Why Are There Different Religions?
The different religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, New Age and Christianity all grew as answers to basic human questions about our purpose here and how we should live together.
Everyone wants to go to Heaven. We want to know that we're on the right path. What do the different major world religions offer and what are the differences between them? Let's take a brief look at some of the most prominent world religious systems.
Hindus worship many gods and goddesses, about 300,000 of them. Each god has it's own area of responsibility, as the early Greek gods did. These gods all converge into a universal spirit called Brahman. Brahman is a term for ultimate oneness. Hindus see their life as the result of their actions in a previous life. If they were bad, they will pay for that in this life. A Hindu's ultimate goal is to be free from the law of karma, in other words, to be free from the cycle of reincarnation. There are three ways to end the cycle of karma.
The first way is to be devoted to one of the gods or goddesses. Another way is by growth through meditation of Brahman, to realize that the self is not reality and only Brahman is real. Dedication to specific ceremonies and rites is the third way.
A Hindu can choose how to work towards spiritual perfection. Hinduism has an explanation for suffering and evil in this world. The hardship anyone experiences in this life is because of his or her own evil actions from a previous lifetime. Only the soul is important and will one day be free of the cycle of reincarnation.
New Age encourages the development of our own divinity. A New Age adherent does not talk about a supernatural creator God but refers to a higher consciousness within him. He would see God in himself and in everything. New Age is a collection of many spiritual traditions. The Earth is the source of all spirituality but over all is the self.
New Age teaches an assortment of eastern mysticism and spirituality, metaphysics and psychic methodology like breathing exercises, chanting, drumming and meditation to develop consciousness and one's own divinity.
Anything negative that a person experiences is an illusion. There is no sin and nothing about their life is wrong. They develop spiritually to believe that there is no objective, external reality and that in becoming god, they create their own reality.
There is no God, nor any gods in Buddhism. Buddha is not worshipped and Buddha himself never claimed to be God. Buddhists do not believe in a higher, supernatural power. Natural law runs the universe. Life consists of pain, sickness, death, sorrow and despair. Buddhists believe in hundreds and even thousands of reincarnations, which all bring misery. It is the search for happiness that inspires a person's reincarnation. The goal of a Buddhist is to purify his heart and release all desires. There is no room for sensual pleasure, evil, joy or sorrow. To achieve this, Buddhists follow religious principles and practice meditation. Dedicated meditation will lead a person to Nirvana, where all desires will be eliminated.
Buddhism provides values and rules to live by. Some of these are: Do not kill any living creature; forsake all sensual pleasures and abandon all evil, joy and sorrow.
Muslims believe in one almighty God, Allah. Allah is the creator of all and the source of good and evil. Everything that happens is Allah's will. He is strict, powerful and distant. Though Muslims honor a few prophets, Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet. Muslims have five religious duties in their lives. The must recite a specific creed about Allah and Muhammad: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet;" pray five times a day; give to the poor; and during one month of the year abstain from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset. The fifth duty is a Pilgrimage once in a lifetime to Mecca. A Muslim hopes to enter Paradise, a place of sensual pleasure. Otherwise they will be punished forever in hell.
Islam declares that there is one God. The Koran is the holy book of Muslims. It is a unique version of the Hebrew Bible, and contains the Ten Commandments etc.
Christians believe in a personal God who has revealed himself as a trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ, the Son, became a man and lived on Earth. He performed miracles and claimed to be God. Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead. Christians regard the Bible as God's word.
The benefit of Christianity is the faith that God hears and answers prayer and that Jesus has already suffered on the cross for their sins.
Why are there different religions and Gods? There are four basic questions that everyone wants answers to:
"What exists?" Everyone has ideas about the nature of reality. Everyone has an opinion about God's existence. The way we see reality affects all of our beliefs.
2. Human nature
"Who am I?" What does it mean to be a human? We face our mortality. What is the meaning of life?
People act based on principles. We make judgments about good and evil. Are there any standards that apply to everyone? We form beliefs about moral responsibility. What is guilt? Our beliefs about values direct us in life.
What is truth? Does the same truth apply to everyone? We hold convictions that our beliefs are true.
The major world religions formed over thousands of years as each society grew into it's own "understanding" of the world, a Supreme Being and our place in that world. Moral codes, also the result of thousands of years of human coexistence, are remarkably similar: Do not steal, do not kill, do not cheat etc. I believe that each religion formed in cultural isolation as the answer to basic human needs. We need a structure and a reason to live. Religions give us a framework in which to relate to each other. They also meet our need to know that there's something more to life than what we see, a higher purpose. Religion helps explain good and evil.
Marilyn Adamson. "Connecting with the Divine"
World Religions Index: wri.leaderu.com
Jim Leffel, 1994 "Understanding Basic Beliefs"