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Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 2: Religious Pluralism
It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bible’s humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. Can we at least apply the same standards to the Bible that we do to other ancient literary works.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies. Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
Part 8 b:The Resurrection Accounts.  The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written, and therefore, it is a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm, or undermine, the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does dying twice sound? -  which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian? Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.


What Is Religious Pluralism?
Occasionally used as a synonym for ecumenism religious pluralism believes there are many spiritual paths to the same destination.

Religious Tolerance: What It Does and Doesn't Mean
I will defend to the death your right to believe as you do, just as much as I will defend to the death my right to try and convince you that you are wrong.

Three Common But Erroneous Beliefs of Religious Pluralism
1) It Doesn't Matter What You Believe as Long as You're Sincere
2) Every Religion Only Has A Portion Of The Truth
3) All Religions Stem From The Same Source

Contradictory Claims
If in our daily lives we do not believe two contradictory facts at the same time, we must realize that if two religions make truth claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right.

Ambiguity... Restricted Solely to Spirituality
Dozens of decisions we make are based on facts not feelings except apparently when it comes to religion.

Charges Often Leveled at Christians
They are narrow minded, arrogant, bigoted and are only Christians because they were born into a Christian country or family.

Judging Religious Claims
It seems to come as quite a surprise to many that similar criteria used to judge whether something is true in the secular world can be applied to religious claims. That is criteria that is unrelated to and undistorted by thoughts, feelings, emotions, personal bias, tradition etc.

What Is Religious Pluralism?
A very common claim heard today is that no religion is absolutely true (the word "absolute" means unconditional... unlimited by restrictions or exceptions). Religious pluralists who sometimes call themselves "spiritually eclectic" believe that it doesn't really matter what spiritual path you follow because 1) there is no conclusive evidence in favor of one religion being 'right' and 2) there is at least some validity and truth in almost all religions and philosophies. All that matters is that you are "sincere", and have some version of God in there somewhere.

And this view appears to be more widespread than we realize

In his book Absolute Confusion, George Barna reported that two-thirds of all adults (62%) believe that "it does not matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons about life. [01] This was substantiated by a major nationwide survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center in 2007. An interview with more than 35,000 adults in the U.S. showed that (Emphasis Added)

    Most Americans agree with the statement that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Among those who are affiliated with a religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life. This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including more than half of members of evangelical Protestant churches (57%). [02]

 Religious pluralists, therefore, do not exclusively follow any one religion, but tend to pick and choose (usually from varied traditional religious beliefs) those doctrines, philosophies and/or practices that resonate with them. What pastor Greg Koukl aptly calls a "Pious Porridge". [03]

Religious Tolerance:
"Tolerance" is one of the more recent buzzwords in an increasingly diverse society. A large percentage of the population, cheerfully confusing democracy and truth, has run with the idea that equal tolerance of all religions means that one has to accept all religions as being equally valid paths to God.

Not so!

What It Means
Sadly, in today's world how many words are used has little to do with good English or even how the dictionary defines the word, but how the vast majority of people use (or misuse) them. The word "tolerant" (which I thought was a simple easy-to-understand word in the English language) is a prime example. Nowadays, you are called intolerant if you think someone is wrong regardless of how you treat that person.

However, 'tolerate' means to put up with something you may not like, agree with or approve of etc. In fact, one person cannot tolerate someone else unless he, or she, disagrees with that person.  For example, although we might be the most tidy of people and deplore a mess we might tolerate or put up with a member of our family who leaves their clothes strewn around.

    (Note: The same lack of understanding of basic English comes up when Christians are accused of being "homophobic" when they state their belief that homosexuality is wrong. See Footnote I)

In a religious context,  the word "tolerance" simply means that a person of one faith will tolerate or put up with people who believe differently and will not, in any way, discriminate against them because of their religious convictions. 

And no one can argue that this not is the right thing to do.

The pages of history are blood soaked by the terrible consequences of man's extreme intolerance of any creed, belief, opinion, or practice that differs from his own. Religious bigotry has led to so called holy wars... the crusades, inquisitions etc., all of which were all morally reprehensible and makes it extremely important that we do all we can to foster religious freedom. Every man and woman alive has the right to choose whatever religious path they wish.

