Similarities and disparities between Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism



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Similarities and disparities between

Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism

Here we compare four major world faiths: Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism according to the topics like origin of the name, founder, divisions, followers, holy books and other guidance, nature of God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, important rituals, sin, salvation, heaven and hell. Later on we will find out what these world religions and non-theistic ethical systems have in common.


Origin of the name
Christianity comes from the Greek Christos - referring to Jesus Christ. Islam is derived from an Arabic word for 'submission' and also related to the Arabic word salaam, 'peace'. Judaism comes from the Hebrew: Yehudim, 'Judah', and Buddhism from the name of its founder: Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha.

Founder
The founder of Christianity is Jesus Christ (c. 4 B.C.-30 A.D.). Islam was founded by Mohammed (570 - 632 A.D.).The creator of Judaism is Abraham (First Patriarch, born c. 1800 B.C.), and Buddhism is based on the teaching of Gautama Buddha who lived some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
Divisions

There are three main groups in Christianity: Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic. The two main groups in Islam are: Sunni and Shia (The division occured due to a dispute as to the legitimate successor of the prophet Mohammed). There is also a mystical/ascetic movement in Islam known as Sufi. Judaism has several divisions among which the largest are: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism. Ethnic groupings include Ashkenazi (the majority) and Sephardi Jews. There are two divisions within Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana. Within Mahayana, there is Zen Buddhism. Theravada ('way of the elders') is more similar to original Buddhism.



Followers

Estimates of the number of Buddhist followers by scholars range from 230 million to 500 million, with most around 350 million.There are around 2,100 million followers of Christianity, 1,300 million followers of Islam, and 14 million adherents of Judaism in the world.



Holy books and other guidance
The holy book in Christianity is the Bible. Its writers were inspired by God and that is why it is referred to as the word of God. Other guidance is given by the writings of the early church fathers and ecumenical councils, including the Creeds. In Islam The Quran or Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammed over a period of about 20 years. The Quran is considered as the final revelation given by Allah to mankind. The Hadith, which is a collection of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, functions as a supplement to the Quran, giving guidance to Muslims for daily living. Judaism adherents act in accordance with the Hebrew Tanakh, similar to the Christian Old Testament, comprised of the Torah (Hebrew: 'Law'), Nevi'im ('Prophets') and Ketuvim ('Writings'). There is also the Talmud – the collection of ancient rabbinic writings that explains and interprets the Tanah, and includes the Mishnah - a code of Jewish law. Buddhism has no single central text that is universally referred to by all traditions. The followers of Theravada Buddhism take the scriptures known as the Pali Canon as definitive and authoritative, while the followers of Mahayana Buddhism base their faith and philosophy primarily on the Mahayana sutras. The Pali Canon falls into three general categories: 1) Vinaya Pitaka ("Discipline Basket"), dealing with rules for monks and nuns, 2) Sutta Pitaka (Sutra/Sayings Basket) - discourses, mostly ascribed to the Buddha, but some to disciples, and Abhidhamma Pitaka, variously described as philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, etc. The Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that the Mahayana Buddhist tradition holds are original teachings of the Buddha.

Nature of God

In Christianity there is one God who exists in three distinct persons (The Trinity): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Islam has one God (Arabic: Allah), who is not a trinity. The Islamic view of God is called strict Monotheism. Jews believe in one God (known in English as 'Yahweh' or 'Jehovah'). The Buddhist view of God is that there are many gods, or no gods. A Buddha is someone who has realized the enlightenment that ends the cycle of birth and death and which brings liberation from suffering.



Jesus Christ

In Christianity Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity: "...true God from true God". He reconciled man to God, through his death on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. In Islam Jesus Christ is a prophet sent by Allah and born of the Virgin Mary, but not divine. He was not crucified but raised to Heaven by Allah and his mission is to proclaim the Gospel. According to Judaism Jesus Christ is an ordinary Jew, neither the Messiah nor a divine person. He was crucified for his claim to be divine. Buddhism rejects the biblical Jesus.



Holy Spirit

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the divine Trinity. The Holy Spirit in Islam is identical with the Angel Gabriel who appeared to the Prophet Mohammed giving him the Quranic text. In Judaism, the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person but a divine power which, for example, was given to the Prophets. There is not any holy spirit in Buddhism.



Important Rituals

All Christians observe the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. In Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, five more are added: Confirmation (Chrismation), Marriage, Penance, Holy Orders and Anointing of the sick.


