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LostInParadise's avatar

For those who are religious: How do you account for the presence of other religions?

Asked by LostInParadise (29658points) March 7th, 2010
72 responses
“Great Question” (9points)

Assuming that your religion is the right one, why is it that a majority of the world believes differently? Are they deluded? Are they all evil? Were they brainwashed by their parents? Is there something faulty with their communication with God?

And why did it take so long in human history for anyone to find the right religion? Did it require a Jesus or a Mohamed to reveal the true word of God? Did God feel he had to wait for the right moment to reveal the truth?

The task for me an as an atheist is much simpler. I think all religion is a delusion. Your task is more difficult. You have to explain why your religion is right and everyone else’s is wrong. And don’t give me the crap that all religions are right. They are sufficiently different in specifics that there can not be more than one right one.

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ragingloli's avatar

Well, christians and scientologists have a fitting excuse for this: Satan’s deception/Xenu’s brainwashing of body thetans.

davidbetterman's avatar

All roads lead to Rome. Let me preface this by saying I am not religious, per se.

There is no one true religion. All the world’s religions seem to have a piece of the truth, and then they also seem to use that truth to wheedle as much money as possible out of their constituents.

There is this thing called Free Will which allows god to sit back and not influence people into the Truth.

All religion is a delusion for those who don’t believe. That is a given.

“They are sufficiently different in specifics that there can not be more than one right one.”

That is simply not true.

Jewel's avatar

We can’t all get there by the same path.

gemiwing's avatar

I’m a Christian and believe there is one God and we have different religions because we have people with different needs. Some people need ritual, some need chanting, some need to see the face of God and for others it’s important to never see the face of God.

We’re all on the same boat, just different oars.

LostInParadise's avatar

But most of the world faces eternal damnation for not believing in Christ. How can that be?

davidbetterman's avatar

“But most of the world faces eternal damnation for not believing in Christ. How can that be?”

That simply isn’t true.

Cruiser's avatar

My observation is most if not all religions, although distinctly different in outwardly appearance, do share the same moral codes fueled by the universal thruth’s of humankind.

Same story of love, dedication, truth, honestly and sacrifice. Just differing cast of characters.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Not all people have the same path. We walk the path we were given.

laureth's avatar

Back when I was religious, I believed this and I still do:

When we first started having deeper thoughts as a species, something beyond “hungry” and “cold” and more like “death” and “why did _____ happen to me?” and “why does the sun do that?”, we tried to explain it in a way that made sense with the data we had. Of course, we didn’t have telescopes and microscopes and germ theory, we just had our big monkey brains to noodle things out with. So we reasoned that since we had parents, maybe there was something like a big uber-parent who created us (perhaps She gave birth to us) and takes care of us. But then, as populations grew large and wandered apart, they got new ideas, generally based on where they lived. The Mesopotamians, for example, lived in a swamp surrounded by desert that flooded mercilessly, so they naturally thought there were mean, fickle gods who played tricks. And some other folks, pastoralists who raised cattle, would see a connection to paternity instead of maternity, and conclude that the Goddess was a Father God, which leads to different conclusions about the way things are.

Religion is something that holds people and cultures together, but it’s also very personal. People believe in deities that are shaped by their culture, or which spur their culture on to winning. Back when I was religious, I wanted to try to find the original spark of religious thought, which was probably something like an Eternal Mother, because I figured that was the truest source from which everyone grabbed what they needed, spiritually speaking, before taking it on their own culture’s journey. Religions, like cultures and languages and species, evolve. That’s why there are so many. But now, I realize that while we still have the sorts of unanswered questions for which religion provides an easy, sensible answer, it probably just means that we don’t know the real answer yet and may well find it out someday. We don’t need Apollo when we know what really makes the daylight go ‘round.

