An old Sydney “Sunday Telegraph” article (April 26, 1998) spoke of “shopping around” for religion. If there was a supermarket for religious beliefs, its shelves would offer a range of choices: Buddhism; Islam; Christianity; Judaism; Hinduism; Shinto; “New Ageism”; Baha’ism; Mormonism; Scientology. The list goes on. So why choose one faith, specifically Christianity, rather than any other?
Is such a choice really necessary? After all, say some, “All paths lead to God”. But is that so? Not all beliefs can be right. Specific beliefs contradict other beliefs. To accept one faith as true is to reject other faiths as being false. Christianity, for example, affirms Jesus Christ to be Lord and Saviour of all. Judaism, Islam and other faiths deny this. Judaism, Christianity and some other faiths are “monotheistic”, firmly holding to the belief in one God (to the exclusion of all other gods). Followers of Hinduism, on the other hand, may believe in a variety of gods and goddesses. Such diverse beliefs cannot all be true. Either Jesus is universal Lord and Saviour, or he is not. Either the God of the Bible is the one and only God, or He is not. There cannot be only one God and, at the same time, many gods. Hence, either one faith is true or all faiths are false. The idea that all faiths are true is illogical. Therefore, a choice has to be made.
Following the above line of thought, of course, we could simply take the view that no faith is acceptable or true and that all “religion” is to be rejected. Such is the faith of “atheism”. (And a faith, a belief system, it is.) Atheism, though, is subject to the same tests as other beliefs.
It all comes down to a matter of evidence (rather than of mere assumptions, preferences, cultural influences, family traditions, or emotions). Many will dismiss this, arguing that religious belief has nothing to do with evidence. That is untrue. Take Christianity, for example. The teachings and beliefs of Christianity are recorded in the Bible. Most assuredly, that book contains many commandments (instructions) which are simply statements telling us what to do. It also talks of matters which we cannot now see or experience (e.g. the afterlife). But it contains far more. It provides a considerable degree of historical, geographical, biographical and other factual detail. If those details are constantly in error, then the Bible is unreliable and anything it says about the existence of God, the identity of Christ, the certainty of an afterlife, the reality or sin and the need for salvation, is likewise unreliable. If you cannot believe those statements of the Bible which can be tested for reliability, how can you believe any other of its contents? (Christianity could thereby be dismissed.)
Even commandments (instructions) can be tested to some degree. The Bible, for example, provides instructions about personal conduct, relationships, social responsibility, morality, and so forth. Are such teachings practical and beneficial? Do negative personal and social consequences arise when Biblical teaching is ignored? In other words, are there benefits arising from the practice of Christianity and negative consequences arising from its rejection? Does Christianity help?
All of this, of course, has yet to be demonstrated. (A brief discussion of evidence is provided in the next article.) The message at this point is that religious belief is not merely a leap into the unknown and the unknowable. It is not merely a matter of assumption. Truth applies just as much in regard to religious belief as it does to other walks of life. It makes no sense to believe nothing but it is illogical (contradictory) to believe everything. We must therefore go where the facts and evidence lead us. If such facts and evidence show something to be true (believable) then alternate beliefs can be put aside as untrue. Thus can we find the right path, a path we can follow with confidence.