Is it arrogant to believe in one truth? Can we say that any religion is more true or valid than the others?
A common assumption of Canadians is that religions are essentially the same and are each searching for the same outcome. As a result, if anybody says that one religion is more true or valid, they are speaking from a position of arrogance.
Because we homogenize our religious narratives, the result is we have essentially become religious pragmatists. In other words, we don’t ask whether something is true or not. Instead, we ask whether something works or not. If somebody follows a different religion, we’re very quick to say, “Well, if that works for you and makes you happy, then that’s all that matters.” Truth takes a backseat to function (and sometimes even fashion).
We’re also willing to mix-and-match components from the different religions to suit our personal needs. After all, if they’re essentially the same, why should it matter where you draw your truth from? The end result is we are now able to create our own customized religion that suits our interests or temperament. We approach religions like shoppers at the mall. This undercurrent of consumerism cannot be ignored. In the end, what we have is “buffet religion” or “build-a-bear” religion. And who doesn’t like smorgasbords, right?
You can see see this religious pragmatism played out in the movie, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Ricky Bobby, played by Will Farrell, is a professional race car driver who’s rising to success. There’s this brilliantly funny scene where Ricky Bobby rolls his car in a professional race. When he’s pulled from his overturned vehicle, he’s so delusional that he thinks he’s on fire. He does everything he can to escape the flames. He tries the “stop-drop-and-roll” technique. He strips to his underwear and flails his arms like…well, like a man on fire. When all else fails, he calls out for supernatural assistance.
His words have been quoted and remixed in hundreds of memes:
“Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jewish God! Help me, Allah! Help me, Tom Cruise! Use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off of me!…Help me, Oprah Winfrey!”
The irony is that Ricky Bobby is portrayed as a man who’s only vaguely religious. But when he’s in trouble, he reaches out to whatever god is available. The issue for him isn’t what’s true. The issue is what works.
This is our cultural religious landscape. So it’s not surprising that when Christ-followers claim that there is one truth, one God, or one pathway, people tend to get a bit uptight: “How can you say that? How can you make exclusive truth claims like that? Seems kind of arrogant…”
My goal here isn’t to answer these questions. If you’re curious, I’ve provided a link to a recent podcast where I do a deep-dive into this topic. You can check it out at the bottom of this post.
Instead, I’ll counter with some clarifying questions:
First, if we objectively look at the fundamental differences between the world’s largest religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism), can we really say that they are essentially the same?
Second, do YOU really think that all religions are equally true and valid? What about the Jonestown Massacre? What about the Branch Davidians under David Koresh? And the Ancient Ammonites who sacrificed humans (maybe even babies) on fiery altars?
Third, if you concede that some religions are not equally valid, haven’t you conceded that there are criteria for what’s in and what’s out? The moment you begin to insert criteria is the moment the pluralist position begins to fall apart. It becomes logically inconsistent.
This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.