“We all worship the same god”

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The title is a trope that we often hear from liberal religionists, especially Sophisticated Theologians™ who are bothered by criticisms that if religion does find truth, why are there so many religions with different “truths”?

To compare the notions that all religions are the same, reader Shuggy has created this handy graphic; as he says, “it illustrates how monotheists all worship the One True God, just with different names”.

Click to enlarge (resolution is better in the enlarged version). You’ll want to save this as a handy reference, for though it’s hilarious, it’s also true:

Apropos, here’s a quote from Bertrand Russell:

For four and a half months in 1918 I was in prison for pacifist propaganda; but, by the intervention of Arthur Balfour, I was placed in the first division, so that while in prison I was able to read and write as much as I liked, provided I did no pacifist propaganda. I found prison in many ways quite agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, “Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy”, and began the work for “Analysis of Mind”. I was rather interested in my fellow prisoners, who seemed to me in no way morally inferior to the rest of the population, though they were on the whole slightly below the usual level of intelligence, as was shown by their having been caught. For anybody not in the first division, especially for a person accustomed to reading and writing, prison is a severe and terrible punishment; but for me, thanks to Arthur Balfour, this was not so. I was much cheered on my arrival by the warder at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied ‘agnostic.’ He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: ‘Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.’ This remark kept me cheerful for about a week.    (Portraits from Memory, 1956, p. 30)

41 Comments

  1. Sigmund
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    That is funny, although I would point out that divorce is allowable for some (rich!) Catholics. They just call it a different name: annulment.

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Pay $300.00, take the MMPI, and pass GO.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      I was once a witness for a RC annulment. It was a solemn farce. They had been married for well over 10 years with two children, but they were granted the annulment because he had spent his late adolescence in a monastery then come out (ordinary sense – the priest asked me if he had any homosexual tendencies and I resisted the temptation to answer “Oh I wish!”) and married his childhood sweetheart, and he was deemed to have been unready for marriage.

  2. Sines
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    If by ‘the same god’ you mean the non-existent god… then yes. Nobody worships any god, for there are no gods to worship.

    Also, apparently, I may have the catholic church to thank for my intact genitals. So, that’s ‘unambiguous good the church has done’ 1, ‘pointless crimes against human’ 5.42×10^8.

  3. Posted September 11, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I am not going to type the odious abbreviation, but just the same I was Laughing Out Loud.

    The Muslims have the most twisted system: if your nation is captured by their armies, you don’t have to become a Muslim, but instead are placed in “dhimmitude” and have to pay extra taxes; you cannot be killed for apostasy. However, if you convert, you are no longer subject to dhimmi, but if you “change your mind” later? DEATH.

    • matunos
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      On the bright side, dhimmis cannot be compelled to join the military.

      The theory behind the extra taxes (jizya) are that Muslims are relguously required to pay a form of tithe to charity (zakat). I guess that wouldn’t account for whatever tithing or donating dhimmis might have to give to their own church (atheists are still to be executed).

  4. Dale
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Great Shuggy! I’d like to see some other religions like Mormonism.

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      But please, don’t make it a category of Xtian, because it ain’t (according to Catholic priests and many Protestant ministers)..

      • Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        No problem: you note that I don’t have “Christian” as a category.

        Trouble is that if I go into all the subdivisions of Protestantism the chart will become infinitely wide.

        • Newish Gnu
          Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          “infinitely wide”

          Just like god! Infinitely elastic, kind, cruel, etc. etc. etc.

  5. TJR
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Excellent, I look forward to the expansion kit.

    Mind you, the entries for Church of England will nearly all be “Whatever”.

  6. Nikos Apostolakis
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Ha! this made my day. I also look forward for the expansion especially if it includes Orhodox Christianity.

  7. matunos
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    If “apocrypha” refers to the books sometimes found in a separate section of the Bible (often between the Old and New Testamets), then I believe the chart is incorrect: the Catholic and Orthodox accept these as canon (deuterocanonocal, technically, though I have no idea what the distinction is), whereas most Protestant denominations do not, although some may accept them as texts worth reading.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. I will bear that in mind in the update. It’s one of the things I threw in without being quite sure.

  8. Journalmalist
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    It’s not really true that foreskin-ectomy is “officially forbidden” by the Catholic Church. It’s actually neutral on the subject. A 15th century Church decree had “denounced” the practice, but specifically in the case of ass-clowns who thought a trimmed willy was enough to skate through salvation without all the other attendant Church yip-yap.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Gal 5:2 “… if you become circumcised, Christ is of no value to you.”
      Benedict XIV (1740-58)
      “…the amputation of any part of the human body is never legal, except when the entire body cannot be saved from destruction by any other method.”
      Pius XII
      “From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be countered in any other way”
      the Catechism:
      “Item 2297: Respect for bodily integrity … Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.”
      Benedict XVI
      “…the Apostles with the Elders decided to discontinue the practice of circumcision so that it was no longer a feature of the Christian identity. It was only in this way that, in the end, they officially made possible the Church of the Gentiles, a Church without circumcision”

      Or is it not “amputation” if it doesn’t have a bone in it? The earlobe?

