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So many different religions

Postby Melon » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:24 pm

How does one keep faith in God and Christianity when there are so many different religions?
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Re: So many different religions

Postby jimwalton » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:33 pm

The existence of different religions is not a whole lot different than various approaches to political solutions to society's problems or economists who disagree with each other about how to make the wisest decisions for the country. People are entitled to their opinions about religion, but they can't all be true because they contradict each other. Logically it may be that they are all false, but it's impossible that they're all true. Logically it may also be that one of them actually is true. I subscribe to Christianity and keep faith in it because of the evidences.

When I look at the various cosmological, ontological, teleological, and axiological arguments for the existence of God, they make sense to me, so I firmly believe that theism makes more sense than atheism. I know many people, especially on this forum, disagree that they are convincing, but I think theism has far more evidence in its favor, and is more logically consistent. But that's not your exact question.

Weighing and comparing the major religions of the world, there seem to be only two that really rise to the top: Christianity and Hinduism. Islam (and many others like Mormonism) is just a cult, or distortion, of Christianity. Buddhism (and others) is just a cult of Hinduism. Confucianism is really a philosophy of lifestyle, not a religion per se. When I weigh Christianity and Hinduism, Christianity seems to far outweigh Hinduism in its realistic portrayal of God, reality, evil, pain, salvation, life, and death.

Islam? As I mentioned before, Islam is the greatest of the Christian heresies (to use a phrase from C.S. Lewis). Mohammad took Christianity and changed it, removing Jesus from deity, and putting Mohammad as its greatest prophet. But it still has Abraham, Moses, etc.

One of the things about Islam that doesn't make sense to me is the radical transcendence of Allah: the distance between man and God is impossible to cross. Repetition and submission are the rule, not any kind of a relationship. And there is no certainty of heaven for the common person. It is all "the will of God," they say. One's destiny is left at the mercy of an unknown and unknowable will. Ravi Zacharias says, "When relationship is swallowed up by rules, political power and enforcement become the means of containment." We've seen that to be true.

Islam is a religion of the Book, as opposed to Christianity, which focuses on the person of Jesus. But how does one hold that the written text is perfect (which it is not; there are textual variants)? Also, Jesus didn't come to give a certain group of people ethnic worth. That's Islam. Jesus loved the world and came to save the world.

Truth has to correspond to reality, and so at least on this fundamental level, correspondence to reality is what anyone would look for in "proving" any religion. But I'd also say, before we go on, that very little (if anything, when it comes right down to it, depending on your philosophical viewpoints) can be PROVEN. Most of the time we use adductive reasoning: inferring as wise as we can the most reasonable conclusion. In both of these areas I think Christianity has strength.

1. Though I know there are many disagreements (and I might as well draw a target on my back for saying this), YHWH is the kind of God we would expect if a God truly exists, and Jesus is the kind of person we would expect to see if God visited the planet. Their beings conform to our highest reasonings of theology and philosophy. God must be all-knowing, all-powerful (without self-contradiction), completely other (transcendent) and yet completely engaged (immanent), loving but just, judging but merciful, maintaining standards and yet full of grace, never-changing but flexible to human situations, communicative, good but can crack a whip when that is called for, eternal, creator, able to work wonders, and yet knows how to play by his own rules at the same time. This is the God we would expect to see, and this is the God we see in the Bible. As far as Jesus, we would expect compassion, power, kindness but doesn't take guff from detractors, fearless, relational, words of authority and truth, knowledge of people and situations, knowledge of the past and future, sacrificial and not self-oriented, and full of patience but not a pushover, meek but not a doormat, assertive, humble, and yet confident. This is exactly what we see. It corresponds to reality.

2. The Bible presents a world that we see. It presents a world where evil is real (as opposed to other religions like Hinduism), and where God lets things take their course but intervenes to keep his plan of redemption on track. It portrays humanity as noble but hopelessly lost, moral but corruptible, both good and evil, torn between self and others, having a conscience, knowing purpose, aware of morality, acknowledging beauty, capable of creativity, but in some ways animalistic and capable of horrific behavior. We see all these things in real life.

3. The Bible portrays "religion" not as a way to earn a place in God's graces, but as God reaching out to us, to love his way into our hearts. To me this corresponds to reality, because if we have to earn our way, we are all in hopeless trouble. But if God would just reach out to us, invite us into the kingdom, pay any sacrifices himself, and make a way for us to find him, come to him, and be redeemed, this makes sense as the only possible way someone could ever find salvation, and this is what the Bible teaches.

4. A true religion must engage the whole of the human nature, not just the mind and not just the emotions. It can't possibly just be about swaying to the music, entranced and brainless, caught up in the rhythms, spells, notions and potions. By the same token, it can't possibly just be about deep philosophy, ironing out theological conundrums, connecting intellectually with the mysteries of the universe and transcending humanity to enter the divine. True religion engages the mind and can fulfill the most intellectual queries, but at the same time enjoy expression, joy, uplifting emotions and the pull of our hearts. True religion is for the scholar and the child, the patrician and the plebeian, the civilized and the barbarian, the slave and the free, the man and the woman, the scientist and the poet. Christianity conforms to these categories.

5. A true religion must make sense out of history. It doesn't function above it or without it, compete against it or necessarily endorse it. Christianity (in contrast to Hinduism and Buddhism) is a historical religion where God works in history and among history, accomplishing his purposes, involved in people's lives, bringing out the redemption of all creation.

