The world is filled with religions. The number of religions existing today has been estimated to be somewhere in the thousands. Man has been developing religions for thousands of years. Every major religion has splintered into a bewildering variety of sects, denomination and spin-offs. Why are there so many different religions?
A common answer to this question is that all the religions have elements of truth. As man has searched after truth he has discovered little portions of the whole truth. Each religion describes one aspect of truth. By combining the truths of many different religions a person can gain a better understanding of spiritual truth. This idea is itself a religious principle, but not one found in the monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity or Judaism. The belief that all religions contain a portion of truth originates in the Eastern religions but it cannot be true.
Certain religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, claim exclusivity. They claim the truth they uphold is ultimate truth. That which disagrees is in error. Many religions which do not make exclusivistic claims teach things that are incompatible with other religions. Christianity claims God is Trinity. Judaism and Islam claim God is One. Which is it? God cannot be both the Christian Trinity and the Muslim One. Hinduism teaches there are many Gods. Christianity, Islam and Judaism teach there is only one God. Both claims cannot be true. Christianity claims there is only one way to be forgiven of sin and have eternal life. Many other religions claim there are many ways to heaven. All religious claims cannot be true. More significantly, the core elements of religions cannot all be true. The nature of God and the means of salvation are central principles of most religions. From a logical perspective the possibility exists that all religions are wrong. The major tenets of all, or even most, religions cannot all be right.
Religion is not the result of man’s search for truth. The many different religions exist because of man’s rejection of truth. In Genesis 4 there were only four people on the planet and they all knew God was real. At least half the human population had spoken face to face with God. No one denied the existence of God. Everyone agreed on major tenets about God: He is real, He is creator, He is in charge, He is to be worshiped. Yet even with a tiny population and much first hand information there were still religious differences. Cain and Abel came to worship God. Abel brought a prime lamb for sacrifice and Cain brought some vegetables. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, which led to Cain killing Abel. Cain’s offering was nothing more than a new worship, a new religion, which rejected the truth revealed by God. The first religious division was the result of disobedience to God.
Making this problem worse is the intentional effort of Satan. He is described in the Bible as the god of this world who blinds the eyes of men lest they see the light of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan and the fallen angels masquerade as messengers of the light. (1 Corinthians 11:13-15) Demonic forces work to confuse and mislead men. (1 Timothy 4:1). Satanic manipulation moves men to devise and proclaim false religions. Satanic and demonic influence have added to the multitude of religions in this world.
The world is confused by an abundance of different, disagreeing religions because men refuse to believe and obey God. Romans 1 says that God’s existence and glory are seen in creation. Men refuse to acknowledge Him or give thanks to Him. They prefer to worship creatures instead of the Creator. Satan hates man and God. The devil actively works to create more confusion and to promote more idolatry. The vast numbers of religions come directly from the huge number of people and societies that have replaced the worship of God with the worship of other things.