There cannot be just one true religion, can there?

Earlier, I did a series of post on defeater beliefs to Christianity and I want to add to that series and consider again a common objection to Christianity: “Christianity cannot be the one true religion!” or (as it is commonly suggested), “all religions lead to God.” The suggestion is that no one religion has a monopoly on the truth AND if you say that one (that is, Christianity) does, you are intellectually deficient (at best) and quite possibly morally deficient as well. Let’s consider if this charge can hold up under scrutiny.

Let’s begin with a simple point of logic, the Law of non-contradiction (LNC). Basically, the law states that two contradictory claims cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense.  Both A and not-A cannot be true. They are mutually exclusive claims.

Now, let’s consider the claim that all religions lead to the same God. Let’s just list some religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, (and for good measure), Atheism.

Next, let’s ask: what does each of these religions teach about (say) the after-life? Roughly,

  • Judaism: there is life after death and the location and quality of this life is dependant on how faithful the individual was in following the Law;
  • Christianity: There is life after death, a heaven and hell, and faith in Jesus is key to going to heaven;
  • Islam: there is a life after death, a heaven and hell, and belief in Allah and faithfulness in following the  Five Pillars of Islam in one’s earthly life is key;
  • Hinduism: life is a continual cycle of birth and re-birth (reincarnation) based on karma and good works;
  • Buddhism: The goal in the afterlife is to achieve “nirvana,” a state of enlightenment, there is no personal identity after death;
  • Atheism: no God, no afterlife, you are just worm food when you die.

Admittedly, this is a rough and ready sketch of each of these religions and their view of the afterlife. But, the main point should now be obvious. If we apply the law of non-contradiction to this list, we see that at most only one of these religions can be true, because they all contradict each other on fundamental points of reality.[1] So, it can’t be the case that all religions lead to the same God.

This moves the discussion away from silly objections about the impossibility of there being one true religion and onto a question of central concern: which of these religions (and you could add others) has the most evidence to support its claim to be the truth?

Along the way we learn something about the nature of truth: truth, by definition, is exclusive—if a statement is true then it is exclusively so and all other claims to the contrary are false!

What about tolerance? Given the nature of truth, I say that the philosopher Peter Kreeft is right: “we should be egalitarian toward people, and elitist with our ideas.”[2]

Is such a posture intellectually or morally deficient? No, not if logical thinking is a virtue  and humility is embodied as one argues for her view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] This isn’t to say that there aren’t any truths found in each religion. There can (and will be) individual statements that are true within each religion (i.e., many religions embody something like the Golden Rule), but if the Christian vision of reality is true, then any other religion is false since its over all picture of reality contradicts (in part usually) the Christian vision of reality.

[2] This quote is oft attributed to Kreeft, I can’t find the original source of this quote attributed to him however. Whether he said it or not, it rings true!

2 Responses to There cannot be just one true religion, can there?

  1. Pingback: On the Life of Pi, story telling, and the truth | Paul Gould

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