Argument from uniqueness

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Many monotheistic religions claim they are exclusively correct and all other religions are false. There are thousands of religions in the world and many more that are extinct, which implies that all religions are human inventions. For a religion to claim exclusive truth, apologists attempt to establish that their religion is uniquely true and distinct from the other "false" religions.

"Have you ever considered the fact that Christianity is the only religion whose leader is said to have risen from the dead? [1]"
"Look throughout the major world religions and you'll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others.[2]"
"As a Muslim, I found some special characteristics in Islam that is not in any other religion [...][3]"

An extension to this argument is to claim the unique characteristics of a religion are proof of God's existence. All other religions are considered to have the characteristics of human invention. The argument is often stated as follows:

"God is perfect. Men and women are imperfect. As a result mankind can only create imperfect religions. That means that all man-created religions are imperfect and have common characteristics. This makes the one religion created by God unique, because it has characteristics only God could give it.[4]"
"If you compare Islam to other religions than you will find out that no other religion is free of contradictions and errors.[5]"

In other cases, the argument is left as subtext:

"A scholar who pondered about this verse [Surah 4:1 Bible-icon.png] states: 'It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that deals with the humanity of the woman from all aspects with such amazing brevity, eloquence, depth, and originality as this divine decree.' [6]"

The specific details that are unique are usually doctrinal statements and miracle testimony. The argument is related to the deductive argument from design because the characteristics of a religion are used to infer a God and all other possible sources are ruled out.

Contents

Formal Arguement

  1. A religion R makes certain unique claims.
  2. A perfect God would create a religion that makes these claims.
  3. No other religion makes these claims.
  4. There is no other way a religion could make these claims except if it was directed by God.
  5. Therefore, religion R is true and all other religions are false.

Examples

Theology

"[Regarding the Trinity,] If you are looking for something super-personal, something more than a person, then it is not a question of choosing between the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only one on the market."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
"Origin, morality, meaning and destiny: the Judeo-Christian worldview is not the only one that claims exclusivity but it is the only one that takes those four questions and [provides] truthful and coherent answers that stand the test of time.[7]"
"Lots of religions recommend to do good actions or something like that, but they don’t explain it how? Islam is a complete code of life and there is recommendations and programs for every aspects of humans' lives.[3]"
"The only world religions which include faith in one supreme God who created all things are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.[8]"

Denominations

The Jehovah's Witnesses are rather fond of the argument from uniqueness. [9]

"Of all the religious groups on earth, which one meets all these requirements? The facts clearly show that it is Jehovah's Witnesses[9]"

Counter arguments

Uniqueness does not automatically imply truth

The argument assumes no other religion could be like one designed by God. This is an unsupported assertion and establishing it would depend on prior knowledge of God, which would make the argument beg the question. It is possible God created a religion that is very similar in character to pre-existing religions.

Also, uniqueness may arise from other processes. Of itself, uniqueness does not imply truth or perfection.

Many religions claim uniqueness

Many religions claim different sets of unique characteristics and there is no clear advantage of any particular claims of uniqueness.

Overstated uniqueness

Some religions claim to be unique on particular grounds, such as Jesus being resurrected. However, this claim is not actually unique to Christianity. The gods Dionysus, Odin, and several others also are said to have returned from the dead. [10] Virgin births, flood myths, claiming to be the son of god, performing miracles, prophets appearing in visions and ascending to heaven are also common to many religions.

Many supposedly unique features of a religion are often adapted from earlier religions. The themes and mythology of Christianity was based on Jewish, Egyptian and Green myths. [11] Christian theology largely originates from Aristotle and other Greek philosophers, via St. Augustine. [12] The Abrahamic religions were influenced by Zoroastrianism: [13]

"Zoroaster was thus the first to teach the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence [...]"

Islam was based on earlier Abrahamic religions as well as Arabic paganism. Prayer five times a day toward Mecca, pilgrimage, the Ṭawāf ritual of circumambulation, lunar symbols and worship at the Kaaba are all pre-Islamic pagan practices. [14][15]

Uniqueness of holy books

Some religions claim their holy book, such as the Qur'an, is unique, which is supposedly evidence of its divinity.

"Muslims have something that offers the clearest proof of all - The Holy Quran. There is no other book like it anywhere on earth. [16]"

"And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto"

Surah 2:23 Bible-icon.png

However, the Qur'an is not particularly special in any literary, scientific, political or poetic sense. [17] Also, uniqueness does not necessarily imply divinity.

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 [3]
  4. Mission To America, How do we know Christianity is the one true way?, retrieved 3rd Apr 2014 [4]
  5. [https://islam.stackexchange.com/a/24543
  6. [5]
  7. [6]
  8. [https://www.icr.org/article/555/
  9. 9.0 9.1 [7]
  10. [8]
  11. [9]
  12. Wikipedia, "Aristotle, Influence on Western Christian theologians" [10]
  13. Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians, pg 29
  14. Vin Chauhun, The Pagan Roots of Islamic Worship [11]
  15. WikiIslam, Pagan Origins of Islam [12]
  16. [13]
  17. [14]

External Links


v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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