Prayer is also an important part of the faith. There are five important rituals in Islam (known as the pillars of Islam): 1) Shahadah - a profession of faith,
2) Salat - prayer five times daily, 3) Zakat - alms giving, 4) Sawm - fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan, 5) Hajj - pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca. Jewish rituals include the circumcision of newly born Jewish males, Barmitzvah - a ceremony marking the 'coming of age' of Jewish boys and observation of the Sabbath (Shabat). As in Christianity and Islam, prayer is important. The Jewish prayer book is called the siddur. Buddhism incorporates a variety of rituals and practices, which are intended to aid in the journey to enlightenment and bring blessings on oneself and others. The practice of meditation is central to nearly all forms of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists practice mantras - sacred sounds that are believed to possess supernatural powers. They are chanted as a part of meditation or during large public rituals for protection from evil and misfortune. Budhists also use Mudras - symbolic gestures, used symbolically in Buddha images and in practice to evoke particular ideas or buddhas in the mind during Buddhist meditation or ritual. The central daily rite of lay Buddhism is the offering of food. Theravada laity make this offering to the monks. Mahayana laity make it to the Buddha as part of the morning or evening worship. There are also weekly Observance Day rituals at the Theravada monastery when the monks administer the Eight Precepts to the gathered laity, the laity repeating them after the monks. The monks pour water to transfer merit to the laity; the laity pour water to share this merit with their ancestors. There are special rituals to mark, protect, and bless the occasions of major life transitions. Monks preside over ordinations, funerals, and death commemoration rites. Theravada monks also preside over birthday and new-house blessing rites. Ex-monks elders in the lay community perform the rituals for childbirth and marriage.

Sin

Christians inherit a sinful nature through their common ancestor Adam, who rebelled against God. Jesus Christ atoned for their sins through his death on the Cross. According to Muslims, there is no concept of original sin, nor vicarious

atonement. All humans are born sinless, but human weakness leads to sin. Judaism rejects the doctrine of original sin. Atonement for sins committed is made through seeking forgiveness from God in prayer and repentance. Buddhism teaches that happiness or suffering in this life is the result of our deeds (karma) in past lives, or past actions in our present lives. Karma is an "intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech, or mind." It can either manifest its effects in this very life or in the next life or only after several lives. According to the idea of karma in Buddhism, an individual has free will, but he carries the baggage of deeds done in previous lives.

Heaven, Hell, and Salvation

For Christians, Hell is a place of everlasting punishment for the unrighteous. Heaven is a union with God, life forever in Christ. Catholics also believe in Purgatory, a temporary period of purification. Moral, loving, and faithful Christians who believe in Jesus and adhere to the teachings of the Church receive eternal life. The concept of an afterlife in Orthodox Judaism is usually referred to as Olam Ha-Ba, the world to come. The Jewish idea of heaven is generally known as Gan Eden, or as the Garden of Eden, and hell is called Gehinnom. All righteous people, not just Jews, get a place in the world to come, but not all places are equal. A person's status in Olam Ha-Ba depends on actions in this life. Before going to Gan Eden, many people first have to spend time in Gehinnom, which is described by some as a fiery place of harsh punishment and by others as a place where the soul contemplates its past life and repents misdeeds. Except for the worst human beings, the maximum stay in Gehinnom is one year, after which the soul ascends to Gan Eden. The moral foundation in Judaism and Christianity is a list of religious and moral imperatives that were given by God to the people of Israel from Mount Sinai – The Ten Commandments: (1) I am the Lord your God; You shall have no other gods before me; You shall not make for yourself an idol, (2) Do not take the name of the Lord in vain, (3) Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, (4) Honor your father and mother, (5) You shall not kill, (6) You shall not commit adultery, (7) You shall not steal, (8) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, (9) You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, (10) You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. In Islam there is hell known as Jahannam and Paradise. Those who observe the Five Pillars of Islam go to Paradise. Jahannam has several levels and a person may not necessarily spend eternity there. In Buddhism, after death, one is reborn in successive incarnations until he/she awakens (as the Buddha did) and becomes liberated from the cycle of life and death (samsara), thus reaching nirvana. Nirvana is not exactly a "state"- it is an awakening to truth. In this "place" one is free from suffering, attachments, and delusions. Although there is a concept of "hell(s)" in Buddhist cosmology, it is not considered a place of permanent damnation. It is understood more as state of mind that anyone can experience in his/her lifetime. Freedom from suffering and advancing toward enlightenment is possible by


practicing the eightfold path. This eightfold path includes: (1) Right view or understanding, (2) Right thought, (3) Right speech, (4) Right action, (5) Right livelihood, (6) Right effort, (7) Right mindfulness and (8) Right contemplation or concentration.

Religious groups as well as non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems, like Humanism and Ethical Culture, differ in their concepts of deity, other beliefs, and practices in varying degrees. However, all of the major world religions and philo-sophic systems have an Ethic of Reciprocity. In Christianity and Judaism, this is called "The Golden Rule." It is often expressed as "Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you." Both theistic ethics and secular ethics set up a structure of morals to help people live in a humane secure and happy society free of war and violence where everyone is equal, has inherent worth, and deserves respect and dignity. Every religion and system of ethics asks people to be good, ethical and moral persons. By corollary, it translates into "love yourselves and love everyone else". The language and style may be different but this is the basic message.


Zespół Szkół nr 31 im. Jana Kilińskiego In Warsaw


References:

Kai Nielsen, Ethics Without God, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1990,

Coogan, Michael D. (ed.) The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. Oxford University Press 2003,

Harvey, Peter, An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press 1990,

Esposito, John L., What everyone needs to know about Islam. Oxford University Press 2002,



Cohn-Sherbok, Dan, Judaism: history, belief, and practice. Routledge 2003,

Brodd, Jefferey, World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press 2003


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