You are on page 1of 9

ARE ALL RELIGIONS THE SAME?

A COMPARATIVE ESSAY

By Sophie Trujillo
RELS 2300
August 8, 2016

Throughout my study of both eastern and western religionswith a particular emphasis


on Hinduism, Christianity, and IslamI have come to the conclusion that all religions are
ultimately the same. Though there are obvious differences between the symbols, doctrines, and
rituals seen throughout the various religions, their final aims and reasons for practicing in
particular ways eventually wind down to the same thing: the possibility of eternal happiness.
Even among all their differences, religions share many similarities, and considering these
consistencies and dissimilarities throughout allow for a greater understanding of culture and
daily happenings worldwide. But more importantly, this consideration allows for the
understanding that we are all the same on an individual level as wellhumans seeking for
something better.
CREEDS
Core beliefs and doctrines make up a huge part of what religion is. Basic beliefs generally
answer three universal questions: Where did I come from? What is my purpose in this life?
Where will I go after? Though each religion varies, in the end their beliefs are very similar.
In Hindusim, the answers to the universal questions are found in the shruti and smriti
sacred texts (Jacobs, Hinduism3). Basically, Hindus believe the world we live in today and the
universe that surrounds are just one result of a never ending cycle of creation and destruction.
Because there is an infinite amount of these creative periods, there are many myths that explain
the origin of life. But a common feature in all of the myths is that God (called Brahman) is the
source of all creation, and our very souls are pieces of him that want nothing more than to return
to their origin (Hindu Creation Myth). Hinduism is considered a henotheistic religion, meaning
that Hindus worship Brahman as the one supreme being of everything, but they believe he
manifests himself in various deities that each represent one of his characteristics. Ultimately,

they are still worshipping one god, just in different forms (Jacobs, Hinduism4). Hindus believe
that the problem we all face is the cycle of Samsara, made up of re/birth, life, and death. Because
our souls want to be freed of our bodies in order to return to Brahman, our goal is to make right
choices that will allow our spiritual selves to progress and become more god-like until we reach
Moksha, where our soul is no longer reincarnated and can return to its source and finally be at
rest.
Unlike the Hindu religion, Christianity draws from the Holy Bible to find responses to
lifes questions. It teaches that humanity began with Adam and Eve, that we are all Gods
children, and he sent us here to learn of him, exercise the power of agency he gave us and choose
his will and become perfect, so that after we die we may live in his presence and be exalted.
Christians do not believe in reincarnation as do Hindus, but rather look ahead to the resurrection
that will occur after this life. Another major difference between Hinduism and Christianity is that
Christians believe that in his love, God sent his literal son, Jesus, to Earth through the Virgin
Mary. Jesus was a teacher and perfect example for all, and the pinnacle of his life on Earth was
when he was crucified and died to save all mankind. Christians believe that when Jesus died, he
paid for human sin (which started with Eves decision to partake of the forbidden fruit) with his
perfect sacrifice. Because human error is impossible to avoid and perfection cannot be reached,
all mankind can rely on the sacrifice Jesus made and through his grace become perfected so that
they can still live with God after death. Though the story is different, both Hindus and Christians
strive to return to their creator, and both religions preach that good works in this life is the way to
reach that final goal.
Islam belief is very similar to Christianity, in that God is our heavenly father, and he
wants us to become like him so we can live with him after this life. They do not, however,

believe that Jesus was any more than a prophet, as was Adam, Abraham, Moses, and many
others. Years after Jesus life, Arabia was in a state of ignorance, known as Jahiliyya (Jacobs,
Islam1). At that time, people lacked specific knowledge of a monotheistic deity, and no
revelation had been given about the right direction to take in life, so when the prophet (the final
one) Muhammad came, the people were receptive to his message. Muhammad received
revelations directly from God that established a strict monotheistic theology and taught about
judgment and accountability after death (Jacobs, Islam1). The revelations of all the prophets
are contained in the Quran and their life examples are collected in Hadith, the two sacred texts
of Islam. From these sacred scriptures, Muslims learn what God (Allah) requires of mankind,
and how we can come closer to him, and ultimately reach the goal of living with him after this
life.
Between these three religions, there are clear distinctions among each of them, making
them all unique. Yet, the overarching theme in all three is that we came from one God, and we
want to return to him, and the way to accomplish that is by doing what God requires. In essence,
the creeds of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are all the same.
CODES
In addition to the creeds that make up a religion, the ethics and rules the people of a
religion strive to live up to are key as well. Just as religious beliefs have many similarities,
members of different religions tend to have alike values too.
Because Hindus view everything in the world as something from God himself, they see
divinity within each of his creations and treat them accordingly. As we are each believed to be
divine individuals, it is important to strive to develop divine characteristics by following
teachings in the sacred texts as well as from holy leaders. Hindus divide life into different stages,

