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There are more than 20 major religious groupings across the globe which is further subdivided to more than 10,000 distinct religions (Vries, 2008). Of the many religions, there are more than 270 religion and Para religions that have more than half million followers. Christianity alone boast of more than 34, 000 separated groups including denominations, individual affiliated churches, sects, and Para church groupings among others (Vries, 2008). Over the years, these religious groupings have been faced by varying ideological controversies. One of the main issues that have drawn many controversies between different religions and traditions is the perception of a true religion (Chinchen, 2010). There have been concerns about whether there is a true religion or something to that effect. Most of the religions teach their followers that their doctrines and beliefs are the only and absolute true sets and that all the reaming religions have certain degree of error (Derrida & Vattimo, 1998). However, it is logical that there can never be only one true religion since the teachings of various religions on a number of significant issues not only differ but are mutually incompatible such that in case one religion is true, the others must be false.
Religion describes any cultural system with definite symbols which relates humanity to some divine spirituality and moral structures (Derrida & Vattimo, 1998). Most religions have symbols, narratives, sacred traditions and histories that are aimed at explaining life, universe or their origins. According to Derrida & Vattimo (1998), most religious systems tend to derive ethics, morality and their religious doctrines from their ideologies concerning the origin of the universe and humanity.
Over the years, religion has developed by taking varying forms that are mainly dictated by different cultures (Boyer, 2001). Certain religions place much emphasis on their beliefs and doctrines while others stress on practice (Spencer, 2007). Similarly, some religions are more focused on the subjective experience of their individual followers while others emphasize on the religious activities to be the most significant (Boyer, 2001). In addition, some religions embraces universality by believing that their doctrines and beliefs are universally binding while others believe that their belief systems can be practiced by definite and localized groups. Simply put, different religions embrace different ideologies and belief systems. Consequently, various ideological controversies have been encountered among different religions.
This paper analyze whether there can be a true religion or something to that effect. The paper will begin by highlighting the impact of finding the true religion and will explain some of the likely consequences that are involved in establishing the truth. The paper will then try to establish whether there is true religion. This will be done by questioning the current world’s religion with respect to culture and an individual place of birth. It will also be focused on the notion of true religion with respect to the modern logics, morality, modernity and universality of the current world religions. Lastly discussion and conclusion on whether true religion exists will then be highlighted.
True Religion: Center Of Controversy
In case there can be one true religion, the big question which would automatically turn to be the center of controversy and discussion becomes: which specific religion is the true one (Ogden, 1992)? In this context, each religion claims to be the specific one and the only truth. What follows is a fierce competition between the world’s religions with each regarding the others as false or less true. Such competition has resulted to different negative consequences among different religious groups.
One negative consequence of establishing the truth or one true religion has been the conflicts between peoples or nations of different traditions and religions. Such conflicts have been fuelled by the various sides’ conviction that their religion is the true one and that they are serving, defending and conquering in the name of the truth (Joseph, 2009). However, according to Joseph (2009), in most cases, the origins of the conflicts have not been religion but rather political, economic and ethnic based. Nevertheless, religion has been considered and validated as the opposing causes; such that the belief that a group has the absolute truth justifies any action committed by the group or the side (Joseph, 2009). Therefore, people of different cultural backgrounds and religious affiliations have been motivated by their religious beliefs to fully give their lives by being ready to kill and be killed for the sake of the truth. Interestingly, teachings of the religions have convinced and assured them that they are giving their lives for a just and righteous cause. As a result lives have been lost and innumerable civilians on all sides have been murdered, discriminated against, oppressed or exploited in the name of the truth (Joseph, 2009).
Another common negative consequence of true religion notion occurs during the inter-faith dialogues (Joseph, 2009). For instance, religious discussion between a Muslim and Christian, either side believes that there can only be one absolute truth with respect to a given religious theory or concept which is – logically- his or her own. Therefore, each side will argue from his own religion view and stand- a stand which he believes to be the full truth as opposed to the other side with a lesser truth. Although each side will refrain from declaring this to the other party, this is the reality of either party’s view. As a result, for either side, the discussion turns not be a discussion among equals but rather a discussion where one party stands at a higher level.
