The five world religions exhibit differences and similarities. This essay discusses these religions with special reference to their similarities and differences.
Christians believe in the existence of God, who is considered as the Supreme Being in whom all things were created and he is considered as giver of life. In honoring their God, Christians worship throughout the year, with Sunday being recognized by majority as the holy day of the week, set aside for worship. Due to different churches, Christians conduct varying weekly services.
However, major events like Easter and Christmas are highly observed and carry special meaning (Davies 1). A church is a recognized place, built for the purpose of prayers and worship services. These churches take different shapes and designs with decorations varying from one denomination to another. Moreover, a cross and pulpit are common in almost every church.
Additionally, Christianity has several sacred rituals referred to as sacraments with baptism being practiced by all members of the faith together with the Eucharist. As a way of self denial, Christians fast to remember the poor and reconcile with God. Through scripture reading and daily prayers, Christians get sanctified and nurture their relationship with God. Several symbols are used by Christians to depict different meanings.
For instance, the cross which is found in churches and on jewelry implies the suffering of Jesus Christ. Its recognition is therefore a sign of believing in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Smith 344). In addition, holy water is used during baptism while oil is used during anointing services.
The story of Jesus, son of God is sacred to Christians as it summarizes God’s purpose to humanity (Smith 317). Many Christians have continued to search for the meaning of suffering since God; their maker is a loving God. They believe in life after death through salvation. They also believe in angels, as messengers of God. The Bible is the Christian holy book (Davies 1).
Muslims believe in God, Allah, maker of everything and the only God to be worshipped. Muhammad is recognized as Allah’s messenger or prophet, who receives direct communication. The Quran is the holy book of Muslims and is regarded as unaltered information from Allah while Sunna forms part of the canon. The stories of Muhammad and creation of the world form an important aspect of Islamic sacred stories.
Besides having created all human beings and other things in existence, Muslims believe that Allah is the maker of angels and jinn. Love for God and others is emphasized as the main reason why human beings live. One the other hand, suffering and problems are aimed at strengthening the faith of Muslims and for correction purposes. Muslims believe in life after death, accompanied by the judgment day (World Religions 1). According to Islamic teachings, people are judged depending on their deeds intentions.
Additionally, Islamic annual events adopt a lunar calendar, characterized by celebrations and feasts that have religious and historic foundation. The month of Ramadan is considered holy, during which Muslims Fast and pray.
The significance of this is to remember the less fortunate in the society and reconnect with God. Mosques are used as houses of prayer and worship with the Mosque in Mecca being viewed as the world’s holiest place (Smith 246). Important transitions among Muslims include marriage, birth and death. Circumcision is also carried out among boys.
The five pillar of Islam, witnessing, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage are imperative. The crescent moon is the Islamic moon with various colors having different meanings like white, green, black, white, etc. Islamic clergymen are referred to as ulama. Shariah is considered as the source of Islamic law and Friday as the worship day.
The Torah forms the basis of Jewish scriptures and comprises of the first five books of the Bible. The creation story, God’s redemption and revelation are considered as sacred narratives (Smith 272). Jewish are associated with atheist image of divine God even though debates continue on the exact nature of their God. They have a strong recognition for the value of human nature. As a result, Jewish believe that the main reason for living is to have a special relationship with God and others.
In explaining human suffering and pain, Jewish justify and protest God’s involvement and relationship with evil. They also believe in salvation and life after death, describing it as the ultimatum of the body and soul based on biblical, medieval, theological and rabbinic sources. Furthermore, this religion differentiates two forms of time that are quite significant, kodesh and chol (World Religions 1).
The seventh day of every week is set apart as the sacred time for all members of the religion. With its calendar filled with festivals, Jewish celebrations mostly commemorate Israelites’ history. They worship annually, attending three services in a day in temples or synagogues. They faithfully serve God as commanded in the Torah. Through prayers, rituals and benedictions, Jewish remember about God’s presence in their lives.
Unlike Christians, Judaism does not recognize the use of human-like images even though a few symbols are used in synagogues and Jewish centers. The rabbinical law gives the main source of Jewish moral and ethical teachings, stemming from Talmud responses (World Religions 1). It is not an evangelizing or universal religion. They further believe that the Torah is a source monotheism principle for all human beings. Women commonly carry out domestic responsibilities.
Unlike Islam, Christianity and Judaism which have sources of scripture, Hinduism lacks a single scripture but adhere to the Vedas writings. Additionally, this religion does not identify itself with a single sacred narrative but with a variety of which are theological, mythical, ethical and social. Hinduism is both monotheistic and polytheistic with its creation story told in several myths describing the “Hindu Trinity”.
This comprises of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Unlike other religions with a tied purpose to God, Hinduism members are free. However, proper life, performance of societal duties and bearing of children are emphasized in the Vedas. Evil and sufferings are associated with the wicked plan of gods and as a product of human actions. Hinduism affirms that rebirth is a major transition stage. However, those who escape it may achieve moksha by ridding of karma (Smith 64).
Moreover, sacred time does not exist in Hinduism as every time is considered scared due to omnipresence nature of gods. The religion is characterized by several rites and ceremonies with sacrifice being the most fundamental. The use of symbols is also common as statues of gods and goddesses, individuals or sacred texts are used.
Brahmins perform rituals and keep the Vedas despite the fact that there are other religious leaders (World Religions 1). In addition, Hinduism recognizes social classes and structure depending on economic status. Morality and ethics in Hindu community is guided by karma and dharma and that order can only be maintained through society cohesion. Gender inequality is common as women are prohibited from leadership positions, hearing the Vedas or even participating in some rituals.
Buddhists initially preserved their religious scriptures by oral traditions, which were made up of Buddha’s teachings (Smith 82). Through evolution, other devotional narratives and philosophical treatise articles were adopted and added to the canon.
Stories told by Buddha and his life history form part of the sacred narratives contained in the sutras. Buddhist stories do not explain creation and its known universe has no beginning as compared to Christians and Muslims. According to Buddhist teachings, suffering stems from corrupt states of mind among individuals.
As such, Buddhists consider suffering to be normal despite the fact that the intensity of one’s problems depends on their response (Smith 84). With regard to life after death and salvation, different Buddhists view it uniquely depending on the country of origin and individual perception. Stupas are considered as sacred places and they contain the remains of Buddha and some monks.
Moreover, some mountains are highly sacred. Buddha’s birthday and New Year celebrations are common in Buddhism. Others include death-related rituals and pilgrimages. The rank of Buddhists determine their level of worship i.e. monks and lay people have different worship lives (World Religions 1). Buddhism is associated with an array of symbols including dharma wheel which represents change in law when Buddha began preaching.
Buddha’s footprint represents his last moments before death, lion represents his throne and the stupas contain Buddha’s remains denoting remarkable days of his life. Buddhist clergymen use special robes and live religiously. Their moral principles are the Eightfold Path, merit and karma. The Eightfold path is a source of spiritual guidelines necessary for growth. Sexual misconduct is dealt with at societal level.
From the above analysis, it is clear that the five major religions compare in a wide range of ways. Both believe in a religious life, worship, special holydays, and use of symbols. However, they have more differences than similarities. These include holy book, sacred places, believe in Supreme Being, suffering, rituals and salvation. Symbols used are also different.
Davies, Beth. “Christianity Ethics, Morality, Community.” Patheos, 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.
Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions. New York City: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.
World Religions. “World Religions Comparison Chart”. Youth Theology, 2011. 14 Dec. 2011.