What It Doesn't Mean
Having said that, I have to point out that religious tolerance does not mean that

a) A person of one religion has to agree with or endorses some or any of the beliefs of another.

    Hundreds of thousands of people who have, apparently, never heard of a dictionary, think 'religious tolerance' means that you are supposed to accept any and all spiritual beliefs as having some truth, regardless of whether you think they contradict facts, or even make a whit of sense.

b) A person of one faith cannot or will not argue or debate the validity of their own religion.

    One outcome of the misuse of the word 'tolerance' is that proselytizing or trying to induce someone to convert to one's own religious point of view, is seen as "intolerant". Christians in particular who attempt to put forth the benefits and validity of their beliefs are often accused of trying to 'cram their religious views down other's throats'. Unfortunately this is another skewed view of 'tolerance'. People have as much right to argue /discuss/debate the validity of their own religion, as much as any other topic. However, should person two reject any of what is put forth, person one accepts that everyone has the right to believe and practice what they do. 

    I will defend to the death your right to believe as you do, just as much as I will defend to the death my right to try and convince you that you are wrong.

Heaven help the person who has the sheer audacity to think that someone else's religious views are wrong. Pluralists often accuse Christians of being imperious, overbearing and arrogant because they think they are right, and other spiritual paths/religions are wrong. This, by any standard, is not tolerance at all. What the accuser usually forgets is that the very tolerance that they so emphatically espouse, requires them to be tolerant of the Christian who is stating his or her beliefs.

In other words they are just as dogmatic as the people they rail against. Besides which, as  Grantley Morris - the refreshingly quirky Christian author so rightly said. (Unfortunately the article no longer uses these specific words).

    "should you talk to any vigorous proponent of the tolerance issue, you would find that when it comes to issues that happen to be close to their hearts .. animal cruelty, racism, rape, environmental vandalism, nuclear warfare, banning abortion etc. (to name a few possibilities) tolerance would take a flying leap out of the window, and what they believe would matter very much". [04]

Additionally, what few realize is that Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity (the belief that only one religion is true). For example,

    Islam claims both theological and linguistic exclusivity.... Muslims believe that the sole and consummate miracle of Islam is the Qur’an, and that only in Arabic (any translation is believed to de-sanctify it). The Qur’an itself says "And whoever desires other than Islam as religion - never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. (Imran 3:85. Sahih International).

    Hinduism, while claiming to be a religion that 'accepts all religions to be true', is absolutely uncompromising on the authority on the Vedas (Hindu scripture), the law of karma (the law of moral cause and effect) and reincarnation. Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda said "The path of the Upanishads is the pure path" through which "truth becomes clear". [05]

The claims made by Christianity are constantly being challenged by other people. In fact, we live in a time when the only prejudice that is tolerated is the prejudice against Christians and Christianity. However, on the precept of 'what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander' the truth claims of other religions are also open to challenge.

In light of which although pluralistic beliefs may sound very tolerant and enlightened, they do not hold up under scrutiny. Let's examine the more common ones.

Three Common But Erroneous Beliefs of Religious Pluralism

1) It Doesn’t Matter What You Believe as Long as You're Sincere
But as Grantley Morris asks, "what if you believe . . .

    All you need for skydiving is a good umbrella

    Plumbers have better cures for constipation than doctors

    Red traffic lights mean 'go'"

And, as he goes on to say, "In the physical world, what you believe is critical and the same God made the spiritual realm. Try telling a victim of Hinduism that it doesn't matter what you believe. Especially before Christian influence gained momentum in India, millions of Hindus sincerely believed that:

    Baby girls should be drowned in the Ganges so they can be reincarnated as boys

    Surviving widows should be cremated alive with their deceased husbands

    The gross discrimination and prejudice of the Hindu caste system should be enforced

    It is better not to relieve human suffering because that would be interfering with people's karma" [06]

In this regard, the late Dave hunt tells an amusing, but very telling story. He says he was in hospital  for surgery and, during his stay, enjoyed talking to the doctors and nurses "about what really matters". He goes on to say that he was shocked at how many nurses declared they could believe what they wanted. Dave's response was to tell the medical staff to remove the I.V. and let him out of there. This, obviously, met with some consternation until he explained to them that he was not willing to be treated in a hospital where nurses and doctors could believe whatever they want. The staff then explained that they were talking only about religion, and he had no need to worry since here were definite medical procedures for treating patients.

