“If one believes in the idea of God and in salvation, there should be different ways of reaching a level of salvation, enlightenment, whatever you believe in. I find it rather difficult to comprehend the com- mon belief that one religion, one path is the way to salvation. A religious leader shouldn’t preach the exact same ‘path’ or ‘way to salvation’ for all his listeners any more than a doctor should prescribe the exact same medication to all of his patients.” (Grace Li, an Internet essayist)
These words reflect the thoughts and opinions of many. After all, why shouldn’t there be different paths to God, just like there are different paths to your grandma’s house? Of course, a lot depends on our starting point. If we’re going to start with our own opinions, likes, and dislikes, we could probably fashion a number of alternative “paths to God.” But, what if the starting point isn’t up to us? What if God actually blazed the trail and set up the signposts for us to follow to find our way? What if he were actually to say to us, “This is the way, walk in it”?
That would decidedly change things, wouldn’t it?
Let’s look at some commonly asked questions people have when it comes to this concept of “all paths lead to God” and see what we discover.
Most religions (although not all) teach that there is at least one god. Most religions (although not all) teach love for others. Most religions (although not all) teach that there is a way to “salvation” (although few agree on what that means).
Beyond these very broad similarities, the religions of the world differ enormously. For example, Judaism teaches that the way of “salvation,” (the way to know God and live forever) is to turn to God and live a moral life, keeping the 613 laws of God.
Christianity teaches that the way of “salvation” is to come to God through faith in Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NLT).
In Islam, salvation comes by faithfully observing the five pillars (belief in Allah and Muhammad, daily prayers, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage).
Hinduism believes you can be reincarnated as a higher life form by improving your karma with the way you live.
And Buddhism claims you can escape the endless cycle of reincarnation by following the four noble truths and the eight-fold path.
On the central issue of “Can I know God and live forever?” these five religions offer widely divergent paths, and that’s just the beginning. Even those religions that say all religions teach the same basic truths (like Bahai and Vedanta, to cite just two examples) go on, in the very next breath, to assert beliefs that boldly contradict virtually all other religions on earth.
In short, you could say that all religions teach the same basic truths, EXCEPT when talking about the nature of God. And the path to God. And the way of salvation, the nature of humanity, sin, creation, heaven, and hell.
Other than that, they’re very similar.
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Isn’t it totally narrow minded to believe in one God? Sure, it is, unless there happens to be one God.
If there are many gods, then, of course, it is a totally narrow minded belief to pick just one. But, if there is only one God, it would be foolish to insist on more.
So, which is it: one God or many? That is the heart of the matter. And mankind has held differing opinions on the matter throughout time. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose either option is possible. Then, it is no more narrow-minded to assert a belief in one God than it is to assert a belief in many. The issue, however, isn’t whether one or the other is narrow-minded; the real issue is which one is true and worthy of your belief.
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Isn’t the God of the Bible the same as the gods of other religions, just called by another name?
God is definitely called by many names in the Bible. He told Moses to call him Yahweh, which means “I Am.” He is called Adonai (Lord), El Shaddai (God Almighty), El Elyon (Most High God), and by many other names. That’s not the same, however, as saying that the gods of other religions are the same as God, just called by different names.
Even a casual reading of the Bible will make this clear. The god Baal, who was worshiped by the Canaanites, was clearly not the same as the God the Israelites worshiped (for example, Baal was far from a loving god). Molech, the god of the Ammonites, was supposedly a god who delighted in child sacrifice (which Yahweh abhorred).
Similarly, there are striking and irreconcilable differences between the God of the Bible and the gods of other contemporary religions. For example, though Muslims claim he is the God of Moses, Allah is (according to the Koran) fickle and distant, a god who will love only those who obey him (Surah 3:31); the God of the Bible is unchanging, “righteous in all his ways and loving towards all he has made” (Psalm 145:17, NIV).
Saying that the God of the Bible is the same as the gods of other religions is like claiming that your redheaded, cheerful, couch potato friend Elmer is the same person (just called by a different name) as your dark-haired, serious, athletic friend Angela. You would never say that, of course, because those two people unquestionably have different characters and personality traits. So it is with God. The God of the Bible and the perceived gods of other religions are vastly distinct from each other.
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