I am absolutely against any religion that says that one faith is superior to another. I don't see how that is anything different than spiritual racism. It's c way of saying that we are closer to God than you and that's what leads to hatred.
Moses could mediate on the law; Muhammad could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world Christ alone is worthy of unlimited devotion and service.
Walter Chaplinsky had strong opinions about religion and wasn't shy about expressing them. In 1940 he caused a ruckus in Rochester, New Hampshire, by loudly denouncing organized religion as being "a racket" and condemning several Christian denominations by name. The result: he found himself arrested and convicted under a state law making it a crime to speak "any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any person who is lawfully in any street or other public place."
Believing that his free-speech rights were being violated, Chaplinsky appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. However, in 1942 the justices unanimously affirmed his conviction, saying that "fighting words" like the ones he shouted fall outside the protection of the First Amendment.3 Thirty years later, the high court clarified its definition of "fighting words" by calling them "personally abusive epithets" that are "inherently likely to provoke violent action." 4
"Fighting words" arouse a visceral response in people, making their guts chum and their hands ball into fists. This offensive language strikes deep inside by attacking their most cherished beliefs, virtually taunting them to lash out in retaliation. To some people, such are the outrageous words of Jesus Christ: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."5
Many people consider it arrogant, narrow-minded, and bigoted for Christians to contend that the only path to God must go through Jesus of Nazareth. In a day of religious pluralism and tolerance, this exclusivity claim is politically incorrect, a verbal slap in the face of other belief systems. Pluralist Rosemary Radford Ruether labeled it "absurd religious chauvinism,"6 while one Jewish rabbi called it a "spiritual dictatorship" that fosters the kind of smug and superior attitude that can lead to hatred and violence toward people who believe differently.7
Certainly an approach like the one expressed by Indian philosopher Swami Vivekenanda is much more acceptable today: "We [Hindus] accept all religions to be true," he told the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. The real sin, he said, is to call someone else a sinner.8
That kind of open-mindedness and liberality fits well with our current culture of relativism, where no "fact" is considered universally true at all times, at all places, for all people, and in all cultures. Indeed, fully two-thirds of Americans now deny there's any such thing as truth.9
When I was an atheist, I bristled at assertions by Christians that they held a monopoly on the only correct approach to religion. "Who do they think they are?" I'd grouse. "Who are they to judge everyone else? Where's the love of Jesus in that?"
Charles Templeton called it "insufferable presumption"io for the Bible to claim that besides Jesus there is "no other name under heaven ... by which we must be saved."ii Templeton added:
Christians are a small minority in the world. Approximately four out of every five people on the face of the earth believe in gods other than the Christian God. The more than five billion people who live on earth revere or worship more than three hundred gods. If one includes the animist or tribal religions, the number rises to more than three thousand. Are we to believe that only Christians are right?i2
Despite Templeton's woeful undercounting of the number of gods worshiped in the world, his point remains. The exclusivity claim of Jesus is among the biggest obstacles to spiritual seekers today. With a subject this volatile, I knew I needed to talk with an expert who has a crisp, analytical mind, a sound philosophical background, and extensive experience with a wide range of different world religions. Those criteria led me to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and the office of Ravi Zacharias, who was born and raised in India.
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