If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

Do you Have to be Christian to Go to Heaven?

Since there are so many religions, which one is right?

Why are there so many religions? Isn’t there only one God? Why didn’t God say the same thing to everyone? How do I know which religion is right?

Perhaps God does speak the same truth to people all around the world. The question is, when God speaks, what do people hear?

Two people can listen to the same story and come away with very different meanings. We hear what we need to hear in order to face our own particular challenges. People of different times and cultures hear God differently, according to their own cultural and spiritual conditions.

It’s not that God is different for different people. God is eternally the same. It’s that we humans are different from one another, and we each see God in our own way. God gives every person and every culture what’s needed to know and love God, and to love and serve their fellow human beings.

It is common for people think their religion is the right one. Many Christians say you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven. Yet the Bible does not focus as much on what we believe as it does on how we live. People who live good, conscientious lives of service to others are living in the spirit of Christ no matter what name they may use for God.

Does God have a multiple personality disorder?

At last count, there were . . . well . . . I won’t even try to count all the different religions in the world! Besides the large, well-known world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, there are countless smaller religions, including many varieties of traditional, cultural, and nature-based religions, throughout the world. There are also a billion or so people who don’t belong to any particular religion, either because they are atheist or agnostic or because they follow their own personal spiritual beliefs.

All of the religions have some concept of God—although some do not talk much about God. However, if we ask adherents of the various religions what God is like, we will get many different descriptions. Within the different religions God has been pictured as a male or female human being, as various kinds of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and insects, as a being with a human body and the head of an animal, as a tree or a plant, as lightning and thunder, as the sun, moon, or stars, and in many other ways.

When we start talking about the different mental and emotional characteristics of God, things get even more interesting. God loves and hates, is wrathful and merciful, is omniscient and forgetful, is unchanging yet relents from punishments that were planned, is all-forgiving but condemns everyone who doesn’t believe or do certain things.

Does God have a multiple personality disorder? How could one God be so many different things all at once? How could God be so many contradictory things at the same time? After all, if we ask people of the various religions how they know what God is like, most them will say that their beliefs originally came from God.

Are all religions except mine wrong?

Okay, there’s another possibility. Maybe all of those religions got it wrong.

Or maybe there is one that got it right. The religion I believe in! It may be Christianity or Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, but if it’s my religion, it must be the right one. Otherwise why would I believe it?

It’s funny, isn’t it? No matter what religion we look at, the people who believe in it think they are the ones who have the real truth about God—and that all the other religions are a little bit off . . . or a lot off.

Of course, there are many religious people who take a broader view. But what about all the people who say that if you don’t believe in my religion, God will condemn you? What about all those Christians who say that you can’t be saved and go to heaven unless you believe in Jesus Christ?

If people in every religion claim that theirs is the right one and everyone else’s is wrong, how can we believe any of them? And why didn’t God make it a lot clearer to us humans on earth exactly what we’re supposed to believe about God and heaven?

Who’s confused, anyway? God or humans?

Let’s tackle some of these questions. The first thing to recognize is that God didn’t make all those religions, people did.

“What?” you say, “Didn’t God talk to all those prophets and write all those books for all those religions?” Yes, God has spoken to many prophets, priests, and ordinary people over the ages. Some of them have written down what God said to them, and those books have become the sacred texts of the various religions.

But have you ever had the experience of saying one thing, and having the person you were talking to hear something different? Just because God said something to a priest or prophet, that doesn’t mean the listener heard exactly what God said. In fact, psychologists tell us that we humans always interpret what we hear according to what we have experienced, and according to how we understand the world around us.

Let’s take a simple example: the words “I love you.” We might think these would have the same meaning no matter who we say them to. But think about the different ways this simple, common phrase will be heard by a child, a spouse, a parent, a friend. Now think of how it would be heard by someone who has just screamed in your face, “I hate your guts!” How would it be heard by a child you have just disciplined? How would it be heard by an elderly parent whom you have just moved into a nursing home against her will?

In exactly the same way, although God says the same thing to all people everywhere, each one of us hears it differently according to our own particular culture, experiences, and beliefs. The difference is not in God, but in the listeners. God says “I love you” to people in all times, places, and cultures. Each one hears that message in a unique way. The many and varied sacred texts of humanity are the result.

So which is the best religion?

Mine is, of course!

But seriously, if God is infinitely loving and infinitely wise, as the theologians and mystics of all the major world religions say, don’t you think God would do a good job of providing religion for the people on earth? Don’t you think God would provide a way for all people to experience God’s love and wisdom?

