“So we’ve established that truth can be known. In fact, it’s undeniable. But so what? Can’t all religions be true? Unfortunately, it’s not just the secular world that’s confused about this question; even some church pastors have trouble with it.
Seminary professor Ronald Nash heard of a good example of this. He told us of a student of his who went home to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Christmas break a couple of years ago. While on break, this Bible-believing student decided to be adventurous one Sunday and attend a church that he had never attended before. But as soon as the pastor uttered the first sentence of his sermon, the student realized he had made a mistake—the pastor was contradicting the Bible.
“The theme of my sermon this morning,” the pastor began, “is that all religious beliefs are true!” The student squirmed in his seat as the pastor went on to assure each member of the congregation that every religious belief they had was “true!”
When the sermon was over, the student wanted to slip out unnoticed, but the heavy-set, robed pastor was waiting at the door bear-hugging each passing congregant.
“Son,” the pastor boomed upon greeting the student, “where are you from?”
“Actually, I’m from Bowling Green, sir. I’m home on break from seminary.”
“Seminary! Good. So what religious beliefs do you have, Son?”
“I’d rather not say, sir.”
“Why not, Son?”
“Because I don’t want to offend you, sir.”
“Oh, Son, you can’t offend me. Besides, it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are—they’re true. So what do you believe?”
“Okay,” the student relented. He leaned toward the pastor, cupped his hand around his mouth, and whispered, “Sir, I believe that you are going to hell!”
The pastor’s face turned bright red as he struggled to respond. “I, ah, guess I, ah, made a mistake! All religious beliefs cannot be true because yours certainly aren’t true!”
Indeed, as the pastor realized, religious beliefs cannot all be true, because many religious beliefs are contradictory—they teach opposites. For example, conservative Christians believe that those who haven’t accepted Christ as their Savior have chosen hell as their ultimate destination. It’s often overlooked, but many Muslims believe the same about non-Muslims—they’re headed for hell as well. And Hindus generally believe that everyone, regardless of beliefs, is caught in an indefinite cycle of reincarnation based on works. These contradictory beliefs can’t all be true.
In fact, world religions have more contradictory beliefs than complementary ones. The notion that all religions teach basically the same thing—that we ought to love one another—demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of world religions. While most religions have some kind of similar moral code because God has implanted right and wrong on our consciences, they disagree on virtually every major issue, including the nature of God, the nature of man, sin, salvation, heaven, hell, and creation!
Think about it: the nature of God, the nature of man, sin, salvation, heaven, hell, and creation. Those are the biggies! Here are a few of those big differences:
Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in different versions of a theistic God, while most Hindus and New Agers believe that everything that exists is part of an impersonal, pantheistic force they call God.
Many Hindus believe that evil is a complete illusion, while Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe that evil is real.
Christians believe that people are saved by grace while all other religions, if they believe in salvation at all, teach some kind of salvation by good works (the definition of “good” and what one is saved from varies greatly).
These are just a few of the many essential differences. So much for the idea that all religions teach basically the same things!
While most religions have some beliefs that are true, not all religious beliefs can be true because they are mutually exclusive—they teach opposites. In other words, some religious beliefs must be wrong. But you’re not supposed to say that in America today. You’re supposed to be “tolerant” of all religious beliefs. And in our culture today, tolerance no longer means to put up with something you believe to be false (after all, you don’t tolerate things you agree with). Tolerance now means that you’re supposed to accept every belief as true! In a religious context, this is known as religious pluralism—the belief that all religions are true. There are a number of problems with this new definition of tolerance.
First, let us say that we are thankful that we have religious freedom in this country, and we don’t believe in imposing a religion legislatively (see our book Legislating Morality). We are well aware of the dangers of religious intolerance and believe that we should accept and respect people who have different religious beliefs. But that doesn’t mean that “personally we ought to embrace the impossible notion that all religious beliefs are true. Since mutually exclusive religious beliefs cannot be true, it makes no sense to pretend that they are. In fact, on an individual level it can be dangerous to do so. If Christianity is true, then it’s dangerous to your eternal destiny not to be a Christian. Likewise, if Islam is true, then it’s dangerous to your eternal destiny not to be a Muslim.
