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Aren’t all religions basically the same?
Consider the “Coexist” bumper stickers and t-shirts. At its core, the campaign encourages everyone to commune together – not focusing on the differences between the different religions, but only focusing on their similarities.
Or, to quote The Modern Thinker’s Creed by Stephen Turner:
“We believe that all religions are basically the same… They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, god, and salvation.” (as if these were merely minor details)
So, whenever anyone asks the question, “Aren’t all religions basically the same?”, there is a very technical, precise, philosophical response that I offer: No.
Now, it’s true that almost all of the world’s religions share a common moral thread. However, when you begin to look at the specifics of how each religion views God, salvation, the nature of man, and life after the here and now on earth, this is where you discover mutually exclusive beliefs.
Consider the differences between Christianity and Mormonism:
The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) teaches that God was once a mortal man who progressed and became a god. Whereas Christianity holds that God is not a man, but has always been God for all of eternity. According to Mormon doctirine, there are multiple levels of heaven (Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial Kingdoms) and the outer darkness; and the path to the Celestial Kingdom is largely based on the good works that you accomplish while here on earth. This differs greatly from the Christian belief that there is one heaven, one hell and heaven is attained through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
The common rebuttal to all of this if often: “You Christians always maintain focus on our differences. Can’t we just focus on all the things we have in common?”
Well, certainly when we are working together for the good of our culture, we can hold together to our commonalities. But we can’t downplay our differences when it comes to the bigger picture of life, our decisions and eternity.
Consider two round white pills. If we only valued their similarities, then one might accept that they are pretty much the same tablets. That is, until it is revealed that one is aspirin and the other is arsenic!
In this analogy, it’s more important to understand their differences than their similarities, since it’s their differences that either lead to life or death.
In the same way, the differences between Christianity and the rest of the world’s religions have eternal consequences.
But what about people in other religions who are so sincere?
The truth is that there are many Buddhists, Mormons and Muslims who are more sincere than the hypocritical Christians who live on your block.
My answer is often with another question: “Is sincerity enough to get us to the truth?”
When skydiving, sincerity in our belief that our parachute is in working order is simply not enough. If it’s not, you will be sincerely wrong and sincerely dead.
You see, sincerity is important and even necessary, but it’s not sufficient to get you to the truth.