Finding the true religion
Considering the different consequences of establishing the truth, a discussion on true religion can only be meaningful if it has an objective starting point. However, it is further difficult to begin with given specific factor (Ogden, 1992). The starting point must universally accepted by all the religions. Therefore, it cannot be from some specific standpoint of any of the holly books of the numerous worlds’ religions. According to Ogden (1992), the question of true religion should be argued before the holy books were used. This is because they bare numerous contradictions between the world’s religious systems and their structures. As such, it is only viable, in this age of political correctness to start by assuming that the religions are similar and are driven by similar goals. To establish whether true religion exist, this paper will question religion with respect to culture, an individual place of birth and will be focused on the notion of true religion with respect to the modern logics, morality, modernity and universality of the current world religions.
Religion and culture
The world is composed of diverse cultures. Therefore, the African cultures and lifestyle are very different from the Chinese or the Americans. However, today, these differences are diminishing as there are more and more overlap between different cultures and move towards a global culture. This was not the case when the most of the world’s religions began (Derrida & Vattimo, 1998). The great spiritual figures and teachings, for instance, Buddha’s teachings, Mohammed’s or Confucius’ originated from particular cultures and some of the doctrines and outlook reflected the respective cultures. Just like the traditions in which these religions have developed over the centuries, culture and religion have been correlated such that culture has inevitably infiltrated and corrupted religion (Derrida & Vattimo, 1998).
Another significant feature of religion relates to an individual’s religious affiliation and place of birth. According to Hick (2011), the religion to which a person adheres to and which he believes to be true is dependent on the place where the individual was born. An individual born in a Muslim family in Turkey or Pakistan is likely to be a Muslim. Likewise, an individual born in a Buddhist family in Sri Lanka or Thailand is likely to be a Buddhist (Chinchen, 2010). In deed, there are conversions from and to each of the different religions. However, these conversions are statistically insignificant compared to the transmission of the different faiths from one generation to the other in the same tradition.
Religion versus morality
One of the factors that immediately contradict the search of true religion is the morality and ethicality of majority of religions. Most of the bloodiest atrocities in history were carried by people claiming to be believers of various religions (Pensgard, 2011). Most of the holy books support this; for instance, the slaughter of men and women that are evident in the Judeo-Christian old testaments (Spencer, 2007). Over the years, religions have turned to be repressive and have been dominated by fundamentalists who have imposed their unique minds to their loyalists, with stern penalties for disobedience (Pensgard, 2011). This defies the basic logic for true religion: one which is guided by God’s mercy and love. Though other believers plead that the various shortfall are responsibility of a few misguided fanatics, it is plausible enough that God’s guided religion would not allow its name to be tarnished by letting the various radicals commit the atrocities in his name. According to Spencer (2007), a true religion would have set certain consistent ethical guidelines and bloodshed free history.
Religion and logics
Most of the religions’ doctrines are illogical in many aspects. Most of the religions require their followers to accept certain claims and beliefs. However, most of the claims do not make good sense if considered logically, neither are they backed by real and splendid reasons, rather than the assertion that the claims are inscrutable will of God (Roark, 2011). For such logical grounds, numerous religions fail the test for the truth. Judaism for instance, insists that there are certain foods that are unclean without providing its follows with any apparent reason other than the God’s will (Roark, 2011). One would then wonder and question why God would create other animals and then declare them to be forbidden. Christianity and other religions also fail in a number of tests.
By contrast, a true religion would never be characterized by such illogical ideas, but rather very coherent and plausible sets of guidelines, claims and rules (Roark, 2011). Given the fact that God is so powerful and all knowing, nothing would be documented to have happened without the provision of full knowledge and consent. In addition, an all-wise God has a real purpose for everything that happens. A true religion must have taken these simple factors into consideration rather than ignoring them.
Religion and universality
A true religion inspired by God would be universal and would transcend language, cultural, race, national origin and ethnical barriers (Ward, 2003). Given the fact all forms of humanity are fundamentally similar with respect to their cognitive and genetic levels, it only sensible that if God wanted to send a message to the human race, he would do it to everybody (Ward, 2003). Nevertheless, most of the current world religions are disqualified on this criterion. They are evidently the product of certain specific cultures, societies and periods in history. Judaism, for instance, proposes that the Jews are spiritually superior to other races and are chosen by God to be the bearers of His message and are therefore placed above all forms of humanity (Ward, 2003). Islam also insists that God’s words can only be truly understood in Arabic language. Therefore one would conclude that Judaism is for the Jews, Islam to Arabs and so on.
