"All religions are basically the same. Every religion has something like the golden rule and stresses loving your neighbor. Let's celebrate all spiritual beliefs!"
This is a very, very common way of thinking. People of all stripes and occupations hold to it.
Before we tip our hat to such a notion, though, we should evaluate it. Is it really true?
A moment's reflection will tell you this notion is hopelessly bankrupt. For starters, some religions don't have the golden rule. Others don't stress loving one's neighbor. In fact, goodness isn't even on the radar screen with some religions. Past that, even among the religions that have something like the golden rule, it isn't central. If you analyze the central tenets of the world's major religions, for example, you will see they are worlds apart.
Just start with the different faith's concept of God. Lining up the different characteristics of God should cure you of pluralism. The concepts aren't just different, mind you: many of them are contradictory--they can't both be true. For example, God is either personal (Islam, Judaism, Christianity), or He is impersonal (many forms of Hinduism). Either He is a trinity (Christianity), or not (Islam). The same thing happens when you line up each religion's core doctrine on other things.
If you reflect further, you'll see that these can't all be true! God is either personal or impersonal. He either exists or He doesn't. In no case can God be both personal and impersonal, real and fake. Jesus either is the Messiah or He is not. In no case can He be both the Messiah and not the Messiah. When you die, you either are reincarnated, go to heaven, rot in the ground, or hitch a ride on a comet...but you can't do it all!
Some might counter all this with the thought that "what's true for you might not be true for me." That is, God exists "for me," but not for someone else. Think about this: what does that even mean? Am I to suppose that somehow, God pops into existence "for me," but suddenly pops out of existence when someone else is talking? The only things that act like that are fairytale placebos. If that is what God is like, then at bottom, He really doesn't exist, not that He exists "for" some but "not for" others.
Yet another comeback is that this is an "either/or," overly-western way of thinking, but in the east, many think in "both/and" terms and are thus ok with embracing contradictory beliefs. The notion that God is both personal and impersonal is not strange to the eastern mind at all.
Is this a good response? No. As Ravi Zacharias often notes, even in the streets of Shanghai, they look both ways when crossing the street, because they understand that that it's either them or the bus, not both. Also, when thinking about spirituality, they choose the both/and way of thinking *instead of* the either/or, not both. No matter how you twist things, you can't get away from the either/or at the end of the day. There's a good reason--it is tethered to reality.
Be skeptical of the grand claims of pluralism. Sure, Gatorade and anti-freeze might both be green liquids, but it's the differences that matter when choosing which to drink!
About the Author:
Rich Bordner has been writing on Christianity, apologetics, and philosophy
for over eight years. He has degrees in both English and Philosophy, is currently working on an Master's degree in Philosophy, and is also a high school
teacher. If you have an interest in Christianity, apologetics, and spirituality, or just want to participate in spirited discussion on those topics and more, visit his blog.