Which one is the true religion?

Discussion in 'Spirituality/Worship' started by TwoCatDoctors, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. TwoCatDoctors

    TwoCatDoctors New Member


    Which, if any, of the world's 10,000 religions is the true one?

    Sorry; if you are looking for "True Religion" jeans, this essay won't help you. However, you might want to read it anyway.

    Quotations you may have heard:

    --"True religion is not about possessing the truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is religion pretending that it has all the answers." Bishop J.S. Spong "Q&A on The Parliament of the World's Religions," weekly mailing, 2007-SEP-05.
    --"...just because you don't bow on your knees and worship an idol or an invisible being, does not mean you are not a Satan worshiper. The worship of any other god (s) is the same thing. There are no other gods. They are demons and Satan is in control of them." From the website www.exposingsatanism.org
    --"Yes, Christianity is the one true religion. That may sound awfully dogmatic and narrow-minded, but the simple truth is that Christianity is the only true religion. Jesus said that He alone was the way to the Father (John 14:6), that He alone revealed the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). Christians do not go around saying Christianity is the only way because they are arrogant, narrow-minded, stupid, and judgmental. They do so because they believe what Jesus said." Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM).

    How many religions are there in the world from which to locate the "true" one?

    According to David Barrett and team, there are 19 major world religious groupings in the world which are subdivided into a total of about 10,000 distinct religions. Of the latter, there were 270 religions and para-religions which had over a half million adherents in the year 2000 CE. Within Christianity, they have identified 34,000 separate groups (denominations, sects, individual unaffiliated churches, para-church groups, etc) in the world. "Over half of them are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations." 1

    Even considering a single religion, Christianity, within a single country, there are often thousands of individual "Christian confessions and denominations." For example, Barrett et al. states that there are:
    bullet 4,684 groups in the U.S.
    bullet 3,364 in South Africa.
    bullet 2,079 in Nigeria.
    bullet 1,581 in Brazil.
    bullet 1,327 in South-central Asia.

    Among other English-speaking countries, there are:
    bullet 828 groups in the UK.
    bullet 469 in Canada.
    bullet 267 in Australia
    bullet 175 in New Zealand. 2

    Differences in the beliefs and practices of various faith groups:

    Probably the one area where religions differ the most is over the nature of deity. Various groups teach Agnosticism, Animism, Atheism, Strong Atheism, Deism, Duotheism, Henotheism, Monism, Monotheism, Panentheism, Pantheism, Polytheism, the Trinity, and probably some others that we have missed. More details.

    Perhaps the next greatest range of beliefs are about the fate of people after death: whether there is simple annihilation, some form of energy-less existence as taught by the ancient Hebrews, Purgatory as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, Heaven or Paradise as taught by many religions, Hell which is also taught by many faiths, Limbo, reincarnation, transmigration of the soul, nirvana, an alternative world much like Earth, and probably some other places or states that we have missed.

    There is also a great range of beliefs and practices among different religions over other theological beliefs, ritual, organization, family structure, personal sexual behavior, and other topics. For example, differences exist on matters such as: abortion access, adult celibacy, animal sacrifices. appearance factors (shaving, jewelry), birth control usage, calendar, clergy celibacy, clergy gender, clergy organization, meeting day, documentation, family power sharing, family types, gender of deities, homosexual rights, meeting place, nature of deities, nature of humanity, new year date, number of deities, origin of the universe, prayer, pre-marital sex, role of women, sacred texts, suicide, surgical modifications to the body, special clothing, symbols, etc. (More details in original text)

    To our knowledge, no two religions teach the same message or expect the same practices from their followers. One would be hard pressed to find two faith groups within the same religion which have identical teachings and practices. If a "true religion" exists, then it would probably have to be one or a few faith groups within one of the 10,000 religions. All of the other religions and faith groups would be in error.

    What do faith groups teach about their own status?