In other words, there are rules for caring for the body but, when it comes to ones eternal soul, anything goes. As Dave went on to say...

    "Such is the irrational thinking engaged in by the majority of people today. They can be very sensible and careful about things in this life, but when it comes to eternity they literally throw reason to the winds". [07]

2) Every Religion Only Has A Portion Of The Truth
The story of the blind men who are trying to describe an elephant by touching various parts of the elephant's body is a common analogy often used to illustrate the point that every religion only has a portion of the truth. The blind man who feels only a leg claims the elephant resembles a pillar; the one who gets a hold of the tail thinks the elephant is more like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like the branch of a tree, and the one who touches the elephant's side believes the elephant is much like a wall, and so on...

In other words, the parable claims to show that no one religion or individual has the whole picture (truth), and to claim to do so is unmitigated arrogance.

What is truly amazing is how many people nod their heads very wisely at this parable without thinking it through.

The only way this parable makes any sense at all is if the person relating the story has seen the entire elephant. In other words, a person can claim that each religion only has a portion of the truth ONLY if that person knows the whole truth. It is pretty arrogant for anyone to claim that they know more than any and all the religions of the world.

3) All Religions Stem From The Same Source
It is sometimes argued that the one omniscient deity created all religions in order to reach people from various cultures and backgrounds, in a way that most appeals to them. Therefore, all religions stem from the same source although their customs and practices may be different. Advocates of this position often appeal to the common factors between religions, most especially the fact that many of them have a similar moral code and often produce positive moral changes in their followers.

However, although this theory may, on the surface, sound quite enlightened, it has a fatal flaw. We should, for a start, note that several religions were founded in opposition to ones existing at the time. For example,

    Buddhism in India blossomed as a result of people seeking freedom from an extremely oppressive, caste-ridden society, which stipulated strict norms of ritualistic worship, and granted special status to just a handful of the "privileged class" of society, while looking down upon the rest of the population. [08] Gautama Buddha rejected the ultimate authority of the Vedas and the caste system creating a new emphasis on renunciation and transcendental knowledge.  [09]

    Sikhism came as a challenge to both Hinduism and Islam. After a vision, the founder, Guru Nanak, said since God was neither Hindu nor Muslim, the path he would follow would be God's path.

    Bahai: While Baha'ullah considered that "Qur'an held pride of place among the sacred writings of the world", he "did not accept a traditional account of Islam. He rejected polygamy, slavery, and the concept of holy war (jihad). Much of the Qur'anic teaching was modified or explained in an allegorical or metaphorical sense. Thus belief in angels and evil spirits was dropped. Heaven and hell were treated symbolically. In these and other ways the monotheism of Muhammad was liberated from the particular thought forms and regulations natural at the time of the Prophet, and were given a new look." [10]

If all religions stem from one source they have to possess similar truths - at least on the major issues which is certainly not the case. The second verse of English journalist Steve Turner's satirical poem entitled Creed says..

    We believe that all religions are basically the same... they all believe in love and goodness.
    They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation. 

And he couldn't have been more accurate because everyone of the world's major religions contradict each other on the most vital of issues.

Contradictory Claims
Anyone who insists that all religions are equally true or, at least, there is validity to be found in all religions is ignoring the fact that claims made by one often flatly contradict claims made by some of the others. In fact, they do not even agree on the most crucial of questions... whether or not there is only one God and if there is only one who He is, what his characteristics are, what he expects from us, how we relate to Him, what happens to us after we die etc. For example...

    The Bible says that there is only one God, which Muslims and Jews agree with.

    In Hinduism, Brahman is often seen as an impersonal absolute reality which permeates all things. However, most Hindus believe in a pantheon of Gods, although some hold that deities like Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna are simply manifestations of Brahman.