6. A true religion must makes sense out of science. It doesn't function above it or without it, compete against it or necessarily endorse it. Christianity teaches principles of cause and effect, beauty, regularity, predictability, beauty, purpose, design, and a world in which science is possible.

7. Christianity teaches purpose, significance in humanity, forgiveness for wrongs, life out of death, hope for the hopeless, redemption, fairness, love, beauty, a God who is there, knowledge, conscience, renewal, and meaning. I think it addresses all of these (#s 1-7) with far greater satisfaction than other religions to such a great extent that I consider Christianity to be true.

I haven't even mentioned such things as the beauty, power, and authority of the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus, and the life changes that Christianity brings to so many. Such things are convincing to me, but objects of scorn to others.

I am well aware that in drawing up this list I will draw the ire and the fire of many. Obviously, if everyone agreed with me, all would be Christians. Since all people are not Christians, there is heated disagreement about the things I've said. Granted, understood, and noted. But since the question was, "How can one keep faith in God and Christianity when there are so many different religions?", I hope I have answered the question to your satisfaction.

Does Christianity have its issues and problems? Everything does. Anything can be argued against. We have to think our way to the most reasonable conclusion. I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists and Christianity is true, so I have no problem keeping the faith.
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Re: So many different religions

Postby Tongue Alive » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:48 pm

> Islam (and many others like Mormonism) is just a cult, or distortion, of Christianity. Buddhism (and others) is just a cult of Hinduism.

So if a Jew comes by and tells you that Christianity is just a cult of Judaism, how would you answer them?

> A true religion must make sense out of history. It doesn't function above it or without it,

Why can't it, though?
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Re: So many different religions

Postby jimwalton » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:49 pm

> So if a Jew comes by and tells you that Christianity is just a cult of Judaism, how would you answer them?

I'm sure some would argue that it is—that Christianity involves a voiding of the law, the misinterpretation of prophecies, and a distortion of the Torah. No doubt some would say that. But how I would answer them is that by the resurrection, Jesus showed that he wasn't a cult leader but God in the flesh who came to earth. The resurrection lifted Christianity out of the "cult" pool and verified the claims of Jesus, not just as another religious leader but as divine.

> Why can't it, though (avoid history)?

Because a true religion has to involve real people in real life. If it's just philosophical or mystical without connection to real life, it can't really be the revelation of God or the path to God. Any true religion has to include God traversing reality, viz., history.
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Re: So many different religions

Postby Tongue Alive » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:50 pm

> If it's just philosophical or mystical without connection to real life, it can't really be the revelation of God or the path to God.

Then what if it's philosophical or mystical with connection to real life lol (like for example, I'm pretty sure the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism are things you can definitely apply in daily life)

> Any true religion has to include God traversing reality, viz., history.

Why would a true religion have to necessarily involve such a God? No offense, but that seems like a preconception over how a true religion should be.
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Re: So many different religions

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:56 pm

> I'm pretty sure the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism are things you can definitely apply in daily life

Of course they do, but technically Buddhism and Taoism are not religions but rather philosophies of lifestyle. Buddhism is atheistic, and though Taoism admits to spiritual realities, I'm not sure in any sense it's a religion.

> Why would a true religion have to necessarily involve such a God?

I thought I had already explained that: "Because a true religion has to involve real people in real life. If it's just philosophical or mystical without connection to real life, it can't really be the revelation of God or the path to God. Any true religion has to include God traversing reality, viz., history." It's not a preconception at all, but logically thinking through the whole point of religion: Connection with the divine.
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Re: So many different religions

Postby Tongue Alive » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:13 pm

> technically Buddhism and Taoism are not religions but rather philosophies of lifestyle.

Why can’t they be both? And I’m pretty sure the average buddhist or taoist in Asia will be a bit miffed if you tell them that their beliefs aren’t really a religion.

> It's not a preconception at all, but logically thinking through the whole point of religion: Connection with the divine.

It looks more like assertion than explanation tbh. For example, Buddhists and Jains likely don’t think of connection with the divine as the whole point of religion at all. It would seem arbitrary to dismiss them as not being “true religions” just because their spiritual goals have nothing to do with any god whatsoever.
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Re: So many different religions

Postby jimwalton » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:22 pm

> Why can’t they be both?

I guess they could be, but they're not.

> And I’m pretty sure the average buddhist or taoist in Asia will be a bit miffed if you tell them that their beliefs aren’t really a religion.

Not a bit. Buddhist don't acknowledge any deities, only "the divine." The current universe evolved from natural law. The Eight-fold path is what leads to nirvana: (1) Right View, (2) Right Resolve, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, and (8) Right Concentration. There is no God. They believe that religious ideas and especially the god idea have their origin in fear; therefore, the concept of a personal supreme being is at best unimportant, at worst an oppressive superstition.

He preached a retreat from civilization to nature in order to attain harmony with Tao, the "eternal way" or supreme governing force behind the universe. It is a mixture of magic and religion with Chinese philosophy. It is a mystical philosophical system including certain aspects of Buddhism and primitive nature worship. It includes ancestor worship as well. They believe in good and evil spiritual forces: Yin and Yang. The Tao is the great, all-controlling principle of the universe, the mystery of all creation and life, and the ultimate source of all things. Though by some Taoism is numbered with the great religions of the world, it is basically atheistic. It is basically religious philosophy without a God.

> Buddhists and Jains likely don’t think of connection with the divine as the whole point of religion at all.

You're right, but Buddhism really isn't a religion. It's a philosophy of life, a worldview. Jainism, likewise, is non-theistic. They are spiritual philosophies, but not religions.
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