LostInParadise's avatar

@davidbetterman , Salvation is the basis of Christianity. Someone can not be a Christian and at the same time say that all religions are the same. You can’t say that you are going to be saved and non-Christians will be damned and then say that all religions are the same.

gemiwing's avatar

@LostInParadise I don’t believe people who aren’t Christian are going to hell. Your interpretation of Christianity is just that- your interpretation. People are allowed to have different beliefs.

Not all Christians believe in the same things. There are many different types of beliefs, some Christians don’t believe in Hell, some believe in Purgatory- it all depends on the person’s choice of faith.

Here is an interesting comparison of different Christian faiths for anyone interested. It is not all-inclusive as there are a few denominations missing, yet it has enough for a basic comparison.

davidbetterman's avatar

@LostInParadise “Someone can not be a Christian and at the same time say that all religions are the same.”
Of course they can.
“You can’t say that you are going to be saved and non-Christians will be damned…”
You would have to be a fool to believe in Jesus, who said to love even your enemies, and then believe that Jesus would have you damned for not believing in him. Why, that reeks of hypocrisy.
You are truly lost in paradise. ;)

LostInParadise's avatar

Then what sets Christianity apart from any other religion? What is Easter all about? What difference does it make whether Christ arose from the grave? In one of the books of his Hitchhiker series books, Douglas Adams has one of his characters distill the essence of all religions to the two word sentence, “Be nice.” Is that what it all boils down to? Can we discard God? What difference does the presence of God make? Can we all be just one big happy family?

gemiwing's avatar

I can’t speak for all Christians, yet for me, Easter is about celebrating Jesus’ amazing resurrection and absolving us of the chains of sin and suffering.

Many things separate Christianity from other religions. We believe Jesus was the son of God, not just a prophet. We believe he was resurrected. We believe he died to save us all (even non-believers) from languishing forever with no spiritual afterlife.

You have good questions, have you thought of finding a few different religious leaders to talk to about this?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Oh,they’re just crazy.;))

laureth's avatar

Does believing in Purgatory (for example) make any difference as to whether or not Purgatory exists? (Would it exist for Purgatory believers, but not for Purgatory disbelievers?)

I’m not trying to start a flame war, at least not any moreso than the original question is. The point I’m trying to make is, how do you account for the actual existence of Purgatory (or Jesus, for that matter) when other religions – even other branches of Christianity – have it on just as good evidence that Purgatory does not exist?

(Extend example as needed for other theological questions, such as “How can you say that Jesus wouldn’t damn you and be right when other Christians say that you “can’t get to the Father but through Jesus” and also be right?)

gemiwing's avatar

@laureth I don’t think that’s a flamey statement. I think it’s a good philosophical point.
We don’t know, we will never know until we are there so I chalk that up to the ‘different beliefs’ umbrella and let it go. It’s just about faith in one’s personal beliefs, to me. If I were to sit and think about it on end and worry it would lead to madness, so I skip it and have some tea instead.

laureth's avatar

@gemiwing – good enough for me. :)

CMaz's avatar

Because man discovered a long time ago, the power and control that comes with a supernatural connection.

And like any good salesman, it works best when you believe in the product you are selling.

davidbetterman's avatar


Yes, ”Be nice” is what it all boils down to.

“Can we discard God?”
It is your choice. that is what Free Will is all about. You will not be damned for doing so.

What difference does the presence of God make?

All the difference.

Ria777's avatar

@Cruiser: My observation is most if not all religions, although distinctly different in outwardly appearance, do share the same moral codes fueled by the universal thruth’s of humankind.

Same story of love, dedication, truth, honestly and sacrifice. Just differing cast of characters.

you can say that because you don’t live in a society dominated by religion, specifically one of the Abrahamic religions. they don’t place a lot of value on tolerance and they maintain their beliefs by a combination of fear (both spiritual and practical), shame and guilt.

CMaz's avatar

“account for the presence of other religions?’

