by Rob Lundberg
An Opening Illustration Common to a Humanities Class
Do all religions say the same thing or lead to the same destiny? This is one of those difficult questions that come up from time to time with your student in a Humanities classroom. To illustrate what we mean, let’s imagine your son or daughter is given a short first assignment. THe assignment is describe where your son/daughter is instructed to walk to the main library at the heart of the campus. Many libraries have many doors, and those doors have walkways to those door. Each of those entry ways can take you to the main entrance of the library.
The assignment encourages your student to carefully observe all of the walkways that led to the main entrance of the library and draw a detailed picture of them. Whenever I hear Christian students describe this illustration or one like it, there is a kind of confusion as to why the first assignment in a class that was supposed to be focused on reading and writing was to draw a picture—and a picture of the ground at that! Many do not challenge the professor and draw their pictures and bring them to the next class.
The professor tells your college coed that if they were observant, they would have drawn not just the main pavements made of concrete, but also the other walkways made of brick and stone. And if they were extremely observant, they would have included the most interesting type of walk-way, the unique paths that people have created for themselves by wearing out the grass with their own footsteps. The purpose of this assignment, the professor says, is to show that even though there were a variety of different paths, they all led to the same place—the main entrance—just as all the world’s religions lead to God.
This professorial push for religious pluralism turns out to the be the framework for the rest of the semester as the prof has your son/daughter read the sacred texts of the world: all religions lead to God and are essentially all the same. When I was in college in my late teens, I wish I had known at the time that pluralism is not something to embrace.
I am sure this is a popular view in many people’s minds. But I want to inform you, the reader, that this view is simply not true, and promotes a great ignorance about nature of the world religions. Sure we hear it not just from the professorial lectern, but also from the media and even government officials pontificating their views.
So this posting is a clarion call to get cracking and get on the trail to write on this subject. Who knows what it will look like when it is done. So here we go.
Let me start off by saying that if there are any similarities to the major world religions, they are very superficial, which is still problematic. Let’s look further.
What Are Those Similarities?
If we were to look at the major world religions, we would find that the only similarities that each of the religions have with one another are only superficial or on the surface. What are those superficial similarities. There are three of them: they promote their followers toward right feeling, right thinking, and right action. Let me see if I can break this down further.
First, each religion seeks to teach its followers to have a right understanding of one’s feelings. Despite the commonality, it is interesting to note that each religion has different practices and teachings to assist their followers toward “proper” feelings. Nevertheless, this is the first thing all religions have in common.
Secondly, each religion also encourages its adherents to think rightly about the world, their fellow man, the problem of evil, “God,” and morality. But not all religions agree on how to think about these issues, or what approaches to take on thinking upon these issues. Nevertheless, this is the second thing all religions have in common.
Lastly each religion encourages those embracing that religion toward “right action.” That action might be based on an absolute standard or it may be based upon a personal subjective standard. That action might be toward the “good.” But what does that religion teach about how to approach what is “good?” One religion might encourage a person toward right action because it teaches that one’s fellow man as created in the image of God. Another religion may not. Nevertheless, this is the third thing all religions have in common.
Even though there may be similarities, even among the major world religions, there abide differences on how to accomplish the goals of right thinking, right feelings and right actions. But it gets worse. There are fundamental differences as well.
Major Fundamental Differences at the Core
What makes one religion different from the next can be evaluated by the responses to the fundamental worldview questions. There a four questions that every religion (an person) must answer. Each answer builds on the prior question. Those questions deal with origin, meaning, morality and destiny.
The goal here is to just hit the tip of the tip of the iceberg and create an environment to address more of these differences in greater detail in later posts.
Origin. The question of origin is “where do we come from?” Have we pre-existed? Were we created and brought into existence? Not all of the major world religions answer these questions the same way. Some religions promote the idea that our existence was caused because of a past life experience. Other religions do not believe this but hold to the fact that man did not pre-exist, but came into existence at conception, and was “knit together in [one’s] mothers womb.”
Meaning. This question addresses our purpose in life and “why are we here?“The answer to this second question will depend on one’s response to this first question. How so?
Some religions are monotheistic and would say that “God” created the person with meaning and purpose. Some would says that their existence is accidental or the product of random chance. Meaning in the former case would mean that meaning for the individual comes from outside themselves and is found in a relationship with one’s Creator. For the latter scenario, meaning is found and expressed in one’s self. Meaning is self created and driven by the situations and circumstances of life.
Thinking on these first two questions, we come to the third question.
Morality. This question addresses the question of framing a moral standard. In other words, “where do right and wrong come from?” Again, when we look at this question, we see that the answer will be, in most cases, built on the answers from the previous two questions.
Questions within the morality question come to the surface. Other questions like, where does morality begin? Did it evolve? If it did evolve, where did it evolve from? Is morality absolute or relative? Is morality framed by the “dress of the religion?”
What we have seen thus far is that the answers to the first three questions build on the previous question. This next question will be based upon the answers from the previous three questions.
Destiny. This question is the ultimate question out of the four. “Where am I going once this life is over?” Let’s face it, no one wants to die. But death is a reality, and each religion has different dogmatic teachings on what some call, “post mortem survival.”
Are we going through a process of reincarnation to ultimately be united or explode into “unity” with an impersonal “god”? Or are there rewards for the good and punishments for those who do evil? What do those rewards and punishments look like? Each religions answers these questions, differently.
This post has been written from a neutral perspective, asking the simple questions that need to be answered if one is going to hold to the view that all religions say the same thing. I will be addressing the categories of worldviews, writings, views of salvation, post mortem survival dogmas in future posts.
Trying to work this ministry, while working a job that tries to steal my zeal and energy, will often need a jumpstart. I am thankful for our question and answer sessions over the last three weeks and thank the Lord for what I will be sharing in future posts on this blog and others.
Thanks for indulging this post.
 My opening illustration is something that I experienced as well as many others. A great look at this can be found in Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend (pp. 41-42). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 Psalm 139:13
 In other words does the religious tenets determine the moral code for those those embrace that particular religion? Some religions have fundamental tenets which determine the essence of a culture. Here in America, our laws are reflecting a Judeo Christian framework, but that does not mean that America is ruled by the Bible. Some cultures are the dress of the religion, because the religion is the essence of the culture.
MORE FROM THE REAL ISSUE BLOG: To look at this subject from five questions you might enjoy checking out:
Five Questions Every Worldview Must Answer Coherently and Cohesively
Does the Coexist Bumper Sticker Really Promote Religious Tolerance?
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.