Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Can One Religion Claim To Be Right?

This is DAY 5 in a seven-day discussion of issues raised on my Facebook Wall by some "non-theist" friends.

One objection that has been raised says that it is arrogant to assert that one specific religion, in this case Christianity, is “right” and all others “wrong.”

Most Christians don't assert that all other religions are completely (100%) wrong. But they do assert that the fundamental premise of Christianity, that Christ is the only way to find true peace with God, excludes all other religious systems as a whole.

This may sound arrogant to some, but I don't think it really is. First of all, many people assume that Christianity is specific to a certain culture or geography. As all things must start somewhere, Christianity got its start within a specific (non-Western) culture and geography, but it has spread rapidly over the centuries to nearly every corner of the globe. While Christianity has been sometimes (inaccurately) associated with the West, today, far more Christians exist outside of the Western world than exist inside of it. Christianity’s greatest rate of expansion most recently has occurred in places like Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

Not that this has any substantive bearing on whether or not it is true, but Christianity is by far the largest faith in the world today, and it is also the most unique when you consider that it is the only religion that holds that it is impossible, apart from God’s redemptive grace, for people to overcome their own sinfulness and somehow work their way to God (or nirvana, or whatever). If you grant Christianity its suppositions … that God exists, is a Person (rather than an impersonal force) and intervenes in human history; that humankind is utterly sinful and lost and that we cannot save ourselves; and that God alone can save us by personally paying the price for our sin … then it makes utter and total sense that there can only be one right way.

Is it arrogant for any religious system to assert that it alone is the way to truth? To the contrary, this almost goes to a definition of a religious system. If your religious system didn’t claim to be the way to truth, and you didn’t subscribe to that claim, why on earth would you bother? That religion would become irrelevant.

So, I guess you could say, “OK then, in order for a religion to be relevant, it must be arrogant.” But I could then apply this logic to any other system of belief. Many westerners believe that democracy is the “right” system of governance. Does that make them “arrogant?” No, it just makes them act consistently with their belief system. Personally, I believe that Redline cyclocross bicycles are the best bikes made for cyclocross. Does that make me “arrogant?” I don’t think so; it just gives me a better chance of winning a cyclocross race.

It makes far less sense (as some religious systems assert) that there are many different right ways, which is on its face pure nonsense, particularly since most of those ways are mutually and logically exclusive of one another. One way must be right. If God exists, and communicates his way to us, as Christians believe to be true, then all bets are on the Bible.

I think the real issues that need to be addressed are the claims at the core of the belief system. Does God exist? Did he create the world and everything in it (including us)? Are we corrupted by sin? Did God send his son to die for our sin (because of his love for us)? Was Christ raised from the dead? If we believe these things, what should be the impact of those beliefs on our lives today? Etc.

I yield the right to non-theists to examine these claims and decide, based on the best available evidence, whether they are true or false. Each of us shouldn’t be believing something (or refusing to believe something) simply because we are told by someone else to believe it (or not to believe it). We should also be careful to ensure that our beliefs aren’t being influenced by our personal circumstances. There is a lot of discomfort with the idea that if we reject God (spurn his grace, mercy and forgiveness) that he is going to reject us … even though this makes total sense, if you grant that God is who he says he is and the world is the way he says it is.

I just want to make sure the motive for the disbelief is an honest pursuit of truth and assessment of the evidence, rather than a motive of convenience and personal situation. (I.e., “I want to be my own god, and therefore cannot, must not, believe that any other God exists.”)

Tomorrow: God-shaped hole ... or defective brain?

1 comment:

Elizabeth Grattan said...

You are still begging the question. You begin with the presumption that a god exists and is necessary.

Sounds to me like your motive, especially since you were eight years old when you first became indoctrinated has far more to do with what has influenced your brain during it's formation than anything else. Again, because you are unable to step outside of this first premise and see your argument logically.

To suggest there is a "motive for disbelief" means you are working in the opposite direction.

As to someone wanting to be their own "god" - again, begs the question. Take away the "god concept" and you will see how poorly this argument is given.

The arrogance stems from you thinking you have what others need. You believe others "need" "salvation" from something. All your motives are suspect Larry. Because everything you do is colored by your belief system that isn't backed by substantial enough evidence.

As to Christianity being the largest... appeals to the masses are not a good measure for anything but selling a product. And even then, all it reveals is that people purchase and mob mentalities sometimes win. Enough research is available showing why the masses act the way they do. I mean, the masses participated in the Holocaust also. Your argument could be akin to Hitler's defending your beliefs as he did.