    Christianity holds that God can be known, while most eastern traditions believe God to be impersonal and unknowable.

    Buddhists seek Nirvana, the complete absence of desire. Contrary to most of the major religions "The historical Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment. God is unnecessary in Buddhism, as this is a practical religion and philosophy that emphasizes practical results over faith in beliefs or deities". [10b].

    Baha'i contradicts Islam's belief that Muhammad is the last and final prophet.

    Christianity teaches that when we die, we will go to either heaven or hell. (And no, the Bible neither teaches that hell is an everlasting fiery furnace, nor that heaven is some ethereal place somewhere 'out there'. See Indepth Articles on  Heaven and  Hell)). Hindus claim that we are all reincarnated depending on our 'karma'. Shinto holds that each person harbors a kami (divine spirit). At death it emerges from the deceased and interacts in different ways with the world of the living. However, it needs help from the living needs someone to take care of its basic needs which is why people continually offer them food, drink, etc [10c]

    Islam denies the crucifixion of Christ, and Judaism denies He was the Messiah - two doctrines that are at the very heart of Christianity. Islam also flatly declares that it is blasphemy to believe God has a Son. [Sura 18:4-5)

      Note: Islam's attack on God having a "Son" arises from a basic misunderstanding of how the word is used in the Bible. In Scripture the word "son" is used of offspring or biological children however, it also indicates 'a close association with'. For example, believers who share no blood relationship with Abraham, are called "sons of Abraham" in Galatians 3:7. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said peacemakers 'shall be called "sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). See Was Jesus the "offspring" of God? (Scroll Down to 'Son of God')

In nearly all religions, salvation (if, in many cases, it can even be called that) is attained through human effort.. good works, alms giving etc.. Only in Christianity does salvation come solely as a gift from God - it cannot be earned through human effort. (What salvation means in Christianity is covered in detail in the chapter The Message of The Bible)

In our daily lives we do not believe two contradictory facts at the same time. For example, either the Seattle Seahawks won the 2014 super bowl or they did not... both cannot possibly be true. Similarly, when it comes to religion...

    Either God exists, or He does not.

    Either there is one God, or there is more than one.

    Either God is knowable, or He is not

    Either Christ is the Messiah, or He is not.

There are no other choices, and no in-between view.

And when it comes to the afterlife, either we just perish, are reincarnated, transmuted into Divinity, achieve some kind of mystical supernatural state, or, as Christianity teaches we die once, after which comes the judgment.

If two religions make truth-claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right. When one religion says there is only one God and another says there are many gods, someone doesn't have their facts straight. God can either be either knowable (Christianity) or unknowable (Eastern religions) - He cannot be both. When Muslims and Christians claim that each person lives only once, then faces judgment, and Hindus claim that each person is reincarnated many times, one of the two parties is wrong. one cannot both 'go to heaven' and be reincarnated.

Does the fact that your spiritual path may not be any think other than a dangerous delusion not make you even slightly uneasy?

Ambiguity... Restricted Solely to Spirituality
Some people choose their religious beliefs like they choose their food at a buffet...

At a buffet you, like most people, probably take a little of this and a little of that, helping yourself to food that appeals to you and tastes good. But you may very well be adding things to your plate that are not going to do your body any good. In fact, some of your choices might actually do you harm. Think about it for a moment, your selection would probably be very different if you were piling onto your plate only food that was good for you, which would only happen if you had done some research on/ knew something about basic nutrition.

Similarly, when someone picks and chooses from a variety of different spiritual beliefs and practices they tend to choose what appeals to the palate - a narrative or philosophy that helps them bring some order and meaning into their lives, interpret their own existence, find some inner peace and tranquility of mind in what can often be a chaotic life. The problem is the spiritually eclectic might be happy with a spiritual path of their own invention but haven't done any study of basic spiritual nutrition and therefore have no idea whether what they have chosen has any nutritional value or might even be carcinogenic.

When it comes to religion

Just as the pleasant afterglow of a delicious meal does not mean what you ate was good for you, a  sense of emotional and physical well being does not necessarily mean that your spiritual path is wise in the long run, much less that it leads to Deity.

