Do All Religions Lead to the Same Place? Not Really

I am a theologically progressive believer. I am not among those who contend that all religions besides Christianity are false religions and have nothing of value to offer. Neither do I agree with Christians who insist that all who follow religions other than Christianity are ‘lost’ and rejected by God. I believe non-Christian religions are of immense value, make very significant contributions, and benefit their constituents (and others—like me) tremendously.

There are many progressive Christians who agree with me up to this point but will then go on to state that: “All religions lead to the same place.” Often they invoke the image of many paths leading up to the top of the same mountain—all paths leading to the same place but in different ways. This portrays all religions as equal and Jesus as just one among other religions leaders. While this is a noble notion, and I applaud its sense of generosity and acceptance, it is a notion I cannot accept.

The Main Thing All Good Religion Has in Common

world religions

All good religions do share one common, and very important, characteristic–treating other people right. Jesus says in Luke 6, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ This ‘golden rule’ is a key element in his teaching and example on having empathy, compassion, and acceptance toward others. But most of us know that other religious leaders express the same sentiment.

The Jewish Leviticus 19 (also used by Jesus) states, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ And Jewish Rabbi Hillel taught What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation.’

Among other religions Confucius said Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself’, while Lao Tzu said ‘Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.’ In Zoroastrianism it is ‘Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.’ Muhammad said ‘Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself.’

In Hinduism we find One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self’, and in Buddhism ‘Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.’ One can find examples from other religions in this Wikipedia article.

These sentiments are not peripheral but reflect the essence of these religions. In this sense, I agree that all religions do lead to the same place—a very high regard for other people. I would suggest that a religion that does not have this focus is not worth much.

We can all think of followers of some of these religions (including Christianity) that violate the charge to treat others right, and even act exactly opposite to that expectation; but I would say that they have missed the meaning and depth of their own religion.

Additional Positive Contributions of Other Religions

There may be more, but I can think of at least two additional positive contributions of other religions: 1) they provide insight and support in coping with life in this difficult world, and 2) they help us become better people.

Over the years I have benefited here and there from non-Christian religions, but the biggest influence on me is Buddhism. Three principles of the Buddha have particularly impacted me strongly—the middle way, ahimsa (non-injury), and non-attachment. These are concepts I use in my life; and they do not conflict with the teaching and example of Jesus.

In addition (though I do not embrace these Buddhist beliefs) I am impressed with the concepts of Bodhisattva and the Pure Lands among Mahayana Buddhists, and I am also impressed with the peace and acceptance in Tibetan Buddhism as expressed by the Dalai Lama. I am NOT a Buddhist; I am a dedicated follower of Jesus, but following Jesus does not lead me to condemn Buddhism or other religions. On the other hand, neither do I accept that following either Jesus or Buddha leads to the same place.

Are Jesus and Buddha Equal as Founders of Religions?

Some progressive Christians state that Jesus and founders of other religions are of equal value and status—all leading to the same place. But, while I have a high regard for leaders of other religions, I cannot agree with this conclusion. Though other religious leaders are very beneficial to their followers (and others) I don’t think they are at all equal; and I believe Jesus is different in two important respects.

First, I think Jesus is uniquely chosen by God as his/her representative to teach us more clearly about the loving Father/Mother as opposed to the angry God many people envision. This happened, of course, within the Jewish culture at a particular time in history, though it could have been at a different place and time. But there is an even more important difference between Jesus and other religious leaders—the resurrection.

Jesus was executed by the religious and political powers of his day due to their need to demonstrate power and control; but Jesus, whom they killed, did not remain dead but was restored to life thus defeating the ultimate power of evil and death. Jesus’ resurrection also demonstrates the possibility of eternal life beyond death that is available to us as well. No other religious leader did that.

I believe Jesus provides eternal life to those who follow him in this life, but I don’t think eternal life after death is only for those who follow him in this life—eternal life applies to virtually everyone no matter where or when they live and no matter what religion they embrace. Thus Jesus leads to a place that other religious leaders cannot.

We will talk about that next time.

