Whenever the subject of Christianity comes up, at some point, some angry bloke will eventually say, "Man, Christians are so arrogant. I mean, how can you believe that there is only one way to God or heaven? How can you be so sure that you guys are right? That is so arrogant and judgmental."
- No Major Religion in the World Would Claim that All Religions Are Equally Valid
Growing up in a Malaysia, I was surrounded by friends who believed differently than I did. My classmates were Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims-- and a handful of Christians. In my younger years, there were precious few conversations that remotely resembled a discourse in comparative religions. But when friends had to miss a party to burn incense at an ancestor's grave, or skip food because it was Ramadan, or come to school with white, ashy powder on their foreheads, we all understood. We had different beliefs. Moreover, these beliefs were deeply held, and a significant part of our heritage.
As I got older, I found the courage to occasionally try to witness to a cab driver. I remember one occasion when a Buddhist man argued that his religion was far older than mine and therefore more superior. These conversations were friendly-- for the most part-- and all ended the same way: each leaving the other completely unconvinced.
But to my best recollection, not once in a conversation with a devout follower of another religion did a person ever say that all religions are the same.
There are fundamental differences that neither party are willing to ignore. A Muslim's god is not characterized by love and could not have come to earth. A Buddhist god is not personal. A Hindu's god...well, there are millions to choose from.
The claim of exclusivity is not unique to Christianity; it is common among the major religions of the world.
So, the belief that all religions are the same is itself a new kind of religion. A religion, after all, is a belief system that provides a framework for life and its meaning or lack of. From what source does this person derive his belief that all religions are the same? Certainly not from the religions themselves. On what basis can he defend it? None, except that it is the popular worldview of his day. (Let's see, we're standing on a long-held, historic belief, and he on a modern one...hmmm.) Unless, of course, he thinks that he sees more than you do. Read on.
- The Belief That All Religions Have Some Truth But Not the Whole Truth Means That You Think You Have the Whole Truth
People like to say that there are good things to glean from every religion, that each contains a morsel of truth, but is inaccurate on its own. Their favorite analogy is the blind men grasping different parts of an elephant, each describing his experience as the ultimate truth. The one who has the tail says an elephant is like a snake; the one who has the trunk says that an elephant is sturdy as a pipe; the one who has the tusk says an elephant is like a smooth horn with a sharp point, etc. The problem-- as Timothy Keller in The Reason For God so eloquently points out-- is that this story is told from the perception of one who is not blind, one who sees what an elephant really looks like.
In other words, to say that all religions are only partially right, that truth unfolds progressively through the eras of each religion's birth, is to say that you are the apex of religious history. You are now more enlightened than Confucious, Buddha, Mohammed, or Jesus. What they saw in part, you see in totality. Now, no peace-loving, Oprah-watching, politically-correct hipster is going to admit to that, but that is essentially what they are saying.
So, the question is not how arrogant Christianity is to make exclusive claims-- and, by the way, it does (read John 14 for a refresher course). The question is really how arrogant is Eckhart Tolle or Oprah or anyone else who tries to say that all religions are the same and taken together give us the full spiritual truth?
After all, isn't it arrogant to look at thousands of years of belief and practice by the major religions of the world, and dismissively say they are all the same? Isn't it arrogant to show up in 21st Century America and claim something none of these ancient, non-Western religions have ever claimed?
As it turns out, pluralism is the arrogant belief system-- not to mention one full of horse crap.