True religion and modernity
Other school of thoughts has also tried to establish true religion by considering the relevance of the different world religions with the modern situations. They argue that a true religion’s holy books should posses and cover some of the issues that experienced in the modern societies such international terrorism, ecological destruction or global warming (Pensgard, 2011). Churches which oppose cloning and genetic cloning, for instance, do not have scriptural support for their stands except some few and vague verses which they pull out of context or make general statements about what men were not allowed to do. Generally, the holy books of most religions just contain rules and regulation about the old issue that are no longer relevant in the today’s society (Pensgard, 2011). Therefore, it is argued that if the different religions were true religions then an Omnipresent God would provide them with full advice and applicable guidelines on some of the current issues being faced by the modern societies. According to Pensgard (2011), it is only a religion that is authored by the primitive cultures of the pre-scientific generations would contain more discussion of the problems that were faced then and little or absolutely nothing of the future problems, which they could perhaps not have foreseen.
Should the Perception of True Religion Be Ignored?
Given the fact that religion to which people adhere to and believes to be the true religion or against which they rebel, is majorly dependent on variety of factors such culture and the place of birth, one may wonder about the difference that a true or false religion would make. Therefore, one of the questions that draw concern is whether people should be concerned about whether there is true religion or not, or whether it is something that should be ignored. As Vries (2008) observes, while some people will agree that it is an insignificant question that should be ignored, others will argue that they are the fortunate few whom God has called and revealed His truth, and therefore they have the responsibility to spread the truth and proclaim it to the rest of the world. This is an internally coherent stand and belief among these people. However, the complexity of it all is apparent when it is noticeable that other religions will say, think and act exactly in the same way and the view depending on their religious beliefs systems (Vries, 2008). As such, they believe that the rest of the humanity is liable to certain degree of error.
In a nutshell, none of the world religions stand out from the rest and none is uniquely different from the rest. According to Roark (2011), a true religion would posses a unique characteristic that would be universally acceptable across all cultures, tradition, and places of birth. However, none of the many religions that exist today possesses this universally unique entity. They are all the same in one way or the other; characterized by out dated and barbaric doctrines, immorality and are historically steeped by blood and violence (Ogden, 1992). In addition, the religious leaders utilize similar fallacious appeals to religious doctrines and faith to out rightly control their flocks and put forward miraculous historical accounts to support their claims.
The differences in dogma may be attributed to the differences in time, circumstances, and cultural influences. To most population in the modern society such a view or outlook seems more plausible than the dogma of superiority of one religion compared to the other (Hick, 2011). However, what remain unresolved are the conflicting claims about the truth of different religions. There are perhaps different reasons behind these claims. According to Hick (2011), these conflicts are not driven by the differences in manifestations of God with respect to human experience and thought structures. He proposes that these conflicts affirm a transcendent divine reality that is simply being conceived and experienced and therefore varyingly responded to within different cultures and religions (Hick, 2011). Therefore, it seems that the incompatible belief structures of various traditions relates to the different manifestations of the ultimate reality to humanity. The inner structures of the human mind , created by the conceptual systems with respect to how an individual perceive things and think, will always influences the way one becomes aware of anything.
Generally, although each religion may not be one and only authentically true religion, there are nevertheless varying degree of senses in which, for each tradition and culture, a given religion is unique, normative and central since they have been formed by the religions’ system and doctrines. Such a religion has created its followers and believers in its own image, such that it fits them and they likewise fit it, and no any other religion can fulfill the same role. Therefore, based on the outcome of the most pluralistic view, it should be fully lived. However, it should also be considered that the same principles should be applied to all people in the society irrespective of religious affiliation. Therefore, every individual must rise to the realization of a religious objectivity which proposes that no religion is the one and the only true religion. Consequently, it is important for the human race to freely interact with people of all faiths on that ground.