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Five Major Religions: A Comparison

In comparing five of the world’s most popular religions, it is essential to note that there are compelling differences and encouraging commonalities. Taking a closer look at Catholic, Judaist, Buddhist, Hindi, and Islamic philosophies lends to a greater understanding of what it means to have an overview of the worldwide perceptions of the divine. There is no doubt that these five major religions assert beliefs in theological differences which distinguish them from another, however, it is also clear that these religions also share many of the same core philosophies.

The fact that religions can work harmoniously in some ways gives hope to the values of tolerance, peace, and understanding. Although some characteristics of religions aim to separate and even destroy, it is vital to note the good aspects of religions which serve to build up humanity and the common understanding of spirituality. One of the richest religions in the world is the Catholic religion, the largest religious population on Earth being Christians.

The main belief which the Catholic leadership and lay faithful hold dear to them is the idea of a monotheistic God comprised of the Father, which is the Creator, the Son, which is the Creation, and the Holy Spirit, which is the linking Spirit in motion. Catholics have faith that Jesus Christ, God Son on Earth, came to man to call him back from sin and to help him find the loving grace of the Father which he had turned away and ignored. As all powerful love and life, Christ visited Earth to help fill them with the love of God, to gift them with the Holy Spirit.

When people are inspired by thoughts or feelings related to the divine, Catholics believe that the person is visited by Angels of God, touched by the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church serves as the traditional and faithful beacon of love on Earth and has been in existence since the year of the arrival of Jesus Christ at which many people consider the start of time, 0 or 1 AD (Vatican, 2009). The Jewish religion is even older than Catholicism and dates back to about 2000 BC.

This religion is considered by many to be monotheistic, although the philosophy of an absolute faith in the goodness and presence of God in relation to humanity does not arise until the time of Christ. Jewish faithful are often inspired by their main prophet Moses, who led the Jews out of slavery and to independence and liberation, therefore the ideal of liberty is highly celebrated within the Jewish faith. The Jewish concept of belief in one God is countered by the belief that a Messiah is expected to come, but has not yet come.

Due to the fact that Jewish people are faithful yet waiting for the coming of the greatest prophet lends a kind of schism to this religion which is difficult to overcome (Religious Tolerance, 2009). Buddhism, the world’s fourth largest religion, was founded in Northern India in about 600 BC by a man named Siddhartha Gautama. Although Gautama is considered by many Buddhists to be the first Buddha, or enlightened one, other Buddhists believe that many Buddhas came before him.

One of the core beliefs of Buddhism is that if a person is able rid himself of desire and attachment to others and the self, then one can become enlightened. The state of Nirvana, which is liberation from suffering, follows from the ability to detach oneself. Another concept of Buddhism is the belief in reincarnation or being continually reborn after death. The concept of reincarnation differs from the Catholic belief in resurrection, in that Catholics believe in being taken spiritually by God in life, while Buddhists believe in death and the rebirth of the individual spirit.

The idea of nonattachment to self is difficult to reconcile with the idea of a continually reborn self (Coomaraswamy, 2006). The world’s third largest religion in the world is the Hindu religion and also the oldest religion, dating back to at least 1500 BC. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion with many variations, commonly including two principal Gods and one principal Goddess, the male Creator, the male Preserver, and the female Destroyer. Four of the major beliefs, the fourfold aim of life, of the Hindu people include beliefs in righteousness, success, gratification, and liberation.

Meditation which includes breathing and movement, yoga, is also practiced, including various postures and breath work. Reincarnation is also a part of the Hindu religion, souls being continually reborn until the ideal state of good Karma is reached (Coomaraswamy, 2006). Islam is the world second largest religion and took root in the Middle East at about 600 AD. As a new religion, Islam has enjoyed tremendous growth. Followers of Islam are called Muslims and share a belief in the one true God, Allah. The main principle guiding Islam is a person’s submission to the will of God.

Although Muhammad is considered by Muslims to have been the greatest prophet, Muslims believe that Islam existed before Muhammad was born, and that Islam dates back to the creation of the world. Many Muslim beliefs are also beliefs shared by Catholics, such as belief in one God, angels, divine scriptures, and prophets. Some other differences between Catholicism and Islam are the Catholic belief in the divinity of humanity through Christ and the solid structure of Catholic Church leadership (Arnold, 2006).

These five major religions have definitely been influenced by one another across the span of history, some aspects of particular religions becoming infused with others. The variations of monotheism versus polytheism, resurrection versus reincarnation, humanity as being divine versus not divine, and beliefs centering on pure goodness versus the infiltration of badness into the concept of faith are all elements of these religions in varying ways. Despite the many similarities and differences exposed throughout this paper, it is good to recognize that people have often clung to different religions in the hope of finding meaning and comfort.

In aiming to be loved by God and to share love with others, it is often helpful to be involved in a strong, unifying spiritual community. References Arnold, T. (2006). The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith. Kessinger Publishing. Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2009). Vatican. Retrieved on 6/3/09 from http://www. vatican. va/archive/catechism/ccc_toc. htm. Coomaraswamy, A. (2006). Hinduism and Buddhism. Kessinger Publishing. Judaism. (2009). Religious Tolerance. Retrieved on 6/3/09 from http://www. religioustolerance. org/jud_desc. htm.

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