Like many American Gen-Xers, I loosely identified as Christian but never ruled out other religions. “Spiritual but not religious” was how I identified. Reincarnation, karma, and eastern philosophies were intellectually appealing. Occult ideas like spirit guides, energy work and psychics were fascinating. Native American beliefs and shamanism even had some intriguing points. Think-and-grow-rich ideas like “the Law of Attraction,” “The Secret,” and the Prosperity Gospel tied it all together with my career. New age philosophy dressed up as business books replaced my bible. I treated my spirituality like a religious cafeteria… picking and choosing beliefs that I liked best. Like so many in our culture, I believed that there could be multiple paths to happiness or Heaven or Nirvana. I believed that being a good person was all that mattered… but my idea of what “good” was, came from me. It was relative to my own definition of it.

With the exception of a few “prosperity gospel” passages, stodgy old Christianity was soon in the rearview mirror.

And then I met Fr. Mike Schmitz and that changed everything. Fr. Mike presented the issues in a way I hadn’t heard before. He points out that every world religion was started by someone who either A) claimed to have insight into God or B) claimed to have had a revelation from God… except Christianity, whose founder claimed to be God. Inspired by C.S. Lewis, Father Mike shows that Jesus was either a liar (not God and knew he wasn’t God), a lunatic (not God, but didn’t know he wasn’t God), or he was actually the Lord (telling the truth). Push play… regardless of your religious affiliation, 11 minutes of awesomeness follows.

CS Lewis & Mere Christianity:  Many non-Christians (such as Muslims, Buddhists, Judaism, Hindus, and New Agers) claim that Jesus was merely a good man (a prophet, philosopher, rabbi, teacher, or enlightened/evolved being). CS Lewis points out that these claims are incongruent with his claim to be Lord. If he was not Lord as he claimed, he would have been either a liar or a lunatic… neither of which are “good” or worthy of veneration such as what Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus teach.

An Interesting Observation: There was something unique to Christianity that intrigued me. Unlike Buddha, Mohammud or any of the Hindu Gods, it seems to me that Jesus is unique in that so many major religions felt the need to address Him in their faith. So many seem either influenced by his teachings or determined to explain Him away.

For example, in an excellent comparative article, Cold Case summarizes it as follows:

  • Jews believe Jesus was Mary’s son, was a teacher (Rabbi), had many disciples, was respected, performed miracles, claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified on the cross. They also acknowledge His followers reported Jesus was raised from the dead.
  • Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, is to be revered and respected, was a prophet, a wise teacher who worked miracles, ascended to heaven and will come again.
  • Ahmadiyya Muslims believe Jesus may have been born of a virgin; was a prophet; was a wise teacher; worked miracles, and was crucified on a cross.
  • Bahá’í followers believe Jesus came from God, was a wise teacher who had a divine and human nature, worked miracles, and was crucified and resurrected as an atonement for humanity.
  • Hindus believe Jesus was a holy man, a wise teacher, and is a ‘god’ (one of many).
  • Buddhists believe Jesus was an enlightened man and a wise teacher.
  • New Age believers maintain Jesus was a wise moral teacher.
  • Christianity & Messianic Judaism: Jesus is both God and man/Jesus is an uncreated being. Jesus is the Old Testament.
  • Religious Skeptics Atheists: Jesus is a myth similar to many other myths of ancient gods.

Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. It’s the philosophy that truth is relative to what we each believe so that we each make up our own truths. It’s the doctrine that trumpets the virtue of being tolerant because everyone has their own reality and their own moral compass. “What is true for me, might not be true for you” is the relativist’s moto.

Is Relativistic thinking logically coherent? Consider how often religions contradict each other. As such, is it really possible for them all to be right… for them to be equal but different paths to the same end? I would never allow myself to be so intellectually lazy in regards to business or academic inquiries, so why was I so apathetic about my spiritual beliefs? After all, the world cannot be flat and round simultaneously. One plus one cannot equal two and also equal three. Contradicting positions like this would never be accepted as equally true in the realm of academia, so why do so many rational people accept this kind of logic in religious/spiritual theory? For example:

Religious Inquiry #1: Souls & Afterlife
1) We have an individual unique soul (per Christians, Muslims, and Hindus).
2) We don’t have a soul (per Buddhists and Atheists).

Either we have souls or we do not. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible for both precepts to be true.

Religious Inquiry #2: Reincarnation
1) We live one physical life (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
2) We reincarnate and live multiple physical lives (Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism)

Either we live one physical life or we live multiple physical lives. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible for both precepts to be true. 

Religious Inquiry #3: Afterlife
1) You cease to exist after you die (Atheists).
2) You are reincarnated after you die (Hindus and Buddhists)
3) You go to Heaven or Hell after you die (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai Faith).
4) Your eternal afterlife is whatever you believe it will be (New Age).

Again, it’s not possible for all of these ideas to be true. For example, one cannot cease to exist and live eternally simultaneously. This is a pivotal issue. This one is pretty important to get right. The afterlife is either out of our control or it’s not. What if it’s not? What if it matters? What if there is a truth and it can be discovered?

Relativism: It’s true for everybody that nothing is true.

My Conclusion: Just because all religions cannot be true, otherwise smart people will often jump to the erroneous conclusion that they are all as false. But does it really follow that just because they cannot all be true, that none of them are true? Nope… that’s faulty logic too.