One quote I hear pretty often on the Christian radio stations is from John 14:6: “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Considering how much of your act you ripped off from earlier philosophers and religious leaders, Jesus, I’d say you have some nerve to claim that. Of course, the Gospel of John is often considered to be the least accurate of the four, so we don’t know for sure that Jesus really said it. Still, it’s had a profound impact on modern religion, with people thinking their religion is the ONLY true one. I know this isn’t an original thought on my part, but if Jesus really came to save the entire world, why did he only visit one tiny occupied territory at one point in history? Why were his miracles so local in nature? Why was his death on the cross any more significant than any of the other crucifixions that the Romans orchestrated? It really strikes me that, for a religion that’s supposed to be universal, it’s very small-time in its beliefs. Not all religions are as insular as this, of course. The Romans themselves had their own local gods, but they were perfectly willing to incorporate deities from the lands they conquered into their pantheon. I’m sure it varied, as I remember reading about how some Greeks considered the Lydian cult of the earth goddess Cybele to be a turning away from Zeus. It does seem, however, that pagan societies were often willing to accept gods from other traditions, even if they sometimes had to alter them to make them fit in with the deities they already worshipped. I realize I’m oversimplifying somewhat, but it kind of seems like, for all the progress we’ve made in the world in the past centuries, religion is an area where people are eager to retain their intolerance and insular thinking. The ancient Romans could accept Egyptian gods, but modern-day Christians can’t accept that Muhammad, Krishna, or Buddha might have been just as valid in their teachings as Jesus.
I recently came across the quite valid point that Christians like to skew the debate in their insistence that only belief in Jesus can get you into Heaven after you die. The problem here is that not all religions teach the existence of Heaven. Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, which didn’t place much influence on the afterlife until the Maccabean period. The ancient Greeks had the Elysian Fields, but what I’ve read about their religious practices suggests that rewards in the afterlife were rare and not really emphasized. Many religions, including some branches of Christianity, are more about living a good life than gambling on what will happen after you die. So, no, Buddhism isn’t going to teach another way to Heaven, because Heaven isn’t a Buddhist concept. It would make just as much sense to say that Christianity isn’t a valid way to achieve nirvana.
The other thing I wonder about when it comes to this intolerance is when people are willing to make exceptions. As much as some Christians attack Jews and Muslims for their beliefs, they’ll side with them when fighting against atheism. That really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think believers in other gods will suffer the same fate as believers in no gods, but maybe they figure that someone who believes in SOME god has more of a chance of coming around to their way of thinking. And they’re probably right, but it’s bizarre how people can switch so easily from “Jesus is the only way!” to “It doesn’t matter so much as long as you’re religious in some way.”