May 23, 2013
Explorations of Major Religions
The Initial impressions of western religions in comparison to eastern religions are it’s dedication to a singular god, specifically, when speaking of Christianity and Judaism; whereas, eastern religions ranges from an atheistic and a pantheistic perspective (exception of Islam). However, religion always emphasize the crucial needs of humanity, which in simplicity, is humanity’s sense of void from what once was and the separation from the greater context or the divine. In this respect, there is always a perennial philosophy that runs across all varieties of religions, since its main purpose to reconcile human with the divine, and they have the same approach for the reconciliation process. There is a lot to be said about the world’s diverse religions, however, for the purposes of this essay, the focus is on assessing the religion’s power of persuasion, or the “marketing” scheme of the religion; also, another criteria, is whether the religion is reasonable and beneficial enough to invest one’s beliefs in.
Flooded with problems, both philosophically, and in terms of moral helpfulness, is Hinduism. Specifically since Hinduism, through the practice of yoga, endorses worship to any god one wishes to devote oneself to. In the Hinduism section by Novak, it reads like this:
“Place your devotion whole-heartedly at the service of the ideal most natural to your being, but know with unwavering certainty that all spiritual ideals are expressions of the same supreme Presence… Kali, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Allah– these are all full expressions of the same indivisible Consciousness and Bliss… Blessed is the soul who has known that all is one, that all jackals howl essentially alike.” (Novak, p.43)
Clearly, this is a fallacious at first glance, since different gods have conflicting criteria and interpretations of their nature in relations to humanity, and existence. To name a few differences, Buddha was an atheist, who specifically told his disciples to not worship him as a deity and his teachings involved strict discipline to liberate oneself from suffering. Christ on the other hand, was a radical figure who claimed to be God, who was extremely bold when he said that he is “the way, the truth, and the life”, and that no one can be saved, unless they put their faith in him. It is apparent to see that both Christ and the Buddha teach radically different messages and they are conflicting. Therefore, this specific teaching of Hinduism, holds no solid footing as a principle, thus, cannot be trusted as a doctrine for reaching the divine. Furthermore, the caste system that Hinduism endorses, which segregates individuals into life-long social groups, ranks Hinduism very low in terms of moral helpfulness, since the caste system crushes the spirits of those who wish to be free from it. Base on these problems, Hinduism is an unattractive religion.
Islam, also fits the standard expectations of most religions: follow the rules and you will get a reward. In Islam, the Five Pillars, which are: the Shahadah, which is the doctrine that there is no god but The God, and Muhummad is just God’s prophet; the canonical prayer, the five daily prayers, which one has to kneel down and prostrate themselves toward Mecca; charity, by giving 2.5% tithe; the observance of Ramadan; and pilgrimage. If an individual wanted to be a Islam, they would have to follow these practices piously. Also, as a monotheistic religion, Islam shares a lot of it’s roots with Christianity and Judaism, specifically, calling upon Abraham and the Prophets as the revelation of Allah: “Say: We believe in God and that which is revealed to us; in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them, and to Allah we surrendered ourselves.” (Novak, p.292)
Again, the problem with Islam is the same conflict that Hinduism presents by declaring that all gods are God. In comparison to the Christian-Judeo view of God, God is viewed as a triune God (Judaism doesn’t believe this), and God’s greatest revelation of Himself was through Jesus of Nazareth; whereas, Allah does not have the same characteristics as the Christian God at all. Also, it seems really odd when the God of Islam, Allah, allows for the reverence of Jesus as an apostle or prophet of Allah; “The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was no more than God’s Apostle… Unbelievers are those that say: ‘God is… the son of Mary.'” (Novak, p.310-311) This strikes an off note, and makes one beg the question, “Why would Allah, allow humanity to be lead astray by Jesus, who claimed to be God, and punish those who follow Jesus to eternal hell fire?” This is a horrible inconsistency with Allah’s character, if he is a gracious and merciful God. Moreover, Islam holds on to the false claim that Jesus never died on the cross, “They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.” (Novak, p.311), while the majority of contemporary scholars consider the crucifixion and death of Jesus as a reliable fact, “After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb” (WLC). Therefore, in terms of philosophical reasonableness, Islam strikes out; horribly. And since Allah deceives his followers, specifically by allowing humanity to be lead astray by Jesus; Islam also fails in moral helpfulness because Allah lies to his followers. And purely based on face-value attractiveness and persuasion of Islam, the legalism it forces upon it’s followers makes this religion harsh and unlovable.
This religion, also is stained with the concept of “do and receive”, however, it leaves a cliff hanger in it’s prophecy of the Messiah, in which this trend in world religions would cease. Judaism is built on the Torah, or the first five books of the old testament and the main figure was Mose who gave received the ten commandments from Yahweh. The instruction was simple, if Israel were to obey the Law, then God will be with them, hence, Judaism also falls in line with the trend of religion. However, to Christians, Judaism, and the laws it produced, was a prerequisite for the new testament, which hinges on the Messiah; Jesus.
The above religions all fall under the key commonalities between the world religions, which is this concept of “do” and “receive”. This concept is the undertone of all religions, which requires the followers to observe the law or the expectations of the religion to the mark in order to earn their place in heaven, or brownie points with their gods. However, the biggest contrast from this commonality, is Christianity. In contrast to the world religions, Christianity is a religion that does not follow the standard trend of “do” and “receive” schemes, however, it proposes a radical new message: done. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Novak, p.256) Christianity, in respects to reconciling humanity to man, presents the easiest and most unique remedy out of the other popular world religions, such as the ones mentioned previously in this essay. It preaches the message of receiving the salvation that has, been done for you, through Jesus of Nazareth. The reasonableness in this claim lies in the resurrection of Jesus, which is a historical fact by the standards of prominent and contemporary scholars. (WLC) Therefore, this religion is the most “user-friendly” of the rest of the religions because no strict criteria exists for an individual to be reconciled to God, the formula is quite simple; one just has to have faith that Jesus’ died for the sins of humanity, and thus, enables humanity to be reconnected with God.
Therefore, to conclude, the perennial philosophy that encompasses most religions is this concept of earning one’s salvation. However, the only exception to this trend is Christianity.
Novak, Philip. (1994) The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions. Harper One.
(WLC)William, Lane Craig. Jesus and His Passion. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/ jesus-and-his-passion#ixzz2TzCQLrAd