In my last main post, I discussed the exclusivity of all religious systems. Now I am going to look more specifically at 3 religions, and then ask the question, “Can these all be true?” Put in another way, do they all say the same thing? When you look at these three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – the details seem to be the same. For example, they all claim:
1. There is one God who created the world
2. God has revealed himself to people in some way, especially through prophets
3. God has perfect qualities – all-powerful, merciful, loving, etc.
4. There is some kind of hope for life after death
I could continue to list some similar aspects. Looking only at these things, you could conclude that these religions claim the same thing. Hence, if one is true, than people who believe in the other two religions are correct along with believers of the first.
However, if you consider the central claims for these religions, you can see a very clear difference which breaks down the view that they are all the same. The easiest way to show what I mean would be to list these central aspects for these religions, backed up with some writings from the sources where these aspects come from.
I’ll start with Judaism. Almost all of the similarities between the three religions stem from Judaism, since Islam and Christianity both claim to be a continuation of Judaism. I’m just going to list some of the major points, but there are more of them. There are also more examples of each point in the Bible of each, but I will just list one or two for this blog. The Jews believe that
1. There is one God who created the heavens and earth (Gen. 1)
2. God created man in his image (Genesis 1:27)
4. God promised that all people will be blessed through Abraham. His descendants are the Israelites (Genesis 12:1-3)
5. Moses wrote down God’s commandments for the Israelites (Exodus 20)
6. God set up a sacrificial system to atone for sins (Leviticus)
8. A savior (Messiah) would come to restore Israel and its people (Isaiah 11:1-5)
Moving on to Christianity, it is important to describe the essential claims of Christianity. If any of the following components were NOT true, then the entire religion would not be true.
1. Jesus Christ of Nazareth lived at some point in history
2. Jesus Christ is God’s son, and is divine (John 1:14)
I could discuss the significance of these things, but that is not necessary for this topic. The main point is that there would be no Christian religion formed without these four beliefs.
Before discussing Islam, I am going to post an essential statement in the Quran:
“This is the Book in which there is no doubt. It is a guidance for the God conscious, who believe in the Unseen, establish Salah, and spend in charity out of what We have provided for their sustenance, who believe in this Revelation which is sent to you and the Revelations which were sent before you and firmly in the hereafter. They are on true Guidance from their Rabb and they are the ones who will attain salvation” (Sura 2:[1-5])
From this passage, you can pull several claims that are central to the Islam faith:
1. “The Book” (The Quran) is completely true. In fact, Islam claims that the Quran are the direct revealed words of God (Surah 2:).
2. The people who “attain salvation” do the following things:
A. “establish Salah” – means regularly pray to God 5 times a day (Surah 87:[14-15]
B. “Spend in charity” – called the Zakah (Surah 2:[42-43])
C. Believe in the Revelation (Quran)
3. Muhammad is the Prophet who received this revelation. From above: “…this Revelation which is sent to you (Muhammad)” (Surah 8:[63-64])
The Quran and the belief that the Quran is the revealed words of God are the basis of the Islam religion. Therefore, if there is something in the Quran that is false, the religion as a whole will likely be false (assuming no misinterpretations of the text). This situation holds because the Quran claims that God is all-knowing (Surah 9:[77-78]), and since the Quran are the words of God, it must be true, must have “no doubt”.
With this factor in mind, I will proceed to discuss the implications of these central beliefs on the “they all say the same thing” view and the “religious beliefs are relative” view.