Religions Essay, Research Paper
Similarities and differences
In the 3 major religions
The 3 major religions of the western world – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share similar as well as different characteristics and it is evident that the 3 are all inter-related.
Judaism, the first real monotheistic religion started in Palestine during 13th Century BC among the ancient Israelites. This idea of believing in one god came about when Moses received the 10 commandments from heaven on mount Sinai. Tradition says the founder of Judaism was Abraham. Judaism was the basis of the 3 major major monotheistic religions.
Started in 30 AD, Christianity, formed by Judaism was founded by Jesus of Nazareth. It has many of the same beliefs as Judaism except Christianity has a messiah. Jesus was a Jew before he broke away and taught that he was the son of God. Christianity was developed in the same location as it’s connected religion, Judaism in Israel.
The third monotheistic religion, which was brought out by Judaism and Christianity, is Islam. Beginning in 622 AD in Mecca, Arabia Islam was founded by Muhammad. Before Mohammed’s time, the Moslem religion was polytheistic, believing in several gods. The Islamic faith was the result of the Hegira, when Muhammad traveled with his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622.
Although separate and distinct, the 3 major religions of the western world share characteristics of similar beliefs. Judaism is the founder of the monotheistic based religion. Monotheism is the belief in one true deity. Jews believe that god created the world and is creator of life. Jews also believe in prophets, who god speaks through. Moses, Abraham, Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob (Israel) are all prophets in the Jewish faith. Moses received the 10 commandments of god’s instructions on Mount Sinai and led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. Abraham was the traditional founder of the Hebrew nation. (1) Jews believe that their messiah will come soon. The doctrine of the Jewish faith is the Old Testament, also known as the Torah. The first five books of the bible were traditionally said to be written by Moses. The first book Genesis explains the creation of the world and the lives of Abraham and his descendents. The last four tell about the Israelites being set free from slavery. In the Torah lists the 10 commandments. These are the instructions in which Jews must follow. In the 10 commandments reveals the golden rule, which is prominent in every religion of the world. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In the Hebrew bible under the book of Daniel, the occurrence of an Apocalypse is revealed. Jews believe in an opponent of god. In the book of Job, Satan appears as an adversary to god, presenting an opposing point of view to the lord. Exodus, is the book of the Hebrew Bible that is the best example of salvation. Salvation, meaning the act of saving or protecting from harm or loss. The Jews were saved from bondage among the pharoh. The Exodus is the Salvation in the Jewish religion.
Like Judaism Christianity shares some of the same beliefs as well as its own. Christians are monotheistic and believe that their messiah, Jesus is the Son of God. They believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth as a virgin. Mary was conceived by the power of God. From the virgin birth Christians believe that God is the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit, in three persons are the reflection of God. God is the father of Jesus, and the son (Jesus) was “begotten” (fathered by) by God and the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the father. One characteristic that resembles Judaism is bringing about Salvation. Being saved from sin is the objective in Christianity.
Christianity is the most organized but the most complex of the 3 major western religions. There are sections and divisions of Christianity. The 3 main branches are Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. There are many divisions of Protestant. Many of the major divisions are Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian. There are no divisions in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The beliefs in these 3 branches differ. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that people must confess and ask for forgiveness for sins through the Priest. Protestants believe that one can confess for forgiveness by praying straight to god – main difference. Christianity is organized differently than Islam and Judaism because they use clergy in each division. There is the episcopal model and the Congregational model that organize Christian churches. The Episcopal model is where Authority resides with a bishop or Archbishop who oversee priests. Roman Catholic churches have ultimate authority on the Pope. The Episcopal model relates to Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
Congregational churches insist that local church congregation should be independent and govern themselves. Congregational churches call their own ministers and determine how they will worship. The Congregational model is associated with Protestant divisions. Christians us a church for worship. In the United States there are 2 Cathedrals in New York City and Washington, D.C. Cathedrals contain a chair of the bishop. Christians use 2 symbols of their faith one major, is the instrument of Torture that the Romans used to kill Jesus. Another symbol is the fish. This symbol was used in ancient times to verify who was Christian. Judaism is similar to Christianity on how it is organized. Judaism is organized into 5 sections, reform, orthodox, conservative, Reconstructionist, and Hasidism. In Orthodox and Hasidic branches only men are ordained as Rabbi. Recently in reform, Reconstructionist and conservative women as well as men are ordained as rabbi.
The Jewish place of worship is called a Synagogue. A congregation maintains the Synagogue as a place of worship, study, and fellowship. The congregation also supports the Rabbi. Within Hasidism, the Rabbi is thought to have special insight on God’s revelation and will. His word is taken as close as divine revelation. (Ellwood, 195) Jews have symbols of their faith. The major symbol is the Star of David. It symbolizes the sufferings and hopes of Jews. Another symbol is the menorah. Used during the Hanukkah Holiday, Jews light candles on it. It is the device, which holds the candles.
