Around the world you will find around four thousand different religions. Many people claim that all religions are virtually equal. That every faith is essentially the same at their core. Is this true? What are the basic tenants of the faiths of the world’s largest religions?
To say that you are a Christian, means you are a follower of Christ as He has revealed Himself in the Holy Bible. Christianity is a monotheistic religion comprised of numerous different denominations. These different denominations are separated based on stances taken on interpretation of the Bible. Many of these denominations will disagree on secondary issues. Christians worship one God who is a Trinity. Three individual Persons but one in essence. God the Father, Jesus the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit are all unique individuals but are joined together as one. All three have always existed.
“In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.” London Baptist Confession 2:3
The Bible teaches that man is born a sinner due to Adam, the first man, having sinned against God His creator. Since God is completely Holy and perfectly Just, He cannot condone sin. Any sin against God is treason. The punishment for this treason against the Creator of the entire Universe is eternity in hell. God sent Jesus Christ, to be our Messiah. Jesus is known as God’s Son. This does not mean that literally God bore a son, because Jesus is God and is eternal. Jesus came into the world, born as a baby. He is God, wrapped in flesh. 100% God and 100% man. He lived a perfect, sinless life so that He could be the sacrifice to pay our ransom. Jesus was crucified on our behalf. He bore our sins on His body and was slain for us and bore our punishment. Three days later He rose Himself from the dead. This is why an empty cross is the primary symbol of our faith. Shortly thereafter, He ascended into heaven and will one day return again. It is by repenting of our sin and placing our faith in Christ as He has revealed Himself in Scripture that we can claim to be Christians and inherit eternal life.
If someone claims to be a Christian and does not know Christ as He revealed Himself in Scripture, they are not a Christian and are worshipping a false god of their own making. The distinction is imperative. The Christian faith is succinctly expressed in the Apostles Creed, written in AD 390.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy, universal church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Baha’i faith was established by Baha’u’llah in 1863 and grew rapidly throughout the Middle East. It is an offshoot of Islam.
The symbol of this faith is a 9-pointed star. The Bab, another name for the founder, taught that God would send another prophet. The Muslims believe that Jesus and Muhammed were both prophets, so this prophet would be a similar figure. Then in 1863 Baha’u’llah was banished from Iran and announced that he was this prophet. He died in 1892.
Baha’i are monotheists. They believe that religion is very orderly and highly promote equality of faith. They believe that God is revealing Himself in a progressive manner through various world religions. They view Adam, Noah, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, the Bab, and Mohammed as being some of these Manifestations. The Manifestations are sent to express some of God’s attributes to the world and to educate humanity.
The Baha’i have the canonical texts: The writings of the Bab, Baha’ullah, and other famous leaders. Their primary book is the Kitab-i-Aqdas, which translates to ‘Most Holy Book.’ And the Kitab-i-iquan “Book of Certitude.”
Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the world. In fact, it is the fourth largest religion in the world with over 500 million followers. Over 7% of the world are Buddhists. Within this category are a wide variety of traditions, much like the Christian denominations in their differences. Most Buddhists practice traditions based on the teachings of the Buddha and his philosophies. These differences will vary tremendously based on location.
Buddhism is Pantheistic. They believe that god is everything and everyone, and that everyone and everything is god. Pantheists hold that god is all things and connects all things. Buddhists do not worship a god, nor do they worship Buddha. They revere him and try to live by his teachings. By “taking refuge in the Buddha” they worship. They also worship by observing the Dharma and the Sangha, meditation and cultivation of the Paramitas. The goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment and nirvana. At death, you forget your life and become a part of the cosmos. Some Buddhists hold to reincarnation, while others do not.
Confucianism is also known as Ruism. This is more of a philosophy than a religion at its core. It is founded on the teachings of Confucius in China. He developed this tradition in response to Taoism and Buddhism
Within Confucianism there is a significant emphasis on family harmony, as well as social harmony. This is emphasized much more than heavenly spiritual values. Humanism is at the core of Confucianism. Confucius taught that people are fundamentally good and perfectible. The focus of one’s life should be on the cultivation of virtue.
Ren, of Benevolence is one of the core practices. Yi is the upholding of righteousness and Li is a system of rituals to determine how a person should live in daily life so that they act in harmony with the flow of heaven. There is a differencing of opinion amongst Confucians as to the afterlife. Many observe ancestor worship, but others do not hold to any afterlife at all, though they still honor the memory of their ancestors.
