What do the different paths say about the problem of man and the offered solution?
A pretty undeniable statistic is that ten out of ten humans die. Humanity is mortal. With this in mind the various religions have different answers to the problem of man, man’s inevitable death, and the solution to this inescapable end. If the paths all lead to the same destination, these views on man’s ultimate problem, death, and the solution to that death should be very similar, if not identical. A comparison of these teachings should be done in order to accurately answer the question of all paths leading to God.
Hinduism teaches samsara, a repeated cycle of birth and death from one body to another.
This is commonly known as reincarnation. The Bhagavad Gita explains this cycle in the following verse, “For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.20) How a person lived his or her life (karma) will then affect the position of life that person will have in the next one. This cycle can be broken through various means which lead to self-realization, coming to the acknowledgment with the divine within one’s self.
Buddhism is similar to Hinduism. It started from a Hindu prince who broke from the teachings of Hinduism. The Hindu teaching of Brahman, monism, that all is divine, was denied. Samsara, or reincarnation, and Karma, to a degree, were both retained. The focus was on answering the question of how to end suffering and how to find inner-peace. Through seeking to answer these questions, Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, came to discover four noble truths. The first noble trust is that to live is to suffer, and this is ultimately the problem of mankind. The second noble truth is that suffering comes from desire. To end suffering, one must put an end to desire is the third. The fourth noble truth is that to end desire a person must follow the eight-fold path, which consists of right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right work, right effort, right meditation, and right contemplation.
Judaism has a God who has specifically revealed himself to one nation, Israel, and has made a covenant with these people. This covenant contains the requirement to observe certain ceremonial laws to remain clean before God, as well as moral laws. The penalty for breaking any of God’s law is death, following these laws while trusting in God’s grace and mercy should bring salvation and new life with God after death. There are ways for people outside of Israel to be engrafted into the nation. Judaism also contains the promise of a coming Messiah, a Savior of God’s people who will deliver them from their enemies and rule and reign with them for eternity.
Christianity teaches that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah to the nation of Israel. In fact, Christianity teaches that the Messiah came not just for the Israelites, but to bring salvation to all mankind. Just as there were always non-Israelites engrafted into the nation of Israel, so the Messiah came for all people and nations. Jesus being God in the flesh fulfilled all of the ceremonial and moral laws which mankind cold not. The penalty of death as a result of falling short of God’s glory (sin) was also taken by Jesus as he died on the cross with the sins of the world upon him. Man’s ultimate problem in Christianity thus is sin which results in death, and this problem is resolved in a great exchange in which Jesus, who is the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh and fulfilled the law on man’s behalf and at the same time took mankind’s sins and the resultant penalty upon himself. Christianity teaches that to receive this transaction of mankind’s sin to Jesus and Jesus’ righteousness to us, faith in Jesus is required.
Islam teaches that Allah is God and that he is coming to judge, the living and those
who previously had died. Allah will pass judgment based upon a person’s good deeds and bad deeds. If a person’s good deeds outweigh a person’s bad deeds, then he or she will be granted to enter paradise. Muslims have no way of knowing if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds or by how much Allah will require that their good deeds outweigh their bad to not be cast into hell. The most certain way, which isn’t even certain, to be end up approved as good in Allah’s sight on the day of judgment is to follow the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars of Islam are having faith in the creed that “There is no God, but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” praying towards Mecca five times a day, giving 2.5 % of one’s income to charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and traveling to Mecca once in a person’s life. The ultimate problem in Islam therefore is to be judged good at Allah’s coming and the best solution to this problem is to be submissive to Allah and to follow the five pillars of Islam.
So do all religions lead to God?
The statement that all religions lead to God is a statement that can only be made without having understood or studied the teachings of each religion. Most religions contain similar aspects, such as morals and ethics, a sense of the divine, prayer, justice, and salvation, but even then these common aspects differ or may not be found in every religion. To say that all religions lead to God would ultimately be taking the stance that all religions are false, since the views of God in the different religions are drastically different that they in fact contradict each either.
Desiring that all religions lead to God might derive from a heart that genuinely wants peace and tolerance amongst all the religions of the world, but unfortunately such a position is actually intolerant at the greatest measure possible. To make all the religions lead to the same God or final destination for mankind would require all the unique teachings of each religion to be taken away, as if hacking them with a machete. True tolerance of the varied and unique religions of the world would be to recognize their differences in teaching and maintain the individual’s right to belief.
Finally, homogenizing all the religions only leads to a denial of absolute truth. Statements of contradiction cannot both be true. They can both be false, but not both equally true. The loss of seeking, finding, and valuing truth is at stake if someone were to legitimately profess that all religions lead to God.