Articles in this series: Jesus, World Religions, and Eternal Life

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38 Responses to Do All Religions Lead to the Same Place? Not Really

  1. AndyP says:

    TBH, I did wonder where you were going to go after the first one or two sentences, but I think overall you make done good points which are worth considering. We (i.e. Christians) too easily and readily dismiss other religions without a thought, something I have been guilty of on the past!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Andy, I have been very guilty of dismissing other ‘evil’ religions outright in the past. The truth is they have much to offer and have made important contributions to people’s lives; they just don’t offer the same as Jesus.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Rich says:

    A good comparison of religious beliefs can be found in a book called Oneness. I can’t remember the author’s name. It’s definitely worth a read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ANTHONY PAUL says:

    Tim… I believe that we are all gratified in some sort of emotional/intellectual manner whenever we read something someone has said that so precisely expresses our own personal world view. I find your latest contribution to be such a piece… one which I believe to be quite necessary (in a time of rampant ecclecticism), thoughtful, and well written. For a certainty, your star shines brightly today. I look forward to reading the rest of this article in the coming weeks.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Anthony. I know what you mean; every once in a while I read someone’s work and get excited because it expresses my thoughts exactly! I am glad you liked this post and hope you like the next one as well.

      Like

  4. mandibelle16 says:

    Great piece you were really spot in this post. There is one way to eternal life through Jesus but practices from other religions/cultures are useful to people such as yoga, meditation, sometimes a perspective on life that is useful. There are more examples but these are the ones that come to mind. But Jesus is the key, you are absolutely right.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. newtonfinn says:

    The openness to and respect for other religious traditions, so necessary for Christians in this pluralistic age, is well-stated in this latest post. It will be interesting to see where Tim takes this sensitivity in the follow-up post. One place where I may depart from the thrust of Tim’s comments, however, is in my view of eternal life as being built into the very structure of the universe, of Being itself, as opposed to being something new and discontinuous that enters reality only as a result or consequence of Jesus’ resurrection. While there are many NT verses that one might quote to support what I think is Tim’s more traditional view, I would respond by referring to the underlying assumption of eternal life that resonates throughout Jesus’ sayings and parables. He was talking about an eternal life, linked to or affected by the love one expressed or did not express in this world, and all of those teachings came, obviously, before his death and resurrection and IMHO thus alluded to a prior reality, a structural fact of existence already in place. For me, Jesus’ resurrection was God’s ultimate YES on the life of truth lived by his Son and a demonstration, not a cause, of life everlasting. If I’m misreading Tim’s position in this regard, I’m sure he’ll let me and others know. If not, maybe this would be a useful issue to shoot around a little more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, I think you have understood my position on Jesus’ resurrection and its impact on eternal life for us. I know that progressive believers disagree on the significance of the resurrection. My view can be described as more ‘traditional’ but it differs sharply from conservatives who would NOT support the idea that the resurrection provides eternal life for those who do not accept Jesus during their lifetime.

      Like

    • Veronika says:

      Great article Tim, and Newton, your insight…one I’d never thought of before. “For me, Jesus’ resurrection was God’s ultimate YES on the life of truth lived by his Son and a demonstration, not a cause, of life everlasting.”. A demonstration, not a cause. A definite mind-chew! Thank you and I would love to see this more fleshed out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Alan C says:

    “…all religions do lead to the same place—a very high regard for other people. I would suggest that a religion that does not have this focus is not worth much.” *cough SCIENTOLOGY cough*

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Alan, *cough SCIENTOLOGY cough*, we both seem to have some sort of issue–must have thetans in our throats. I did read Battleship Earth, though. I thought it was pretty good; but the movie?…

      Like

  7. JJS says:

    I enjoyed this and look forward to where you are going. Sometimes in more progressive Christian communities I run into people trying to maintain such open minds they can’t really tell you why they stick with Christianity at all. The uniqueness of Christ is well worth exploring and understanding. Nice job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      JJS, thanks for the kind words! I hope you like the next article. I agree with you that some progressive believers reduce Jesus to nothing more than a good teacher among other good teachers. I understand the desire to be open to others, but in my opinion it is misguided to throw out Jesus’ very important uniqueness–just as it is misguided to consider the other teachers and their teachings to be false.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I agree with the Golden Rule but my understanding is that the teaching of Unconditional Love leads to this same place only at a deeper level.
    There have been many spiritual teachers in history but Jesus is the best because he gives the clearest vision of the Father.
    Other religions may also lead to eternal life but they are not as specific as Christianity in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’; Is Jesus the Only Way to Life? Yes and No | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. tonycutty says:

    Great stuff, Tim 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Will Everyone Live Forever with God After Death? Not Necessarily! | Jesus Without Baggage

  12. Lee Poskey says:

    Good mornin Jimbo.
    I just read this article, and I am hoping that you can clarify something for me please.

