So, Aren’t All Religions the Same?
Don’t all religions teach the same things? It’s a question I’m asked on a regular basis when people realise I’m a Christian. It’s kind of like saying, “I know you’re Christian, but lots of people are religious and believe in God. Isn’t it enough that people have faith whatever their religion is?” Now I agree that some faith is better than no faith at all, but to think that all religions are the same demonstrates ignorance of the world’s religions.
Of course, there are some things that are common to all religions. The Golden Rule is one example, a universal truth that is embraced by all twelve classical world religions. It predates Jesus by 2,000 years and was first mentioned in a pagan Egyptian document. The first religion to adopt it was Judaism, and then it was picked up by Jesus in His teachings, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Other things most religions have in common include a sense of community, belief in God, morals, compassion, respect for others, and the existence of the soul. But to believe all religions are the same is naive.
Before I became a Christian, I dabbled in some religions. Even as an atheist I was a spiritual person and was on a journey of discovery. I looked into Mormonism, Children of God, Ananda Marga, Buddhism and the New Age, and found they are not all the same.
Now, in making the following comments, I am in no way criticising or ridiculing other religions. My Christian faith teaches me to be respectful to others, and I would deny my faith by deriding those of different beliefs. That said, there are significant differences between the world’s religions. For example, some forms of Buddhism don’t even teach that there is a God. Hinduism teaches that God exists and everything is part of Him; Christianity teaches that God exists, but that He is separate from all He has created. These are mutually exclusive definitions that cannot possibly be descriptive of the same God.
Every world religion teaches people to earn their way to God, whereas Christianity teaches that God has reached out to people. Other faiths are works-based, that is, people reach out to God by doing good works – hopefully enough to earn salvation (whatever that happens to look like). Christianity is faith-based with faith being solely in the work of God by Him becoming a person (Jesus), living, dying and resurrecting and thus being forever alive to save people completely. Christian grace recognises that salvation is God’s work from start to finish. People don’t reach up to God; rather God reaches down to us.
That brings us to another significant difference – the Christian faith is the only religion whose saviour/prophet is still alive. In his book Countdown, G. B. Hardy writes, “Here is the complete record: Confucius’ tomb-occupied. Buddha’s tomb-occupied. Muhammad’s tomb-occupied. Jesus’ tomb-empty!” Jesus backed up His claims by rising from the dead. No other world religion has a founder who has done that.
The various philosophies of the world’s major religions are illustrated by the story of the man who fell into a pit:
Mohammed said, “Alas, it is the will of Allah.”
Buddha, “Don’t worry, you’ll soon be reincarnated in another form.”
Ramakrishna, “You must have done something wrong in a previous life and are now being punished.”
Confucius, “Let this be a lesson that people should stay away from such places.”
Jesus, “Take my hand, and I will lift you out.”
Also, no other world religion has a founder who claims to be God. Some claimed to be a prophet, or an enlightened one, but none of them, other than Jesus, claim to be God in human form.  As C.S. Lewis so beautifully put it, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
That’s the challenge Jesus still gives to every person, a call I took seriously 40 years ago. I chose to believe that Jesus was telling the truth and I decided to put my faith in Him as a result. He has not disappointed me, and you will find the same if you chose to place your trust in Him.
 Hebrews 7:25
 John 1:1,14
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Rob Buckingham is the senior minister of Bayside Church, Melbourne Australia.
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