We could argue until the cows come home about which religion is the best or truest, and it would be a monumental waste of breath. God is not concerned about which religion is better than other religions. God is concerned with how well each religion brings its people closer to God, and how well each religion moves its believers to love and serve their fellow human beings.

So the short answer is: Each religion is best for the people who believe in it. If God truly is loving and wise, wouldn’t God provide every person and every culture with the religion that works best for them? Would a loving God really leave vast segments of the world’s population out in the cold? We humans come in all different varieties. And we need a variety of religions to help us find God, faith, and compassion for our fellow human beings, each in our own unique way.

Don’t you have to believe in Jesus to be saved?

Perhaps you really want to believe that God is present in all religions.

But what about all those Christian preachers who say that if you don’t believe in Jesus you’ll go to hell? And what about all the Bible passages they quote? Is it possible to believe the Bible and still think that non-Christians can go to heaven?

First of all, the Bible itself is full of people from different religions. Before Christ came, there was not a single Christian on earth. Everything in the Old Testament was originally about how people could be saved before Christianity even existed. In the New Testament John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ Apostles preached their message to Jews and non-Jews alike. And though traditional Christian preachers have selected the passages that command us to believe in Jesus, they have pushed aside a far greater number of passages in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that command us to love God, love the neighbor, and obey God’s commandments if we wish to be saved.

The Apostle Paul clearly stated what non-Christians must do to be saved, before he made his famous statements about being saved by faith in Jesus Christ:

God will repay everyone according to what they have done. To those who by patiently doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6–11)

He then goes on to talk about related issues of law and conscience, concluding that all of this will take place “through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).

Paul’s later statements in the same letter about the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ are intended for Christians. His letters are addressed to the groups of Christian believers in various towns and cities. And of course, if you say you’re a Christian but you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you’re in trouble, because you are rejecting your God.

Is God prejudiced?

It all boils down to this: Is God narrow-minded or broad-minded? Does God provide salvation only for one part of the world’s people who believe the “right” way? Or does God provide salvation for all of the world’s people?

Both the Bible and common sense say that God will accept into heaven those who live good lives according to their own conscience and their own religious laws, while those who selfishly reject the truth and live evil and destructive lives will suffer the consequences.

For Christians, this means believing in Jesus Christ and living according to his teachings in the Gospels. For Jews it means believing in God and living according to the Torah. For Muslims it means believing in Allah and living according to the Qur’an. Those who believe in God, and live a good life according to their beliefs, are showing their faith in God by their actions. And even those who say they don’t believe in God but live a good life according to their conscience are following God’s law.

Jesus taught that action trumps words in this brief tale:

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. (Matthew 21:28–31)

And even more directly:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

In short, salvation is based, not on mere words, but on action. And those who do the will of God by living good lives according to their beliefs and their conscience are showing their faith in God, whether they call it faith or not.

Then why do we need Jesus Christ?

If people of all religions can be saved, why do we need Jesus Christ? Good question! In fact, it’s such a good question that it needs its own article. See “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?” But for now, consider this: If Jesus Christ really is God as Christians say he is, doesn’t that mean he is God for all people, and not just for those who call themselves Christians?

It doesn’t matter what name we call God (as long as it’s nice!). No matter what name we use, it is the same God we’re calling on. There’s only one of ’em, you know!

And no matter how many different ways we may hear God’s voice, it is the same message being given through all the religions of the earth: Love God and love your fellow human beings. Live by the truth, live with compassion. Do not do what is evil and say what is false, but follow God’s commandments and engage in good deeds of useful service for others.

All who do these things, no matter what their religion, are part of the spiritual community that is God’s universal church on earth, and will be part of God’s heaven when they pass into the spiritual world.

This article is © 2012 by Lee Woofenden

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About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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306 comments on “If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
  1. Adam Kuhn says:

    The entire Bible is teaching us that the only way to receive eternal life is to keep the whole law. However all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) which means none of us can keep the whole law and anyone who stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10). The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one can boast (Ephisians 2:8-9). Jesus himself said “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me (John 14:6).” There is no weighing scale that measures whether or not we did enough good works to get into heaven. That’s Islam. The Bible teaches against that. How would we ever know if we have done enough or not? Before Christ, sacrifices were needed to make atonement for sin. Jesus was the final, ultimate sacrifice for our sin. He took our place and our punishment. He took on our sin and we take on His righteousness so that when we stand before God we can be found innocent of the guilt of sin. There is no other way to wash our sin but through the blood of Jesus and to receive that washing we must accept Him as our Savior. There is no other way and anyone who teaches another way is a false teacher lead by the deception of satan.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      I realize that you sincerely believe this is what the Bible teaches, because that’s what your teachers and preachers have taught you. However, the key points in this whole Protestant faith-alone system of salvation simply aren’t taught in the Bible. And that’s why your teachers are wrong and mistaken, as sincere as they may be in their belief.

