Option One – All Paths Lead to the Same Destination
Some claim that all religions represent differing, yet equally valid, routes to the same destination. Though each religion may choose its own path, all paths converge at the top of the same mountain. Advocates of this position are aware of the diversity of belief and practice that separate all religions. Nevertheless, they typically offer the following points in support of their thesis:
First, it is intolerant to say that one religion is true and the others, which disagree, are false.
Second, the contrasting claims of different religions do not prove that one religion is true and the others false. Instead it suggests that none of them possesses the entire truth but only bits and pieces of it. Imagine three blind men touching an elephant. The first blind man is holding the leg and explains “I think the elephant is like the trunk of a great tree.” The second disagrees as he is holding the trunk. “No I believe an elephant is like a snake.” The third blind man exclaims “No, you are both wrong, an elephant is like a wall.” as he touches the side of the elephant. Each thinks he is right and the others wrong and in a similar way is it not possible that all religions are in contact with the same ultimate reality but simply describe it in different ways?
Finally, all religions share a common ethical core. Each of the religions has traditions which produce a similar moral / ethical transformation in the lives of its followers. It would be seeming difficult to prove that one religious tradition is more effective than others in transforming the lives of its followers.
These three arguments may sound good but the assumption that all paths lead to God has a problem of conflicting truth claims. Every religious tradition makes truth-claims and some of these truth-claims contradict those of other religions. Let’s look at three of those areas of disagreement.
1. The The Nature of ‘God’
There are three main ‘categories’ of belief in God. Monotheism (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is the belief there is only one God. Polytheism (such as Hinduism) is the belief there are many Gods. Atheism maintains that there is NO God. These three categories are mutually exclusive. One MUST be correct and the other two MUST be wrong. Think about it. There must be either only one God, many god’s, or no God. Which one? They cannot all be correct as they mutually exclude the other two categories from being correct.
2. The Definition of ‘God’
If all paths lead to God, it would be important to define ‘God’. Very quickly when one looks at different religions you discover there is a vast divide in the definition of who or what “God” is and clearly each are describing someone or something quite different. So not only are the paths different, so is the destination. In the spirit of inclusiveness, let’s assume that each definition of ‘God’ is right, then it would be more correct to say that “Different paths lead to a different God”. This is quite a different statement and assumes that there are different God’s. The only way to maintain that “All paths lead to God” is like the elephant illustration, to say that different religions worship the same God, but understand different aspects of God to each other. But even a shallow investigation into the variety of definitions of who or what God is will inevitably lead you to the conclusion that the religions are not describing different aspects of God, rather are intrinsically contradictory.
3. Contradiction of the fate of Individuals at death.
Some religions teaches that each person will die once and then face judgement by God and depending on God’s judgment, a person will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. In contrast other religions believe that the conditions of a persons past and future existence are determined by the cosmic laws of karma. Following death each of us are reincarnated into a different form (human, animal, etc.).
These conflicting claims about the nature and definition of ‘God’, and the fate of individuals at death are only three of the conflicting assertions made by different religions. These conflicts render invalid the assumption that all paths lead to the same destination. Consider this:
– On the 10th of April 1912 the Titanic set off on it’s maiden voyage.
– On the 10th of April 1912 the Titanic did not set off on it’s maiden voyage.
Both of these statements cannot be correct at the same time. Two contradictory assertions cannot both be correct. Likewise if two religions make truth-claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right.
In light of the conflicting truth-claims of various religions it does not seem rational to believe that all paths lead to the same destination.
Option Two – All Paths Do Not Lead to the Same Destination
At first glance this position may seem unreasonable and ‘intolerant’. But this is not an issue of tolerance, but an issue of truth. We can be tolerant of people through respecting and honouring people, who believe something different to ourselves. But to believe that contradictory truth claims are all correct is not tolerance, it is refusing to use your brain.
So if there is only one path that is “valid” how could it ever be identified? If you haven’t already please check out the link on whether the Bible is true or not. This is a good starting point. Because if the Bible is correct, then the truth can only be found through Jesus Christ, who claimed to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Jesus said that you can “know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free”.