Islam is organized similarly to that of Christians. Moslems are branched into Shi’ites and Sunni. This division took place due to the dispute concerning the succession of Muhammad. (Baer, 188) For Sunni, their clergy resided over Caliphs and sultans who oversaw matters of internal order and external defense. The religious authority resides among the Ulama who are scholars of Islam. However, the Imam controls Shi’ites’ political and religious leadership. The Imam is the male descendant of Muhammad. A group called the Shi’ite Community Twelvers believe that the Imam uses his authority in hiding as well as the Nicari believe the same. The Twelvers’ religious leaders are headed by the Ayatollahs. Last seen in AD 873, The Aga Khan exercises worldwide authority. A Moslem place of worship is called a Mosque. It is usually a dome shaped building.
Christians have a religious doctrine known as the Bible. Like the Hebrew Bible Christians believe in the Old Testament, (the first 5 books of the bible). Christians also believe in the New Testament. The New Testament contains writings about Jesus and his followers. It consists of 4 gospels, the book of Acts, and the Revelations. Like the Hebrew book of Daniel, the book of Revelations is a vision of an apocalypse. The Apostle, John, sees the vision. The vision reveals the end of the world and the judgement of the dead. It also reveals that a new Heaven, Earth and a new Jerusalem replace what the world after destruction. Another relationship between Judaism is the belief in the 10 commandments, as well as the Golden Rule (”Do to others as you would want others to do to you”). The Ten Commandments are exactly the same in the Hebrew Bible as they are in the Christian faith. Most Christian people believe in Heaven and Hell as well as an Opponent of God, known as Satan. In it’s traditional form Christianity saw Satan as a fallen Angel from a rebellion on God in heaven. They believe that Satan does not have a balanced amount of power to God, and Satan will be destroyed in the end. Among other religions Christianity has Prophets that God speaks his word through. Some of the prophets are Moses, John the Baptist, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. God uses these people to communicate to the people of God.
The third, major monotheistic religion in the world is Islam. Moslem belief is probably the most different of the 3 major western religions, but it does share some major characteristics. Moslems believe in one true god known as Allah. Allah has more authority than any other deity in the world’s religions, as thought by Moslems. His messenger is Muhammad. Muhammad is the Messiah in the Islamic faith. Although he is the Messiah, he is not considered the son of Allah or nowhere related to Allah. By this idea Allah is not thought of as the Trinity as in Christianity. The doctrine that belongs to the Moslems is the Qur’an (Koran). Moslems believe that the Qur’an is the most important revelation of God to humans. It consists of 114 units called Surahs. There are 4 inspired books of the Islamic religion, the Torah of Moses, the Zabur (Psalms) of David, the Injil (Evangel) of Jesus and the Quran (Allah’s final message). In the Quran the revealing of the last day is given. Moslems must believe in the resurrection of the body, (final judgment) and a final Destiny a Paradise in Heaven or Suffering in Hell. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a code of conduct. They have commandments that cover every part of life, not just ritual and religious practices. Along with the commandments of Allah there lies the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would want others to do to you.” Moslems believe that everything that happens is foreordained. Everything is under control of Allah, even happenings that Allah does not approve of. There are 28 prophets of Allah in the Moslem faith. Adam, Noah, Abraham, John, Jesus and Moses are some of the prophets, but Muhammad is the greatest. Like the other two monotheistic religions these prophets speak Allah’s words. The opponent of Allah in Islam is called Iblis or Shaitan. He became the opponent by refusing to bow before Allah’s greatest creation, Humans. Belief in Devils and Demons is not as strong today as it in yesteryears. Like other religions Iblis tries to send people astray. A Islamic thought about the struggle against sin and evil is called a Jihad. Some Moslems believe that if one is killed in a jihad they go straight to paradise.
Around the mosque is a tower called a minaret. Men used to climb atop it and call for prayer 5 times a day. Today they use loudspeakers. Mosques also have fountains, used for cleansing before prayer. In a Mosque there is a niche in front of the wall known as a mihrab it identifies the direction toward Mecca. Turbans are religious symbols as well as the crescent moon and star. In the Shi’ite branch Moslems fold their turbans exactly 12 times, it is Shi’ite loyalty.