      First, the whole Bible does not teach that the only way to receive eternal life is to keep the whole law. In the Old Testament, it was assumed that people would fall short on one point or another. That’s why there were various sacrifices for sin and guilt, and why on the Day of Atonement there was a ritual of putting the sins of the people on the scapegoat and send it out into the desert. God had no expectation that anyone would be able to keep the law perfectly, and provided for a path to salvation anyway.

      You mention James 2:10, which says:

      For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

      But if you actually read that passage in context (James 2:8–13), you will see that the “Law” he is talking about is the Ten Commandments, from which he quotes the commandments against murder and adultery. He is saying that anyone who is willing to break one of the Ten Commandments is just as guilty as if he or she had broken any or all of them. He is not saying that anyone who commits the least little infraction, such as forgetting to add salt to a sacrifice, is guilty of breaking the entire law. He is not saying that we have to keep the law perfectly. Rather, he is saying that if we’re willing to break a major law in the Ten Commandments such as the law against murder or the law against adultery, then we are lawbreakers at heart, and would have no problem breaking all of the other laws if we believed it would benefit us.

      It is crystal clear that James is not supporting the idea that we are saved by faith alone because what immediately follows is his clear statement that faith without works is dead, and that:

      A person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

      This is the one and only place in which the Bible mentions faith alone, and in that one place, it is specifically rejected as justifying, or saving a person. So if your teachers have taught you that you are justified or saved by faith alone, they are rejecting the plain teaching of the Bible on that subject. The Bible never says that we are saved or justified by faith alone. It clearly and specifically rejects that teaching. For more on this, please see these articles:

      Yes, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And yes, we need a Savior. But the Bible simply never says that if we do not perfectly keep every detail of the law, we will be condemned to hell. That idea was invented by human theologians centuries after the Bible was written. The Bible itself provides ways for imperfect human beings to repent from their sin and become righteous people through faithfulness to the Lord (not mere “faith” as that is defined today), despite the fact that we are imperfect humans who will never be able to measure up to the perfection of God.

      Further, the Bible never talks about whether we have done “enough” good works. This is a complete red herring. The Bible is not concerned with the quantity of our good works. The Bible is concerned with the heart from which we do the good works that we do. There is simply no teaching in the Bible regarding any requirement of some particular quantity of good works in order to be saved. Not in the Old Testament. Not in the New Testament. This teaching of Protestants is totally irrelevant to what the Bible actually teaches. And what the Bible actually teaches is that if we wish to be saved we must do good works not because we gain any merit or credit from it, but because God commands us to, and because when we do good works that is God’s love working through us. If we do not good works, we have rejected God’s presence in us. And no, the Bible never says that good works are the fruits of faith. Look for yourself. You will not find it there.

      Further, the Bible never says that Jesus paid the price or the penalty for our sins. I invite you to search the scriptures for yourself. You will not find a single place in the Bible where it says this. It was an idea invented by the the originators of Protestantism 1,500 years after the Bible was written. In fact, the Bible specifically rejects the idea that an innocent person (Christ) can be made guilty of, and pay the penalty for, the sins of an innocent person (us). For more on this, please see these articles:

      Unfortunately, what you’ve been taught about Jesus taking the punishment or penalty, and paying the price, for our sins is simply wrong and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible. Jesus did suffer for our sins. But that is an entirely different thing than Jesus paying the penalty for our sins—an idea that the Bible nowhere teaches.

      And yes, we are saved by Jesus Christ. And that is true whether or not we are Christians, as you can see stated plainly in Romans 2:1-16, which I invite you to read for yourself. And yes, we are saved by the blood of Christ. But it is not the literal blood of Christ that saves us any more than it was the literal breath of Jesus that caused his disciples to receive the holy spirit when “he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Jesus’ blood represents the truth of his Word, which is our spiritual lifeblood, and by which we must live if we wish to receive eternal life.

      For more on all of this, please see these articles:

      Unfortunately, Adam, you have been taught many things that the Bible doesn’t teach, and that the Bible specifically rejects. I know you hold these beliefs sincerely. But they are simply not what the Bible teaches. I would encourage you to search the Bible for yourself. You will not find a single place where it says that we are saved, or justified, by faith alone, or where it says that Jesus paid the penalty or price for our sins. These doctrines were invented by Martin Luther and John Calvin 1,500 years after the Bible was written. Whether or not Satan was involved in that deception, you have been deceived, and have been taught many doctrines that are not based on the Word of God.

