Why should I believe that one religion is better than another? Aren’t they all just systems of faith? How can one person’s faith be more true than another’s?
These types of questions are commonly asked very sincerely. In most instances, the questions probably arise from a desire to find peace among differing religious organizations. They can be an appeal toward tolerant coexistence.
Whatever the reason behind the questions, there is still a need to provide a response, or an answer. Is it possible that all religions are equally true since they are based on faith?
To illustrate the answer that I’m going to provide, imagine for a moment that you are sitting as a student in an elementary school classroom. Your teacher is giving you a math quiz. The question before you is, “if you have 9 trays of apples, and each tray contains 9 apples, how many total apples do you have?”
Knowing your multiplication tables, you quickly write down the answer, “81.” After the quiz you are talking with two fellow students and discover that they provided different answers. One of your friends wrote down “84” to the question, while the second wrote down “91.”
The following day, the class gets the quiz results back. You learn that your teacher marked your answer to the multiplication question as correct. Then, you discover that both of your friends also received a correct mark to their answer of the same question. When the teacher goes over the test, you are told that 9 x 9 has several right answers. Therefore, you and your two friends are all correct.
It is easy to see a problem, here. We do not live in a universe in which “9 x 9” can result in several possible answers. If I have nine trays, each containing nine apples, there can only be one correct answer to the question of how many apples I have. One cannot have 81 apples, while at the same time 84, and 91. The number of apples is not an abstract concept. What exists in reality, cannot be self-contradictory.
In the same way, whenever any religion makes a truth claim, they are making a statement about reality. Whatever that reality is, it cannot be self-contradictory.
Let’s look at an example: Buddhism claims that there is no personal god (meaning that there is no thinking, feeling god). Islam, on the other hand, claims that Allah is God, and is a personal being. Both systems are making a claim about reality. However, both claims cannot be simultaneously true. It is just like your two friends’ answer to the math problem. Either, one is right and the other is wrong, or they are both wrong. They both cannot be correct. Likewise, Buddhism and Islam cannot both be correct in respect to their claim about this reality, since their claims are contradictory.
Here is another example, Judaism claims there is only one God. Hinduism claims that there are thousands upon thousands of Gods. Since both systems are making a claim about the same reality, and the claims are contradictory, logic forces the rational mind to conclude that Hinduism and Judaism cannot both be accurate. Although it is possible that they are both wrong, we can know for certain that they cannot both be right.
Since all religious systems make claims about what they believe reality is, and because these claims often contradict what others say, it is easy to see that not all the claims made by all of the religions can be true at the same time. Therefore, we must conclude that the answer to the question, “Are all religions equally true?” is no. They cannot all be equally true.
One might object, however, saying that since these systems are embraced by faith, that they are still equal because no one’s faith is greater than another’s. I would agree that no one can necessarily claim that their faith must be precedent over another’s. However, it is the object of that faith that is in question, not the faith itself. For example, I may have faith that I can run a four-minute mile and that I am the President of the United States. Although I may have strong faith in these assertions, my faith does not affect what is really real. I cannot run a four-minute mile, and I am not the President. Those realities exist with or without my faith in them, and all the faith in the world does not change what is real.
Likewise, our faith in something does not make that something true. This does not mean that a person’s faith is meaningless or worthless. At the very least, it would suggest that the faith is misplaced, and that it should be redirected.
Regardless of the amount of faith placed in a religious system, we can know logically that not all faith-systems are equally true if they are making truth claims.
So, what about the truth claims of Jesus?