When it comes to religion all too many people seem to want is a narrative or philosophy that helps them bring some order and meaning into their lives, interpret their own existence, find some inner peace and tranquility of mind in what can often be a chaotic life. Figuring out a belief or practice that 'works for them' seems to be as far as many people are willing to take it yet oddly enough, those who claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth make scores of decisions every day on the basis that they believe some things are true and others are false.

Dozens of Decisions We Make, Are Based on Facts not Feelings...
Whether we realize it or not, we literally make dozens of decisions every day based on evidence, not feelings. As Anglican Clergyman, Dick Tripp, so rightly says...

    I will not turn on a light without believing in the reality of electricity, or drive a car without believing in the effectiveness of the combustion engine. No one flying in a cloud through mountainous terrain would want to be directed by a navigator who did not believe in the truth of his instruments. No one undergoing brain surgery would want to be operated on by a surgeon who did not believe that some things about the brain were true and some not true. [11]

Society as a whole, works exactly the same way. For example

Our entire justice system is founded on the process of finding out whether a person is innocent or guilty of some crime. Evidence is presented, alibis are checked, witnesses are interviewed, with every effort made to determine whether they are telling the truth. Why do we do this? Simply because there is one truth out there - either the person committed the crime or he didn't. And it is imperative we find out which.

Similarly, an accident (especially one that involves several vehicles) can be pure chaos in terms of multiple versions of what exactly happened. One person will usually blame the other, passersby will relate what they saw, or think they saw, and so on and so forth. It often takes a huge amount of sifting through evidence before the truth can be arrived at.

And, I am willing to bet not too many of us are reaching for our check books to support The Flat Earth Society dedicated to demonstrating that

    "the earth is flat and that Round Earth doctrine is little more than an elaborate hoax". [12]

And why not? Simply because the evidence for a round earth is overwhelming.

There is no question that on occasion our feelings or gut instincts can even be very useful. For example, we may have a 'feeling' that a particular person cannot be trusted.

However, feelings and facts are not synonymous, simply because feelings can be caused by all manner of things, from how we physically feel that day, what we might have eaten, or what our current circumstances are. Most people can probably recount many instances when their feelings led them astray. In fact, the high divorce rate in modern society provides irrefutable testimony to the fact that feeling cannot always be trusted.

On the other hand, facts are always true, and completely unrelated to what people think or believe. For example, believing 2+2=4 is a mathematical fact, regardless of whether anyone believes it, or not.

You are perfectly entitled to hold your own opinion. However, you cannot make up your own truth... not in mathematics, not in science, and not in religion.

For some reason I cannot possibly fathom religious belief is the one major exception to logical analysis.

What would any of the spiritually eclectic people say to the doctor who refuses to recommend a definite line of treatment, but suggests that they can choose any one medicine or any combination of medicines for themselves. All of which should have the desired result depending, of course, on how they feel while they are taking it and whether they believe it will help. And what would they say to the insurance agent who tells them that one policy should achieve the same results as all the others. I would be willing to bet good money that the unwell patient would not waste very much time finding another doctor, and the person looking for the best insurance policy has long slung the agent out of his or her house.

So, when we refuse to accept ambiguity in virtually every arena of our lives, why are we so willing to accept it in our spiritual lives... the arena that could have the most far reaching consequences of all.

Are we simply going to continue deluding ourselves into believing that two or more contradictory statements can all be true. or should we, like the legendary detective Hercule Poirot repeatedly said - stir the little grey cells. The real issue is not whether you find your spiritual beliefs appealing and whether they seem to work for you, but whether they are true.  As Keith Johnson says

    Claiming that it is intolerant to say that "all paths do not lead to the same destination" misses the point. The important issue is the truth or falsity of this assertion.  [13]

Charges Often Leveled at Christians...
Christianity claims to be the one and only true path to God, which conflicts with the very popular belief that all religious belief is relative and all claims to truth are equally valid. This has led to various criticisms, few of which hold water simply because the accusations are based on the person rather than what he believes.

Among other charges often hurled at Christians are; they are narrow minded and/or bigoted, myopic, need a crutch, are biased, or are Christians merely because they were born into a Christian country or family.

