We live in a pluralistic society and so it is fitting, generally speaking, that all beliefs are accorded equal respect. Unfortunately, this mindset seems to have convinced many people today that all beliefs have equally validity. As it relates to matters “spiritual,” the modern skeptic thinks that no religion has the corner on truth (assuming that such a thing as “truth” actually exists). “What works for you is fine, but don’t try imposing those values on me” is a common approach. “All religions basically say the same thing,” they say, “so as long as you are sincere in your beliefs, that’s all that really matters.” What they mean, of course, is that religion has nothing to teach. It is, instead, some sort of placebo and as long as you really "believe in it," your particular view on eternity is as good as any other.
Christianity, by contrast, does not stake out an ambiguous position. Man is in deep trouble, due to his rebellion against his Creator, and he needs a savior to get him out of the mess he’s in. Without that savior, he’s headed for a bad place, and he can’t help himself. The “good news” is that help is out there, if we are only open to it.
So, which view conforms to the way things really are? Is there one right religion, or should we remain complacent in the belief that a sincere belief will work out just fine at the end of the day?
Perhaps the first place to look for an answer to this question is within nature itself. None of us constructed this universe we happen to find ourselves in, but it certainly appears to be operating under a set of rules. If there is a “rule-maker,” perhaps he has left some clues for us within the structure of his creation, just as an artist might leave a distinctive message within a work of art. But looking to nature provides no support for the skeptic’s view, for nowhere in nature does it appear that a sincerely held, but mistaken, belief can “save” you. I may be convinced that the ledge I am standing on is sturdy, but the force of gravity is not lessened by my belief, if it is mistaken. If I have diabetes and three vials are sitting in front of me - one with water, one with insulin and one with arsenic - the "saving" power of the liquid depends not on what I think it contains, but on what it actually contains. If I mistakenly believe that the pool I am diving into is full of water, I may still suffer permanent paralysis despite the sincerity of my belief.
Take for example submarine officers from the US and Soviet navies. Both were operating nuclear power plants using the same scientific principles and both had confidence that their ships could protect them from radiation. For each officer, this confidence was based on trust that the ship’s "saving" power – its design and safeguards – was adequate to the task. The American sub employed such safeguards while the Soviet navy cut corners. Any particular American officer may have doubted his safety, while his Soviet counterpart may have had total confidence. In the end, what mattered was not the sincerity of the beliefs, but the object in which the belief was placed. And predictably, countless Soviet sailors suffered radiation sickness while their American counterparts did not.
Why should that question be any different? Where does a person derive confidence to say that God will simply understand that he or she chose to ignore God, trusting that their belief in their own ultimate goodness would save them? Everywhere I look in nature, I see consequences that often appear as harsh as they are permanent.