I Ching, the Book of Changes is one of their primary religious texts. They also have a Classic of Poetry, Book of Documents, Book of Rites etc. While the religious texts do mention Tian, the god, it is not to be confused with the personal God of the Abrahamic faiths. Rather Tian is “the way things are” which coincides with the ancient Greek concept of “Nature.”
Hinduism is another predominantly Pantheistic religion with many different traditions and philosophies. Hindu’s revere the Shruti and the Smriti texts. Other Hindu scripture include the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Upanishads and the Agamas.
Hindu’s hold to the Four Purusharthas, or the Proper Goals: Dharma (ethics), Artha (prosperity), Kama & Moksha (desires & liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth), Karma (intent), and Samsara (cycle of life and rebirth.) They worship according to Yoga (which is a practice to attain Moksha), Puja, Japa, Meditation, Recitations, festivals and pilgrimages.
Within Hinduism, there are more than just Pantheists. You’ll also find Panentheists, Henotheists, Monotheists and even Agnostics. There are no binding holy books or prophets. There is a wide variety of beliefs.
The AUM is the central religious symbol amongst Hindus. It is the symbol and mantra of Brahman, or the central Creator in Hindu belief.
Islam is considered one of the Abrahamic faiths and is, as such, monotheistic. They teach that there is only one God and that Mohammed is His chief prophet. One fourth of the world’s population is Muslim and the numbers are rising. They view Islam as the complete version of the faith that was revealed through other prophets such as Adam, Abraham and Jesus. Islam historically originated in the 7th century in Mecca.
Islam teaches that God is holy, unknowable, and all-powerful. The primary scripture is the Quran, which is viewed as the verbatim word of God. The Sunnah and the Hadith are the teachings of Muhammed and are considered extremely important for their faith too.
There are five basic pillars to their faith as depicted in the Quran. Muslims are required to recite the Shahada, the basic creed of the faith that must be taken under oath. This is the foundation for their faith. The second pillar is Salah, or daily prayers. Zakat is giving of alms, Sawm is fasting during Ramadan, and Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Other notable acts include memorization of the Quran and Sadaqah, or giving charitably. There are strict rules for diet and social living. Of these rules include unique views on women. A woman is viewed as half of the worth of a man.
The law according to Islam is a highly essential aspect of their faith. You cannot have Islam without honoring Shariah, or Islamic law. Herein is an area of disagreement amongst Muslim Traditionalists and Reformists. Different schools of thought interpret the literal aspects of the law differently.
Jainism was founded in India during the 6th century. It was founded by Jina Vardhamana Mahavira as an opposition to Brahmanism. Jainism has several religious symbols including the swastika, and an upheld hand with a wheel inside its palm. Jina the Sanskrit word for Victor is where the name originates. The word paints an image of a victor having crossed over the steam of rebirths by destroying Karma in his living an ethical life.
Jainism is transtheistic, meaning it is neither atheistic or theistic but is somewhat beyond them. Here, the gods exist but are irrelevant since they are transcended by the belief in Moksha. Many variants of Buddhism are also transtheistic.
Adherents to Jainism practice a strict life of non-violence, even to the point of refusing to defend oneself or killing anything even as small as an insect. Jainism also holds to a “many-sided reality” which states that truth is complex and reality always has multiple sides. They hold that reality can be experienced but not adequately expressed in language. Any attempts at communicating it are called Naya, which is “only partial expression of truth.” They also hold to the belief in Non-attachment to worldly possessions. This belief even includes the emotional aspects – any attachments, likes/dislikes, emotions etc. Unchecked attachments can cause harm to one’s personality.
Jainism holds to 5 Vows: Nonviolence, Truth, Not Stealing, Chastity, and Non-Possessiveness. Monks and Nuns are celibate. They live a life of Asceticism and regularly practice fasting. Meditation and rituals are also highly emphasized. They believe that souls are reborn into various realms and that by living an ethical life one may stop the rebirth cycle. The then liberated soul joins “the One who has gone beyond” known as the Siddha.
