One may suspect that many make this statement because they do not want to give the impression of being intolerant. In our culture it is often seen to be intolerant if one claims to possess a monopoly on truth. Therefore, for this person it would be best to deny exclusivity as it would be the far easier option. But there are considerations to be had here.
One cannot deny the exclusive nature of religions and philosophies. For example, the Abrahamic religions are all profoundly exclusive. Christianity cannot concede that Buddhism is true just like Judaism cannot concede that Islam is true. They are all exclusive belief systems that cannot be squared with one another. Concerning Christianity one doesn’t have to look much further than the alleged Johannine sayings of Jesus claiming to be “the way, the truth, and the life, none comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). If Jesus claimed this he would outright reject other belief systems that are not focused on him. Jesus is clearly portrayed as an exclusivist much like Muhammad and Allah are in the Shahada, “There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is his messenger.”
However, putting that aside, what are we to make of the “That’s true for you but not for me” argument?
On a first note this very statement is itself an exclusive statement. It may, on appearance, seem to be an open claim that doesn’t wish to judge others by allowing them to believe what they wish. However, on inspection it is just as dogmatic as Jesus’ statement in John 14:6. This is because the New Ager (we shall for the sake of the argument believe that a New Ager is making this claim) makes a statement that is disagreeable with a great many other worldviews, religions and philosophies. This claim, for example, cannot be squared with atheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Sikhism. Likewise the philosophies of nihilism and naturalism cannot be squared with the New Ager’s claim. For the nihilist either life is pointless or it is not. For the naturalist either nothing exists beyond the natural world or something does. In other words, the New Ager is saying that all these other worldviews get it wrong and that he gets it right. That is an attempt to possess a monopoly on truth.
Another point is the self-refuting nature of this claim. This is because the New Ager is arguing that “all truth is relative.” In other words, the Christian can have her truth by believing in Jesus’ resurrection, the Muslim can believe that the Prophet Muhammad was God’s messenger, and the nihilist can believe that life is a pointless exercise. However, the problem is that the New Ager makes an absolute truth claim on the face of exercising relativism. You cannot have both absolute truth and relative truth in the same basket for the simple reason that they contradict each other. To say that truth is relative is to make an absolute claim about truth that is binding on all people. For this very reason truth is absolute, and if we are to apply logic consistently we cannot escape this conclusion.
However, what if a naturalist, for example, responds to the New Ager by saying “what is true for me is that relativism is false”? The New Ager, in order to be consistent, would have to grant the naturalist that conclusion. Yet if the New Ager chooses to disagree with the naturalist then he is affirming that not everything is relative. So the New Ager clearly puts himself in a really tough spot that he is unable to explain his way out of.
One can understand why the New Ager tries to base his belief on such a claim. The world is full of religions, philosophies and worldviews that cannot be squared. And as a result conflict is bound to manifest between the proponents or apologists of these diverse worldviews. But we can’t, as the New Ager should note, base our beliefs on what we want to be true; instead we have to follow evidence where it leads even if it leads us to awkward, uncomfortable places.