However, if you are paying attention, you should have noticed that, without exception, what is being attacked are the Christian's mindset, his character flaws, his emotional needs, his feelings, his biases, his culture, etc. none of which tells you one single thing about the truth or falseness of his beliefs. None of the objections focus on whether there is good reason for the Christian to believe as he does.

To learn whether or not the Christian's beliefs are well placed, you have to focus on the beliefs themselves.

You Are Only A Christian Because you Were Born into a Christian Country or Family
Religious pluralists often claim that religious beliefs are relative to geography and culture, rather than the rationality or truth of the religion itself. For example, a person is a Christian only because they were born into a Christian family. Similarly, a person who happens to be born into a Hindu family in India is very likely to be a Hindu. If born into a Muslim family in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim. In Tibet, a Buddhist.

So what?

Let's start with the fact that, as Jason Dulle points out, this argument is a double-edged sword. The pluralist can only make these claims because he was born in the 20th century in a western country. Had the religious pluralist himself been born in Saudi Arabia, he himself would have been a Muslim, and the vast majority of Muslims are exclusively dedicated to Islam. [14]

In any case, geographical/cultural factors are completely unrelated to the truth or falsity of a religion. As pastor Greg Koukl once said (I, unfortunately, cannot find the article in which he said it and therefore cannot reference it properly)

    Consider two men, one a pediatrician in New York and another a pygmy in the Congo. Each describe the cause of sickness in different ways. The pediatrician faults germs, the pygmy, spirits. The doctor invokes medicine for healing, the pygmy, magic. Each believes exactly what his culture has taught him and lives as if it were so. Here is my question: Who is correct, the doctor or the pygmy?

In other words, you can neither validate nor invalidate a religion based on how a person came to follow that religion. Greg Koukl also goes on to point out that Christians are often guilty of the same error.

    I've frequently heard the content of modern psychology dismissed as bogus simply because it came from irreligious people who hated God. Would these same ideas magically morph into truth when tumbling from the mouth of a Christian?

Unfortunately, while it may seem evident that most people are capable of discerning simple truth, this may be slightly harder than it appears. Some studies actually corroborate the fact that feelings often outweigh facts. David Haury, associate professor of education at Ohio State University, conducted a study on how people make decisions. He says

    "Research in neuroscience has shown that when there's a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins". [15]

While this study was concerned only with why people do or do not accept evolution, there is every reason to believe that gut feeling triumphs facts when it comes to accepting other theories as well. The phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it. [16]

I am sure there is little question that, just like every other group in the world, some Christians are narrow minded. However, we usually consider people "narrow minded" when they refuse to even consider the pros and cons of any opinion or belief that does not agree with their own convictions. As said by Glen Miller of The Christian Thinktank... (capitals in original)

    "... when a college professor spends 40 years studying all sides of an issue, and TAKES A POSITION on that issue, we rarely accuse her of being 'narrow-minded' even though the position may be the same one held by a narrow-minded type. So you see, just holding strongly to a belief that something is true is NOT necessarily being 'narrow minded' ...

    And, looking at this from another angle, if it were simply one human opinion versus another, we might not be entitled to hold our viewpoints so strongly. But if we become convinced that God has broken into history with a factual message, then it's not narrow-minded to believe HIS statements - its a matter of trusting a credible source of information. (Presumably, He knows the REAL facts.) [17]

An extremely good point brought up by pastor Greg Koukl, and one we need to bear in mind, is the fact that 99.9 % of everything we know comes from someone else, not from our own research. For example, all our knowledge about the universe, the microscopic world, distant lands, and history, comes from one authority or another. The key issue being the reliability and credibility of the source.  [18]

Being open-minded does not mean we accept every belief that is out there, but that we do not close our minds off to the possibility that something is true. Only someone who is open-minded will recognize truth when they see it. On the other hand, someone who is narrow minded will not even entertain the possibility that ideas or beliefs, other than the ones they already hold, can be true. Narrow minded people are thus apt to miss the truth.

There is a huge difference between being narrow minded and empty headed.

