World Religions: similarities and differences

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  1. Archived_Member16

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    source: All4Women - World Religions: similarities and differences

    World Religions: similarities and differences

    08 February, 2010 09 - Staff Contributor


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    If you’ve ever wondered how your religion differs from others, or are looking for a belief system that feels right for you, here is an introduction to the world’s major religions and their main beliefs.
    For a believer, there are many paths to reach the Almighty. Whether it is one of the old religions and pagan paths, or the many organized religions of the world, there are many kinds of “Faiths”.

    Most people identify with a faith regardless of how strictly they practice it, either simply because their parents followed it, or as a result of making their own later in life.

    The three Abrahamic faiths

    Judaism is one of the three faiths known as Abrahamic faiths. As many as 15 million people in the world identify themselves as Jewish, and although the faith originated in the Middle East, the largest populations of Jewish people these days live in either the US or Israel.

    The faith, although tracing its history to Abraham, was really begun by Moses and his commandments. The beliefs are based on the premise that they are the chosen people of God, put on this earth as an example to rest of mankind, an example of piety righteousness, and virtue.

    Judaism is a monotheistic religion, and they believe there is only one god, who is a real presence in the world. The Jew has a covenant with God to keep God’s law alive in the world, and this extends to not just believing but to being and action.

    This is a family and community faith, and everything one does can become an act of worship. They worship in synagogues, the religious leaders are rabbis, and every Jew can have an individual, one on one relationship with God.

    Christianity is another of the Abrahamic faiths, and possibly the most popular one

    Practicing or otherwise, there are over 2 billion Christians on this planet. Unlike the Jews, Christians believe that the messiah promised in the Old Testament has already arrived on the planet in the form of Jesus.

    Jesus is seen as the Son of God, sent to earth to save humanity from sins and their consequences.

    Although Christians too believe in one God, there are three elements to the Christian concept of God in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    This is not to say that there are three separate deities. On the contrary, the belief is that God took human form as Christ, dying on the cross in order to redeem all human sins; that God the father is the forgiving and just power that rules everything; and that the Holy Spirit is at work through the actions of believers.

    Islam is the third Abrahamic faith, and the word Islam itself means 'submission to the will of God'

    The second largest religion on the planet today, Islam has over 1 billion followers worldwide. Muslims, the followers of Islam, believe it was revealed to them, by the prophet Mohammed, some 1400 years ago in Mecca.

    Muslims too believe in one all powerful God, with Mohammed as the final prophet of God. Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are also respected as other prophets. The Muslim religious laws are based on their holy book, the Qur'an, and the religious traditions, or the Sunnah.
    Muslims believe in the indivisibility of God, and that God or Allah has neither gender, nor children, parents, or partners.

    Hinduism is one of the major eastern religions, and the most popular faith in India and Nepal.

    There are some 900 million Hindus around the world. It is probably one of the oldest religions in the world, with some of its rites, practices and beliefs going back thousands of years to the polytheistic pagan beliefs in that part of the world.

    Hinduism is more difficult to define because of its essentially amorphous nature, and the multitudes of deities, practices, and beliefs it contains. There is no “single” holy book, God, Prophet, founder, scripture or commonly agreed set of teachings.

    It grew out of pagan modes of worship, and many teachers have taught different philosophies during its history. Hinduism is more a way of life, or a bunch of related faiths, rather than one religion.

    Believers identify their practices and traditions with 'Sanatana Dharma', which is the recommended eternal order of conduct. Although almost impossible to define, there are some features of Hinduism one can point to. It originated in India, and most Hindus believe in a common body of texts as sacred scripture. Most Hindus also draw on a common pool and system of values.

    Although there is an Ishwar, a Supreme God, Hindus believe that the qualities and forms of the all powerful are represented in the millions of lesser deities which are manifestations of this being. Central beliefs include reincarnation, which is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and Karma or actions.

    There are conceptual and historical links of Hinduism with the other Indian religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism

    Sikhism is another Indian religion, although there are as many as 20 million Sikhs worldwide. Founded as a reaction to invading armies, in the 16th century in Punjab, in India and Pakistan, by Guru Nanak, Sikhism is based on the teachings of the 10 Sikh gurus – Nanak and his successors.

    Although sometimes seen as a militant faith, the most important tenet of Sikhism is the internal religious state of a person. A monotheistic religion, Sikhism lays more importance on good actions rather than the routine carrying out of rituals.
    Living honestly, and working hard, is more important than attending rites in a certain place of worship. Equality, and charity, as well as selfless service of those less fortunate are the cornerstones.

    Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that teaches that the only way to liberation is to conduct a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The welfare of every single being in the universe, including the microscopic, is the central concern of the Jain. All living beings in the universe have souls, and these souls are of equal value to the human.
    The Jain community is strictly vegetarian and the lifestyle minimizes their use of global resources. To escape the cycle of rebirth, one needs to eliminate all karma from the soul. Jains have no gods or spiritual beings, and the path to emancipation is through right belief, right knowledge and right conduct.

    Buddhism is a spiritual tradition focusing on personal spiritual development and the knowledge of the true nature of life
    A 2,500 year-old faith, Buddhism has some 376 million followers worldwide. Buddhism does not have a personal God, and believes in constant change, and the path to Enlightenment lies in practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

    Other major world religions include Shinto, the local religion of Japan; Baha'I; Candomble, an African Brazilian faith; Mormonism; Paganism, which are contemporary belief systems based on reverence for nature; Rastafari, a Jamaican faith which has since moved into the worldwide arena; Santeria; Taoism, an ancient belief system rooted in China; Unitarianism; and Zoroastrianism.

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