Time To Think 9. Christianity, World Religions, and Atheism.

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There are three possibilities for the truth of our existence:

I. No God – Atheism; religion is irrational with no truth in its substance and built on deceptive foundations. We are matter.

II. There is a God, and we are more than mere matter:  A. All religions are true with different pathways to God and/or salvation or B. Only one religion is true and there is only one pathway to God and salvation.

Religion is a complex human phenomenon and difficult to define. Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about anything and everything is a religion. Yet religion as a concept of ‘something outside and greater’ than man is deeply embedded in human nature and present throughout the world where humans dwell and present in the earliest history of homo sapiens. Religion stems from a mysterious longing and deep desperate striving for the transcendent as people do not understand their own condition well. He is aware of his imperfections and has a deep-rooted disposition to understand this imperfection he is so conscious of. It is in his nature to look for purpose and meaning in everything, even so, in his own imperfect existence. Man has an awareness, even so in his subconscious mind, of a greatest conceivable being, of perfection, and has a longing for a ‘better world’ – a better ‘this world’ or a better world ‘hereafter’.

Huston Smith describes religion as ‘the deepest human awareness, which is that of a hierarchical universe, and the goal is the absorption of the self into the infinite oneness.’ Not dissimilar to seeing beauty and long to be absorbed in it. Feuerbach influenced Marx and Freud, states that ‘religion is man’s projection; we construct claims about God and then project them. We look upon these projections and see them as objective realities.’  Freud: ‘religious ideas are not the result of experience or thought; they are illusions, fulfillments of deep, early desires.’

Alvin Plantinga’s Modal Version of the Ontological Argument is as follows: 1. To say that there is possibly a God is to say that there is a possible world in which God exists. 2. To say that God necessarily exists is to say that God exists in every possible world. 3. God is necessarily perfect (i.e. maximally excellent) 4. Since God is necessarily perfect, He is perfect in every possible world. 5. If God is perfect in every possible world, He must exist in every possible world, therefore God exists. 6. God is also maximally great. To be maximally great is to be perfect in every possible world. 7. Therefore: “it is possible that there is a God,” means that there is a ‘possible’ which contains God, that God is maximally great, and the God exists in every possible world and is consequently necessary. 8. God’s existence is at least possible. 9. Therefore:  as per item seven, God exists.

On a doctrinal level, the various world religions are very, very different, fundamentally different. So different that they cannot all be true. All religions have underlying ethical similarities. They all are seeking the truth and therefore all will have significant elements of truth in their teachings. Superficially the different religions might seem the same in many ways, but at the core of each, Christianity differs the most radical from all other religions.

Most world religions teach that one will be accepted by God if you are good enough.  For the atheist, there can be no objective right and wrong and hence this concept is irrelevant. (see Morality and Relativism) Though it is very hard to know when and what is ‘good enough’ if there is a God, e.g., in Muslimism: at the end of your life Allah will decide if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. Or one reaches ‘salvation’ if he is ‘good enough’ – Hinduism and Buddhism which are purely about irrational religious experiences.

The different world religious views about God are very different: Christianity teaches the Trinity; before creation, God was one-in-three persons in perfect union. Muhammad taught that there is only one God, but that God is not a Trinity and cannot have a son. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture) believed in a combination of polytheism (there are many gods) and pantheism (all is god). Confucius believed in many gods. Zoroaster taught that there is both a good god and a bad god. Buddha taught that the concept of God was essentially irrelevant.

Views on being saved, to be reconciled with God, or with reality differ significantly. Irrelevant to the atheist. Islam teaches that one becomes saved through submission to Allah, but that salvation can never be an absolute certainty except when dying in jihad.  Your good deeds have to outweigh your bad deeds. Hindus teach that salvation is rooted in reincarnation and karma. In Buddhism, it is in reaching a state of enlightenment. Christianity teaches that one is saved by faith, by trust in Christ alone. That He died as the perfect and complete sacrifice for our sins. Salvation is an absolute certainty if Christ’s atonement is accepted.

It is impossible to factually test Hinduism, Buddhism, or Mormonism (the experiences of Joseph Smith) as objectively true. It is all about subjective experiences.