Arrogance and Bigotry
'Bigotry' is the intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

The charge is often made that Christians are arrogant and bigoted to think they are the only ones with all the answers, have the only way to God, and that their attitude is nothing more than a version of western colonialism. However, this is little more than name calling by those who have no idea of the premise that Christianity is based on which is to save people's lives. Lets see if I can, with a very simple analogy, rectify the completely erroneous impression that Christians try to stuff their opinions down other people's throats...

    When flu season rolls around you are constantly reminded to take your flu shot, especially if you are elderly. This may actually be sound advice since the flu is often a killer (The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed over 20 million people). So we are constantly urged to get the shot by the medical profession, the media etc. since it is one way to be pretty sure of avoiding the virus.

    However, how many people have you heard loudly protesting that the doctors, nurses and other members of the medical profession are narrow minded fundamentalists, trying to force their views down other people throats. Why aren't we telling these people that they are intolerant and hateful for trying to fob their views off on us? After all isn't it narrow minded to insist that THEIR WAY is the only way to avoid getting sick?

    Even if you happen not to want a flu shot, or do not believe that it helps, you accept that the medical profession is trying to save your precious life.

    And whether you agree with them or not, whether you believe them or not, Christians are trying to do the same thing. They are warning you that Jesus is your flu shot, the only way to salvation. Not because we said so but because HE did.

Christians do not think they are better than you (smarter maybe) for getting the 'flu shot' because by doing so they are actually admitting they are sinful and in need of forgiveness... that nothing they can do is good enough to get them into "heaven". We are not in God's favor because of our good works, the exemplary lives we have led, or because we are better than everyone else. But for the grace of God, we would be lost.

If you believe that arsenic and sugar are interchangeable, but all the evidence points to arsenic being a deadly poison, would it be intolerant and arrogant of me not to try and convince you to reconsider spooning arsenic into your coffee? Or would it be inhuman of me not to do so?

In the final analysis, the decision to take or not get the flu shot is yours, as are the consequences of that decision. However, making that decision without really exploring it is not good sense. But, considering the widely differing claims of the various religions, how does one go about making an informed decision?

Judging Religious Claims
It is indisputable that adherents of most religions, including Christianity, tend to reject most other religions simply because they do not agree with the tenets and teaching of their own faith. For example, a Muslim will reject Jesus as the Son of God because the Qur'an says He is only a prophet. Similarly, Buddhists will reject the idea of a factual 'heaven' since it does not square with Buddha's teachings.

However, it does not follow that there is no objective criteria by which we can evaluate different religious traditions. That there are no standards we can use that are unrelated to, and undistorted by, thoughts, feelings, emotions, personal bias, tradition etc.

It doesn't make a whit of sense to assume that just because your parents/family/countrymen believe one way, they are necessarily right. They may very well have done exactly the same thing... unquestioningly followed the belief system of their parents, who might have unquestioningly followed.... ad infinitum. You may begin your life accepting the belief system around you, but once you reach the age of reason, you have the freedom and, may I say it, the responsibility, to examine and evaluate the evidence and claims of your religious beliefs.

The very fact that so many people today are better educated, have access to all kinds of information, and are thus able to do their own research makes it much easier to objectively judge religious claims In fact, it seems to come as quite a surprise to many that similar criteria used to judge whether something is true in the secular world, can be used to judge religious claims.

However, what one cannot do is apply one set of standards, or tests to secular literature and another to the Bible.

The Criteria
One of the most important factors in any kind of investigation, is the testimony of witnesses, who tell us what they saw, heard and/or experienced.

When a witness testifies in a court case, whether they are believed and to what extent largely depends on their credibility. In technical matters much depends on the witnesses' knowledge, training, and experience. However, in non-technical matters the emphasis is largely on the witnesses' known personal character, lifestyle, and appearance of honesty and forthrightness. A person shown to have lied about even non-related matters is far less likely to be believed than one whose character appears to be exemplary. While we might have some sympathy for the boy who cried wolf, we certainly can understand the villagers who ignored him when, at the last, he raised an alarm and this time, there really was a wolf who, if memory serves me right, ate him.