Judaism is one of the great Abrahamic faiths and is monotheistic. The religion of the ancient Hebrews and modern Jews. This is the core from which Christianity sprung. Their holy book is the Torah and in it are numerous laws for governing daily life, spiritual rituals, and dietary practices. They hold that God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
The Jews are eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah, to free them from their sins. Our sins separate us from God. The Jews hold that they can be made ritualistically cleansed thorough obedience to the laws, but that they are awaiting to be spiritually cleansed completely.
This is the traditional religion of Japan. Some of the earliest writings of Shinto came about in the 8th century as a collection of regional beliefs and mythology. Shinto, translated “the way of the gods’ has a large variety of various deities and traditions. Some estimates place 80% of Japan’s population to be Shinto. They believe that everything in nature is possessed by spirits – even rocks have their spirit. This is why shrines to honor the various Kami, or spirits is so prevalent in Shinto practice. The symbol of the Shrine is the symbol to illustrate Shinto.
Shinto hold to beliefs in many gods who have their own hierarchy and rituals. Many of these rituals include purification rituals. These purification rituals occur daily, with special emphasis on other purification rituals to be done weekly, by season, lunar phase and annually.
After death the person’s spirit goes to the Yomi, or the underground. Some Shinto sects hold to resurrection myths and paradise views of an afterlife.
The Khanda is the symbol of the Sikhs, which consists of three weapons, each with various symbolic implications. Sikhism is monotheistic and their holy book is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs are monotheistic and they hold that nothing has ever been created or destroyed as all are part of God. Their goal in life is to be at one with God. This can only be done through meditation, prayer, and fellowship with likeminded believers. The God of the Sikhs is eternal and cannot be seen. They in essence are Pantheistic in that they hold that everything is God and that God is in everything.
Sikh philosophy states that all humans are born good. The followers are trying to reach salvation by breaking the cycle of rebirth so that they might become one with God. Bad karma according to Sikhs is caused by anger, pride, attachment and lust.
Taoism is also known as Daoism. It is a philosophy more than an organized religion. Dao means The Way. Tao is a fundamental idea found in most Chinese schools of philosophy including acupuncture, Chinese astrology, Feng Shui, and Qigong. Taoism is the pattern to the followed on the Way. This is different from Confucianism in that it does not emphasize order and ritual but instead one achieves perfection by becoming one with the universe through learning the natural flow.
Taoism is not an organized religion like the Abrahamic faiths nor do they worship any particular god – though some anthropomorphic aspects of the Tao are worshipped in some sects. The individuals believed to achieve immortality are also highly revered. There are various different sects within Taoism but at their core they are all focused on learning the natural rhythm of the Way. The symbol for Taoism is the Yin and Yang symbol.
The Zaojing is also a commonly used symbol. Four components of Taoism include Philosophy, Techniques for achieving Ecstasy, Practices for Achieving Immortality, and Exorcism. Within Taoism is a strict code of ethics. The afterlife is when one becomes one with the Tao, or when one achieves immortality.
Zoroastrianism has an altar aflame as it’s symbol. It is a monotheistic faith centered around a dualistic feud between good and evil. Many people claim that Christianity is based on Zoroastrianism, though there is no historical evidence to support that claim. They to hold to belief in a messiah, judgement after death, heaven and hell.
Some of the early manuscripts point Zoroastrianism back to the 5th century. The primary religious texts include the Gathas, Yasna and the Avesta. Zoroastrians worship Ahura, the Lord Creator and Mazda, the Supremely Wise. Ahuras counterpart is Druj, the deceiver. There are other spiritual beings known as the Amesha Spentas and Yazatas.
Zoroastrianism is not completely uniform in its beliefs. There are several variants. All of which focus on Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. They teach that there is only one path – the path of truth, and that if you do the right thing you will be rewarded. Zoroastrianism is on the rise amongst the Kurds.
Which religion makes the most sense?
All religions, except Christianity, have man attempting to reach “God” in his own strength. Christianity alone has God coming to him to save him, though no action of his own.
Religions similar to Christianity
There are many popular religious groups that are similar to Christianity such as Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc. However, these religions deny essentials of the Christian faith making them non-Christian religions.
What separates Christianity from other religions?
One word: Jesus. Christianity is the only religion that says Jesus is God and that faith alone in Him alone is the only way to be cleansed from our sin so that we might see God. Also, Christianity is the only religion in the world where a man’s God comes to live inside of Him.
Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”