There is no shortage of religion in the world. Many of them, especially the major ones, actually teach fundamentally the same things and have the same underlying concepts and systems. When you realize that, it seems a little ridiculous that there’s all this feuding between different religious groups. What’s the point? Even monotheistic religions don’t necessarily demand that everyone on the planet practices that specific religion. We’re all on buses going to the same place…or non-place…right?
Even Christianity appears to be tolerant of other religions; it even looks like the crazy, Bible-addicted Jesus freaks (*raises hand* guilty as charged) might have copied certain things from other, much older belief systems. For example, Hinduism. Krishna is one of the many avatars of one God, and he comes to earth in human form. The point of the Hare Krishna tradition within Hinduism becomes to devote one’s life, thoughts, and actions to Krishna out of love for him. The more modern Hindu tradition also centers around a Trimurti, aka, Trinity, wherein there are three separate entities of the same one God. Given, they have different characteristics than the Christian Trinity, but still. Sound familiar?
Take Buddhism. Buddha left everything he knew behind – all his friends and family, all his possessions – much to the dismay and sometimes resentment of his family, to take on an ascetic lifestyle. He was celibate, did not eat rich foods, wore plain clothes, and spent the better part of his life teaching. His focus was on universal love, compassion, and acceptance. He rejected the Hindu caste system, teaching instead that what made one a “true Brahmin (the highest caste)” was not birth, but how you live life; what is in your heart. His “8-fold path,” which cover many of the “basics” for Buddhism, even has many of the same basic concepts as Christianity does. Have the right intention, have the right focus, don’t lose sight of what is really important. He basically said that everything changes and passes away. Sound familiar?
And let’s not even get started on Judaism and Islam. The similarities, in beliefs, values, practices, and “lingo,” are seemingly endless. So what’s the problem? Why can’t we all just get along?
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) BAM. There goes world peace. This isn’t even in parable form or one of those verses that can be interpreted a billion different ways (or it can, but with some serious stretches made). It is what it is. Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No one can get to God except through Him. I wonder if the people standing around listening to this guy had any idea of the sheer magnitude of these words. They’re what make Jesus the “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:23, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”) and are what keep thousands of people from Christianity. It’s hard to swallow that He’s the ONLY way to heaven. It seems – and is – intolerant. Compared to all His other teachings, which are normally accepted as wise and uplifting by non-Christians, it almost seems out of character. Why, after preaching love and acceptance and compassion, did He go and say that? Did John fall asleep while writing and have a dream?
The point is, love and compassion and acceptance are not the point. Being good is not the point. Evangelizing and tithing and church aren’t even the point. Jesus is the point. All these things stem from him, and since God created us and the world and everything in it, it’s not surprising that humans seem to have these things inside of us from birth. It’s not hard to see how other religions would have developed thousands of years before Jesus was born and seem to have so much in common with Christianity. But where we miss the mark is that the concepts come from Jesus, and from God; God and Jesus don’t come from the concepts. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17) So it goes both ways. But the point is that whatever is right comes from God, and without Him, those “right” things mean little more than building a house on a stack of straw, despite the good effects they appear to have in this life. Doing right and good things isn’t wrong, but it’s meaningless if Jesus isn’t the reason/foundation.
The “problem” is that while many other religions seem to go with the flow and accept that other beliefs have merit, Christianity, based in the truth that Jesus is the ONLY way, teaches that there is ONE truth, regardless of how many or how few people believe it. Jesus is THE truth, THE way, and THE life. No one can come to God except by accepting Jesus as their Savior and giving themselves to Him.
Like I said: there goes world peace.
**I apologize if I made oversimplified claims about other religions; I realize each religion is highly complex and really can’t be condensed.