An ancient fable about 6 blind men and an elephant is often taught in first-year philosophy classes. The story is narrated; there were 6 blind men on their way to a ruler’s palace. While on their journey, they encountered an elephant for the first time. The 6 blind men began to touch the elephant in an attempt to figure out what it was.
So, the first blind man comes up and touches the side of the elephant and says, “How smooth. This must be a wall”. The second man comes and grabs the elephant’s trunk and says, “How round. This is a snake”.
The third blind man comes and touches the elephant’s tusk and says, “How sharp. This must be a spear!” The fourth blind man came, grabbed the leg, and thought to himself, “How tall and sturdy. This is a tree.” The fifth and sixth blind men came and grabbed the ear and tail respectively and they thought they were a fan and rope respectively.
This is not recommended folks, never grab an elephant by the tail.
The story continues; the ruler of the land is then awakened by the commotion going on and sees the blind men try to ascertain what the elephant was. He stops them in their tracks and shouts, “Listen, an elephant is a large animal and each of you has parts of the truth.
However, each of you needs to put all of those parts together and you’ll see what an elephant is actually like”
This idea is taken by religious pluralists and they’ll say, “Yeah, in the same way, you’ve all of these world religions and they are each making claims about God and what you need to do is take them all and put them together. That way you’ll see what God is actually like”
My question for you folks, is religious pluralism true? I don’t think it can be true. Let me give you a thought experiment; below is an image of how I look like.
Based on how I look, may you please guess the type of car I drove to work in today? Be careful in your thought processes ladies and gentlemen, I bruise easily.
I suppose one of you thought I drive a 92 Toyota Corolla… and another a 2000 Honda Civic. If you thought 92 Toyota Corolla, let the record show that I am not happy with you and don’t talk to me if we ever cross paths.
If it’s the case that two amongst you reading this article actually thought today I drove to work in a Corolla or Honda Civic, can those two cars (statements) be true?
The car I drove to work in is both a Corolla and a Civic. Can that be true? No, thousand times no! It can’t be true. Why not? Well because the laws of logic won’t allow it. Those are contradictory claims.
So, without even looking at my car, we know that one of those answers is wrong. Or maybe both of them. I believe it’s the same with world religions.
They can’t all be true because they make contradictory truth claims. Here’s an example, let’s take the three great monotheistic religions Islam, Christianity and Judaism and ask the question; Did Jesus rise from the dead?
If you were to consult Judaism and Islam, they’d say, “No! Jesus did not rise from the dead.” In fact, Islam teaches that Jesus wasn’t even crucified. On the other hand, Christians believe he did rise from the dead.
Jesus can’t rise and not rise in the same way and in the same sense. This is the law of the excluded middle. So, the claims that these 3 great monotheistic religions are equally valid is blatantly contradictory. So, I strongly think that religious pluralism is false, just based off of logic.
With that said, there are usually two motivations for dismissing the idea that NOT all religions are the same. The objections are arrogance and exclusion. Let’s try to unpack these objections:
Arrogance: how could anyone possibly be so arrogant as to say that all the other religions are wrong and there’s only one path to God? I think it is just as arrogant to say that Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and Mohammed were all wrong in their exclusive claims as it is to say that Jesus is the only way. The issue here is not about who is arrogant, but what is true.
Exclusion: how can you exclude all religions and say only one is correct? Again, let’s give this assertion a bit more thought; the reality is that whatever position one holds, they’ll exclude something. Even the religious pluralist – he/she excludes the one who believes that only one path leads to God. As with the first objection, the real issue isn’t about excluding someone, it’s about what’s true.
So, to cut the story short, I don’t think all religions lead to God. Truth, by definition, is exclusive.
More interesting reads: Questions of the Universe: Does God Exist? Part 1
Author: The Broken Native
The Broken Native is a social runner, a budding poet, loves football, and basketball, reading, music (all things Indie and flirts with a bit of Jazz), and Philosophy.
And, er…ahem…he appreciates a glass of cold gin and tonic.