In my previous post, I laid a foundation for the central beliefs of 3 religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. I made these lists in preparation to give an example showing that the “religious beliefs are relative” view is illogical. In this post, I will discuss one specific example explaining my viewpoint. Also, i will replace “relative” with “subjective” from now on because I think that is a better word to use.
As I mentioned before, Islam and Christianity both build off the beliefs of Judaism, so I am going to dismiss discussion on Judaism in this post. Since Islam was founded a few centuries after Christianity, it will be more practical to start with a basic Christian claim and then compare it to Islam. The early followers of Christianity had no foreknowledge of Islam, unless prophetic knowledge (knowledge of what would happen in the future) was involved. The writings in the New Testament at most contain subtle prophetic hints pointing to Islam (i.e. some people have interpreted John 1:19-23 to be referring to Mohammad, “The Prophet”).
The early followers of Islam, however, had at least some understanding of Christianity. Jesus and Mary, figures in the New Testament, appear multiple times in the Quran. So, it is more likely that Islam will discuss the central claims of Christianity than Christianity will for Islam.
With that rationale, I turn to one specific claim of Christianity: the death of Jesus Christ. There are two reasons for using this example. For one, the death of Christ is essential to Christianity. By essential, I mean that that without the belief in that event, a person cannot believe in the claims Christianity as a whole.
The death of Jesus is essential because the early Christians believed that Jesus’ death resulted in a full atonement (reconciliation) for sins (Romans 3:21-24) and that the Jewish sacrificial system is no longer necessary for that atonement (Hebrews 9:12-15). Also, without the death of Jesus, there is no potential for him to rise from the dead. I discussed the importance of this event (the resurrection) to Christians in a side post.
What does the Quran, the directly revealed words of God (who Muslims call Allah) in Islam, say about the death of Jesus? There is one key passage discussing this event – Sura 4:[155-159]:
“And [We cursed them] for their breaking of the covenant and their disbelief in the signs of Allah and their killing of the prophets without right and their saying, ‘Our hearts are wrapped’. Rather, Allah has sealed them because of their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few. And [We cursed them] for their disbelief and their saying against Mary a great slander, and [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.” (emphasis mine)
In summary of this passage:
1. People who say they have killed Jesus have committed slander
2. “They” did not kill him, nor crucify him. If you read above this section, “they” is referring to the “People of the Book”, which typically refers to Jews and Christians in the Quran. However, based on the context of this specific section (Sura 4:[153-154]), the “People of the Book” refers to the Jews under God’s covenant, or promise, with Israel.
3. Those who oppose this claim are in doubt and do not have knowledge about the truth.
4. Jesus wasn’t killed. Instead, Allah raised him to himself (but not from the dead!)
Based on this passage, it is very likely that the Quran denies that Jesus died at all. Instead, God/Allah raised Jesus to himself before any crucifixion occurred. This claim directly conflicts with that of Christianity: that Jesus did die. Since the death of Jesus is an essential claim of Christianity, a person who thinks the above four points are true by default does not believe that Christianity is true.
Using logic, we can determine that two different and contradictory claims about the same topic cannot both be true, which I discussed here. Christianity and Islam both make a claim to the entire reality of how the world and life operates. Only taking the example in this post into consideration, Islam denies Christianity. Hence, the two are making different claims about reality. If we assume logic can be used, the religions Christianity and Islam cannot both be true.
This was a specific example involving a comparison of two religions. There can be plenty more essential contrasts found between these two religions and between other religions. However, I think this example is sufficient to show that the “religious belief is subjective” view is illogical. Because a person thinks Islam is true and another believes Christianity is true does not mean that they correct. In fact, there is no possibility of them both being correct, unless there is some sort of spiritual truth beyond our human understanding that allows them both to be correct. In conclusion, the view that “all religions claim the same thing” and the view that religious beliefs are subjective are both incorrect.
So far in the main thread of this blog, I have discussed the following views that I hold:
1. Truth is objective
2. There is objective morality
3. All belief systems exclude people who do not hold the same belief
4. Religious belief is not subjective
That should conclude my posts about objective/subjective truth. My plan now is to look at how we can find truth, focusing on various areas of truth we can consider. Naturally, the next few posts will have few or no references to passages from the Bible or Quran.