Second, the claim that “you ought not question someone’s religious beliefs” is itself a religious belief for pluralists. But this belief is just as exclusive and “intolerant” as any religious belief of a Christian or Muslim. In other words, pluralists think all non-pluralist beliefs are wrong. So pluralists are just as dogmatic and closed-minded as anyone else making truth claims in the public square. And they want everyone who disagrees with them to see things their way.
Third, the prohibition against questioning religious beliefs is also an absolute moral position. Why shouldn’t we question religious beliefs? Would it be immoral to do so? And if so, by whose standard? Do pluralists have any good reasons supporting their belief that we ought not question religious beliefs, or is it just their own personal opinion that they want to impose on the rest of us? Unless they can give us good reasons for such a moral standard, why should we allow them to impose it on us? And why are pluralists trying to impose that moral position on us anyway? That’s not very “tolerant” of them.
Fourth, the Bible commands Christians to question religious beliefs (e.g., Deut. 13:1-5; 1 John 4:1; Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:13; etc.). Since Christians have a religious belief that they ought to question religious beliefs, then pluralists—according to their own standard—should accept this Christian belief as well. But of course they do not. Ironically, pluralists—advocates of the new tolerance—are not really tolerant at all. They only “tolerate” those who already agree with them, which by anyone’s definition is not tolerance.
Fifth, the pluralist’s claim that we ought not question religious beliefs is a derivative of the false cultural prohibition against making judgments. The “prohibition against judging is false because it fails to meet its own standard: “you ought not judge” is itself a judgment! (Pluralists misinterpret Jesus’ comments on judging [Matt. 7:1-5]. Jesus did not prohibit judging as such, only judging hypocritically.) Indeed, everyone—the pluralist, the Christian, the atheist, the agnostic—makes judgments. So the issue isn’t whether or not we make judgments, but whether or not we make the right judgments.
Finally, are pluralists ready to accept as true the religious beliefs of Muslim terrorists—especially when those beliefs say that all non-Muslims (including pluralists) should be killed? Are they ready to accept as true the religious beliefs of those who believe in child sacrifice or other heinous acts? We hope not.
While we should respect the rights of others to believe what they want, we are foolish, and maybe even unloving, to tacitly accept every religious belief as true. Why is this unloving? Because if Christianity is true, then it would be unloving to suggest to anyone that their opposing religious beliefs are true as well. Affirming such error might keep them on the road to damnation. Instead, if Christianity is true, we ought to kindly tell them the truth because only the truth can set them free.”
Excerpt From: Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” Crossway Books. iBooks.
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For those who might argue that I’m just blindly accepting logic from a book just because it’s written by people who agree with me, I’d like to share a story with you. I had heard the truth about Islamic beliefs, but had been told that the info was wrong, and at best, had been blown out of proportion. I decided to interview a stranger, and to hear their belief system, and worldview, for myself. I happen to live in a suburb with a large number of Muslims, and decided to interview a normal Muslim mom, a Syrian, while our children played together at the park.
We discussed her head covering, and her reasons for wearing it. She was surprised at meeting a Southern California girl as modest as I am. We talked about chastity, respect for our husbands in marriage, and our beliefs about virginity. We chatted amiably about parenting children in this day and age, but I found myself compassionate concerning her family’s treatment since 9/11. Apparently there were those who would show great disdain for any Muslim after that great tragedy. I finally asked her the big question.
Me:So, there’s a rumor going around Selma, that Muslims believe that any non-Muslims should be killed…umm, is that true? I’m just doing some research of my own…concerning religion…
Selma:(random beautiful Muslim woman at the local park) “Yes, well…we believe, uhh, we believe that if anyone should try to stop Islam, or try to end our faith…that they should, you know, not be on the earth. Yes.”
Me: (while our children link legs to make a body train to go down the slide) “So…non-Muslims? They try to take away Islam? Do they try and take your faith?”
Selma: “Most do, yes.”