  2. Mr. Lee, I commend you on your friendly, relaxed and honest attitude, up to the point of defending Islam in some points. When i read this article, a verse in the Quran came to my mind, and I know that it speaks about persons like you: You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers [to be] the Jews and those who associate others with Allah ; and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, “We are Christians.” That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant [5: 82].

    Unfortunately, the truth is contrary to your opinion. There is one God yes, so just one Heaven and one Hell, meaning only one path will lead to THE Heaven. You are right again that actions speak louder than words, but what are the parameters of these actions is what we need to pay attention to. For example, two people may perceive the very same action differently, one says it’s good while the other says bad. A person cannot reach God’s content (and hence Heaven) unless his actions conform with what God specified. In other words, I cannot apply to Harvard University with the requirements specified by Yale University.

    So yes the path is very crucial, no matter how beautiful and optimistic it is to think that all the paths lead to God, and i’m sad to inform you about this but it is the truth. In Islam, God informs us that whoever worships other than Him ALONE will annul their actions with Him. That is because their good deeds were not performed for God solely, so he rejects to accept them, making it unaccountable with Him. It’s not about Him being ‘broad-minded’ or not, it’s about what is rightful, otherwise His justice system would be chaotic; I cannot be given marks in an exam for giving a correct answer but suitable for a different question!

    God gave a similitude of this situation as a master who hires a worker to work at his shop and return to him the earnings, but the worker works and pays the profits to someone else other than the master, so how is the worker to be praised and rewarded? In actuality, the worker should be punished because what he is doing is similar to robbery!

    What does a modern day Christian do? He prays to Jesus and the Holy spirit with God, and worships them all, saying all are God…. It breaks the heart. The worship is in vain once he associated with God another entity. I hope you find the truth through reason and instinct, and please I urge you to read the Quran if you haven’t already. If you are interested, I have compiled the logical arguments in the Quran in a book while discussing them:

    https://www.xinxii.com/en/the-religion-that-captivated-minds-with-its-logic-p-373076.html

    Or contact me for a free copy no problem.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Hatem Yahia Saad-Eldin,

      Thank you for stopping by, and for your comment and kind words.

      However, there is no more reason for me to accept your belief, and the belief of many of you fellow Muslims, that only people who believe in and worship God as you do will go to heaven than there is for me to accept the belief of the vast bulk of Christians that only people who believe in and worship God as they do will go to heaven. These Christians make the same kinds of arguments for their beliefs as exclusively saving that you make for your beliefs as exclusively saving.

      God is bigger than our human religions, and even bigger than our prophets and priests. I cannot accept a God who is so weak and short-sighted that at least two-thirds of the world’s population (according to traditional Christian beliefs) or at least three-quarters of the world’s population (according to many Muslims’ beliefs) will go to eternal hell—and probably many more, because even many people who belong to the “right” religion believe it in the “wrong” way, or don’t follow their religion at all, but live evil and self-indulgent lives.

      I believe that God is God over all the world’s peoples and religions, not just one. I believe that God is the God of all the earth, not just of the Middle East and North Africa (Islam), nor just of Europe, northern Asia, North and South America, and southern Africa (Christianity).

      God sent Muhammad to provide a religion appropriate to the people and culture of the Middle East and northern Africa, and to stamp out pagan polytheism in that region of the earth and replace it with monotheism. He sent other prophets and spiritual leaders to provide religions appropriate to the cultures of other parts of the world. That is what an all-powerful God—who is God over all the earth—does.

      However, we humans are finite and small-minded. We see only our own culture and our own beliefs. We believe God has power to save only through our particular religion. And God allows us to believe this so that we will remain faithful to our religion, and thus faithful to God as we are able to understand God.

      Now as for modern-day Christians, I agree with you that traditional Christianity has invented new and false doctrines about God, dividing God into three “Persons” in a doctrine of the Trinity that the Bible does not teach. See: “What is the Biblical basis for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity?” This old (third to fourth century after Christ) heresy was the beginning of the downfall of the main existing bodies of Christianity doctrinally.

      You should be aware that my small branch of Christianity utterly rejects the doctrine of the Trinity of Persons. We believe that there is one God, in one Person, and that that God is the Lord God Jesus Christ. We are strictly monotheistic. We believe that God himself, not some “second Person” of God, came to us as Jesus Christ to save us and redeem us. For more on this, please see: “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      You might also be interested in this answer that I wrote on Islam StackExchange: “Is the God of the Qur’an the same god as the God of the Bible?” I also posted that answer as a post on this blog here.