Religious rituals are common in all religions. The 3 major monotheistic religions practice similar and different rituals of their faith. The most important rituals in the Christian religion are the Eucharist, and Baptism. The Eucharist is the sharing of the bread and wine, which Protestants teach, represents Jesus’ body and blood. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. Baptism, sprinkling of water, (over the head), or total immersion, is a ritual in becoming a part of the Christian church. Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians practice Baptism as a birth ritual. Protestants, such as Baptists baptize as a puberty ritual. These rituals are called Sacraments. Sacraments are a special way in receiving gods grace (Ellwood, 40). Another important sacrament is anointing-physical and spiritual healing. There are a total of 7 sacraments in the Christian religion. Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Marriage, Holy Orders, and anointing are the 7 sacraments. Prayers are communication to god or other religious beings. Prayers can be used for thanksgiving, confession, adoration and also request. Protestant churches believe that one can ask for forgiveness straight to god, by prayer. Confession to god in Catholic and Orthodox churches requires that the sinner confesses to the priest and the priest sends the confession to god, so to speak. Sunday is the Sabbath (communal worship), for most Christian churches. The Seventh Day Adventists, a Protestant division, believe that the Sabbath is on Saturday. Christians attend a church service or mass on the Sabbath. In a service a priest preaches a sermon, or lesson, especially in Protestant churches. Praise is given to God during the service. Christians recite creeds and pray frequently. Creeds are statements of belief, which is recited, in public worship. Christians, like many other religions follow a religious calendar. . The calendar is linked to Jesus’ life. There are many holidays during the Christian calendar. Some holidays are celebrated on one day and others are for several weeks. The most important celebrations are Christmas, the birth of Jesus and Easter, the resurrection of Christ.
Jews’ practice is different in the sense that they are more strict with the way they live. Jews have dietary laws they must live by. They can eat only foods that are “kosher”, or fit for eating. Animals that chew the cud and have cloven hooves are fit for eating. Fish with fins and scales can also be eaten. Jews cannot eat the hindquarters of an animal unless the sciatic nerve is removed first. Animals must be killed in a prescribed manner Known as shechitah (Parrinder p.410). Another ritual related to eating is fasting. Fasting is, giving up food and drink for an extended amount of time. Jews fast on the Day of Atonement. They do not eat, drink, or smoke for 26 hours (Ellwood 121). Jews have rituals, which are linked to a time in life. At birth boys are given the covenant of circumcision after 8 days. As a puberty ritual, around the age of 13, boys become Bar Mitzvah, which means “son of the commandment”. The celebration involves a reading part of the Torah in Hebrew and commenting about it. Judaism has a distinctive funeral practice. When a close relative dies the family is supposed to tear their clothes. They observe periods of mourning; from time of death until burial is over. The body should be buried within 24 hours. Cremation and embalming is forbidden. The major goal in Judaism is to keep the Sabbath holy. The Sabbath for Jews is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. They attend a service at a synagogue on Friday evening or Saturday morning, as some divisions of Judaism follow. Jews rest on the Sabbath in resemblance of God’s rest on the seventh day. There are many jobs in which Jewish people cannot do on their day of rest. Judaism has many holidays during the year. The most important holidays are Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and Passover. The Jewish people fast and pray during Passover and Yom Kippur. Passover is celebration to recall the Exodus.
Moslems practice rituals that are similar to Judaism. Prayer is extensively emphasized in the Islamic religion. Moslems practice their religion in the Five Pillars of Islam. The first pillar is Profession of the faith. The second pillar is prayer 5 times a day. They may pray at any time of the day. Usually they pray in the morning, afternoon, mid-afternoon, evening, and at night. The prayers during mid-afternoon and evening are usually a short time, like five or ten minutes. During prayers Moslems must face Mecca, the origin of their prophet Muhammad. Most Moslems have a special rug or surface to kneel on. On the rug is a direction to face the sacred city. The third pillar is alms giving. Muhammad urged his followers to care for the poor and the needy (Ellwood 178). Private charity and the government administer this activity. The forth pillar is fasting. During the month of Ramadan, Moslems refrain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from sun up to sun down. To Moslems, fasting recognizes significant events in the early Islamic history. The fifth pillar is a pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims should make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime. Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has a religious calendar. The calendar is based upon the cycles of the moon. Each ritual will occur in every season of the year. In the Islamic calendar they celebrate Holidays similar to those of Jews. Laila Al-Bar’h (night of forgiveness), is a time to forgive all grievances and prepare for the month of fasting (Maestro, p.46). Ramadan is the fast from sun up to sun set. It recognizes Muhammad beginning to receive revelations from God. The Dhu Al Hijja is when many Moslems make the journey to Mecca.
Judaism was the religion that brought about Christianity and Islam. The three major religions of the western world-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, share similar as well as different characteristics in religious rituals, beliefs, origin and organization.