People living in 21st century Britain have access to a vast array of choice when it comes to religion – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Ba'hai – I could easily fill this page with a list. So how do you choose? And does it really matter if they're all true – if they're all just different ways up the same mountain?
Because that's what a lot of people say, isn't it? All these different religions are basically the same – just different ways of thinking about the same truth. But I want to give three quick rebuttals to that approach.
If you think all religions can be true, then you clearly haven't looked into them very carefully. They contradict each other at the most fundamental of levels. For instance, the Hindu believes in many gods; the Jew believes there is only one. They can't both be right. The Muslim believes Jesus was a mere man, a prophet sent by God; the Christian believes he was God himself in the flesh. They can't both be right.
It only takes the briefest of glances to see that to say that all religions are true is just plain daft. But more than that:
Think about it. If you put a Christian and a Muslim in the same room and told them that they were both right about God – they just had a slightly different way of expressing it – then they'd both probably be pretty offended. Saying all religions are true belittles them, and belittles their followers, and let's face it, none of us likes that. It's insulting. But thirdly, what a lot of people don't realise is that:
It's an appealing thought, isn't it? Because if all religions are basically the same then you can pick and choose the bits you like from each one. Like at a buffet, where you can put a little bit of everything on your plate safe in the knowledge that it's all headed for the same destination.
But what you're essentially doing when you take the 'buffet' approach to religion is making one of your own – a religion that suits your needs, enables you to think and behave how you'd quite like to think and behave, puts you fundamentally at the centre of it all.
So I hope it's clear that if you say all religions are true then you haven't got a leg to stand on. But the problem remains as to how you pick one… There are a lot of similarities – most religions have some kind of god who is basically a good guy, for instance – but here's just one of the crucial differences about Christianity. Christianity takes all the God-attributes – being good, just, truthful, all-powerful, the creator – and pins them on a man: Jesus Christ. Here's a real bloke who was walking around the earth, just like you or I, except that he was God. And thankfully some people were good enough to write down what he did and said, so we can have a look. So the question is, does the stuff Jesus does and says fit with him being God? And I think it does.
And if he is God, then when he says “I am the way, the truth and the life,” we know that he's not lying and that his religion is the only true one.