WE LIVE in a world of staggering religious diversity. One recent survey identified 19 major faiths and some 10,000 smaller religions worldwide. This variety offers people unprecedented religious choice. So does it matter which religion you choose?
Some people say that different religions are like different roads leading up a mountain. To them, it does not matter which road they choose, since all roads lead to the same place. They reason that there is only one Almighty God, so all religions must ultimately lead to him.
Do All Roads Lead to God?
What did Jesus Christ, one of the most respected religious teachers in history, say on this subject? “Enter through the narrow gate,” he told his disciples. Why? “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”—Matthew 7:13, 14, The Holy Bible—New International Version.
Was Jesus really saying that some religions lead “to destruction”? Or was he teaching that only unbelievers are on the broad road, whereas those who believe in God—no matter what their religion—are on the narrow road that leads to life?
Immediately after stating that there are only two roads, Jesus said: “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, New Century Version) Later he said: “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.” (Matthew 7:21, Today’s English Version) If someone is called a prophet or claims that Jesus is his “Lord,” it is reasonable to say that he is a religious person, not an unbeliever. Clearly, then, Jesus was warning that not all religions are good and not all religious teachers should be trusted.
Is It Possible to Identify the Narrow Road?
Since not all roads lead to God, how can you find among the thousands of options the narrow road that leads to life? Consider this illustration: Imagine that you are lost in a big city. You decide to ask for help. One person confidently tells you to go east. Another urges you to head west. Yet another suggests that you choose whatever direction feels best to you. Finally, a fellow traveler takes out a reliable map and shows you the correct route. He then gives you the map so that you can refer to it along the way. Would you not feel more confident of reaching your destination?
So, too, when it comes to choosing the right religious road, we need a reliable spiritual road map. Does one exist? Yes, it does. That map is the Bible, which declares: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3:16, King James Version.
You likely have available in your language a translation of the Bible that you can use as a spiritual road map. The publishers of this journal, Jehovah’s Witnesses, produce a reliable Bible translation known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. However, if you are not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may prefer to use other translations when considering the subject of identifying good and bad religion. Therefore, this series of articles quotes from a number of Bible translations that are widely respected by other religious denominations.
As you read the following articles, compare what you know with what the Bible says. Keep in mind Jesus’ words regarding how we can distinguish good religion from bad. He said: “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17, 18, Contemporary English Version) Consider just three of the good fruits that the Bible says would identify the “good tree.”