      Although I do not agree with your view of God’s power as limited to being able to save only Muslims and certain groups of people who are not Muslim through no fault of their own, I do wish you well in being faithful to God as you understand God, and in faithfully practicing your religion. I will say to you the same thing I say to traditional and fundamentalist Christians who tell me I am going to hell because I believe the wrong thing: Even if you think I am going to hell, I believe you are going to heaven if you faithfully follow your God and your religion.

      I therefore wish you Godspeed on your spiritual journey.

      • I don’t know why, but i felt that my comment still offended you in some way; possibly the insistence on a one path that you heard so many times? If so, i need to clarify that I am not pushing you upon a path, I’m just providing a view and it is up to you to evaluate it or not. After all, choosing a belief is a God-given right, no one has the right to take that right from someone else. In the end, everyone must personally take this decision since he will bear its consequences himself. This is the ultimate justice system from God.

        As for using the expression the God may be short-sighted if He set just one path for salvation, it is inappropriate. You are looking at the issue from a certain angle but omitting a very important perspective when you say that two thirds/three quarters of the people may go to Hell if it is just one rightful path: that He did not divert people from the right path. The right path is distinct if someone is objectively evaluative of the paths and uses his mind; it is human choice ultimately that results in taking it or not. How is it God’s fault if a person abuses the free will given to him?

        However, there are those who did not get news of a Judaism/Christianity/Islam (and before them) in their respective eras, and died before getting news of any of those successive Prophets. Those people will be judged by God according to what reached them of news and will be recompensed accordingly, since God is exalted from doing even the slightest injustice. Those are the exception to the general rule though; today most Jews heard about Christianity, most Christians heard of Islam, and most Muslims have heard about Judaism and Christianity. It is up to each person to inquire about the religions that came from God and assess which one is the most logical. There is no risk in taking a well-informed rational decision. The fault lies in execution (following the path), not in identifying the path.

        I will stop here to avoid this turning into a lengthy discussion or offending you further. Somehow though, I am almost certain that you know what I mentioned above since you seem to have read a lot, so don’t be offended if its just a repetition to you. With this post, I have presented my point of view fully, I hope for you the best outcome in your choices. Thanks for your time in responding to my comments, and I apologize if I have in fact offended you.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hatem Yahia Saad-Eldin,

          Though I do appreciate your concern, you have not offended me in any way. I simply disagree with your point of view, as expressed more fully in the above article.

          I am not offended when fundamentalist Christians tell me I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in faith alone, or that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. I understand that they are speaking out of sincerely held beliefs. I simply disagree with them, and think they are wrong. I think they are not paying attention to what the Bible actually says and teaches. But that’s not their fault. They have had those things drilled into their heads by years of preaching from clergy who also don’t understand what the Bible actually teaches, but have themselves had these false ideas drilled into their heads in seminary. And so on.

          Similarly, I am not offended by your expressing your sincerely held beliefs here. It is clear that you are concerned for my salvation, and for the salvation of others. That is a good thing, which I appreciate. However, as with those fundamentalist Christians, I simply disagree with you, and think that you are mistaken in your beliefs on that particular point. I wouldn’t presume to school you on what the Qur’an says, since my primary study is the Bible, not the Qur’an. But I have spoken with Muslim Imams here in the United States who have a different view of the Qur’an. This makes me believe that there is a similar range of beliefs in Islam, from fundamentalist through mainline to mystical, that there is in Christianity.

          I would be happy to discuss this with you further if you so desire. But for now, please know that I appreciate your comments and your concerns even if I see things differently than you do.

    • Hoyle says:

      Spiritual faith has no prerequisites. It doesn’t succumb to right, wrong, logical or illogical argument. No religion or group have a monopoly on faith. That’s the beauty of faith. It works because we have faith that it does work.
      “Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe”.- Voltaire

  3. william wilson says:

    I totally agree with you sir, all religions lead to god. Just because someone calls god Tom and someone else calls god Bob doesn’t mean that either are wrong. When it comes down to it, it’s how one lives they’re lives that would be judged in the eyes of God not how they worship God and it’s wrong to judge someone on how they believe. Also history show’s us how all religions can be used to help others or used to justify sins or to ones own advantage. I believe if one lives they’re life for good then it doesn’t matter on how or what they call god, it’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy the view of karma. If you do good to others good things will come to you and if you do bad to others bad things will come to you. Also to simply put no one can honestly say that they’re view of God is right and others are wrong just for the simple fact none of us except Jesus has died and came back to life. Even then I would still believe that the Actions of one will always speak louder than the words of one, thank you for your time sir

  4. State the similarities and differences of every religion about the belief of God,salvation,sin and scripture? can somebody help me answer this one? pls

    • Lee says:

      Hi KHei TAkishima Zhan,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.