    Most religious groups teach that their own beliefs and practices are the only true set, and that all other faith groups contain some degree of error. For example, the largest single faith group in the U.S., in Canada, and in the world is the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Times News Service, a year 2000 statement by the Church titled "Dominus Iesus" implies that "Churches such as the Church of England, where the apostolic succession of bishops from the time of St. Peter is disputed by Rome, and churches without bishops, are not considered 'proper' churches." Only the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches are "churches in the proper sense." They suffer from "defects." Dominus Iesus further states that religions other than Christianity are considered to be "gravely deficient." Their rituals can constitute "an obstacle to salvation" for their followers. 3,4

    Other faith groups are either more inclusive or more exclusive than the Roman Catholic Church regarding the "truth" status of other faith groups.

    Which, then, is the true religion?

    Because religions are so different, only one could be the "true religion." Perhaps none are. Within the "true religion" there may be more than one faith group that are sufficiently accurate in their beliefs and practices that all could qualify as "true." The problem is how to find out which religion and which faith groups have this status.

    Some methods of determining the "true" religion are:
    --Conduct an opinion poll: Unfortunately, beliefs differ around the world:
    --In Saudi Arabia, the government claims that 100% of the population is Muslim. So there is probably a very high probability that a given citizen picked at random would firmly believe Islam is the true religion and that theirs is the true faith group.
    --India is about 80% Hindu. There is a very high probability that any given citizen believes that their tradition with Hinduism is the true religion.
    --The U.S. is about 75% Christian. The population in the American "Bible belt" is significantly higher than that. There is a very high probability that any given citizen in South Carolina, for example, believes that their denomination within Christianity is the true religion.

    It is obvious that one's personal beliefs about the true religion is largely a function of the country in which one happens to have been born, the area of that country, and the beliefs of one's parent(s):

    --If Jerry Falwell had been born in Saudi Arabia of Muslim parents, and obtained his religious education in that country, there is a near certainty that he would be promoting Islam today.
    bullet If the late Sheikh Mohamed Mutwali al-Sharawilittle of Egypt, who was called "The Arab world's best known television preacher of the Holy Qur'an," had been born and raised by Southern Baptists in Dallas, TX, that he would almost certainly have promoted Christianity.

    One's personal beliefs and the certainty with which one holds them is an unreliable measure of truth, because they are largely determined by one's culture and the faith of one's parents -- both largely accidents of birth. So, an opinion poll might show what peoples beliefs are. But it would not be helpful in locating the "true" faith group.

    --Pray to God 5 and ask to be enlightened. The founder of the Mormon movement, Joseph Smith, did precisely this. Mormons believe that God and Jesus Christ appeared to him side by side, and told him that none of the then existing Christian denominations were the true religion. He was instructed to create a new denomination to restore Christianity to its first century CE purity before it fell into heresy.

    This method appears to be unreliable. When people pray to God for enlightenment, most seem to conclude that their own religion and faith group is the true one. If people could access the will of God on this matter, then a vast majority of the world's population -- the folks who pray -- would realize that their faith group was not the true one. They would gradually migrate to the true religion. There would eventually be only one religion and one tradition within that religion left standing. Otherwise, people would be rejecting the will of God. All the other 11,000 religions and their tens of thousands of denominations or traditions would be phased out.

    The OCRT, the group that sponsors this web site, conducted a pilot study to determine whether a person can assess the will of God through prayer. We used a controversial topic: whether God favors same-sex marriage for homosexuals and some bisexuals. The answer that we found was that people appear to be unable to assess the will of God through prayer.
    bullet Communication from God: God could initiate a direct communication to humanity. In order to be convincing, it would have to be totally unambiguous, clear and convincing. One example might be for God to rearrange a few thousand stars to spell out in the evening sky the name of the true religion. Unfortunately, at least within the Judeo-Christian traditions, God seems to be progressively withdrawing from humanity. He walked in person with Adam and Eve. Later, he only appeared in rare occasions as at Mount Sinai. Still later, he communicated with humans only through prophets. Most Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God and walked among humans in first century CE Palestine. However, he was seen by only a miniscule percentage of the human race. Now, access to God is through prayer.

    Unless God were to take the initiative, it appears that there is no way for humans to determine which religion is "true."

    Editorial comments:

    Note: The following are personal musings and are perhaps biased and lacking in objectivity.

