spirituality, they choose the "both/and "way of thinking *instead of* the "either/or", not both. No matter how you twist things, you can't get away from the "either/or" at the end of the day. There's a good reason--it is tethered to reality.The next time you are discussing religion with your buddies and one of them starts waxing eloquent about pluralism, don't buy the hype. As my favorite author commonly says, aspirin and arsenic might be both small, white, and round pills, but please don't stop there when choosing which to take for a headache!Do you agree? Can all spiritual beliefs possibly be true?