      How much time to you have? How many volumes do you want to read? There are so many different religions, each with different beliefs about God, salvation, sin, and scripture, that it would require at least a thirty volume encyclopedia to even begin answer your question.

      Is there something more specific that you’re interested in knowing, that might be answerable in a reasonable length of time?

      In general, religions say that you should believe in and obey God, that if you do so you will be saved, that you shouldn’t sin, meaning you shouldn’t do evil and destructive things, and that Scripture is a source of knowledge about God’s will and our relationship with God. Most religions have some version of the requirement to love God and love one’s neighbor as oneself as a requirement for salvation—though within Christianity, Protestantism has greatly weakened those universal fundamentals of religion and salvation (according to Jesus) with their doctrine of justification and salvation by faith alone.

  5. osman oozeer says:

    Hi Everyone. There is God the Eternal, Powerful and sustainer of the universe.He does love us.Think of it-Air ,water, food etc. But does God have to bother on your daily life ? No ! Because he has given you the most valuable of all things- brain and the faculty to think..Although seeds germinate by the magic of God it is your duty to sow and take care of your plantation- It is not God’s duty. Did God create a particular religion ? If yes why religions origin are geographical. Except to the fact that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are inter blended the other religions are quite different . then if God did create religion, the powerful God he is, he could have sent the same textures every where in their own dialects or language- the essence of a universal religion.Religion have been implemented during different period of time.So let us keep it simple. Belief in one Eternal God-be just and kind to all creatures of God, respecting other cultures- doing good and refraining from evil, be thankful to God and most of all confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness

    • Lee says:

      Hi osman oozeer,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment. In general, I agree with what you are saying. I do think, though, that even if God did send the same message to people of different times and cultures, they would hear God’s message differently, and that’s why we have such different sacred texts and beliefs in various times and cultures around the world.

      About your final statement summing up what religion is all about, I very much agree. In fact, I recently wrote and posted an article here saying much the same thing: “Is There a Common Theme in All Religions?

  6. Rebecca Smith says:

    I didn’t read the whole thing, just skimmed it, but it seems to me like you’re saying that it doesn’t matter what you believe in as long as you believe that there is a God and you are a good person. That’s not true. We just went through a false gospel session in my youth group and this was one of them, the “coexist bumper sticker.” It’s wrong. It’s true that you do have to be a good person, but just being good won’t get you to heaven. You have to believe in God, the “I AM.” You say it doesn’t matter what you call him as long as you’re sincere, but, to paraphrase Francis Chan, God’s doesn’t have an identity crisis. We don’t get to decide what to call him. He is the one who decides who he is, not us. Good works flow our of a live centered on Christ and following the Bible, not a life that is focused on trying to do good works. The other spiritual books of other religions aren’t the Bible, so they’re wrong unless they follow what the Bible says, in which case why not use a Bible? I’m sorry, but you can’t believe any religion and go to heaven. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the light, NO ONE gets to the Father except through ME.” You seem to have left that out. Other religious can say what they want, and they can do what they want, but unless their life is centered on Jesus, they’re not going to get to heaven. I don’t mean to sound harsh or offensive with any of this, I’m just trying to tell you that you need to have Jesus. Why would the whole bible be leading up till him, pointing to him, preaching him, worshipping him, loving him, if he wasn’t what matters? It’s all about Jesus. “I determine to only preach Christ and him crucified” to quote Paul.

  7. Eman says:

    Very inspiring article because we need something like this to balance our naivenessness and overly corrupt information field around us. If we don’t know truth and can’t execute it properly we are not held responsible for eternity. Hell and Heaven and some_other_option has to be 100% free will otherwise people are set up again like in Garden of Eve.

  8. All the books say the exact same thing. The Torah, the New Testament, The Quran, The Tao all discuss the path to get back to the tree of life. Even alchemy says the same thing. Genesis 1 is all there is. We were never punished or separated. Adam fell asleep & never woke up. Jesus is our conscious mind. The bride of the Lamb is our subconscious mind after it is restored back to innocence by the Holy Spirit. The cruxifiction, Kundalini & the Jihad are the same thing in different terms. Alchemy says the same. Battle the thoughts in your mind that don’t seem loving. Follow your own conscious mind & heart. That’s the only way back to the tree of life. All of the religious books explain each other if read consciously through the heart.

