Have you seen the bumper sticker that features various religious symbols forming the word "coexist"? The sentiment is nice¬—sort of. But it kind of assumes all religions are pretty much the same. Sure, thinking about everyone living in harmony, no matter what they believe, gives us warm fuzzies. But not all religious beliefs can be equally true. They say incompatible things about reality. They lead to different behaviors and different conclusions.
Treating all religions as equally true or valid is both lazy and disrespectful. It's lazy because grappling with the differences is not easy. It's disrespectful because it means ignoring what sincere people believe in favor of something you'd prefer to imagine instead.
So, if there are that many different religious ideas, how are we supposed to know which one is true or correct?
Figuring out which religion is "correct" is not about finding a few places where it's valid. There may be some religious ideas that point to truth in any religion. You read right—it's not that everything certain faiths say is wrong. If everything a religious system said was totally wrong, nobody would believe it. But we DO have to look at the whole picture of any given religion or faith to separate truth from fiction.
And no, that's not going to happen in the few minutes it's going to take to read this article. We're not pretending otherwise! But we CAN consider some methods that will help point us in the right direction.
We shouldn't reject an entire belief system simply because someone who uses that title is wrong about something. Someone who says, "I am [insert religion], and our faith teaches the moon is made of cheese" probably isn't representing the position of that faith accurately. Proving the moon isn't made of cheese only proves that ONE person's view is wrong. (Of course, if their faith system really DOES say the moon is cheese...that's a problem.)
Take time to investigate and consider what a faith's religious texts and traditions state before writing something off because of a few bad representatives. Many have written off Christianity due to the words and actions of certain boneheaded people calling themselves Christians. For example, someone selling hate as a part of the Christian faith is NOT accurately representing biblical Christianity.
We also need to remember that the so-called "major religions"—like Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism—have been around for a very long time. Extremely moral, intelligent, dedicated people have debated over them and believed in them. We can't say all those people were "right," but it would be just as silly to say all those people were "stupid" or naïve. A faith system may prove false, but that doesn't necessarily make it absurd. Sneering at another faith's religious ideas is a display of ignorance and immaturity—not wisdom.
Examining claims for truth starts with three basic principles: logic, evidence, and experience.
Logic means asking if there's something about the idea that conflicts with itself. Or examining further to see if it contradicts another crucial aspect of that faith.
Evidence means asking if there's real world information that supports the idea. That might be from archaeology, history, literature, biology, physics, or many other sources.
Experience means asking where that idea applies to our lives in some meaningful way. What happens when people live it out? What happens when people ignore or contradict it? What experiences have individuals had that we can understand? Does it even matter in one's daily life?
These principles aren't the end of the process, but they're absolute requirements to get started. Using logic, evidence, and experience, we can examine specific claims from a religion to see how they are supported—or refuted.
As we look at logic, evidence, and experience, we can apply what we find to four major questions about human existence. Every person—religious or not—lives their life assuming certain answers to these questions. They might not even realize their own perspective or maybe they don't care, but that doesn't change the facts. We call the combination of these factors a worldview.
The four main questions that form a worldview are:
Each of those four should have some connection to logic, evidence, and experience. They should also connect to each other—and that's were a lot of religious beliefs fall apart. If what someone thinks about their origins contradicts what they believe about how they should behave, their personal views cannot be true.
Obviously, 412teens.org believes biblical Christianity is the "correct" religion. But that's exactly because of the reasons above. When different religious ideas are compared, only Christianity continues to be verified again and again. Beyond that, Christianity is unique in openly challenging people to investigate truth and follows through by providing answers that make sense.
The Bible makes it clear that God wants us to look for truth, because He knows the search leads to Him. God actually requires us to make an honest attempt to know what is true (Matthew 7:7-8). The Bible encourages fact-checking (Acts 17:11), cautious skepticism (1 John 4:1), critical thinking (Colossians 2:8), and a reliance on real evidence (Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16). God knows that the answers we find will point back to Him.
Scripture says that the basic evidence we need to get started is all around us (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:18-20). It's honest about the implications of what it claims (1 Corinthians 15:14-18). The Bible also discourages setting impossible, self-deceptive standards for "proof" which are just excuses not to believe at all (John 5:46-47; Matthew 12:39). Even Jesus, when He was challenged to defend His ministry, pointed to multiple lines of evidence (John 5:31-46).
Using the same standards we would apply to any other religion, we know that Christianity is the correct religion. Why? Because when we put the Christian faith through the wringer of tests, questions, and balances, it's the only faith that fits the description of "correct" by aligning perfectly from top to bottom, inside and out.
To know if something is true, we should examine logic, evidence, and experience. When it comes to religions, we should also examine that faith's answer to questions like "why are were here?" and "how should I act?" Only biblical Christianity demands that we use that kind of truth-seeking approach (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16). When we add up everything we can discover, we find that only one faith consistently agrees with both real world truth and evidence: the one explained in the Bible.
Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.