Something which worries me is the fact that throughout history there have been numerous religions in the world, be it the pantheon of gods worshipped by the Romans, the gods of Egypt or the likes of the Norse gods, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. How can we be sure that Christianity is the true religion and the others are not? How can we be sure Jesus will not be added to the pile of ‘non-gods’ in X years, with the likes of Zeus and Horus and will be replaced by another popular religion which emerges?
The fact that throughout so much of history people have believed seems to indicate to me that there is a God (not to mention secluded tribes who make contact with us and they have a concept of spirits/god), as well as other factors, but how can we be sure it is the (Trinitarian) God of Christanity?
Faith. You look at the history of the world, specifically that of the Jewish people, then the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the work of the apostles, the conversion of Paul, the blood shed by the martyrs, the apostolic succession of Popes, the magisterium of the Church, etc. Then you have to determine whether you believe all of that or not.
I don’t want to play the numbers game about probabilities and likelihoods because that is all bunk. But if you think about all of the Jews, all of the Christians, and all of the Muslims, they all tie into the same monotheistic God. Now, all have different understandings, interpretations, and beliefs regarding God, but that’s the majority of the world’s population tracing roots back to the same God. The next largest percentage is Hindu, with less than 15%.
I think you just illustrated the OP’s point.
All the people who follow the religions you mention–Jewish, Muslim, Christian–have faith that their religions are the right ones…and the heroic, sometimes supernatural stories of bravery and sacrifices of the people of their religions help them determine they are true.
Same would be said for other religions not mentioned here.
To the OP, my opinion is…one cannot be sure.
I think a lot of people decide what they want to believe, decide it is true, don’t seek any further, and are content thinking they’ve made the “right” choice.
Most people follow the religion of their parents, following their traditions and rituals all their lives. This is all they know, and unless they undertake a study of comparative religion later in life, they will certainly be sure their own religion is “the right one.” In reality, no one can really be sure. God, the afterlife, and much of how the universe works, are unknowable to humans.
I was hoping that my first paragraph would be the one that was recognized as the ‘response’ to the question. The paragraph you discuss was just trying to counter the ‘multitudes’ argument by stating over half the of the world’s population believes in the same God, so if you are truly looking at it from a ‘numbers’ perspective (which I make rather is not the way to the truth), the majority believe in the what Christians consider the Trinitarian God the OP talks about (again, with different understandings and beliefs, but still the same God).
Perhaps that used to be the case, but I think the spread of information through the Internet, as well as a growing decrease of public religious life and activity, has drawn a lot of people away from their own religious upbringings. Certainly it is the first religious experience people are exposed to, but I hardly think “a comparative religion study” is necessary for someone to explore other religions when they have 7 different devices connected to the Internet.
I also disagree that you list so many things as ‘unknowable’ to humans. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us, communicated to us (both directly through the Flesh and the Spirit, as well as indirectly through the Apostles). We know about the Afterlife from what He taught us. Just because we don’t understand the full depths and mysteries of things does not mean they are unknowable.
You’re right, in the information age, people are more likely to investigate other religions. I actually wasn’t referring to a formal course of study, but rather a personal study, such as I did. For three years I studied major religions - even learning to read and speak Hebrew.
As Christians we believe that God revealed Himself to us - but there are millions of non-Christians in this world that would disagree that we “know” the answers.
You don’t believe all religions have some form of revelation? I’m not saying all of those religions are correct, but I believe the general consensus in all religions is that they know some truths and insights about life, death, and the universe that cannot be explained merely by observation and the scientific method. That is the “why” side of the argument - science provides the “how”.
I definitely agree that all major religions have some form of revelation. The question, I guess, is which one is right? Did the angel Gabriel reveal a verse of the Koran to Muhammad? Muslims believe so. Christians don’t.
You and I probably agree on most points. But I think there will always be conflicts among religions concerning which one has full knowledge of the truth.
An old atheist nihilist co worker used to use that argument with me about which religion is the right one. I told him Christianity specially catholism. He told me he figured I’d say that. . Truth be told there are a lot of religions out there but if you break it down there evidentiary religions they are all monotheist is Judaism Christianity and Islam. I forget if Sikhism is the same as Baha’i. They may be a fourth.
Even assuming Zeus, Hera, etc… are based on real supernatural beings, I think that’s irrelevant. As they’re described even in their own mythology, they are not anything close to the god of the Abrahamic faiths, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect. Even given the existence of, say, Zeus, I think it would still be completely rational to understand that there must be one single creator, who is so much more than Zeus. That is the God of Abraham. And given that, figures like Zeus, real or irrational, are not due any worship. They are, at most, trying to distract worship from the true God of all creation. Or at worst, illogical illusions or stories. In this way, I think we can easily rule out all polytheistic religions.
Now if you want to differentiate further by religions that recognize the truth of only one God, then I think you need to actually delve into the claimed revelation and prayer.
C.S. Lewis compares religion to, well, all the other things in life. We are not looking for the one accurate one among a bunch of false ones, but the one with the most truth among many ones that also contain some truth.
"The question was no longer to find the one simply true religion among a thousand religions simply false. It was rather, “Where has religion reached its true maturity? Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?”
Like all other thought on virtually any subject, different systems of explanation will be more or less true. Which one is most true, and what can we learn from all of them?
There is an Indian Parable, the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant:
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was.
Every one of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?”
They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like.
The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments.
Another Hindu idea is to see God as a jewel with a thousand facets. Humans can only comprehend one or two facets each. You may be right about your facets, but other people are right about their facets as well. God is larger than any mere human can comprehend.
Those are great points regarding Ecumenism and the idea that all religions simply have a different perspective of the same God. However, it is false to assume that no religion has a deeper understanding than the others.
As a Catholic, I believe the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, preserved by the Holy Spirit, and passed down through the Apostolic Succession of Peter and the Magisterium, contains the fullness of truth that has been revealed to mankind. Are there truths the Church does not understand - certainly. Humans cannot fully comprehend God, particularly when we are still in the flesh, but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand some of what has been revealed to us.
EDIT: One more point. The Hindu belief, if extended to the fullest, does not account for opposing beliefs regarding God by different religions. Even though everyone may have some part of the Truth, that also means some religions will be wrong about their beliefs. Not through any fault of their own, but only because they don’t have the full understanding.
Indeed. Assuming you disregard the theory of Young Earth Creationism–which I do–humanity as a species has been around for roughly 200,000 years. Whereas the Abrahamic religions have only existed for about 3,000 years. Thus, the concept of YHWH has only existed for 1.5% of the entirety of human existence–and only the most *recent *1.5%. Not only that, but for the first 1,000 years after YHWH made himself known, he devoted the sum of his energies to a small strip of land in the Levant, whereas great civilizations were being birthed without his apparent guidance, worshipping false gods and following false doctrines, civilizations that would survive long after his temples had been pounded to dust.
The reasoning above is why I left Christianity. There was too much importance attached to something that has been such a small part of human experience. It’s built upon a subtle argumentum ad novitatem.