Oh, wait, religious questions. All right, then.
Question: "With all of the different religions, how can I know which one is correct?"
Answer: There is no doubt that the number of different religions in the world makes it a challenge to know which one is correct. First, let’s consider some thoughts on the overall subject and then look at how one might approach the topic in a manner that can actually get to a right conclusion about God. The challenge of different answers to a particular issue is not unique to the topic of religion. For example, you can sit 100 math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and it is likely that many will get the answer wrong. But does this mean that a correct answer does not exist? Not at all. Those who get the answer wrong simply need to be shown their error and know the techniques necessary to arrive at the correct answer.
There's one problem with that scenario: the correct math answer has nothing to do with belief. I don't care how sincerely you believe 1 + 1 ≠ 3, hold up one finger, now hold up another and now count the fingers: you have two up. Jesus is god and the rest of you are spending eternity in a pit of fire is a little less . . . um . . . real. Yes, that's the word I'm looking for.
How do we arrive at the truth about God? We use a systematic methodology that is designed to separate truth from error by using various tests for truth, with the end result being a set of right conclusions.
Systematic methodology, huh? In relationship to your imaginary friend? Do continue.
What systematic approach should be used? First, we need to establish a framework for testing various truth claims, and then we need a roadmap to follow to reach a right conclusion. Here is a good framework to use:
1. Logical consistency—the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to each other and not contradict in any way. As an example, the end goal of Buddhism is to rid oneself of all desires. Yet, one must have a desire to rid oneself of all desires, which is a contradictory and illogical principle.
Understanding Buddhism fail. Hey, look, Buddhism is wrong as long as I define Buddhism as something it totally isn't! Guess what else! The sky is not blue because I have redefined "blue" to mean "the color of my skin". I win!
2. Empirical adequacy—is there evidence to support the belief system (whether the evidence is rational, externally evidential, etc.)? Naturally, it is only right to want proof for important claims being made so the assertions can be verified. For example, Mormons teach that Jesus lived in North America. Yet there is absolutely no proof, archaeological or otherwise, to support such a claim.
The pot just called- it wants you to stop throwing kettles through its glass walls.
3. Existential relevancy—the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent. Deism, for example, claims that God just threw the spinning world into the universe and does not interact with those who live on it. How does such a belief impact someone in a day-to-day manner? In short, it does not.
Why? Why must the belief system make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent? I can see no reason why that would be a qualification for truth. My, your or anyone else's reaction to the truth is irrelevant, it's still the truth. I don't care how it makes you feel, the truth is the truth. Anyway, it's not like Christianity changes too many people, if that's the standard you're using.
But how does one go about applying this framework in the pursuit of God? A step-by-step question/answer approach is one of the best tactics to employ. Narrowing the list of possible questions down produces the following:
1. Does absolute truth exist?
2. Do reason and religion mix?
3. Does God exist?
4. Can God be known?
5. Is Jesus God?
6. Does God care about me?
I'd add a question to that list: How do you know any of this? Eventually, you're going to retreat into "because the Bible tells me so" at which point I will proceed to introduce you to the Church of the Heterodyne, as evidenced by Girl Genius. (If you're going to worship something, you may as well worship mad scientists!)
1. The "answer" to this is pure sophistry, but I will say this: it's not so much whether or not absolute truth exists, but whether or not you know it and how you know it. "The Bible" is not helping you out here. There are too many contradictions in the Bible, too many history inaccuracies/impossibilities to be the source of absolute truth.
2. This leads us to the next question of whether reason/logic can be used in matters of religion. Some say this is not possible, but—why not? The truth is, logic is vital when examining spiritual claims because it helps us understand why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. Logic is absolutely critical in dismantling pluralism (which says that all truth claims, even those that oppose each other, are equal and valid).
For example, Islam and Judaism claim that Jesus is not God, whereas Christianity claims He is. One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong. Jesus cannot be both God and not God. Used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “true for you but not for me” mindset.
Clever, but no. I have been seriously stressing over my skin lately (adult acne SUCKS). It looks horrible. This is true to me. Yesterday, the cashier at the Dollar Store asked me what I do to make my skin looks so nice (to be fair, she never sees me without makeup). I was dumbfounded. Clearly, true for me is my skin looks horrible, but simultaneously, true for her is that my skin looks amazing. Belief is like that. Of course, belief isn't truth, either.
3 gets proven with the old "something can't come from nothing therefore goddidit" argument that Ray Comfort has been beating to death for years now. Yawn.
Wait, 3 also includes a pantheistic religion fail.
Now, this conclusion says nothing about what kind of God exists, but amazingly enough, it does do one sweeping thing—it rules out all pantheistic religions. All pantheistic worldviews say that the universe is God and is eternal. And this assertion is false. So, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and all other pantheistic religions are ruled out as valid belief systems.
Nice. You so rarely see someone misunderstanding pantheism on the internet! (Hint: Most religions have a creation myth. If you have a creation myth, you don't believe the universe is without beginning. Asshat.)
4. All archeological evidence confirms the New Testament! The New Testament proves the New Testament! First of all, no, all the archeological evidence does not prove the New Testament, and this argument is asinine in this day and age:
to the multiplicity of the accounts (nine authors in 27 books of the New Testament)
Go to google and type in any made up scenario you think no one on Earth could be interested. No matter how bizarre or obscure, you will find 50 websites devoted exclusively to it, as well as porn specifically for it. (See also: Rule 34) In fact, there's probably a whole line of t-shirts for sale at Cafe Press. Just because lots of people are interested in something, that does not mean it is true, or sane, or the sort of thing one should expose children to. Effectively, most of the New Testament could be nothing more than fanfic. (Seriously, have you ever read Paul? Now there's a Marty Stu if I've ever seen one.)
5. When it comes to Jesus, one finds a very curious thing about Him—He claimed to be God in the flesh. Jesus own words (e.g., “Before Abraham was born I AM”), His actions (e.g., forgiving sins, accepting worship), His sinless and miraculous life (which He used to prove His truth claims over opposing claims), and His resurrection all support His claims to be God. The New Testament writers affirm this fact over and over again in their writings.
Now, if Jesus is God, then what He says must be true. And if Jesus said that the Bible is inerrant and true in everything it says (which He did), this must mean that the Bible is true in what it proclaims.
And if wishes were horses, I'd have been trampled a long time ago.
6. This same Bible proclaims that God cares deeply for mankind and wishes all to know Him intimately. In fact, He cares so much that He became a man to show His creation exactly what He is like.
A douchebag who kills fig trees for not producing figs out of season and backtalks his momma? Hokay. I suppose that's nicer than all the genocide and incest in the Old Testament.
I'll get back to pondering the really important questions in life: Any plan where you lose your hat is?