Do objective truths exist (truths that apply to all people), or is everything relative? Is there an objective way the world really is, or is it all a matter of our perspective, our “narrative”, and each person’s version of the truth is just as valid as everyone else’s?
In this day and age, it’s politically incorrect to say that you know the objective truth, to say that one view is right and another is wrong. People who talk this way are quickly branded as “close-minded”, “intolerant” or worse. Ironically however, to refuse to listen to someone because you think they are being intolerant, is to be intolerant of, and close-minded toward, their viewpoint! You end up being guilty of the very thing you are accusing them of.
Claiming that there is no objective truth, or that everything is relative, runs into a similar problem: can the claim “there are no truths that apply to all people” be true? No, because if true, that statement would apply to all people! It defeats itself. If someone asserts that objective truth can’t be known, how do they know that? If everything is relative, then isn’t the statement that “everything is relative” also relative? Statements like these are self-refuting. They fail to meet their own standard and therefore must be false.
It follows from this that objective truth must exist, and it must be knowable. Truth can not be relative. Some things are true and some things are false, whether we like it or not, regardless of our opinion. Two contradictory claims cannot both be true at the same time in the same sense. For example, God cannot simultaneously exist for one person yet not exist for another. He either exists or He doesn’t, for all people. The universe cannot both have a beginning a finite time ago and be past eternal.
This means that when religions make contradictory truth claims, they may all be wrong, but they can’t possibly all be right. There may be some points they all agree on, but when we say that “they all basically teach the same thing”, or that they all guide people to the same ultimate destination (a view known as “religious pluralism”), we misrepresent their fundamental tenants. When the religious pluralist claims that all religions contain a piece of the truth, he/she arrogantly presumes to know the real truth that all these other religions missed, and claims that non-pluralists are in fact wrong!
So, as uncomfortable as it may seem to our modern sensibilities, it is a myth that “all religions basically teach the same thing”. While we should always respect the rights of others to believe what they want, we are foolish to tacitly accept every religious belief as true.