By Sasha Woodroffe
“All religions are equal paths to the same God.”
“God just chooses to reveal Himself to different people in different ways.”
“Your religion doesn’t matter as long as you live a good life.”
These are just a few statements I have heard which echo the common belief that all religions are equal. And in a society which preaches tolerance and acceptance of all behaviours and beliefs, it often is taboo to suggest otherwise. But is it true?
The problem with this belief is that most–if not all–religions make absolute truth claims about God.
Catholics believe that God is Trinitarian, and that Jesus is the Son of God whose death and Resurrection won our salvation.
Muslims believe in the God of Abraham but assert that He is simply one. They believe that Jesus was not God, but merely a prophet and do not believe in His Crucifixion or Resurrection.
Hindus, alternatively, believe in different gods and goddesses that are different expressions of one god, Brahman. They view Jesus as a great teacher – but not God.
Can these all be equal paths to the same God if there are inherent contradictions in each belief? Well, the Law of Non-Contradiction states that contradictory propositions cannot both be true at the same time. A belief can only be true or false – there cannot be multiple opposing truths.
In other words, God cannot both be three persons and only one person. Jesus cannot both be God and not God. His Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection cannot have occurred and not occurred.
Historians and scholars – Christian and non-Christian alike – agree that Jesus did exist and walk upon the earth. As Catholics, we believe that He was crucified and subsequently rose from the dead. As St Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith” (1 Cor 15:14).
We also believe that He is God, in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit – to the exclusion of belief in other ‘forms’ of God.
We must note here that inconsistencies between the teachings of the various Christian denominations also mean that all cannot simultaneously be true. As Catholics, we possess the same rich traditions and teachings handed down over the centuries through the only Church founded directly by Jesus Christ.
But does that mean that non-Catholics are horrible people to be condemned to hell? Not quite.
According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life” (CCC 843).
Similarly, the Vatican II document entitled the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) states, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all.”
In simple words, the Catholic Church teaches that there are elements of truth hidden in other religions. She recognises that persons of these religions also seek the truth and have an admirable desire to worship some divine being.
This, however, is not the same as saying that all religions are equal paths to God. In fact, Nostra Aetate goes on to say, “Indeed, [the Church] proclaims, and ever must proclaim, Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6) in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself.”
The Church teaches that the fullness of the truth resides exclusively in the Catholic faith, for the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, and the Church is His body. Jesus Himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). It is possible that non-Christians may receive eternal life but only because of the saving grace of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
This is why He gave the Great Commission to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
We, who have experienced His goodness, must share Him with others, saying with the apostles, “We cannot stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Contact: Catholic Voices