Like many American Gen-Xers, I loosely identified as Christian but never ruled out other religions. “Spiritual but not religious” was how I identified. Reincarnation, karma, and eastern philosophies were intellectually appealing. Occult ideas like spirit guides, energy work and psychics were fascinating. Native American beliefs and shamanism even had some intriguing points. Think-and-grow-rich ideas like “the Law of Attraction,” “The Secret,” and the Prosperity Gospel tied it all together with my career. New age philosophy dressed up as business books replaced my bible. I treated my spirituality like a religious cafeteria… picking and choosing beliefs that I liked best. Like so many in our culture, I believed that there could be multiple paths to happiness or Heaven or Nirvana. I believed that being a good person was all that mattered… but my idea of what “good” was, came from me relative to my own definition of it.
With the exception of a few “prosperty gospel” passages, stodgy old Christianity was soon in the rearview mirror.
And then I met Fr. Mike Schmitz and that changed everything. Fr. Mike presented the issues in a way I hadn’t heard before. He points out that every world religion was started by someone who either A) claimed to have insight into God or B) claimed to have had a revelation from God… except Christianity, whose founder claimed to be God. Inspired by C.S. Lewis, Father Mike shows that Jesus was either a liar (not God and knew he wasn’t God), a lunatic (not God, but didn’t know he wasn’t God), or he was actually the Lord (telling the truth). Push play… regardless of your religious affiliation, 11 minutes of awesomeness follows.
CS Lewis & Mere Christianity: Many non-Christians (such as Muslims, Buddhists, Judaism, Hindus and New Agers) claim that Jesus was merely a good man (a prophet, philosopher, rabbi, teacher, or enlightened/evolved being). CS Lewis points out that these claims are incongruent with his claim to be Lord. If he was not Lord as he claimed, he would have been either a liar or a lunatic… neither of which are “good” or worthy of veneration such as what Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus teach.
Another Problem. Religions often contradict each other. As such, it is impossible for them all to be right. I would never allow myself to be so intellectually lazy in regards to business or academic inquiries, so why was I so apathetic about my spiritual beliefs? Afterall, the world cannot be flat and round simultaneously. One plus one cannot equal two and also equal three. Contradicting positions like this would never be accepted as equally true in the realm of academia, so why do so many rational people accept this kind of logic in religious/spiritual theory? For example:
Religious Inquiry #1: Souls
1) We have a soul (per Christians, Muslims, and Hindus).
2) We don’t have a soul (per Buddhists and Atheists).
Either we have souls or we do not. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible for both precepts to be true.
Religious Inquiry #2: Incarnation
1) We live one physical life
2) We live multiple physical lives
Either we live one physical life or we live multiple physical lives. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible for both precepts to be true.
Religious Inquiry #3: Afterlife
1) You cease to exist after you die (atheists).
2) You are reincarnated after you die until you “get it right” and eventually return to “god energy” and lose your individual identity (Hindus and Buddhists)
3) Your eternal afterlife is whatever you believe it will be (new age).
4) You are judged based on God’s standards (not man’s) and go to Heaven or Hell after you die (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai Faith).
Again, it’s not possible for all of these ideas to be true. For example, one cannot cease to exist and live eternally simultaneously.
An Interesting Observation: There was something else unique to Christianity that intrigued me. Unlike Buddha, Mohammud or any of the Hindu Gods, it seems to me that Jesus is unique in that He plays a role in all of the major religions. So many seem either influenced by his teachings or determined to explain Him away. For example:
Christianity: Jesus is God
Islam: Jesus is not God, but he was one of the great prophets.
Hinduism: Jesus was living incarnation of one of many gods.
Buddhism & New Age: Jesus was not a god. He was an enlightened being and we can all be like him and obtain a “Christ Consciousness.”
Judaism: Jesus was a historical figure who performed miracles with the help of the Devil.
Religious Skeptics: Jesus is a myth similar to many other myths of ancient gods.
My Conclusion: Just because all religions cannot be true, otherwise smart people will often jump to the erroneous conclusion that they are all as false or superstition. But does it really follow that just because they cannot all be true, that none of them are true? Not for me.
Next Stop: Christianity, What’s the evidence? OK, Jesus, I’ll bite. Prove it.
Some Resources I Found while on my Journey:
- Who is Jesus, According to Other Religions?
- List of People Who Have Been Considered to be Deities.
- If Buddha was Not a God, Why Do People Worship Him?
- Do Buddhists Believe in God?
- Who Was Mohammad?
- Hindu Deities
- Jesus vs Buddha vs Mohammad: How Early is the Historical Evidence for Each?
- New Age, The Law of Attraction, the Occult & Spirit Guides
Religionless Spirituality: Dr. Tim Gray explains why “spiritual but not religious” falls short when viewed in light of what Jesus said in scripture. As part of this audio, he has a great section on why it makes no sense leave the Church just because there are sinners in it. Using historical examples and scripture passages, he makes a strong case for drawing near to the Church regardless of its imperfect members.