Do all paths lead to God? The problem with religious pluralism

11 Aug

Well do all paths lead to God? I mean, there are many different religions out there – all telling you that they are correct, and that ‘spiritual enlightenment’ can be found in them.

Surely it would make sense that the paths of all world religions are all going in the same direction up the mountain to reach the same destination.

And if that is the case, then it matters not who you follow, whether it be Jesus Christ, Allah or Vishnu. This is known as religious pluralism. religious pluralism holds that no single religion can claim absolute authority to teach absolute truth, and that all faiths are searching for the same truths in different ways. Maybe this is where you are coming from.

This idea is best conveyed in this well known illustration:

Three blind men are lead to an elephant and told to touch it and then take a guess at what they are touching. One man, touched the elephants tusks and declared it must be some sort of spear. Another felt its side and said it was a rough wall. The third, on touching the tail, said that it was a rope.

The blind men were touching the same elephant, and yet because they were touching different parts their experience of the elephant was very different. So it follows into the realms of religion that all paths are leading to the same thing but coming at it from a different angle.

So according to Pluralism, all roads lead to God. Unfortunately there are some holes in pluralist thinking:

Pluralism is inconsistent
By its very nature, pluralism says that you can’t possibly have absolute truth over any. You must not, you cannot force your views onto anybody else. But in doing so, demands that everybody takes the pluralist view, and if you don’t then you are nothing more than narrow-minded. Perhaps even more then that, they try silence such views. Which is why in the UK, we’ve had such trouble with our Christian Unions being forced out of university campus’s. Huh? Double standard?

Pluralism is patronizing
The promotion of tolerance amongst the different religions has gained much speed of late. And in a way, that’s a good thing. To reach out to different cultures and offer the hand of friendship for the sake of unity, we must respect each others beliefs. However, in trying to affirm all religious perspectives, we honour none of them. Insisting that all religions are the same, just with different labels, pluralism ignores what is distinctive about them. It ignores the differences – Sikhs believe there is one God, Buddhists believe there are no gods. So in comes the pluralist saying, “see you’re all pretty much saying the same thing”. Do the sums! There can’t be many gods, and one god and no gods. You’re just being patronizing.

Pluralism is arrogant
When pluralists reduce all world religions to the blind men and the elephant, what I want to know is, who’s telling the story? Presumably it’s the enlightened pluralist, who looks on at the stumblings of the blind men with absolute clarity. What right does the pluralist have to place themselves outside the picture? Who’s to say they aren’t another blind man feeling his way around the elephant? Placing themselves outside the circle, and declaring themselves the referee, is wonderfully convenient, and very arrogant.

So no, all paths do not lead to God, there can only be one way. And nobody has the authority or insight to say otherwise – despite what some would have you think.

So surely the fairest thing to do, is line up all the religions. All of the ideas and philosophies. Put them under scrutiny and go with what makes sense?

This I challenge you to do, and its my belief that a relationship with Father God would not seem so ‘out there’.

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17 Responses to “Do all paths lead to God? The problem with religious pluralism”

  1. Edgar September 18, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    I say – all paths do lead to God. Unfortunately for many, God won’t be pleased with them. Some will get Grace. Some will get what they deserved.

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 7:27 am #

      so which one do you choose? do you choose none of them? if you choose none of them and after death you come to that God would he let you go into heaven? would he let the person who didnt go down any of the paths come in but someone who went down the wrong path not? pluralism is accepting all the directions and not going any way cause any way you go is going to say that the others are wrong and that would be against the idea of pluralism. how can you say they are all valid ways to go but it is wrong to go down any one of them? you cannot simply go down all of them at once. i am asking this because i legitimately want to go. pluralism is a state of not knowing and accepting all of them as result. i have studied the bible quran the humanist manifesto and the ways of a cosmic humanist and none of them can truly lead to the same thing. they encompass completely different ideas. as the writer said some claim more than one god or a single god or no gods or man being god. all of them come to different conclusions and i cannot see how they could end up the same.

  2. mraveragechristian September 22, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    Great point.. Praise God that those who follow Christ have been spared what ultimately we all deserve.

  3. Donny December 23, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    You say that a relationship with God would not seem so “out there” however, they say God works in mysterious ways. The flaw with analizing these views from a christian perspective is that your view is ultimately compromised by your belief, which explains the obviously one sided argument you have presented. Logically there is no proof either way. From what you have said, God tells you not to kill but to condemn those who do not see the same way as you do. This is completely contridicory. True belief would dictate that you hope that those who believe in God in their own ways, that may be wrong, would still arrive in the kingdom of heaven.

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 7:30 am #

      then what perspective can one analyze from? everyone has a different views so how could someone analyze it from no view? its impossible.

      • friend December 12, 2011 at 8:59 am #

        does one just not analyze it then? do we just ignore it and hope we get to heaven? if we remain neutral and hope all paths lead to god we cannot take a path meaning we will never have taken a path towards god. and if we accept a path we have to reject the others. it is not something that can be done. each religion says it is right and the others are wrong and to accept those would be against pluralism. in reality pluralism is a stand still. you say that all paths lead to god but to truly take a path to god would mean forsaking pluralism. practicing a religion does not mean that you are a true follower of that religion. to truly believe in a specific religion you take on its truth. which for every religion is being the only way.