  9. Greg G.
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I was rather interested in my fellow prisoners, who seemed to me in no way morally inferior to the rest of the population

    That reminds me of the Robert Mitchum quote about his 60 days in prison for possession of marijuana:

    It’s just like Palm Springs without the riffraff.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 12, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      I cracked up over the clause that followed –

      “though they were on the whole slightly below the usual level of intelligence, as was shown by their having been caught.”

  10. Neil Schipper
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Kudos to Shuggy for this effort.

    I, an unfortunate slacker by comparison, have fantasized about something in a similar vein: a project called The Great Abrahamic Reconciliation.

    An organization — perhaps an atheist one, perhaps not — would prepare a full-featured comparative Abrahamic denomination spreadsheet. It would contain more columns (3 major branches of Ju’m; 3 or 4 major Is’ms; 4 or 8 major X’ies). It would be carefully vetted by people with appropriate expertise.

    Points of difference would be rendered with plain bloodless description, and zero snark or condescension.

    The organization would announce publicly that they are launching a multi-year, perhaps multi-decadal, project: The Great Abrahamic Reconciliation.

    Each year, authorized representatives from each religious group in the sheet would be invited to a conference whose stated goal was the ironing out of inconsistencies across denominations (probably hierarchically, that is, initially focusing on “issues” between more closely spaced denominations). A respectful itinerary of closed-door negotiations would be proposed.

    A conference room would be rented, and at the head would be a long table with each place identified as reserved for an invited denomination.

    This would occur every year. The press would be invited to report on who attended and where progress was being made.

    It would of course be wise for the program planners to have a “plan B”, a program of events to engage guests if it so happened that there was an insufficient number of denominational representatives present to proceed with negotiations.

    Perhaps certain prominent atheists would commit to converting to a fully reconciled Abrahamism should it emerge in their lifetime (or at least to try it out for say a year).

    • eric
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Perhaps certain prominent atheists would commit to converting to a fully reconciled Abrahamism should it emerge in their lifetime (or at least to try it out for say a year).

      Most tried it for 16-18 years already. I imagine the argument ’19th time’s the charm’ does not get a lot of traction.

      • Neil Schipper
        Posted September 11, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        a unified abrahamism has not existed for some 3500 years

        and you’re missing the larger point (or feigning to)

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      “We spend most of our lives in Plan B.”

      I have no idea from whom I first picked up this idea — I know it wasn’t mine — but it is one of the most trenchant notions I’ve ever encountered.

  11. Kevin
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It forgot the bacon cheeseburger row.

    Judaism – No
    Islam – No
    Catholicism – Not on Fridays during Lent (ish)
    Protestant – Yummy (with exceptions)

    I’ve said before that I’ll convert just as soon as every religion all around the world decides on the preferred status of the bacon cheeseburger.

    Hinduism – no.
    Buddhism – no.
    7th Day Adventists – no.

    And on and on.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      What makes that really funny is that the delicious bacon cheeseburger (can haz cheddar?) is one of the more popular burgers, in the USA anyway. It is almost always one of the specific choices on the menu of any place that serves burgers.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. A definite yes for the next version.

    • Peter
      Posted September 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Several Budhism lineages are not as radical, you can eat anything.

    • Posted September 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      “It forgot the bacon cheeseburger row.” Delicious ambiguity there. I thought you meant how they fight (/rau/)about it, but when someone on Atheist Nexus rephrased it I realise you just mean they’re in line across (/r@u/).

  12. Stephen P
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Plenty of room for subdivisions of the Protestant column. e.g. Is television OK?
    (a) Yes.
    (b) No.
    (c) Yes, except on Sunday.
    (d) Yes, except for non-religious programmes on Sunday.
    (e) No. And no, I’m not going to tell you what’s in that locked cabinet.

    And that’s just within the Netherlands.

  13. Sastra
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    When I hear a version of “we all worship the same God” (also known as “religions are simply different paths to the same Truth”) the ecumenicist seldom confines themselves to the Abrahamic religions. No, it seems that Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca, Animism, paganism, neo-paganism, New Age, etc. etc. are more or less equivalent, with only minor distinctions which are personal and cultural. They’re spiritualities and God/Spirit doesn’t care which one you choose to express yourself with or seek Him/Her/It through. It’s all good.

    This usually comes from someone with a strong desire to be (or present themselves as) incredibly open-minded and accepting, large in thought and above the common fray: they see further than most and can grasp the Big Picture. They also seem to have a pretty big need to avoid conflict.

    As an atheist, I’m in a good position to note that all these religions and spiritualities DO have something significant in common: the contemptuous dismissal of atheism. Along with an enchanted view of a moral universe and a subjective method of validation. If you’re going to bind all forms of supernaturalism together into one great big mystical magical lovefest, then guess who is left cold and alone in the reductionist materialist naturalist hinterland? If all faiths are right, right, right … then atheists are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    When I point this out, I’m sometimes told that as long as I don’t think any religion is wrong — or at least refuse to say it — then even I can participate in my own spiritual path to God (though I don’t know or recognize it now, this may be the way I come to the realization.) Atheism — faitheism — can be considered true too — but only if atheists think it’s just peachy to be said to be worshiping God in their own way, okay? Peace, love, and harmony?

