Are all religions pretty much the same?

Broadly speaking, skeptics rarely differentiate between the world’s religions.  When it comes to the real or perceived evils done in the name of religion, or by religious adherents they’re one in the same.  This is especially true when discussing Islamic terrorism or the Crusades and Inquisition.  it works both ways too.  By and large each religious system claims to be “the way”.  Each seems to preach peace and love toward your fellow man.  I suspect that this is an intentional blurring of the lines.  The skeptic feels intellectually insulated from having to fuss with the details if religion can be dismissed right out of the gate.  But the details are the most significant aspect of the religions.

The world’s religions affirm a particular deity or deities (except for maybe Buddhism).  For many skeptics, the “god” is the single most important identifying factor, and therefore, it is “religion” — regardless of the details – that matters when the subject comes up.  This means there are at least two important distinctions to this discussion that skeptics fail to make.

The first is the differences in the details of the religions.  Since I like analogies, I’ll offer one.  Poisons and medications both come in tablet form.  If these three tablets are defined only by their relatively similar shape and size, they do appear to all be alike.  But would it be reasonable to say poison and medicine is pretty much the same?  Obviously not.  Their differences are  more important than their single unifying feature.

In fact, it would be silly to blame Tic Tacs or Excedrine if people started dropping dead of cyanide or arsenic poisoning.  To be sure, even skeptics would see such an equivocation as nonsensical.  But for some reason, it seems perfectly rational to some to lump all religion together because they all come in “God” form.  Post-September 11th, some skeptics started blaming tablets rather than cyanide.

The second problem, is the lack of differentiating between actions done in the name of an ideology, and actions done by a person who happens to hold a particular ideology.  This might not seem to be a big deal, but the difference is important.

Teachers are expected to educate the children in their charge.  However, some teachers have abused their authority and engaged themselves in inappropriate sexual relationships with their students.  This is an abuse of the role of teacher.  They become a teacher who abuses students.  However, the majority of teachers are wonderful educators who have nothing but the best of intentions for their profession.

Again I ask: Does it make sense to blame the occupation of teacher because of those who abuse their authority?  Or do we rightfully blame the particular teachers who abuse their power, acting outside the capacity of their official duties?  This is one of the more important and precise distinctions.

There is one religion in particular, that by prescription — and in context – advocates violence.  In this case, the adherents who perpetrate violence in the name of their religion are acting in accord to its teaching.  Other religion’s adherents who perpetrate violence, however, are acting outside the dictates and — though are members of the religion — are violent not in the name of their religion.

It’s my opinion, that these equivocations are made by skeptics in order to afford them — in their own mind — the intellectual satisfaction of their skepticism.  If all religions can be reduced to tablet form, it’s much easier to fight against (i.e., “tablets are dangerous”).  Getting in the lab and breaking down the tablets to examine and assess the ingredients takes a lot more effort.


  1. And yet when any adherent is led to an examination of their particular religion, they cry about being misunderstood or their holy texts being taken out of context. Adherents do a great job of being skeptical of every other religion out there, but fail to be skeptical at all about their own. Strange how that works.

    • Did you ever stop to think that you might be misunderstanding and taking things out of context?

      I’m skeptical of all of it. I concluded what I did about them and thus became a Christian.

      Are you ever skeptical of “science”? Ever skeptical of “evolution”?

      • Your answer sounds quite defensive, John.

        Yes, I stop to think about that. I also listen to different sides to try to understand different perspectives on what they think the proper context might be. I often find little merit to many of these arguments.

        How exactly can you say “I’m skeptical of all of it” and still say you conclude that Christianity is true? That’s like saying “I’m skeptical about climate change, but I’m absolutely certain that it’s true.”

        As for science (and what some people like to consider science), yes, I’m sometimes skeptical of it. Regarding evolution, I believe that there is enough conclusive evidence to support it. Extinction, adaptation and change over time seem to be quite obvious. I find the vast majority of people who do not accept evolution do so because of religious beliefs or a simple lack of education.

        • I don’t accept descent with modification as an explanation of biodiversity because of the science, not my religion. I reject other religious systems because I conclude they can’t be true, not merely because I fancy Christianity. You aren’t as charitable toward others and why they hold their views as you do for yourself. Have you thought about that?

  2. Easy retort here, John – it’s the same as your reply towards criticism of your religion.

    You just don’t understand the science correctly.

    You reject other religious systems, but followers of those religions would say that you’re not understanding them correctly and taking their holy texts out of context.

    Then you accuse me of not being “as charitable towards others”. I doubt you would say that if I had reached the same conclusions as you.

    I’m curious to know exactly where your conclusions part ways with actual science. Is it the fossil record, the DNA, the age of the earth? What “science” has you reaching the conclusion that evolution isn’t true?

    • Oh that tired excuse? J/K. I understand the science. I just don’t make the same conclusion. For example, the science says we are justified in extrapolating major bio changes based on observed microscopic changes. I don’t think that’s legit.

      • It sounds like you’re trying to differentiate between macro and micro evolution like they’re two different processes, but that’s just not the case. Macroevolution is merely the result of a lot of microevolution over a long period of time.

        Does it make you uncomfortable to think that we are merely part of the animal kingdom? (I suppose it does take away from the “specialness” supplied by your religious teachings.)

        It would be interesting to sit down with you and find the precise point where you accept and do not accept the science.

        • ‘Macro is merely the result of micro over time’ is exactly the extrapolating I reject. This is not observed and assumed.

        • Z

          Take some time and compile a list of questions for me to answer about what I do and don’t accept and I’ll answer what and why for you. Sounds like it would be good reading.

  3. Fair enough – how’s this:

    1. At the heart of evolutionary theory is the basic idea that life has existed for billions of years and has changed over time. How old do you believe the earth to be?

    2. Do you think that evolution is a random process?

    3. Would you agree that we have the ability to accurately determine the age of fossil records?

    4. Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine molecular similarities and differences among organisms?

    5. Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine homologies (similar characteristics due to relatedness) among organisms? (For example, the forelimbs of tetrapods)

    6. Would you agree that we have discovered numerous transitional fossils that exhibit primitive traits in comparison with more derived organisms to which it is related?

    7. If small changes can occur over a relatively short period of time, then would it not be logically consistent that small changes adding up over extremely long periods of time would result in very large changes? If no, why not?

  4. Side note:
    I realize that this is quite a departure from the initial post. Please feel free to create a new post with a more appropriate title to generate traffic.

    • I’ll probably make a new post. Give me a little time to adequately address the issues. If I take more than 3 or 4 days remind me in case I forgot, I have a horrible memory about things like this.

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