  4. Neil January 4, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    Interesting post although I respectfully take issue with most of it;

    On INCONSISTANCY you stated, “You must not, you cannot force your views onto anybody else. But in doing so, demands that everybody takes the pluralist view, and if you don’t then you are nothing more than narrow-minded.”

    I disagree with this premise primarily because you’ve accused the pluralist of demanding that everyone take their view when that could not be further from the truth. The pluralist believes that it’s best to accept that there are many views all of which lead to the same answers. Individuals by their very nature choose which part to touch for themselves and no one part is more or less important than another. By default, they con not demand their view be accepted as correct because the pluralist also accepts that the lack of any view (Atheism) at all may be one persons path to enlightenment, which is what religion ultimately is defined as.

    Further, as I believe you are a Christian I find it interesting that you would use inconsistancy to prove your point. I’m sure you’re aware that Christianity didn’t exist prior to the birth of Jesus Christ and the Old Testament is the bible used then and now by the Jewish. That being the case, and using your elephant analogy, wouldn’t it be safe to say that Christianity is nothing more than blind Jews who decided to move to another part of the elephant in a effort to better examine a path to God? If so one could argue that your religion stems directly from a pluralistic viewpoint – specifically those who believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God(Christians) and those who believe in Jesus Christ simply a prophet(Jews). Remember, Jesus Christ was not called the King of the Christians but rather, the King of the Jews.

    Finally, when do you ever hear a Rabbi reading from the New Testament? And yet, Christian preachers and priests read from the Jewish book, better known as the Old Testament all the time…

    In short, Christianity is based in and stemmed from a pluralist viewpoint.

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 8:02 am #

      i agree with the author on the inconsistency. pluralist say that none of us are truly right and that we should be neutral and be ok with everyones views. but if we are all neutral then we are not following certain path to god and therefore there are no more views leaving us in a state of nothingness and uncertainty. by saying we all should be accepting of all the views is to be unaccepting of our views.

      i understand what you are saying but just cause a religion splits because they do not agree on who their savior is does not mean it stemmed from a pluralistic point of view. it just was judaism prior to christ. there is no way judaism could not have split. for it not to have split would have required christ being the messiah to be 100% provable which would have contradicted the base of christianity. faith. christianity is consistent from its god having a true unchanging character to its principles. it is much more reliable and consistent than say islam.

      in short i cannot and will not in a religion unless it is consistent and non contradictory and i cannot accept a state of mind where nothing is right and just to sit there and hope that all gods are the same and when i reach some form of heaven i have to hope that universal god lets in the guy who didnt follow any of the paths he gave.

  5. purina February 15, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    What if one rejects creationism? If creationism is rejected, isn’t the premise of Christianity rejected? If one does not believe in the “fall of man”, then there is no sin, and no need for salvation. No Satan either. That means that non of us “deserve” to go to hell. I believe that God is Love. And that is it. The Bible gives God all these human emotions because it was written by men. Men created religon.

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 8:12 am #

      if one believes in no sin then one has to believe that nothing is bad and nothing is wrong. take their car fire them unjustly whatever you wish and ask them if they were wrongly treated. right and wrong are from religion and have existed since the origin of the universe (whatever that means for you). and if they have always existed then and originated from religion it is safe to say religion has always existed. and if a religion has existed from the beginning of time means that there was no time to split the religions leaving only one way to god. that would make only one way right. hope that helps. let me know your thoughts. i like theological discussions

  6. zendictive December 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    human nature is a spiritual one, in all cultures through-out the world and history man-kind has worshipped a god, is it not? The fact is that each culture derived a different outlook on what god is and what god has done with what god offers, like the blind men they did the best they could with what they had to describe their god. I used this story from another avenue which is how I read it and to see it is changing to fit each religion is intruiging. ~Art

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 8:28 am #

      it is intriguing. but that is assuming that each religion derived from the same place. if they all came from the same place i could see how all paths to god would be possible. but you also have to assume that whatever god is out there would accept the corrupted views on god. cause if each religion derived from the same place then there was one right way and men changed it to there own version making all of the other ways not the original and corrupt.

    • friend December 12, 2011 at 8:46 am #

      the analogy is saying that every worldview is from the same elephant. why cant judaism christianity and islam be touching a giraffe while buddaism is touching a monkey and atheism is touching a pig. you cannot assume they are all touching the same god. i am not saying that there is more than one god just that their origin and ideas of god are not necessarily from the same animal. and if the god of judaism christianity and islam were the same god then does that god accept all of them? could that god who is never changing and true accept the stray ones? lets say that christianity islam and judaism were touching a giraffe. the jews just touched the giraffes head and refused to touch the rest of the giraffe making them miss the rest of it. christianity touched the body of the giraffe and could tell that it was a giraffe while islam got separated from the giraffe and found a zebra. islam thinks they found the giraffe but in all reality they didnt. now would that god accept the blind man that refused to believe in the rest of the giraffe (judaism)? would he accept the one who stayed close and found out the true identity (christianity)? does he accept the one who strayed and stayed with the zebra (islam)? can he accept them? can he accept the ones who were with a different animal? just a thought

  7. Alejandro May 22, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    The knowledge is incredibly significant.

  8. Akali charles April 17, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

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  9. charles akali April 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

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  1. What’s different about Jesus? « Mr Average Christian - September 18, 2008

    […] we have seen that not all paths lead to God. But how can I as a bible believing Christian know that Christianity and Jesus Christ is the […]

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