Category Archives: Religious Pluralism

Are all religions alike? Responding to Religious Pluralism

I heard it again the other day.  Someone confidently stated that all religions are basically the same and that all roads ultimately lead to God.

On the face of it, the statement has contemporary plausibility, if for no other reason that it’s been said so frequently in popular culture, it no longer sounds strange or untrue.  The basic claim is that all religions are roughly equal in terms of their truth content (metaphysics), moral ideals (ethics), and overall purposes and goals (teleology).

What does sound wrong and offensive to contemporary western ears is this statement: “I believe that my religion is the only true and accurate one, and that all others are false and misleading in critically important ways.”  How can we evaluate the claim of religious pluralism that all religions are roughly equal?  Can we still cling to the conviction that our religion is actually correct and that some religions are closer to the truth and exhibit greater moral goodness than others, or is this hopelessly naïve and out-of-date?

There are a number of ways to proceed from this point.  Any fair and comprehensive defense of a specific religious viewpoint is a massive undertaking and one that cannot be provided in a simple blog post like this. What can be done, however, is a simple comparative look at some of the central claims of five major world religions.  This will help us see more clearly how similar—and dissimilar—they really are.  This is necessary because many religious pluralists are happy to state and hold to their ideology but have seldom taken an honest and accurate look at the actual claims and tenets of the major world religions.

ReligionFounderGodJesusProblemSolution
HinduismN/A
3,000 B.C.
Brahman
Many gods
Just a ManSamsara
Ignorance
Good Works
Knowledge
Devotion
BuddhismSidhartha
Guatama
583 B.C.
Irrelevant
Nirvana
Just a ManSamsara
Ego-centered
Desire
8-fold path
to Nirvana
Good Works
JudaismAbraham
Moses
2,000 B.C.
MonotheisticJust a Man or
Even a False
Prophet
Impurity
Alienation
from God
Repentance
Observe the
Divine Law
(Good Works)
ChristianityJesus ChristMonotheisticThe God-ManRebellion
Sin
Separation
Trust in the Life
and Death of
Jesus Christ
Free Gift/Grace
IsalmMuhammad
AD 570
MonotheisticA ProphetDisobedienceSubmission
5 Pillars
Good Works
Comparing Five Major World Religions

I could pursue several other lines of interest including moral, teleological, and eschatological claims, but the aforementioned aspects are sufficient to show that while there are some similarities, the major religions are, at their root, fundamentally at odds with one another, especially with respect to Jesus and the meaning and way of salvation.  All attempts to reconcile them either fail to represent them faithfully or tend to ignore or paste over these essential disparities.  In short, all religions definitely do not teach the same things.  They are frequently and fundamentally at odds with one another at numerous foundational points. We may try to become an advocate for the truth and goodness of this or that religion on the basis of evidence, life-change, historical significance, personal preference, or some other set of rationales.  We may even deny the efficacy and truth of all religions, looking to some other source and means for our hope and well-being.  But one thing we cannot sensibly continue to claim is that all religions are roughly equal and generally teach the same things.  They decidedly do not!