But contrary to what these people say, all religions are not the same. At some level, we all know this. Most religions make exclusive and uncompromising claims about God and the human condition. As these claims are often incompatible, there is no way that all religions can be true. Certainly it is possible for several to contain elements of the truth. If one is comprehensively true, however, it follows that the rest must be false.

Even so, well-meaning people eager to avoid controversy commonly insist that all religions are different ways of comprehending the same truth. This is an erroneous view, although it contains an element of truth. As we have seen, there is a common morality that the great religions of the world share. Also, the monotheistic religions are attempts to worship the one God and therefore the same God. They differ, however, in their understanding of why man needs God and how man can find Him.

We can see that religions are not the same by looking at the way in which basic concepts are differently interpreted. Martyr is a term common to Christianity and Islam but largely alien to Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It comes from a Greek word meaning “witness:’ In Christianity; the martyr voluntarily gives up his life rather than his God. The Christian martyr was the man the Romans placed in the lion’s den to be devoured for his refusal to renounce his faith. In Islam, a martyr takes up the cause of jihad and loses his life fighting for Allah. This is the sense in which Khomeini and bin Laden have called on Muslims to be true Muslim “witnesses:’ One term, but two different meanings.