    In this article, it appeared that you ascribed to God both both pronouns of him & her. Appearing that you are open to the idea that He might be feminine in some aspect. Did I misunderstand you?

    Lastly, you wrote that eternal life isn’t exclusive to those who follow Christ.

    If you mean, eternal life in the sense that one’s spirit never dies, and non Christians are tormented in hell for all eternity. That would make biblical sense. But I would word this differently. Because eternal life is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    What did you mean in your writing?

    Respectfully,
    Lee

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hello Lee. In regard to your first question, I do not think God is feminine, but neither do I think God is masculine; I believe God is beyond gender altogether. The reason I often use he/she is to avoid the impression that God is masculine, which often leads to harmful and negative assumptions that favor masculinity over femininity. I wish there were a better term than he/she, but I have not discovered one in common use.

      Regarding eternal life, you have probably understood me correctly that eternal life with God is available to those who have not heard and even to those of other religions. However, I agree with you that eternal life comes only from Jesus. I think we differ on the idea “that one’s spirit never dies, and non Christians are tormented in hell for all eternity.” I believe that immortality is not innate but is secured for us by Jesus in his resurrection. And I don’t think anyone will be punished in ‘hell’.

      If you are interested, I elaborate more on the offer of eternal life for everyone–even those who have not heard or who are of other religions–in the two article following this one. You can find them by clicking the topic arrow to the right at the top or bottom of the article. If you wish to know my thoughts about hell, just let me know and I will direct you to the appropriate discussion.

      Thanks for your questions!

      Like

      • Lee Poskey says:

        Hello sir,
        I believe scripture means what it says.
        God is always referred to as Him, a masculine reference, and never as feminine. Also see Colossians 1.15…(speaking of Jesus) “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” …(Jesus is a man).

        Those who haven’t believed on Christ, are already condemned, (which of course would include those people of other religions). See John 3.18…”He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (It doesn’t get any clearer than that).

        Revelation 20.14,15…”And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

        I do want to correct something I said in my previous comment though. ..
        Those who are condemned to hell do not have eternal life. I was only trying to illustrate that those people will continue to exist in some form forevermore in torment in hell.
        Eternal life is only aquired by being born again by the Spirit of God by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

        That’s all biblical.

        If you’re not using a king James bible, that may be why your conclusions are what they are.

        Anyhoo, I present all of this in a spirit of kindness.

        Respectfully,
        Lee

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Lee, thanks for your considerate response. And I understand your perspective; in fact I used to believe every point you made (including King James) but have since come to different conclusions. But it doesn’t bother me when other people think differently.

          Have a great day, and I hope things go well with you!

          Like

  13. Pingback: Hell? Conditional Immortality? Something Else? What Happens to Those Who Reject God? | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. A great little book on this is “God is Not One” by Stephen Prothero

    Appreciate this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: If Most Everyone Will Have Eternal Life with God Anyway, then Why Do We Need to Share the Good News of Jesus? | Jesus Without Baggage

  16. billfoley63 says:

    I see religion, all religions, as a vehicle, a way to point us toward an experience of the sacred, an experience of God, and a way to go deeper into ourselves, to know ourselves and those dark places within our selves that need the healing light of Christ. Religion points us toward something that is larger than mere religious doctrine and calls us into an experience and a relationship with God that is beyond human understanding. I think God, as revealed in Jesus, transcends religious boundaries. The Bible says that all who Love are born of God. I don’t think that means Christians only. If you have been touched by God in your heart and you desire to reflect that Love in your life then you are truly living the Way of Jesus as I call it and that can happen to any heart yearning for God. The Bible says (I’m paraphrasing) God looks on the heart for those sincerely looking for him and it says nothing about joining a religion. That is why I feel Gods people, the body of Christ, will be found among people of many religious faiths. God is not going to give us a theology test or make sure we have all the correct beliefs, God is looking for open hearts so he can pour his love into them so we can then go forth and be the Light of the Love of God in a dark world. To me that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

    Like

  17. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Bill, I love this: “I think God, as revealed in Jesus, transcends religious boundaries. The Bible says that all who Love are born of God. I don’t think that means Christians only…God is not going to give us a theology test or make sure we have all the correct beliefs, God is looking for open hearts so he can pour his love into them.”