Quite obviously, in the case of events that took place many hundreds of years ago, we have to rely on written accounts, or historical documents. Corroboration of key facts by other witnesses makes the event more credible, especially when it comes from someone who could be viewed as "hostile".

Conformity or agreement with other known historical or scientific facts also helps substantiate the document's accuracy and reliability. In other words, it has to be consistent with other fields of knowledge such as science and archaeology. For example, archaeology can help validate, or repudiate, the historical accuracy which often forms the background to the story. While historical accuracy does not "prove" spiritual authority, it does enhance its credibility in non-historic areas. Most of this has been covered in Part 4: God and His Bible - The Reliability of The Old Testament   AND Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament

Additionally, it should give us considerable pause for thought if a document, known to be several thousand years old, displays accurate scientific knowledge, light years ahead of the periods in which it was written.  See Scientific Facts In The Bible   AND   Part 11: Does Archaeology Confirm, or Undermine, The New Testament Accounts?

Continue on to Part 3: Faith and The Bible
It is but common sense to apply logical and objective reasoning to your spiritual life which most people seem disinclined to do... apparently preferring to believe that their 'spiritual experiences' validate the religion/spiritual path, they follow. However, what most people do not seem to realize is that Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers. CLICK HERE

Footnote I
Christians are often accused of being "homophobic" because they believe that homosexuality is wrong. Unfortunately this only shows an ignorance of (or complete disregard for) the meaning of English words.

The suffix phobia does not mean dislike, or aversion.

Much to the contrary, a phobia is "a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous".

So, 'homophobic' cannot possibly be applied to anyone who opposes homosexuality on moral grounds. It does not necessarily mean they hate, discriminate against, or are prejudiced against homosexuals. [PLACE IN TEXT]

Endnotes (Chapter 2)
[01] George Barna. Absolute Confusion: The Barna Report. Regal Books, 1994. Pgs. 73 and 80

[02] U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices: Diverse and Politically Relevant, June 2008;

[03] Greg Koukl. Religious Stew. https://www.str.org/w/religious-stew?p_l_back_url=%2Fna%3Fq%3Dreligious-stew

[04] Grantley Morris. All Religions Are The Same. http://www.net-burst.net/hot/same.htm#mny

[05] Thoughts on the Vedas and the Upanishads. http://www.vivekananda.net/ByTopic/ThoughtsOnVedas.html

[06] Grantley Morris. All Religions Are The Same. http://www.net-burst.net/hot/same.htm#mny

[07] Dave Hunt. An Appeal To Reason. http://www.thebereancall.org/content/appeal-reason

[08] Hinduism vs Buddhism - Complementary or Contrary? http://www.dollsofindia.com/library/hinduism-buddhism/

[09] The foundations of Buddhism. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/83184/Buddhism/68648/The-foundations-of-Buddhism

[10] Ninian Smart. The Bahá'ís. published in Religious Experience of Mankind, pages 417-418. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969. As quoted in the Bahai online library. http://bahai-library.com/smart_religious_experience_mankind

[10b] Kishore Shintre. Buddhism : Body of teachings of Buddha. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/buddhism-body-teachings-buddha-kishore-shintre

[10c] Maria Peñascal. Death in Japan: Spirituality and Culture. https://voyapon.com/death-in-japan-spirituality-culture/

[11] Dick Tripp. What Is Truth And Does It Matter? https://www.gci.org/articles/what-is-truth-and-does-it-matter/

[12] http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/tiki/tiki-index.php ]

[13] Keith Johnson. Do All Paths Lead to the Same Destination? http://www.leaderu.com/wri/articles/paths.html

[14] Jason Dulle. You're only a Christian because you were born in America.

[15] When It Comes To Accepting Evolution, Gut Feelings Trump Facts. Research and Innovation Communications. © 2012. The Ohio State University. http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/evolutiongut.htm

[16] Spirituality  http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/spirituality

[17] Glenn Miller. Thumbnails... Replies to Tough Questions https://www.christian-thinktank.com/thumbs.html

[18] Greg Koukl. Testing Religious Truth Claims. http://www.str.org/articles/testing-religious-truth-claims#.U86ErdLn8Vs


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