    There is often great wisdom in comic strips. In 1976, Charles Schultz had Snoopy write a book on theology called: "Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?" In 1980, he had Linus ask his Sunday School teacher the exact same question. 7

    Imagine the results if more people in the world realized the simple fact that there are over 11,000 religions in the world and that it is impossible with our present knowledge to find out which is the "true" one. An inevitable corollary to this belief would be that they would develop a degree of doubt that their religion is the only "true" one. People might be less inclined to oppress, discriminate against, murder or commit mass murder and genocide against people of other faiths such as has happened during the past decade in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Cyprus, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, the U.S. etc.

    Imagine the results if more people accepted their religion as the best faith for them, but at the same time recognized that there are other religions which teach about other deities, other systems of morality, other religious practices, etc. Yet almost all of them motivate people to lead better lives. There might be fewer people willing to defend their particular religion by oppressing or killing followers of other religions and spiritual paths.

    FROM: http://www.religioustolerance.org/reltrue.htm
  2. Denamay

    Denamay New Member

    Well, that article certainly knocks the wind out of one's sails.

    I wonder why man [as in mankind] seeks to find somekind of God answer to the big quetians of life?

    Yet, we can not seem to find the one true religion.

    It is a great mystery. Love from Denamay

  3. jole

    jole Member

    If this is so hard to understand, why is the best selling book of all times the Bible??? Can so many people all be wrong???
  4. jole

    jole Member

    Okay, now I'm even more confused by what you just wrote. Have you not said many times that you have gone from being a christian to a nonbeliever? There are very, very few Christians who claim to be one without the use of a Bible.

    Then you say the Ten Commandments are a pretty good list to live by and that works for you. Yes, it is a good list.....and what is the very first commandment?

    I Am The Lord Thy God, Thou Shall Have No Strange Gods Before Me.

    And the two great rules? Honor the Lord Thy God...and Love thy neighbor as thyself.

    If you believe in these, how can you say you are a nonbeliever? I'm really confused. ***Jole***
  5. Waynesrhythm

    Waynesrhythm Member

    Hi Jole, Hi All,

    Jole, I was raised Lutheran and attended parochial school for eight years. I can't say I'm positive about the first commandment, but I seem to remember it reading "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". And if this conversation isn't too serious, I have to admit that I got a bit of a chuckle out of your version, which is quite different than I remember.

    Just a couple of thoughts regarding this thread. It seems that a lot of emphasis is often placed on what a person "believes". And I sometimes get the impression that some people think that if they believe something strong enough, that that somehow makes it true.

    Example: I happen to believe in reincarnation. Does this belief make it true? Hardly. Reincarnation either exists or it doesn't, quite independent of what I might happen to believe. I should add however, that I've learned to trust my own spiritual experiences which give me a certain yardstick to measure things by.

    And I think this is how it should be for everybody. I feel we should all (ideally) learn to trust ourselves and our intuitions. Will we ever be wrong? Most assuredly. But that's what life is all about. Trial and error. Eventually what we determine to be truth will become part of who we are, the rest will fall by the wayside.

    There's an old saying, "Your actions speak so loud, I can't hear the words your saying". I'm mentioning this because what we eventually determine to be truth shows up in how we live our lives and how we treat other people. Many will talk a good game, but it doesn't show up in their actions. Others have very little to say about their spiritual leanings (perhaps not even having any), but their truth shines brightly in their eveyday life.

    So, my own personal belief: It probably matters very little what we believe or don't believe. Far more important is how we live our lives.

    Best to All, Wayne[This Message was Edited on 05/03/2009]
  6. jole

    jole Member

    Whoops! Ha... Maybe strange wasn't right, but the meaning was still clear....strange, no, false....still the same thing.

    Yes, I understand everyone is entitled to their own belief...and actions speak quite loudly, as a matter of fact. But there is a dual action here that is the most important fact of all...you cannot have God in your heart and do evil deeds at the same time! Not possible.

    My life has been a life of giving...raising 5 children, being a nurse for 30 years, and you can ask any of my kids or former patients what their impression was of me as a caregiver and lover of God's people. No, I haven't talked of my personal life on this board, because I felt it was more important to give honor to God, since this is a worship board.

