All religions share a single message

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"All religions share a single message" is a common "liberal" response to the problem of multiple conflicting religions. The people who push this line are generally trying to encourage religious tolerance by marginalizing differences between religions and at the same time trying to promote communal faith. It would be startling if every religion ever invented had come up with the same principles of faith, wouldn't it? It might even get a few atheists thinking differently about this "revelation" thing.

"In essence, the moral code preached by all religions is identical. The only difference is in terminology. All religions teach virtues such as nonviolence, truth, chastity and non-possessiveness. No religion says that passions like anger, pride, deception and greed are good. Thus there is no need for the followers of one religion to adopt the moral rules of any other religion. [1]"

"Belief in one God is the cornerstone of all religions. But I do not foresee a time when there would be only one religion on earth in practice. In theory, since there is one God, there can be only one religion."

Mahatma Gandhi[2]

"Though we may find differences in philosophical views and rites, the essential message of all religions is very much the same. They all advocate love, compassion, and forgiveness. And even those who do not believe in religion can appreciate the virtues of basic human values."

— The Dalai Lama[3]
"[...] we as Muslims believe that Islam is the last divine religion and all the divine religions were sent from God and the fundamental teachings of all of them are the same [...][4]"

The opposing view is that only a single religion is valid. It is also arguable that Christians disagree over everything, which makes sharing of a single message impossible.

Counter arguments

However, this position is contradicted by a mountain of evidence.

"[We] never allow passage to the claim that the many faiths are all the same at bottom. The faithful hope that repetition of the claim will make it seem true. In response we should endlessly iterate the obvious, that the religions are mutually exclusive, mutually blaspheming, mutually hostile, bitterly and deeply divisive, and thus a rash of open sores in the flesh of humanity."

A. C. Grayling [5]
"They can obviously agree on how to deal with certain social and moral issues, but they are poles apart on the most important matters, and most of all on the nature of God himself.[6]"

Religions have disagreed about:

  • Whether there are any gods
  • How many gods there are
  • Whether these gods are human-like (physically, mentally, emotionally)
  • What these gods desire from human beings (if anything)
  • Most other qualities of a god or gods
  • Whether there is an afterlife, and what it's like
  • Whether reincarnation happens, and how it works
  • The importance of sacrifices
  • The importance of sin
  • The importance of connecting or unifying oneself with a "higher power"
  • The existence of witches, magic, or miracles
  • When (if ever) murder is justified
  • When (if ever) other types of violence are justified
  • Whether or not slavery is morally acceptable
  • Whether or not other religions are morally acceptable
  • When (if ever) religious/cultural outsiders should be treated equally to believers
  • Whether or not polygamy is morally acceptable
  • Every facet of the treatment of women
  • The treatment of gay and lesbian people
  • The treatment of transsexual and intersex people (and whether or not they have magical powers)
  • Whether or not drug use is sinful
  • Whether or not drug use is an integral part of worship
  • Whether or not sex is inherently sinful
  • Whether or not sex is an integral part of worship (and when)
  • How trustworthy prophets are
  • The importance of faith
  • The value of meditation (and what kind)
  • The value of prayer (and what kind)
  • Whether thoughts alone can be sinful
  • Whether blasphemy is sinful
  • Whether or not disease is sinful (one form of ritual uncleanness)

Beside the many disagreements between religions, the apparent "agreement" between religions is often unconvincing. Some agreements are meaningless because they are vague, culturally universal, and have nothing to do with religion (like "be nice to other people"). Others are not really shared between all religions. For example, a spiritual connection to the universe/God, even though it is a very vague "quality" for a religion to have, is not even universal. Many variants of animism don't even have any particular overarching concept to connect to in the first place, but rather are more interested in limited, "everyday" sorts of gods.


  1. Duli Chandra Jain, Answers To Some Frequently Asked Questions, 2004
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. A. C. Grayling, The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times, 2015
  6. John Blanchard, Why believe the Bible?, 2004

See Also

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