    No.

    Curiosity, clarity, and consistency not only kill faith, they knock this attempt to circle the wagons back into pandemonium.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      As an atheist, I’m in a good position to note that all these religions and spiritualities DO have something significant in common: the contemptuous dismissal of atheism.

      Even that isn’t something all the faiths you listed have in common: the original Buddhist writings (which I believe are considered more important by the older but smaller Theravada sect) portray Buddha as not being interested in the question of the existence of a god; the original Jain writings declare Mahavira, the founder of Jainism to be an atheist; and there are atheistic versions of even the more conservative versions of Hinduism.

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m not even sure all branches of Christianity worship the same Jesus. I don’t even think the four Gospels are portraying the same Jesus.

    The best-known attempt to resolve this (as I have posted here before) is the Buddhist parable of the three blind men feeling the elephant- but it won’t wash really. That only works if religions keep God mysteriously non-specific, not if they insist in conflicted ways on unmarried priests, monogamy, etc, and claim this to be not merely interpretation, but the well-defined will of God.

  15. MaryL
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    The Catholic Church does allow divorce, but it’s very rare. I learned this in my Catholic HS. The spouse of a convicted murderer can obtain a divorce. I think there are 1 or 2 other reasons that the church will also consider as grounds. I remember the class being shocked that divorce was possile but we had to believe the priest teaching that class.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t Jesus reportedly allow divorce for “immorality”?

      “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery,” (Matt. 19:9)

      I think the exception is widely believed to have been interpolated, but it’s wonderfully vague.

      • jon0001
        Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Does “immorality” include men in dresses sticking their dicks up little boys arses? I only ask in the interests of clarification because I’d have thought, if it did, the punishment would be somehow more severe than being moved for a change of scenery and a new supply of little boys.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      For the sake of precision, the action called “divorce” isn’t actually divorce in this case. Divorce is a legal/civil matter that has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The so-called “Catholic divorce” is actually an annulment of the marriage. (And it can only be granted by the local bishop, I think, usually when the marriage “was not consumed” and/or the commitment wasn’t sincere.)

      This small detail leads, among other things, to the situation where legally divorced Catholics are considered by the RCC to be still married to their first spouse (the one they married in front of a Catholic priest, that is). A situation pretty common in Europe, I’d add…

  16. Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    If anyone’s interested, I’ve updated the list by adding the *other* major branch of Christianity, the Eastern/Greek Church (or Orthodox Church, as they call themselves).

    The biggest *real* difference between it and the Catholic church is probably that priests MUST marry. For the rest, mostly trivial stuff like ritual, prayers, a few chapters less in the Bible (!), religious imagery (highly ritualized and regulated, Byzantine style, no statues allowed), etc.

    Here’s the image: http://i.imgur.com/P7cLy.png

    • Erp
      Posted September 12, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      Actually not true. In the Orthodox Church priests may be married before ordination but cannot marry after ordination. Men can become priests while unmarried but I suspect are likely to also be members of a monastic order (monks must be unmarried). Also only unmarried priests (never married or widowed) can become bishops.

      On Jews and priests, there is a major difference between priests and rabbis. Priests (kohan) are male line descendants of Aaron (supposedly) and are it by birth. Since there is no Temple they don’t have much of a role in modern Jewish life; they do face various extra restrictions under Jewish law (e.g., who they can marry). Rabbis are those trained in Jewish law.

      • Posted September 12, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Re: the Orthodox priests.

        I didn’t get into details. Yes, what you say there is true. I was thinking of “ordinary” priests, who must be married before they are assigned a parish. (Not sure whether this is “merely” a custom or it’s more deeply anchored in some church rules… and not interested enough to look it up, to be honest. The point is, I’ve grown up in a country that has 1 orthodox church for every 1,000 inhabitants, and not once have I even heard of a priest who wasn’t married before he got his parish; and plenty of times that they must get a married before being assigned one.)

        The rules change for “less ordinary” priests and others in church’s hierarchy. You can have ordained and non-ordained ecclesiastics, and some of them can marry while others don’t. And for those who can, various restrictions apply to them and their wives (none may marry a divorced woman, some may marry a widow while others may not etc.), to the point that bishops, for example, may not be married in the sense, I think, of “may never have been married”. (Again, I’m not all that interested in all the nuances… and there are several chapters in the canon law codes dedicated to this subject.)

  17. Harbo
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Ecumenicals just shit me……
    Its ok to believe in another god thing?
    So I really don’t believe in my god thing, a bit, to accommodate your god thing, a bit….

    Even fundamentalists have better intellectual honesty than that!

  18. Posted September 13, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    So the tree that the green people worship will prepare one for eternity?
    Another ignant discussion

  19. Posted September 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I went to Wikipedia to find the branches and heresies of Mormonism, and ZOMG! It’s got just about as many branches and heresies as the rest of Protestantism put together! And some of them are zonkers!

    Is there some biological principle involved, concerning rapid speciation? What makes for stability or instability in religious groups? Someone must have studied this.


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