Buddhism is an atheistic religion; God is without substance and reality is denied. For Buddhism ultimate reality is monistic. i.e., denying the existence of a distinction between matter and mind, or God and the world, all is seen as one reality, yet the reality is denied in Buddhism. One cannot question or rationally think about Buddhism, one can only experience it. The truth of Buddhism teachings rests solely on experience, on psychological factors. It is works orientated in terms of the enlightenment (salvation) to reach a state of nirvana, that is a state of desirelessness and passionlessness. Enlightenment is an experience. Reason plays no role.  If you can’t reach nirvana in this life, you can try again by incarnation. To finally reach enlightenment is to escape this cycle, … into nothingness.

Islam claimed to be objectively true but there are serious inconsistencies and incoherencies in the Quran as well as in the Hadith though should not be criticized. https://www.quora.com/Are-Muslims-allowed-to-criticise-the-Quran ‘To criticize the Quran is to show disrespect to the books of Allah and is seen as apostasy. Whoever does this has expelled himself from Islam. It is apostasy to doubt the Quran or to disagree with it, or to not believe in it, even if it is only a single verse.’

All the world’s religions seek to take bad men and make them better by ethics. Christianity, by contrast, seeks to take dead men and make them alive. More specifically, Christianity seeks to take people who are spiritually dead (separated from God because of sin) and make them spiritually alive so they can enjoy a personal relationship with the God who created them. Thus, much more about a relationship than about religion.

This is what makes Christianity unique.

Religious experience alone is never sufficient to demonstrate the truth of a religion. Christianity is the only religion where religious experiences are important, but the factual claims of Christianity can be tested… objectively. And everything depends on the resurrection. If the resurrection of Christ is false, Christianity is false. Christianity is evidential and testable, historically, and experientially. If it is wrong, then you can move on. (with Buddhism or Hinduism, though, you must be in for a long haul of experiences, the attempts to reach salvation and hopefully experience the escape from the endless cycle of life) Grace is unique to Christianity. Others offer hard ways to earn salvation. The best that Buddhists or Christian Scientists can do is to deny evil as an illusion. Yet, we face it every day. Or the atheist who has no explanation for evil, just a brute fact of life. Christians can confront evil, and they have an ultimate solution. Jesus Christ. Time to Think 4. Evil, Pain & Suffering.

Is atheism true? Can it be true that there is no God? You decide as you consider Alwin Plantinga’s Ontological Argument, consider I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, and my series of arguments: Time to Think – about the existence of God. (YouTube and Blog). Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Eastern Religions are not rational but based on subjective experiences. Muslimism is in part rational, e.g., the existence of a Creator, but the origin of this religion, the ethics as taught in the Koran as well as the reliability of ancient scripts raise serious questions yet are not allowed to be criticized.

It should be clear that all religions might superficially be the same in some minor ways but fundamentally very different. So different, so contradictive, that only one can be true.

Christianity is open to scrutiny on every level and can rationality be defended. Most importantly The Facts About the Resurrection of Christ on which Christianity stands or falls.

Is atheism open to scrutiny? Not really, because atheists rarely make positive statements about the non-existence of God, and neither ever present good arguments that God does not exist. They only try to refute the arguments for God’s existence or argue that He is not necessary to explain the universe but seldom present any positive arguments that He does not exist or present answers for why is there something rather nothing, what caused the universe, how and why the extreme fine-tuning of the universe for life, the integrated informational complexity of DNA (digital coding) that points to a Mind, what is evil, and the explanation for objective morality?  Except often explanations that are pure speculative theories e.g., the multiverse (for the fine-tuning) or the oscillating universe theory or cyclical universe proposes that the universe expands and contracts indefinitely (for the cause of the universe.)

Only Christianity as the truth of our existence, can be experienced, can rationally be defended, and is factually testable.

My personal experience: ‘The radical change that took place in my heart was not from a rational decision but in response to an overwhelming Love that became rational’

Which truth about our existence is more plausible? Atheism, Christianity, or one or all of the known world religions? You decide.

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