and within each stage there are specific responsibilities to fulfill (dharma). For example, children
are to learn from and be obedient to their parents, young adults are to pursue worldly pleasures
and focus on temporal progression, parents are to provide for and protect their children and
gradually dedicate more time to spiritual study as children grow up, and in the last part of life
one should become completely devoted to spiritual study and meditation (Jacobs, Hinduism3).
As these duties are fulfilled (or perhaps not fulfilled), karma develops and determines how one
will progress in the cycle of samsara. As discussed earlier, the goal is to eventually reach moksha
and become liberated from samsara completely. So Hindus strive to do all that is required of
them and benefit others in order to generate positive karma. As Hinduism has evolved
throughout time, it has adopted principles of non-violence and passive-resistance when pushing
for social or political change, again as a way to progress spiritually and temporally (Fischer, p.
112).
The moral code of ethics for Christians is clearly laid out in the Holy Bible. Perhaps the
most well-known Christian rules are the Ten Commandments, given to the prophet Moses on
Mount Sinai. These commandments forbid idolatry, adultery, killing, stealing, lying, coveting,
and taking Gods name in vain and putting anything above him. They also require the observance
of the Sabbath day and the honoring of ones parents (King James Version, Exodus 20:3 17).
In addition to these commandments, Christians believe us all to be brothers and sisters, members
of the family of God, and so they strive to love everyone as God loves each of his children, and
by so doing they are ultimately able to obey all of Gods commandments.
Similarly, Muslims live by the Ten Commandments and also strive to treat others as their
spiritual brothers and sisters. In addition to those efforts, it is important in Islam to spread love
and peace and to be good examples of those things to the world. Men and women are considered

equals in Islam, and all Muslims are expected to dress modestly and base their diet on
specifications given in the Quran. In general, Muslims strive to surrender their will to that of
Gods, to obey him and follow him in all ways (Jacobs, Islam3).
Again, though there are clear differences between Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, the
people of these religions live by similar core values. Each religion teaches the importance of
becoming like God and seeing the divinity in others. The lifestyle of choice for these religions is
one patterned after the will of God, and that can be found in their sacred texts.
CULTUS
The rituals and practices that make up different religions vary the most. However, further
study highlights their similarities, whether in action or purpose.
Hindu worship is typically referred to as puja. Puja often involves prayer, chanting, and
offering simple sacrifices to deity (Personal Observation, Hindu temple). Worship can be done
at temples with a priest leading a service or individually, or even in a home with family. Some
Hindus practice different forms of yoga that allow them to meditate, connect with God, and
better understand the divine world (Jacobs, Hinduism3). All worship practices are done to help
one progress spiritually by becoming closer to God and learning to make right choices to
generate good karma and eventually escape Samsara.
Like Hindus, Christians participate in worship at church and at home. Typical worship
practices involves attending a regular service, praying, and singing. In addition to these practices,
however, many Christians participate in various rituals throughout their lives. Baptism is a
sacred ritual performed to cleanse one of sin and officially make them members of a church.
Confirmation is another ritual performed that allows one to officially receive the Holy Spirit of
God. Along with these two rituals, it is common among Christians to participate in a communion

of some sort regularly, a symbolic partaking of bread and wine to represent the flesh and blood
of Jesus during his sacrifice for all. The purpose of these rituals is to help Christians feel closer
to God and demonstrate their love for and commitment to follow him.
In Islam tradition, the practices and rituals are founded on five main principles: Shahada,
Salaat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj. Shahada is a continuous ritual: a constant statement of their faith
in and testimony of God. Salaat refers to prayer, a ritual done five times every day as a reminder
of God, a way to strengthen ones relationship with him, and a way to increase a sense of unity
among Muslims worldwide. Zakat refers to charity, and part of this practice includes that all
Muslims donate 2.5% of their income after all debts have been paid. Swam includes the practice
of fasting during Ramadan, when adult Muslims abstain from all food, drink, and sexual
relations from dawn until dusk throughout the specified month. This ritual allows for a way to
practice self-discipline and develop God-like characteristics. Hajj refers to the pilgrimage all
Muslims are encouraged to take to the holy city of Mecca. This should be done at least once in a
lifetime, if possible, as a way to remember Abraham and Ishmael (roots of Islam), and also to
become at peace with themselves, God, and others. This particular ritual is symbolic of final
judgment. (Jacobs, Islam3)
Though each of these rituals is very different, they all help individuals remember and
connect to God and live up to their core values. The worship practices serve a common purpose
and demonstrate another way various religions are ultimately the same.
Though Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are concentrated in separate areas of the world
and have different creeds, codes, and practices, all of them create a strong foundation for their
members and provide a common aim to return to God. Each religion emphasizes the importance
of choice and good works in this life, and they each include sacred rituals that allow for people to

progress spiritually. Though they are each unique, at their core they are the same. Religion serves
as a guide throughout the world to encourage people from all walks of life to discover their
divine potential and strive for that on the quest for ultimate happiness. When studied and
observed with an open mind, understanding these similarities connects all people across the
globe.

Works Cited
Bandara, Wijitha. Hinduism in the Modern World. Hinduism unit. May 2016. Lecture.
Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2013. Print.
Hindu Creation Myth. Hindu Creation Myth. Web. Excerpt from Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook
translated from the Sanskrit, with an introduction by Wendy Doniger OFlaherty.
London: Penguin Books, 1975. Pages 27 28.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. United States of America. 1979/2013.
Jacobs, Suzanne. Hindusim3 Upanishadic Era. Hinduism unit. May 2016. Lecture.
Jacobs, Suzanne. Hinduism4 Classic Era. Hinduism unit. May 2016. Lecture.
Jacobs, Suzanne, Islam1 Pre-Islamic Arabia and the Last Prophet. Islam unit. July 2016.
Lecture.
Jacob, Suzanne. Islam 3Sacred Belief and Practices. Islam unit. July 2016. Lecture.
Personal Observation, Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple, June 21, 2016.