    • Lee says:

      Hi livinginlightweb,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts. Though I may see some things a little differently, I agree that all of the sacred books point to the same path back toward God, or the tree of life, each in their own way. That is why God provided them for us.

  9. Julian says:

    Lee, much of this seems so tantalizingly close to non-belief and you must have pondered over it for some time. I like when you say “Each religion is best for the people who believe in it” and “go with what works for you”. Perhaps there is a simpler way. Forget about gods and spirits etc and that we concentrate on having decent relationships with real people who are alive.

    All the best

    Julian
    London, UK

    • Lee says:

      Hi Julian,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts.

      Of course, I think God is back of it all. And I think it’s good to have a clear and accurate understanding of God and spirit. This gives us a broader and longer-term view of reality, which provides greater light and perspective on our life here on earth.

      However, as you say, the most important thing is to concentrate on our relationships with the people who are right here around us in this life. And more specifically, on “loving our neighbor as ourself,” which is the second of the two Great Commandments that Jesus gave us in the Gospels. Despite all the “God” and “faith” talk in Christianity (nothing really wrong with that), what the Bible, and most other sacred books, spend the most time on is how to get along with our fellow human beings, and how to do good things for them instead of doing bad things to them.

      If, as I believe, heaven is a continuation (but much better!) of the human community that we build here on earth, then even in the afterlife we’ll continue to “concentrate on having decent relationships with real people who are alive.” So we’d better get some solid practice at it during our lifetime here on earth! 😀

      • Tony says:

        Hi lee

        “heaven is a continuation (but much better!) of the human community that we build here on earth, then even in the afterlife we’ll continue to “concentrate on having decent relationships with real people who are alive.”

        huh wait why would people who have died have relationships with people who are still alive??? I don’t get it. When your dead your dead, so saying the people who have died continue to have relationships to people who are alive makes no sense. would you mind explaining that to me?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Tony,

          Physical death is just a transition to the next life. Our body dies; we live on.

          In the other life, our primary “relationships with real people who are alive” are with people who are alive with us in the spiritual world. We do also have relationships with people who are still alive on earth, but those are not as conscious and direct as our relationships with people who have already died physically and are now living in the spiritual world.

    • Lee says:

      Oh, and speaking of non-belief, see my article, “Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

  10. Garrett says:

    Loved your article Lee. Great approach and very respectful.
    To add more support to your answer under the section “Don’t You Have to Believe in Jesus to be Saved?”, I’d like to mention Matthew (12:31-32).

    31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”

    In this passage, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees during Passover as they were continually trying to accuse him of heresy. This is my interpretation, but i view this as Jesus ultimately telling them that: Even if they speak against or deny the existence of him as the messiah, their sins can still be forgiven and go to heaven as long as they do not deny God. However, if they speak against or adamantly deny the existence and teachings of God and the holy spirit within us, their sins cannot be forgiven to enter into heaven.

    Now, this may may add a counter argument for religions like Buddhism not believing in a God, but Jesus was specifically targeting the Jewish Pharisees who already believe and are actively taught about God, so it would make sense that denying or speaking against him even after being taught about him would be unforgivable. On the same token, it would not make sense to condemn a person who grew up being taught a religion that reinforces most of God’s teachings, but were not specifically taught about God that would allow them to deny him in the first place.

    Anyway, Just thought that verse helped solidify the notion that even Jesus said that people can have sins forgiven and enter heaven as long as they follow God and/or his teachings.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Garrett,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words and your good thoughts.

      Since the Holy Spirit is the action part of God, speaking against the Holy Spirit is, in my view, rejecting the actions that would lead a person to heaven. In other words, it is rejecting active love for God and for the neighbor.

      In the Bible especially, people’s words are generally assumed to express the way they live. Not always, of course. The Bible does speak of hypocrisy. But assuming that the words aren’t merely hypocritical, the idea is that if you speak against the good that God does, and against the good that people do and the truth that people speak that expresses the good and truth that come from God, then you are acting against them too, and you have turned away from good and truth focused your life on evil and falsity instead.

      For more on this, see my article, “What is the Unpardonable Sin? Am I Doomed?

      About belief in God, though I do think it’s best to have an explicit belief in God, for some people what functions as “God” is their ideals of moral, ethical, and humanitarian justice and goodness. Though they don’t connect these with God, it is their version of God’s qualities as an ideal to live by. From a biblical perspective, ethical atheists such as these aren’t even atheists. See: “Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

      All of which is to say that I very much agree with what you’re expressing here, perhaps with a few small variations.

