It's easy to characterize religion as a blood - thirsty enterprise. History seems to be strewn with the wreckage of witch hunts, crusades, and religious jihad. If God does exist, a caller to my radio show offered, He ought to be tried for crimes against humanity.
The recent terrorist attacks have added a new twist: Our battle is not against terrorism per se, but against any religion that claims to be true. Thomas Friedman writing in the New York Times called it "religious totalitarianism."
Friedman’s solution: pluralism, the idea that "God speaks multiple languages." No one faith is exclusively true. Instead, all faiths are legitimate paths to God and anyone who claims otherwise is the enemy. Friedman’s call to arms, however, is misguided for three reasons.
First, it’s self-defeating. The issue is not God’s linguistic ability, but whether anything particular is true about God and whether God has made any specific demands on us regarding conduct, worship, or salvation. Do the details matter to God?
Friedman says no; God is a pluralist. He fails to recognize that this is a narrow, exclusivist (excluding non-pluralists), religious claim that he thinks is true. Not only is he dogmatic about this doctrine of God, he’s also militant. Those who disagree should be silenced. Friedman counters what he mistakenly perceives to be "religious totalitarianism"(in fact, most exclusivist religions are not militant) with the genuine article. His view commits suicide.
Second, Friedman misdiagnoses the problem, which he thinks is religious dogma. Of necessity, though, everyone (including Friedman) is dogmatic about issues of truth. It can’t be otherwise. Any claim is either true or false. If true, then those that contradict are wrong by simple force of logic.
The problem is not religious dogmatics, but religious error. The problem with Muslim terrorists is not fundamentalism, but that their fundamental beliefs are simply false. Ironically, Friedman’s pluralism prevents him from asking the only question that really matters: What religion is true?
Finally, it’s just erroneous that religion has been responsible for more carnage than anything else in history. The challenge has two parts. An allegedly factual observation about history is then taken as an inherent criticism of religion in general and Christianity in particular.
This is misguided. First, the crimes themselves have been exaggerated. Second, the greatest evil in the world actually comes from those who deny God’s existence. Third, Christianity cannot be held responsible when people do un-Christian things. Finally, Christianity’s real record of goodness is without peer in world history.
Gregory Koukl is founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization devoted to a thoughtful and engaging defense of classical Christianity in the public square. He is also a radio talk show host and author of Relativism—Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.
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