Eighty-four percent of the world’s population (5.8 billion out of 6.9 billion in 2010) are affiliated to one religion in some form. Seventy-seven percent identify themselves as a member of one of the five widely recognised world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. With over 4,300 religions spanning the Earth, how can people be certain that their religions are ‘right?
If our parents are part of the 77 percent who believe in one of the previously-stated widely recognised world Religions, we most likely did not have an opportunity to independently decide which Religion is “right”. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are all traditionally inherited from a parent or guardian at an extremely young age (Thomas Riggs, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices: Religions and denominations.)
Almost all sects of Christianity follow the practice of infant baptism to enter the child into the faith. Muslim male infants are circumcised; both male and female Muslim infants have their heads shaven and an animal sacrificed for them on the seventh day after their birth. Hindus practice Annaprashana – the first feeding of rice or solid food for an infant by a priest. Buddhists practice Shinbyu – letting their young sons enter the Sangha (association of monks) to immerse themselves in the teachings of Buddha.
Jewish males are circumcised; Jewish children undergo the ritual of Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the ages of 13 and 12 (13 in Reformed Judaism) respectively. At such young ages, do we have the intellectual capacity to investigate and make an informed decision on which religion we think is “right”?
Finally we are adults; we have gotten past the childhood indoctrination. Now it is time for us to investigate each respective religion by determining which one has empirical evidence supporting the faith. A holy piece of text should suffice. Wait one moment – all five of the widespread religions claim to have holy scripture: Christianity has the Bible: Old and New Testaments; Islam has the Qur’an: Hinduism has the Vedas and the Upanishads; Buddhism has the Mahasamghika and the Mulasarvastivada-Vinaya or the Pali Canon, or the Taisho Tripitaka, or the Kangyur depending on which sect one believes in; Judaism has the Tanakh.
All five of the widespread religions claim their scripture has been directly influenced by a supreme being in some way. Upon further inspection, it is evident there are many more differences than similarities between each religious scripture in terms of content. Is it a possibility that the scripture many believe in is not the “right” one?
People of faith must accept the possibility that their religions are not the “right” one by comparing each widespread religion’s scripture with one another. But we may be looking at this issue in the wrong light. Maybe each religion is a piece of a puzzle – treating all the religions as a single entity may help us explore the greater mysteries of the universe. After all, the world we live in is ridiculously complex. The chances of life itself evolving as it did are so infinitesimal that there must be some other logical explanation.
Something as complicated as the human brain (which contains around 86 billion neurons on average) developing from a single fertilised egg is unfathomable (James Randerson).
Billions argue that, in order for something so complicated to exist, a supreme being must have some role in its creation. This leads to an even greater issue: if they believe a supreme being created this complex world, then this supreme being must be even more complicated than this complex world to be able to create it. Who created this supreme being? It must be something more complicated than she/he/it, or else this entire argument collapses.
If someone is affiliated with one religion, he or she cannot be affiliated with any of the others. If we believe in one form of supreme being, we cannot believe in any of the others.
So, one can fairly conclude that a “right” religion cannot possible exist.
• Matthew Faltyn is an 18-year-old student currently residing in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Some of his interests include reading scientific papers in the fields of biophysics and neurology, and engaging in discussions concerning politics and religion.