Did you ever hear someone say “All religions are the same.”, or something along those lines? Or, maybe you’ve said it yourself. Did you ever really think about that statement? Does it make sense?
I say, “Not even close.” Hear me out….
Sure, religions have some things in common. That’s why they are all called ‘religions’. For example, each religion has some sort of belief system about physical and metaphysical issues, often expressed in rituals and ceremonies. This belief system in turn influences a broader worldview, a picture of reality.
Then there are “organized” religions, which have a few more things in common, like hierarchies of authority, “official” creeds, scriptures, perhaps special buildings where adherents gather to worship (something/someone) and/or receive teaching. Some religions also share certain basic beliefs and values. For example, many espouse love, justice, the Golden Rule (i.e., “Do unto others…”), strong family ties, etc.
But, are they all the same? No. In some cases, there may be a few similarities, but it is really the differences that matter. Even in regards to those “common” things I mentioned, each religion has a somewhat different idea of what each thing entails. Different religions make different truth claims. Some religions believe in many gods (polytheism), some believe in one God (monotheism), while others say there is no God (atheism). Among monotheists, there are differing concepts of the nature and abilities of that God. For example, some say He/She is personal (i.e., an intelligent, self-identifying “person” or entity), and others say God is an impersonal “it”. Of the former (e.g., Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc.), one teaches that Jesus Christ is/was God incarnate (among other details), while the rest do not.
Some religions believe in an afterlife; some do not. Some say the world of matter/energy/space we live in is infinite and eternal; some say it is finite in both space & time. Or, even that it is all illusion. And there are often different branches, sects, denominations within a religion. They branched off because one group held a strong opinion or conviction on one or more issues that differed from the rest of the adherents. One may teach that it is OK to murder people in God’s name, while others hold such an act to be terrible and immoral. Most of these are either/or issues. In each case, either one is true or the other, but they can’t both be true. Many of them are very important details — crucial differences, in fact, that can have significant consequences in both life and death. And there are MANY other examples….
So, you see, all religions are NOT the same.
“OK,” you say, “but all religions are still the same, in that they are equally good (or bad), moral (or immoral, or amoral). No religion is really better than any other.” But, that’s a topic for another day….