Aren’t All Religions Basically the Same?
During the release of the three prequels for the Star Wars series, George Lucas was asked if the movies had any religious meaning. He said, “I remember when I was 10 years old, I asked my mother, ‘If there’s only one God, why are there so many religions?’ I’ve been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that all religions are true” (Time, April 26, 1999). According to Lucas, and many Americans today, all religions are basically the same.
While this perspective is often driven by a noble desire for common ground, the profound differences between religions suggests otherwise. This becomes clear when we consider how various religions view the nature of God, the identity of Jesus, and the means of salvation.
- God: Most Christians believe that God is a Trinity—one God eternally coexisting in three persons. Muslims believe in a Unitarian God (Allah). Some versions of Buddhism are atheistic. Hindus believe in thousands of gods. New Agers believe that all reality is divine. Religious Naturalism holds that the world is the body of God, a view called panentheism.
- Jesus: World religions also differ radically on the identity of Jesus. Christians consider Jesus the Messiah, the divine Savior of the world. While Muslims consider Jesus a holy man, they vehemently deny his divinity. Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah and consider Jehovah the one true God (Dt 6:4). They especially object to the doctrines of Trinity or incarnation. Hindus believe Jesus is one God among many. Buddhists consider Jesus an enlightened guru.
- Salvation: The religions of the world also differ drastically on the means of salvation. Christians believe that salvation is by grace through faith alone (Eph 2:8-9). To the Jew, salvation is tied to keeping the commandments in the law. Muslims try to tip the scale of judgment in their favor by following the Five Pillars of Faith. The afterlife for Hindus involves a karmic process of paying off debt with the purpose of becoming one with the impersonal Brahman. And to New Agers, salvation is found through the recognition of oneness with the God, humanity, and the universe.
World religions also hold opposing views about which books are Scripture, the nature of human beings, creation, and the afterlife. These are not minor points, but claims that stem from the heart of each religion. While most religions agree on the Golden Rule, their core doctrines are simply beyond reconciliation. While all religions could be wrong, they can’t all be right. This leaves us two options for the religions of the world: either they are all wrong or only one of them is right.
So, how do we know which one is right? Examine the evidence. This is where Jesus stands apart from other religious figures. Jesus not only claimed to reveal knowledge about God, he claimed to be God in human flesh. And he confirmed this claim by fulfilling prophecy, living a sinless life, doing miracles, and rising from the dead (Rm 1:4).
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