Individuality. Governments and ruling bodies have been trying to suppress since man discovered the wheel.

penguinboi's avatar

1) Christianity follows God’s written word, the Bible.
2) There is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
3) Christianity has a resurrected savior.
4) Christianity offers salvation through faith, not by works.
5) God is a trinity.

CMaz's avatar

“God’s written word”
There is good stuff in it. But your opinion.

Making 2–5 a moot point.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“See dog run” shares the same essence of meaning with ”看见狗跑” and “Voir le chien courir”

“Acknowledging the existence of a Higher Power” shares the same essence of meaning for Christians, Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist.

The Essence of Meaning is what counts. The method of expressing it doesn’t.

The Medium is never the Message.

jaytkay's avatar

I don’t think the question has been answered at all here. I see a lot of “all religions are basically the same”.

Which is either “I don’t believe the specifics of my own religion”. Or “I am a polytheist who believes that different religions have their own gods.”

Blondesjon's avatar

A tree is still a tree no matter what language you use.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The problem arises because people worship their religion which suggests they believe in their God. As if it is their God. As if God can be owned. As if God is a Genie in a bottle to be pulled out when they need it for supporting their religion.

No, all religions are not the same any more than all languages are the same. But they do all point to the same essence of Creator and essence of meaning behind that Creator.

Who can own such a thing? Who is boldly ignorant enough to call IT Theirs?

Stop worshiping Religion. Start getting to know God.

jerv's avatar

Some account for other religions as proof that evil exists and then get convoluted when trying to justify how an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God could possibly allow that to happen while then doing their part to cleanse the Earth.

Others, like Bahá’í, see all religion as different facets of the same Universal Truth, like viewing a cut gemstone from different angles.
…there is but one religion which is progressively revealed by God, through prophets/messengers, to mankind as humanity matures and its capacity to understand also grows.

jerv's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I concur, and that is why I am an Agnostic. I see any relationship with the divine as a deeply personal thing that really doesn’t need books, houses of worship, rituals, or groups of like-minded people to lend it legitimacy.

filmfann's avatar

Moses led the Chosen People out of Egypt, and walked thru the pulled back waters of the Red Sea. The people saw this, and understood that this was the work of the God of Moses.
Once delivered from Egypt, the people waited as Moses went up Mt. Sinai, where he spent 40 days recieving the Ten Commandments from the Lord.
During this time, the people became restless, and began creating their own religions to account for their deliverance. They had seen the power of the God of Moses, and still felt they had to invent a God!
How do you account for people who have seen the truth, and try to explain it another way?
It is the nature of Man to do such stupid things.

Ria777's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: Buddhism doesn’t acknowledge a Higher Power. you can easily believe in Buddhism and not exist in “God” or gods. another example here of importing the biases of one religion into another.

Cruiser's avatar

@Ria777 .“they maintain their beliefs by a combination of fear (both spiritual and practical), shame and guilt.” . hmmm..not sure about that, Again being raised Catholic fear of God, shame and guilt were the very foundation of the tenets I was taught and something I see in most all religions. Fear and guilt are tremendous motivators to pray for ones salvation and religious leaders capitalize on this inherent human weakness to grow their flocks.

davidbetterman's avatar

_“They had seen the power of the God of Moses, and still felt they had to invent a God!
How do you account for people who have seen the truth, and try to explain it another way?
It is the nature of Man to do such stupid things.“_

That was just a story from an old old book. the story was passed down by word of mouth for hundreds of years before getting printed and re-printed and finally ending up in a book which prima facie admits that it is merely a version.

There is only just one god. She allows all to worship her or not as they choose.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Buddhism acknowledges Devas and spiritual essence.

“Just as humans can affect the world more than animals, devas can affect the world more than humans.”

kess's avatar

There should be only one religion and that is the religion of life itself.

The organised systems claiming to speak for God, merely serves to distract attention from the only reality of God.

God is found only as one searches within Himself to hear the voice of Truth.

This Truth tell him His nature and the nature of the One True God and all other things.

