Stop Saying "All Religions Are the Same"
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like “All religions are basically the same” or “All roads lead to heaven”. To be honest, this is offensive.
I think people believe this way because they are attempting to have a tolerant, inoffensive understanding of religion. But in reality, they are degrading the rich histories of the major world religions.
When people go about trying to make all religions look the same, they search for similarities only on a superficial level. People will find references about love or peace and then say “The heart of all religions is love and peace. See, we’re really all the same!”
While they celebrate their short-sighted victory, they completely ignore the core doctrines of these religions as well as their history. Buddhism was founded while clearly rejecting many central doctrines of Hinduism. Islam was founded claiming the Jewish and Christian scriptures were inaccurate. Some religions have one god, some have many, others have none at all.
People who try to tie all religions together actually demean them by refusing to accurately understand them even at the most basic level. They are acting like an imperialistic state by putting all world religions under their thumb claiming “I understand you better than your founders.”
This is not how we achieve tolerance.
In Saving Truth, Abdu Murray says,
Tolerance only operates among differences, not sameness. No one has to tolerate ideas similar to their own. In fact, to speak of tolerance in such situations is meaningless.
True tolerance isn’t achieved by ignoring the fundamental differences between religions. It comes when we can clearly state our differences while being at peace with one another.
Some of the best religious conversations I’ve ever had have been with devout Muslims. One time while explaining my beliefs to a new friend, I told him how I believed Jesus was God who became a man and then died for our sins. He immediately told me that I was completely wrong. He said, “God would never do that, he wouldn’t become a man and die,” and “Jesus was just a prophet.” Our beliefs about God and Jesus were completely contradictory, but we became friends anyway and went on to have dozens of profitable religious conversations.
Perhaps true tolerance is this: openly disagreeing while still being friends.
Pretending we’re all the same, benefits no one. It ostracizes those who take their faith seriously and does nothing to encourage discussion between religions. What we really need is people who are willing to disagree, and disagree with charity.
Whenever I become friends with someone who believes differently than myself, I always start by asking them questions. Even though I might disagree, I want to clearly understand what it is that they believe. After I share my beliefs, there will be some very obvious contradictions between us. But this doesn’t stifle conversation, it encourages it.
We need to stop avoiding real discussion by pretending we’re all the same. We need to be open to disagreement and start to actually understand each other. We need to stop avoiding our differences and start embracing them. Once we do, great things will happen.