    Well said!

    Like

  18. Pingback: 3 Reasons Why Loving Others is Not All There Is to Following Jesus | Jesus Without Baggage

  19. “I am not among those who contend that all religions besides Christianity are false religions and have nothing of value to offer. ”

    “Thus Jesus leads to a place that other religious leaders cannot.”

    These two statements contradict each other. What is the purpose of proclaiming that you are tolerant to other religions and their beliefs and then claim that Jesus is the the only way.

    Why can’t Christians just proclaim what they believe and then leave the rest up to Jesus? If you really have faith in what you believe and know that it is true then others will see that. Comparing what you believe to what others believe is a path to no where. All it accomplishes is to turn others away from your faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hello Buddhist, You asked, ” What is the purpose of proclaiming that you are tolerant to other religions and their beliefs and then claim that Jesus is the only way.”

      In what regard do I think Jesus is the way? In my opinion, it is Jesus who provides eternal life after death to all through his resurrection. I know this does not fit into Buddhist thinking, for example, as the goal of Buddhism is to end all consciousness. But I do not think other religions are false religions and have nothing to offer; in fact I have a high respect for Buddha’s teaching and have been greatly influenced by them.

      Like

      • ” the goal of Buddhism is to end all consciousness”

        This clearly makes the point of why you should not post these types of posts. Making a post where you simply lay out the different tenets or practices of different religions, as long as you do not claim that only one is true, is fine. But that is not what you are doing. You are pretending to have that conversation both with the title of the post and your moniker. But that is not your intent.

        You decided before writing the post not just to educate (you would first have to be educated in the subject) people about the different faiths but to proclaim yours as being the right, superior, or true one. The problem with doing this is that in order to do it you must actually have a non-biased understanding of the other religions you are comparing yours to.

        Your statement “the goal of Buddhism is to end all consciousness” shows that you have no understanding of what Buddhism teaches or Buddhist believes. To compare two things when you have absolutely no knowledge of one of the two defies logic and reason.

        There are so many Christians on Worldpress that are engaging in this practice of posting this type of posts. If you all really have so much faith in what you believe why do you all need to do this?

        If you are speaking the truth, as you say you are, all you need to do is state why you yourself believes what you believe. You do not need to even mention any other religion. If what you say has any truth in it people will see it for themselves. The real truth is that engaging in attacking or disparaging other faiths shows that maybe you all have the faith that you claim to have. The only logical reason to attack the other faiths is out of fear.

        If you truly have any respect for the other faiths you would stop posting insincere posts about them. May God give you wisdom.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Buddhist, you are correct; I should have said that that the goal of Buddhism is to avoid suffering by stopping the cycle of return to life on Earth. Though I think Buddha also suspected this would involve loss of consciousness.

          I am also aware of the expectation of the Pure Lands by some Mahayana Buddhist that, of course, is a happy continuation of consciousness in a more ideal environment.

          However, I do not see how I have attacked or disparaged other religions. I mention them positively because some Christians DO claim that other religions are false religions–and I do not agree with them on that. The only aspect I mention concerning Jesus and other religions is that I believe his resurrection provides the agency for all people to have life after death regardless of their religion.

          Other religions have unique contributions as well.

          Like

          • I believe your title is correct and does not imply that any one is correct. “Do All Religions Lead to the Same Place? Not Really”

            This is a true statement since the different religions have different goals. It is just at the end where you say “Though other religious leaders are very beneficial to their followers (and others) I don’t think they are at all equal” . This implies that Christianity is superior to the other religions. If that is not what you meant then I take you at your word. Maybe I am being a little sensitive because I have been told I am going to hell so many times! Even you mention the many other Christians that do not have a tolerant view and feel that followers of other faiths are “lost”.

            If we really do a comparison of most faiths I think we will find that we have a lot more in common than we believe. Peace be with you!

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Buddhist,

            I really identify with your statement: “I have been told I am going to hell so many times! Even you mention the many other Christians that do not have a tolerant view and feel that followers of other faiths are “lost”.”

            This is the bane of Christianity that so many Christians have strong beliefs about eternal punishment in hell when that idea is not even taught in the Bible. It creates fear and alienates those who are judged, battered, and condemned by threats of ‘hell’. I am sorry you have undergone this experience personally.

            Peace be with you as well.

            Liked by 1 person

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