This Truth is well known as The Christ… and is hardly found with any religion out even the one who goes by this name.

LostInParadise's avatar

@kess, I was following you up to the part where you brought in Christ. Why must the Truth be known as Christ?

@gemiwing, That is an interesting interpretation of Christianity. You know, of course, that there are many Christians who believe that non-Christians will not be saved.

Some good responses, but I don’t feel my question has been answered.

CMaz's avatar

The answer has been given. It is very clear and expressed with every broad and diverse answer.

We are all giving the same answer just differently. Now pick an ideology and there you go.

Ria777's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: and some christians acknowledge the existence of elves. doesn’t really matter though does it? whether or not the elves exist does not any fundamental importance to christianity. and Buddha’s original teachings do not depend on the existence of a supreme being nor do the core principles. (I knowingly oversimplified Buddhism when I made that statement BTW.)

Ria777's avatar

@Cruiser: you confuse me. first you state the Unitarian Universalist “all religions preach the same thing” line and then you join me in my critique of Abrahamic religions while seeming to correct me. I don’t get it.

Jeruba's avatar

You can find two people of the same culture and language, the same religion, the same place of worship and same spiritual leader, and even the same family who are not in perfect agreement on some matter of religious doctrine or practice—one a little more liberal than the other, one a little more strict or literal. Let’s say they are brothers. All you need is for those two family members to live in different houses, and over time differences will increase.

Now imagine them moving farther apart, fathering different family lines, different tribes, having different experiences of life and facing different challenges and enemies. What possible chance is there that their religious beliefs and customs will remain exactly the same?

What’s really amazing is that we don’t have three or four billion different religions.

As far as that goes, there are also different strains of atheism, you know, and each of those think they’re right too.

jaytkay's avatar

If only there some all-powerful, all-knowing being involved, with god-like powers, who could assure everyone understood Truth correctly…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@penguinboi no one is asking you to recount christianity – you’re being asked to discuss why you discount other religions

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Tomayto, Tomahto… what’s the difference?

Ltryptophan's avatar

Christianity is the only true religion because A) it successfully goes a step farther than Judaism (same religion minus Jesus). unsuccessful -I don’t think Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct, because they don’t believe Jesus is God. B) Judaism as far as I know was the first religion where God is said to have showed up saying, I AM THE I AM. For a philosophy major, my thinking goes like this… If I am going to believe in a God then the only reason to do so is to worship that God. If I was simply going to believe that there was a higher power well where could I draw the line? There are lots of powerful people! Should I find the most powerful one and worship them, no. Well there might be a powerful alien, so should I worship the alien because they have shit figured out? No. So where do I draw the line? Well if you want to be worshipped, ya gotta be perfect. To me perfect means, not only can you not make mistakes, you yourself cannot be made, nor begin, end, or exist necessarily because of anything but yourself. Plain logic tells me that there can only be one of this sort, and I refer to that being as God. I also throw in there that you must be able to know all things that are knowable, and be all places at once. Jesus laid claim to the Judaistic notion of God, which is the religion that is first in my opinion to recognise that formula for God.

As for all the other religions: They are incorrect as a whole, but likely contain some or many truths. The bible says that people have the law written on their souls, and that sans the true codified law they will be judged based on what they had available.

Treating someone horrible is bad, no matter where you are or whatever, you know it, and if you do it, you will either repent and be forgiven or suffer the consequences of your actions.

