Opinion

So, which religion is right?

So, which religion is right?

Eighty-four percent of the world’s population (5.8 billion out of 6.9 billion in 2010) are affiliated to one religion in some form. Seventy-seven percent identify themselves as a member of one of the five widely recognised world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. With over 4,300 religions spanning the Earth, how can people be certain that their religions are ‘right?

If our parents are part of the 77 percent who believe in one of the previously-stated widely recognised world religions, we most likely did not have an opportunity to independently decide which religion is “right”. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are all traditionally inherited from a parent or guardian at an extremely young age (Thomas Riggs, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices: Religions and denominations.)

Almost all sects of Christianity follow the practice of infant baptism to enter the child into the faith. Muslim male infants are circumcised; both male and female Muslim infants have their heads shaven and an animal sacrificed for them on the seventh day after their birth. Hindus practice Annaprashana – the first feeding of rice or solid food for an infant by a priest. Buddhists practice Shinbyu – letting their young sons enter the Sangha (association of monks) to immerse themselves in the teachings of Buddha.

Jewish males are circumcised; Jewish children undergo the ritual of Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the ages of 13 and 12 (13 in Reformed Judaism) respectively. At such young ages, do we have the intellectual capacity to investigate and make an informed decision on which religion we think is “right”?

Finally we are adults; we have gotten past the childhood indoctrination. Now it is time for us to investigate each respective religion by determining which one has empirical evidence supporting the faith. A holy piece of text should suffice. Wait one moment – all five of the widespread religions claim to have holy scripture: Christianity has the Bible: Old and New Testaments; Islam has the Qur’an: Hinduism has the Vedas and the Upanishads; Buddhism has the Mahasamghika and the Mulasarvastivada-Vinaya or the Pali Canon, or the Taisho Tripitaka, or the Kangyur depending on which sect one believes in; Judaism has the Tanakh.

All five of the widespread religions claim their scripture has been directly influenced by a supreme being in some way. Upon further inspection, it is evident there are many more differences than similarities between each religious scripture in terms of content. Is it a possibility that the scripture many believe in is not the “right” one?

People of faith must accept the possibility that their religions are not the “right” one by comparing each widespread religion’s scripture with one another. But we may be looking at this issue in the wrong light. Maybe each religion is a piece of a puzzle – treating all the religions as a single entity may help us explore the greater mysteries of the universe. After all, the world we live in is ridiculously complex. The chances of life itself evolving as it did are so infinitesimal that there must be some other logical explanation.

Something as complicated as the human brain (which contains around 86 billion neurons on average) developing from a single fertilised egg is unfathomable (James Randerson).

Billions argue that, in order for something so complicated to exist, a supreme being must have some role in its creation. This leads to an even greater issue: if they believe a supreme being created this complex world, then this supreme being must be even more complicated than this complex world to be able to create it. Who created this supreme being? It must be something more complicated than she/he/it, or else this entire argument collapses.

If someone is affiliated with one religion, he or she cannot be affiliated with any of the others. If we believe in one form of supreme being, we cannot believe in any of the others.

So, one can fairly conclude that a “right” religion cannot possible exist.

• Matthew Faltyn is an 18-year-old student currently residing in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Some of his interests include reading scientific papers in the fields of biophysics and neurology, and engaging in discussions concerning politics and religion.

7 responses to “So, which religion is right?”

  1. L.Long says:

    And if you look at the silly rituals of all the religions you can see how most people may deny it but they all believe in magic!!!! No wonder the Harry Potter books scared them!!!

  2. Daz says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here:

    “Billions argue that, in order for something so complicated to exist, a supreme being must have some role in its creation. This leads to an even greater issue: if they believe a supreme being created this complex world, then this supreme being must be even more complicated ….”

    I distrust the use of the “first cause” argument, both for and against “goddidit.” Until and unless we can come up with a testable theory to answer the question “Why is there anything?,” neither side has an empirical leg to stand on.

    “So, one can fairly conclude that a “right” religion cannot possible exist.”

    Using logic alone, no we can’t. All we can say is that if each religion directly contradicts the others (which they do), then it is only possible for one or none to be true.

    We can test the less ultimate claims of religions (can the sun halt in the sky, the dead be raised, etc)—and a helluva lot of their claims do indeed fail on that score; but arguments from infinite regression and mutual contradiction don’t seem, to me, to be very useful.

  3. StephenJP says:

    I commend Mr Faltyn on his cogent arguments and his sensible conclusions. He notes correctly that the main vehicle for the transmission of religious belief is childhood indoctrination. There’s the rub: it can be extraordinarily difficult to overcome such brainwashing. As Hitchens pointed out, it is hard to reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into in the first place. At the same time, it is interesting that young people – at any rate, in the relatively well-educated West – are increasingly less likely to be taken in by the lies and inconsistencies of religion than ever before.

    Best wishes for your future publications, Mr Faltyn.

  4. Brian Jordan says:

    @Daz
    I agree that mutual exclusivity weakens rather than destroys the argument for a “true” religion. Infinite regression, though, is far more damning than legless: all religions claim to know the ultimate, absolute, truth and infinite regression puts paid to that claim. Ask them “where did god come from?”, or “who made god?”, and their fingers go into their ears at once.

  5. Daz says:

    @Brian Jordan

    But by the same token, what testable answers do we have for “Why was there a big bang”? My point being that infinite regression is a problem which dogs both sides of the debate.

    That said, if this putative creator-god is outside our universe, the problem of how it could be an intercessionary god is, erm, interesting, to say the least.

  6. Brian Jordan says:

    @Daz
    I quite agree. However, we can cheerfully admit that we do not know, maybe cannot know, and probably do not care about the origins of the Big Bang. They however are adamant that their gods had no origin, they’re just there. They cannot contemplate even a single step of regression for fear of a mental meltdown.

    Although, I suppose, I’m thinking mainly of monotheists. Some of the polytheists can imagine at least one step, with gods being made for instance from the semen of other gods, but I suspect they only go back that one step.

  7. Edwin Salter says:

    The great point here is that the competing claims of alternative faiths undermine them all. This is why religions seek closed borders and to own their children (often with fertility to outnumber the opposition). They impose ignorance and hugely punish doubt.
    It is not absolutely decisive of course – one of them could be true (the few universalists argue approximations). But it is highly corrosive. Similarly Geller insists that his spoon-bending is psychic while the rest of us know (thanks to Randi et al) how to do it otherwise.
    Also part of the evidence are the many once great faiths (and ‘heresies’) now vanished – Egypt is always a familiar example. Merely reminding any of faith that most of the world, past and present, declares them very gravely mistaken is powerfully (but unaggressively) effective.
    (Re the BBang – there are alternative cosmologies though it is sadly difficult to get funds to consider these – especially as BB has needed much tailoring. As a unique happening I find it very dubious (God’s last hideaway )- better if theory predicted an eventual return to repetition of BBs until another stable universe cycle emerges. On to the next paradigm.)

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