But aren’t all religions the same? Part 1

With lots of credit to John Dickson and his book Spectators Guide to World Religions.

The devil in the details

  1. Faiths ask similar questions but arrive at different answers. Eg. The Buddhist ask how can I escape the material world through rejection of the material as an illusion verses Christian view of physical resurrection. Alternatively the Hindu asks can I return to the Brahman.
  2. Because of different cultural backgrounds some are not asking the same questions. Christians ask how can I find favor/mercy with/from the creator verses the Hindu question of how can I return to the Brahman.
  3. Some faiths are defined against others. Eg. Buddha’s teachings set against classical Hinduism. Or the Christian view of the messiah verses the Judaist one. Or Jesus as a prophet (Islam) verses Jesus as Son of God.

But isn’t it all elephants, ducks and rabbits?
  • It's all like looking at parts of the Elephant. One religion is looking at the trunk another the leg, another the ear etc.
  • It’s all Ducks and Rabbits (see picture above). If you come from one culture you'll see a rabbit. If you come from another you'll see a duck. It's the same with religions they are all culturally conditioned.
  • Macro (bigger truth) verses micro (religious) truths.
Dickson responds
“Pluralism suggests that while different world religions are entitled to their perceptions of reality the truth of the situation is apparently known only to the pluralist is that this reality is ultimately unknowable and that all religious perceptions are in fact illusions... This also requires one to describe religions as true in a manner none of them have affirmed before and false in the ways they have always affirmed. This is a very big call.”



Michael said... 4/14/2008 7:28 pm  

The elephant illustration is quite a well known one, where there are several blind men each trying to identify what this thing is, based only on what they can feel. One feels a leg and says that it's a tree, another grasps the trunk and says it's a snake, yet another feels the ear and claims it's a fan etc, while all along it's just an elephant. I came across this again while reading Don Carson's book, The Gagging of God (I'm reasonably sure I read it there, but it may have been elsewhere).

He notes the 'exclusive' position of the outside observer of this scene. How does the person who's watching it all and giving this argument actually KNOW that there is an elephant there? What outside information do they have? How do they even know what an elephant IS? Are they not blind too? Can they somehow see something that all the other religions fail to see?

In actual fact, they are claiming that their view of 'reality' is superior to that of all other religions, which indeed is "a big call".

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