Five Views of the World’s Religions

A comparison of religious views is only valuable if it helps the individual make the choices required by life.  Those choices seem to fall into several categories:

  1. A choice between meaning and meaninglessness.  Only those belief systems which regard the world, humanity, and the cosmos as real both in their existence and purpose can provide meaning for people.  This, it seems, reduces the field to three choices.
  2. A choice between real guilt or shame, and illusion.  Only those belief systems which take humanity’s sinfulness seriously can hope to provide a satisfying answer.  Again we are left with the same three religions.
  3. A choice between self-help and salvation.  Only one of the religions surveyed below offers that which humanity cannot hope to achieve for itself, namely forgiveness.
DivinityAn impersonal force (monism or pantheism or innumerable gods)Basically polytheistic, i.e., allow for the many deities.  But no god can help man in any way.The infinite and personal creator of the universe.  He is of unlimited love, power, goodness, and justiceAllah is the one all-seeing, all-powerful, all-knowing God.Basically accepts the Jewish idea of one God.  Adds the concept of Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
WorldCreated from the existing, creator and creation identical, no real existence, no clearly defined purposeDualistic: the world is a real interplay between prakriti (matter) and purusha (person)The world was created by God out of nothing, has real and separate existence, meaning, and purposeThe world is the creation of Allah.  It has its own separate existence, meaning and purpose.The world was created by God out of nothing for His glory, has real and separate existence, meaning, and purpose.
HumanityBasic problems: illusory nature of man and sin, effects of karma.  Man is part of God thus not separated by sin.Man is purusha caught in series of rebirths due to past karma, ignorance, and craving.  Life itself is sufferingGod created man out of dust.  He is free to obey or disobey God.  This is the basis for judgment.Man is a creation of Allah and the purpose of life is to obey and submit to Allah.  Refusal to do so is man’s basic problemGod created humanity with free will. Attempting to glorify ourselves separate people from God and hold them in bondage.
SalvationReunification with the world soul.  Total dissolution of individual.  Based on works, knowledge, duty or devotionBeing set free from the cycle of rebirth by knowledge (4 noble truths) and works (eight-fold path)Disobedience is man’s basic problem.  Forgiveness of sin if provided by ritual sacrifice and God’s mercyThe key is submission as expressed in acceptance of five doctrines and performance of five pillars.Humanity cannot escape bondage without outside help. Help is available in free offer of eternal life based on faith in Christ.

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