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Can there be more than one? A response. May 15, 2007

Posted by Ian in Religion.
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A recent blog post (here) by Allan responds to a previous post of mine (here).

I quite enjoy the irony that a number of Christian viewpoints match mine 🙂

In response to the main part of the post which actually addresses my thoughts, Allan makes several important points:

The first is that:

Ian is right in implying Jesus warned people of punishment should they not follow the tenets he set out. But does that mean someone who has never heard of Jesus cannot be saved? Are the tenets of Jesus exclusive to the Christian faith? I am going to be bold here, and say no, they are not.

The key problem with this, as he goes on to explore, is justifying believing in a particular religion. The thing is that being an atheist can still apply to most of the tenets of Christianity – in fact the only significant bits missing are the bits that refer to faith. If you start reducing the significance of those specific faith based aspects of religion then one has to ask why pray? Why go to church? Why tithe?

Now most of these questions are trivial to some extent, but the core problem as I see it is this: The first is deciding which religion is the benchmark and then presuming you choose a denomination of Christianity as the benchmark, how does someone decide just how much Christianity is enough? Is being a Catholic enough? Is being a Muslim enough? Is being a Hindu enough? Is being a deist enough? Agnostic? Atheist? Antitheist? If we had enough knowledge to answer this question, the entire religious question is answered. We clearly don’t.

It is my strong contention that the answer comes not from religion at all but personal conviction. This personal conviction varies enormously and hence so does the nature of belief and the way that people believe. Who is right? This exact point is implicit in my post which Allan responds to – assuming one of the religions are right, a certain proportion of the worlds population believes enough of it to be saved and the rest don’t. How much is, it seems, impossible to tell.

Allan then presents some biblical verses and asks:

Is this teaching not consistent across all major religions?

I’d argue the answer isn’t as clear cut as that. No other religion says you should love the Holy Trinity. And various parts of Christianity differ substantially about what it means to love it, how to express it and what it means. So the general principal of loving a god may be consistent but the details vary substantially. I’d also argue there is no way the god in the bible would approve worshipping Buddha or Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – at least not the way I read it. In fact doing so is one of the bigger crimes. Defining these boundaries is very difficult and not something I’d be comfortable coming to a conclusion on!

Allan recognises this by stating:

So, then, what is unique about the Christian faith? If the same message is taught in every faith, then why should we promote Jesus Christ ahead of Mohamed, Buddha and Joseph Smith?

However his answer to this question is missing. Simply stating “Jesus is the complete picture” with biblical references gets us absolutely no closer to an answer because it assumes the answer then justifies it based on that assumption. Other religions of course have analogous references which claim they are truth so we are no closer to an answer than when we started.

The final paragraph of Allan’s post is an excellent one and I want to discuss this:

While we need to be thoughtful and considerate towards other religions, we must never water down Jesus and turn him into just one of many. We must be honest that religions do vary in the validity and integrity of their truth claims. If a religious system is merely a force of domination, control and manipulation, then it should be called for what it is. It if is clearly deceptive, and doesn’t stack up with a grounded and rigorous analysis of the world, then it should also be modified or rejected. Often we are too scared to confront exploitation and deception such as that we see in other religions, and it is our fear that drives our “many paths to God” theology rather than our conviction of truth.

Bering thoughtful and considerate to all world views is important. Critically exploring them and understanding them for exactly what they are is also important. As I discuss in my previous post, each religion is a scientific claim of how the world is. They are testable through both evidence and logic. This is the “rigorous analysis of the world” that Allan mentions and it doesn’t happen enough. I applaud the contention that confronting exploitation and deception is necessary, but I would extend that to say we should confront every claim of truth in order to test and understand it (its called science). Deception through ignorance is no better than deliberate deception.

Anyway I will leave this here and I look forward to comments and thoughts!

P.S: Sorry… I can’t resist!

[O]nly the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary, can make sense of the paradox of God’s love, his wrath and his perfect justice.

I’d suggest the non-existence of god makes at least as much sense of it 🙂


1. A. J. Chesswas - May 23, 2007

Ball is back in yer court mate… 🙂

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