  11. Ali says:

    Hi Dear Lee,
    At the first time tell you that my English is not good. But I think you want to encourage others that think.anyway thank you very much for what you are doing. Questions are more.but About different religious.
    1- people didn’t understand the same at all time but based on their understanding they receive. 2-we shouldn’t forget some things are heresy. Baside on monotheism different all of the prophets announced one thing that O peaple just worship me.although Evil of human in every religions created the different heresy.monotheism say to us if all of prophets get togather there’s never any difference between them.then we have problems. 3-although at the first time have to have a common definition of religion, but it’s not seem everything we call religion,for example one of the children want to heresy and want to educate or to train or…it’s own way, do you agree with him\her? Of course I believe that these people based on their nature want to worship and are respected.4-as I told we think that they are different but the truth is that as you can not say to all of the people should be sportman or teacher. .. kind GOD could not create the same religion, because in every time ، people based on different race ,the behavior of that were in the community and other conditions including wars,famine, weather conditions….religion came by a prophet of their own that the people can understand .in the end I have to say who say only they go into heaven are in mistake and talk based on their prejudice.because one of the book of God says, on the Day of judgment the people are divided into three categories .the first group who go into heaven directly, the school group that go into the hell and the third group that should be determined. The important thing that God about the first group says is few people are our days and many are from the past. The meaning is they go to heaven don’t related to certain religion and they can be from different religious. Thank you

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ali,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Yes, your English is a little difficult to understand, but I’ll respond to what I think you’re saying.

      1. Yes. Different people and different religions see and understand things differently. And they receive based on what they do understand, and how they understand it. Our mind and our understanding forms a conduit through which God can flow with love, goodness, and truth to the extent that we are able and willing to receive it.

      2. Yes, there is heresy, and yes, it originates in human evil. And yet, many people in religions that teach heresy believe those things in innocence. If they are people of good will, even that heresy provides something like truth that allows them to receive love and goodness from God. For example, Protestant Christians commonly believe that we are justified and saved by faith alone. That is false and heretical and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible. However, for Protestants of good will, it serves to keep them humble in believing that they can’t buy their own way into heaven, but must trust in God’s grace. What matters most is not what people believe, but how they live. And even if they have false beliefs, if they live a good life because that’s what they think their beliefs tell them to do, then they will be saved even if their beliefs are false and heretical.

      3. While we must respect other people, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree with or respect their beliefs. If someone is teaching something false, it may not do any good to argue with them about it because their mind may be made up, and if so, nothing we say will change their mind. But if someone else asks us, “Is what that person is teaching true?” then we say, “No, even though they sincerely believe it is true, it is not true.” Once again, though, it is how they live that counts the most. Are they kind and helpful to other people? If so, then they are headed toward heaven even if they believe and teach false things. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (see Matthew 7:15–20).

      4. Yes. God gave different prophets and different religions to reach different cultures and different types of people. Even believing that only people of our religion go to heaven, though it is false, has a reason behind it. It keeps people faithful to their religion instead of wandering away. Many people, if they wander away from their own religion, will end out having no religion at all. So it’s important for many people to believe that they must be faithful to their own religion or they will be lost. That’s why God allows so many people to think that everyone outside their religion is damned.

      I agree that at the time of judgment—which I believe comes for every person soon after his or her death—some go immediately to heaven, some go immediately to hell, and some don’t go to either right away, but spend a shorter or longer time in an intermediate state being prepared either for heaven or for hell.

      I tend to agree that in this day and age few go directly to heaven. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and falsity reigning in the various religions today. But people can’t go to heaven when they are still clinging to false beliefs. They must spend some time in an intermediate state unlearning the false beliefs they cling to because they were taught that by their religious leaders on earth, and learning the genuine truth that exists in heaven.

      Also, few people go directly to hell today, I think, because there is a great deal of social hypocrisy. Many people pretend to be good when they are not. That mask of false external goodness must be peeled away before they can go to their final home in hell. This also happens in that intermediate state, which Swedenborg calls “the world of spirits.”

      And yes, as I say in the article, people from all religions can go to heaven if they are faithful to God and to their beliefs, and spend their lives doing good and useful things for their fellow human beings. The false beliefs they get from their religion can be corrected after they die. It is what’s in their heart, and what they do in their lives, that will follow them and determine their eternal home in heaven or in hell.

      If I have mistaken anything you meant to say, please feel free to respond again. Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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