    And I also disagree with the fact that it probably matters very little what we believe....for as a Christian, the difference is an eternity apart! With the help of the Holy Spirit, I plan to spend eternity in a place of joy everlasting with our Lord and Savior. This is His promise to those who love Him. I am not trying to start a problem, just stating the truth....and I do love all of God's children***Jole***

  7. vivian53

    vivian53 Member

    Great post. very logical. Everyone else that has posted seems to be comfortable where they are in their beliefs.

    I know what you guys, Wayne and Jamin are saying, and I know this is shallow of me but.......
    I wish it could be spelled out in the stars.

  8. TwoCatDoctors

    TwoCatDoctors New Member

    I posted this article hopefully to open minds and hearts to other faiths and beliefs. As a reminder, there are so many religious books, the Bible, the Torah, the Quran (spelling?), etc. I think it is good to remind us that only in each of our hearts is there one true religion or belief. In this huge world, there are over 10,000 religions and beliefs and one cannot be picked as the ultimate "true one" like in tag team wrestling. We each can have our own "true one" but to also allow others to have their "true one." It's tolerance and acceptance.

  9. springwater

    springwater Well-Known Member

    yes, it would be wonderful if the truth could have been spelled out in the stars...

    but since it isnt...

    I guess we all have to stumble along trying to find something which resonates most with us and doesnt make us feel fake while worshipping.

    I just want to live my life in a way which most promotes peace and loving kindness and refrain from that which is known to be wrong andfeels wrong to me. I do believe if i didnt know about any religion or their laws - something inside me would still tell me, it would be wrong to steal, to kill, to say words of malice, to say words with intent to hurt just for the sake of hurting....no one tells a child incest is wrong, but a child knows anyway it is wrong..this is the wisdom of our true nature as a human being.

    I do believe in karma, that the universe produces an effect like that of an eye for an eye, every action, every thought having a corresponding result and affecting our future and what happens in it. With this in mind, i try to jealously guard my mind and self against doing something i wouldnt want done to me....in this i have the faith that i am accumulating merit and the wrong doing that i have done in the past or past lives, will be purified and nullified.

    I have to say Ive reached the position where i have no desire to 'reincarnate' any more..some people turn Buddhists because they do not like the idea of this life being all there is and want to come back again.....my personal experiences have made me want not to come back again and experience joy or sorrow....for it seems to me that to exist in this world as we know it is suffering......i may be a Bill gates and all comfy and nice, but the majority is still impoverished, there is still violence, and disease, and crime and anguish, animals suffering horribly just to survive and being hunted down for meat and sport.....this is why the concept of Nirvana....the attainment of such a state of virtue that one neednt come back into this imperfect world appeals so much. The right aspiration would be to become a Boddhisattva, one who keeps coming back to free the world of its suffering, like Jesus or Buddha, or Mother Teresa, but Im so tired....I dont think i can become a Boddhisattva as i am right now, lol!!!!

    God Bless

  10. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    Look at these beautiful people! These kind, thoughtful, brave and beautiful people!

    I don't know who you mean when you say "lover of God's people" as opposed to God's children whom I suppose includes everyone. But, who are God's people? Surely God's people are these people.

    Peace to you,
  11. Denamay

    Denamay New Member

    Maybe it is writen in the stars after all.

    I looked it up: it is estimated that threre are up to70 sextllion stars in the visible universe!

    How marvelous is that?

    That is 70 thousand million, million, million.

    Galaxies collide,new stars are born and old ones explode and create dust and gas that in turn makes new stars and galaxies.

    What a fireworks display! I wonder if that is why we like to celebrate special occasions with fireworks?

    Maybe a bit of stardust still clings to us, as we look up and wonder why.

    Oh, the magesty of it all and we are all part of of the story.

    Love to all, Denamay

    [This Message was Edited on 05/04/2009]
    [This Message was Edited on 05/05/2009]
  12. Denamay

    Denamay New Member

    Last night at mid-night I went out doors to look at the stars in the sky, there were none to be seen.

    But I know they were there, hidden above the cloudy sky.

    If only we had eyes to see above our circumstances and see the power of the universe displayed.

    Have a great day and here is to a clear night full of stars!

    Love Denamay