A common attitude or approach towards different religions is to treat them as all equally true – we can’t prove which one is actually correct, and given that they all try to achieve the same thing, describing one particular religion as having more truth value than another just doesn’t make sense.
This view is known as religious pluralism, and proponents of this belief hold that all religions are true, and equally capable of revealing truths about God and ourselves. This perspective has certainly grown more popular in recent decades given our culture’s emphasis on tolerance and the notion that all beliefs need to be embraced.
However, does it really make sense to say that all religions are true?
If all religions claimed the same message, then this idea seems non-controversial, but in reality, most religions radically contradict one another in substantive ways.
For example, Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God who died for humanity’s sin, whereas Buddhists believe that there is no personal God, and that sin is a mere illusion. This is just one of the endless examples which illustrate that religious truth claims are logically incongruous with one another. This, of course, means that no religions are true, or one is true.
Answering this dilemma means evaluating different religions by exploring their historical veracity, philosophical assumptions, probability, and a whole host of other factors which will allow us to hone in on their plausibility.
Christians believe that Jesus truly was the Son of God and walked on earth, which is recorded in historical documents known as the Gospels, and reinforced by the early church communities that gathered in his name. As a result, other religions which don’t endorse this belief or reject it, are not fully true. There’s no wiggle room with the law of non-contradiction!
This perspective doesn’t, however, mean that there is no the truth to any religion except Catholicism. Catholics believe that the fullness of truth is found within the Church, but there are rays of God’s message in other religions.
The Catechism states: “The Catholic Church recognises in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved.
“Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life” (843).
This teaching doesn’t dilute Catholicism to one religion among many, but emphasises that while it’s fully true, elements of this truth are hidden or found in other beliefs. The Second Vatican Council’s Nostra aetate best sums this up when it reads: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”