Jesus said that the whole law can be summed up in two statements. Love your neighbor like yourself, and Love God with your whole heart, yor mind, your body, and your spirit. AKA everything you gots. If you are doing this you are likely in good shape, no matter what corner of the world you live in. Only one person will judge the living and the dead. Jesus will be that person, and He is just. In fact He is Justice itself. He is righteousness, and all good things flow from Him. Noone will be damned who did not deserve damnation. God will weigh men’s hearts and that will be how it gets dished out. Now, if you are so absolutely muslim, born and raised, that no matter how eloquently worded a christian lays it out, or you for him, for that matter, I believe that you will be judged based on the law you had, and your own conscience. God really will know what you really thought in your innermost being and so many who professed they would not follow will be shown to be deniers of what their own hearts told them was the truth. For that person I believe damnation will come, be they christian, or otherwise. It is denial of God that earns you the second death. If you accept Him then death will not prevail against you, nor will anything else.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When did God ever ask for your worship?

jerv's avatar

@Ltryptophan Let me see if I got this straight…. you believe that Christianity is perfect because Christianity is perfect? With “logic” like that, you ought to flunk out of your philosophy class before I finish typing this posting!
And Man does a hell of a lot of judging and damning, especially those following Christianity. I always knew that the US was going to invade the Middle East again since it had been too long since we had a Christian warlord invade the Muslims lands.

You are entitled to your opinion, but the way you stated yours makes me laugh my ass off and reaffirms that I am correct in my Agnosticism.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, first of all people who think all religions are delusions are deluded. Sorry to be so frank. The support of self-explanatory reality is as much an act of faith as is the belief in divine wisdom and creation. Some forms of religion do have an element of delusion though. Yet same applies to superstitious people and many of those are not religious.

I don’t assume that my religion is the right one. It works for me, but not necessarily for everybody else. An important aspect of religions is a moral framework, a code of conduct and a set of rituals to create social bonds. Why is there diversity? For the same reason as there is cultural diversity.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@jerv glad to give you a laugh.

fireside's avatar

Like @jerv said, the Baha’is believe that all religions arise from the same source, the same eternal God, just dispensed to different peoples at different times in history.

These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated

@Ltryptophan – actually, the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita predate the account of Moses’ conversation with God:

“I am the birthless, the deathless, Lord of all that breathes. I seem to be born: it is only seeming, only my Maya. I am still master Of my Prakriti, the power that makes me. When goodness grows weak, when evil increases, I make myself a body. In every age I come back to deliver the holy, to destroy the sin of the sinner, to establish righteousness.”

CMaz's avatar

“I am the birthless, the deathless, Lord of all that breathes.”

Something I say to myself every day.

penguinboi's avatar

@chazmaz, why is that?

CMaz's avatar

Because I am God.

kess's avatar

Christ is not a man.

Christ is the Spirit of truth within all who lives and breathe.

Truth only become a man when that man lives by Truth.
Then he too is Christ.

Religion especially christianity cannot exist if this be known.

True Religion is life itself, this is where Truth/Christ is lived,

not within a sect claiming to speak for God.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

My dear @kess, where did you come from? How did you come to know this revelation? I was beginning to believe that I was the only one who claimed such a thing.

I often say, the modern day Christian will miss the second coming of Christ every bit as much as they accuse the Jews of missing the first coming… They will not recognize him.

I also claim that God is Truth, one in the same, synonymous in every respect. Thus, when you claim, “Truth only become a man when that man lives by Truth”, I take that comment to mean the same as “God only become a man when that man lives by God.”

Likewise also claiming that Satan is Deception, synonymous, one in the same.

Heresy to claim such notions. Christians typically miss the point. They have made their religion to be their God. But that is Deception. That is Satan.

fireside's avatar

I agree that God is Truth and that everyone can recognize that divine truth if they remove their personal veils. But I think the “Spirit of Truth” as referred to by Jesus is a different entity. I also believe that there are those who have a more direct connection with God than the vast majority.

In the Gospel of John, in speaking of the Promised One Who was to come after Christ, it is said in chapter 16, verses 12, 13: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak.”

Now consider carefully that from these words, “for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak,” it is clear that the Spirit of truth is embodied in a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak. In the same way the name “Spirit of God” is used in relation to Christ, as you speak of a light, meaning both the light and the lamp.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 109)

CMaz's avatar

“hose who have a more direct connection with God than the vast majority.”

