Are All Religions the Same?
By Luke Lancaster
Some will say that all religions teach the same thing, for they all basically say to love one another and worship God. This type of thinking is like telling a wine connoisseur that all wines are the same. To somebody who is rather ignorant of wine, such a statement seems reasonable. Wine comes from fermented grapes and has a dark purple color to it. Although there is a certain commonality to all wines, though, there are numerous differences between the vast number of wines, each possessing a unique taste. Similarly, to someone who has not examined the issue of religion very deeply, all religions appear the same. This is false, though, for all religions come up with vastly different answers to life’s big questions. Not only that, but Christianity claims that only it is the true religion possessing all the right answers. So, not only does this article investigate the differences between religions, but it prompts the question: which is true?
Consider the big question of God’s existence. Some Hindus say that there are many gods, and that all of the gods are simply forms of the one, infinite God. Other Hindus say that all those gods are separate deities from each other. Theravada Buddhists do not even say that God exists - they are agnostic towards the question. The Norse religion of the Vikings do not believe in one, infinite God. They believe that Odin is the chief god, but he is not infinite, but was created from someone else, which in turn came from someone else, and so on. Christians, on the other hand, claim that there is one, true, infinite God, and that this God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus. That is a truth claim, and if true, that it would exclude the gods of the Hindus, Vikings, etc. Jesus/Christianity is very distinct.
Consider the big question of life after death. Buddhists believe that man is constantly being reincarnated after death into another life. This cycle continues to happen for all people, and an evil angel named Mara attempts to keep it going. The goal for Buddhists is to resist the devil and his daughters and stop the cycle of reincarnation. That process is stopped by becoming enlightened, which in itself is attained in particular through meditation. After enlightenment, there is no eternal heaven. Christians, on the other hand, believe that after death, man will spend the rest of his life in eternal union with God (Heaven) or eternal separation from God (Hell). This eternal destination will be based on whether one became reconciled to God through Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-10), and whether one did good on earth (John 5:29). All religions are not equal about this question, and if Christianity is true, then serious consequences could await many.
Consider the big question, “How do I get to Heaven?” What is the path towards eternal life with God (Heaven) after death? Taoism emphasizes that the path is through meditating on the Tao (the way of the universe), living in balance, going with the flow, etc. Yet, this path is not oriented towards reaching heaven, though. All that matters is being united to the Tao. For Christians, one is not concerned about living in balance with the universe. Instead, after death souls reach an eternal dwelling with the infinite creator of the universe, God. This eternal dwelling (heaven) is only reached, though, through Jesus, who became man around 0-30 AD and reconciled humanity to God. To reach heaven through Jesus, one must repent of previous offences towards God (called sins), enter the life of Jesus through baptism, and live a life of faith and faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings. To equate all religions, such as Taoism with Christianity, would be a serious blunder. And if one of them is correct, then many people have been wasting their lives following a lie.
Consider the big question of how one should worship God. Religions frequently recognize that there is a deity (or many deities) out there, but typically differ on how to worship it. Theravada Buddhists do not even attempt to worship God, so is that what everybody should do? The Aztecs would offer human sacrifices to their god, so is that how God is pleased? The Jews saw human sacrifice as horrifying (Jeremiah 7:30-32) and would offer bulls and lambs to God. The priests of the Albigensian sect during the middle ages thought that suicide was the highest form of worship to God. Catholic-Christians claim that Jesus taught that the only and true sacrifice to God consists of bread, which becomes the Body of Jesus, and wine, which becomes the Blood of Jesus (Luke 22:19-20). All these religions differ, so it would be a natural question to ask: who is right?
Consider the big question of morality. What is right and what is wrong? How should one act? Many of the world’s religions have significant common ground on this point. Many believe that one needs to love everybody. Nevertheless, there are differences. For example, how should I treat my enemies? Confucius said that it was loathsome to love enemies. Yet Jesus commanded it (Matthew 5:43-48). The Albigensian sect thought that suicide as a worship to God was good, whereas other religions see that as evil. Pagans in Greece and Rome believed that it was acceptable to have relations with a temple prostitute, whereas Christians thought that that was evil (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). All of the religions offer competing ethical worldviews, and this prompts many to ask: who possesses the authentic one?
As we have seen, there are numerous differences amongst the various religions of the world. Many of those religions recognize that there is a God that needs to be worshipped but differ over how He should be worshipped. Many religions recognize a blissful life after death but differ over the path to getting there. Other religions have no understanding of an afterlife, but only say that people are reincarnated. Religions give different answers. Jesus said, “I am the way…no one comes to the Father [God the Creator] but through me” (John 14:6). If Jesus is right, then all other religions who reject Jesus are not following the “way” (singular) to the Father. That is a serious claim, and should cause everybody to ask: which religion is true?