As I pointed out in part 2, many people believe religious truth is a matter of preference and cannot be verified. They are usually quick to point out, “All roads lead the heaven;” that all religious beliefs are true for the follower and no one can say they are right. It appears to be a viewpoint that seemingly offends no one. In fact it is promoted by the media as a way to end the religious violence that permeates the world today.
I have a friend who is a strong advocate of the all roads lead to heaven mantra. His thinking reflects a new way of looking at beliefs and is specifically designed to replace outmoded worldviews like the Christian faith. I was talking with him about Christianity being exclusive and he said that saying Jesus was the only way was a primitive belief. He went on to say, telling people “Jesus is the only way” is not only offensive but also closed minded and hostile to all other beliefs. He saw his beliefs as superior and in harmony with all worldviews and in contrast the beliefs of Christianity as archaic.
According to a survey by USA Today 70% of Americans (USA Today) believe many religions can lead to eternal life. On the other side only 24% believe there is only one way to heaven.
A writer in the Los Angeles Times responded to a letter by a Muslim theologian about the relative nature of religious belief and said this,
“It was refreshing to see your article on the religious relativism of Abdul Kareem Surash in which this Iranian theologian is quoted as saying that all religious understanding is relative and that no one interpretation is absolute. Such a lesson in religious tolerance and pluralism is not just needed in Iran. In the United States, people like Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and Jerry Falwell need to comprehend that they do not possess a monopoly in understanding God's will. Additionally, of course, it would be a great day for the world if the Pope would also adopt Surash's admonition to abandon religious absolutism.” (Tabash, Edward, Letter to the Editor, LA Times February 10, 2005)
Both the original writer and the responder believe that all religious belief is a matter of personal preference and no one person can know the truth. In other words, all roads lead to heaven. However, immediately we see a problem; the statement “…all religious understanding is relative and that no one interpretation is absolute,” is itself a religious statement and therefore at least one interpretation is absolute; the statement no one interpretation is absolute. Here is an absolute religious statement saying there are no absolute religious statements. The statement itself is self-refuting; it is contradictory and false.
There is another problem. The Iranian Muslim theologian said all religious understanding is relative and that no one interpretation is absolute. Why should I believe his statement that “all religious understanding is relative and that no one interpretation is absolute?” Or why should I or anyone else believe all roads lead to heaven? They need to defend their view. This is the purpose behind asking “why” questions; it puts the burden of proof where is belongs; on the person who makes the religious claim. Part 4 I will continue to explore these questions of religious truth.
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