Okay, this is it. The $64,000 question. For many people, this one is the really big, bottom-line uber question — the most central and most burning of all questions pertaining to religion.
Out of all of these many diverse religions, major and minor, which one of them (if any) happens to be, you know, true?
Sometimes this core, cut-to-the-chase question is evaded or sidestepped, frequently by deploying some sort of rather noncommittal assertion along the lines of, “Well, your religion is ‘true’ for you, and my religion is ‘true’ for me.”
In this sense, all religions could be said to be “true,” at least insofar as they all seem to “work” for their own respective adherents.
But is this really what most of mean by “true”? Don’t most of us mean by “truth” something a little less subjective, ambiguous, or wishy-washy?
I suspect a great many, if not most, inquirers who ask this sort of question about religious truth generally mean something more along the lines of, “Which religion most closely corresponds to ‘the way things really are,’ objectively and factually speaking?”
Religions propound specific religious concepts, and promote specific religious claims, of varying sorts. These religious concepts and religious claims can, and often do, conflict with each other. Sometimes they flatly and absolutely contradict each other.
Since the claims of Religion X are frequently directly contrary to the counterclaims of Religion Z, then from a purely logical standpoint, it would seem that they cannot both be right. Since each religion on earth disagrees, at least to some degree, with every other religion on earth, it follows logically that they cannot all be right.
If Religion X is true, then Religion Z must necessarily be false (at least insofar as the religious claims made by Z must be incorrect, if they conflict with or contradict the correct religious claims made by X).
Atheists and agnostics would be among the first, of course, to suggest that perhaps none of them are right. From a nonreligious perspective, it is entirely conceivable — and might very well turn out to be the case — that no religion is objectively and factually “true.” Perhaps Religions A through Z all contain nothing but incoherent concepts and false claims.
But religious believers of whatever sort generally maintain that at least one religion (and perhaps only one religion) is genuinely and objectively “true,” in the sense of affirming religious concepts and asserting religious claims which are factual, correct, accurate, and otherwise really do correspond with reality.
For religious believers, or for those who do not reject out of hand the theoretical possibility that at least one religion (and perhaps more than one religion) might be said to be objectively and factually “true,” there would seem to be three main possible perspectives, alternative approaches, or logical positions which could be adopted in facing head-on the question, “Which religion is true?”
(To be continued, in Part Two.)