That’s me. IE I am God. As we all are.

kess's avatar

Realeyes, there was a time I thought the same thing…

Now I have met many without Christianity who were all thought the same things through the same Spirit Truth.

Keep asking my friend you will realize that all answers are indeed within you.

That is the way of All the children of God.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The Promised One you refer to is what Christians call the Holy Spirit. It is not considered a different entity from God. It is an expression of the triune God. As ice and steam are different manifestations of water, so be the Christ and Holy Spirit as different manifestations of God, the same God.

When Jesus reminds us in Luke 17:21 “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”, it’s easy to assume that we will be naturally justified in all our actions. But I don’t believe that’s what it intends to mean. The kingdom of God is not the same as God. The kingdom of God, I believe, is our unique ability to be authors, creators, by using code, language, to express our non physical thoughts into an actual physical manifestation.

Just as God spoke, and ”...said, let there be…”, so we also are created in the same image to have our own ability to speak physical reality into existence. But that is not God within us. That is the kingdom of God within us.

Our God like ability to speak physicality into existence also gives us authority to speak deception, and to create evil manifestation. If God actually “lived” within us, then there would be no possibility for humans to become David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite… Hitler. These fellows also believed that the answers were within them. They thought themselves to be in union with God, or as @ChazMaz claims, to actually be God themselves.

This Word Principle is also described in the Sphota Theory of Language presented by Bhartrihari, specifically noting God as a separate agent from man, but that through language, and the words we use to form our thoughts, we are actually inviting Brahman into our physical plane of existence.

John opens by explaining to us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh…”

God uses the Word to create, just as we do. Look at the things around you created by mankind. Everyone of them has a set of plans or instructions that stand as their Word of creation. First the thought, then the word, then the creation. Nothing created can be created in any other way. And this is “The Way” depicted by Taoism. The Dao, The Way, the Way it is to be. If we don’t acknowledge the specific Way, then none of the creation lying before you would be The Way it is.

In this Way, Christ claims with authority, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life”.

Accept The Way of Truth and Live.

CMaz's avatar

“Our God like ability”
Yea that’s right. Watch out for the lightning. ;-)

I don’t claim it. I am. Ya just have to think (get) outside the box.

And, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite… or Hitler. Are just part of the process. Like the feces that comes out of your body.

“WE” just put labels on them. Describing what “Godly” or “evil” is.

Tack a supernatural connection to it and you have a game show. And, everyone wants to be a contestant.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t believe in the supernatural. If God exists, then it’s perfectly natural for God to exist.

How are the corrupt part of the process of God? It seems to me they set up their own gods, or claim themselves to be god. What has that to do with a real God, other than rejecting it?

Yes, we put labels on things to describe them. But neither the label or the description is equal to the thing described. Who’s to say which labels are correct, and which are errant?

CMaz's avatar

God snaps “his” finger. Puts everything into motion. From that point on. Nothing more then a process.

“If God exists, then it’s perfectly natural for God to exist.”

“Who’s to say which labels are correct, and which are errant?”
And true.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do you, as God, setting a process into motion, negate my expression of free will?

Are you my puppet master?

CMaz's avatar

You don’t have free will. You just think you do. Because it is too complex for you to accept.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What is too complex for me to accept?

CMaz's avatar

Ok good. ;-)

And I should of said “some” instead of you.. :-) No intention to single you out.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How may we explain concepts of love, beauty, jealousy, evil, empathy… without free will?

CMaz's avatar

The same way you explain how the wind blows.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I use my free will to accomplish that task. The free will that you as God tell me that I don’t have.

CMaz's avatar

Action reaction.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

There is a monumental difference between cause/reaction and thought/action. Cause/reaction requires no code. Thought/action requires code, and when we find a code, such as one that describes concepts of love, beauty, or how the wind blows… when we find a code, then our discussion has moved out of the mindless realm of cause/reaction, and into the mindful realm of thought/action.

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