World Views on Religion
Religion forms one of the most divisive aspects of the society. Religious diversity underlines the very world that we live in today. Its role in the peaceful coexistence of the international community of states is also central to a peaceful world. Deriving an understanding of the different types of religions that exist today forms one of the most difficult and yet important tasks in the contemporary societies of today. The seven rubrics of comparing and contrasting religions provide, to a given extent, an easier route to the accomplishment of this task. These rubrics are what inform the comparison of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
Just like many other concepts that fall in the social and philosophical contexts, religion has evaded any agreeable definition amongst scholars. Yet, it is undeniable that many of the human conducts and beliefs are largely dictated by religion. Indeed, even those who denounce subscription to any mainstream religions, e.g. atheists, are part of a religion of their own. The futility of humans trying to run away from religion indeed underlines the difficulty seen in the provision of an acceptable definition. Young defines religion as the complete transformation of human beings in response to the perception of intimacy. This definition has three main elements; humanity, transformation and ultimacy. Firstly, he limits religion to humanity and does not include other nonhuman creatures. It, therefore, implies that plants and animals cannot be religious and only humans can be religious. Similarly, every religion brings out to its followers the real meaning of what it means to be a human being on earth. Consequently then, only human beings can understand and value religion. Secondly, religion has the ability to transform. The aspect of transformation relates to the fact that religion is dynamic and not static. It brings out the reality that in the life of a human being, change is necessary and religion only provides a means through which such change will occur. Finally, ultimacy connotes the most important and that which is of value to a human being. Whatever is ultimate to a human being simply means that it holds the highest value; it is supreme and highest in rank to the life of an individual.
The importance of studying religion cannot be overemphasized in the world that we live in today. In the recent past, many events that have taken place have been largely driven by religious beliefs and supported by such religion. For example, the uprisings witnessed in the Middle East have been supported by Islamic conceptions and driven by Islamic beliefs. Religion, therefore, plays an important role in the political, economic and social life of a human being. Similarly, understanding the many religious beliefs and conceptions of the different religions that exist today provides an important basis upon which international peace can be built and strengthened. This is because, with understanding comes tolerance and respect of each other’s space, and this allows for the freedom of practicing the beliefs that a given religion demands. It is, therefore, no longer a matter for the religious in the society, neither it is a question that only those who are members of a given religion must answer, it behooves on every human being to take it upon himself or herself to understand the different attributes of existing religions (Young 67-137).
Comparing and Contrasting Religions
Young developed seven rubrics that could be used to compare and contrast different religions (Young, 2013). These seven steps are provided in form of questions that provide a basic procedure on setting apart the three religions in the simplest ways possible. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are three most popular and most confusing religions in the world. Comparing and understating the similarities and differences in them is of vital importance.
First, what is the meaning of being human? Every religion has its own conception on the meaning of being a human being. All the three religions believe in the existence of a soul before the existence of a human being. This is the aspect of pre-existence, that man existed in another form before he was born. It is the soul that leaves the body of man when he dies. Similarly, all the three religions believe that human beings live according to the commands and directions of a superior God or Allah. This is a powerful God, who created everything and who directs the actions of human beings and to whose will every human being is required to act.
The second rubric is the existence of a basic Human problem. Here, each religion has an identity of a religion that is common to all humanity and it is on this basis that it calls upon human transformation. It is this respect that three religions contrast from each. Under Christianity, the basic human problem is the need to prepare for the second coming of the Messiah. The time when the world shall come to an end and the sinners shall go to hell while the saints shall go to heaven. It is this preparation that calls for human transformation in order to be ready for the second coming of the Messiah and so as not to be left behind. Under Judaism, the common problem is the betterment of the world that would be suitable to God. They are required to build the “Kingdom of God on Earth”. On the other, the basic problem of Islam is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
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The Cause of the Basic Problem
Each religion has an identified cause of the basic problem afflicting humanity. Both Judaism and Christianity identify the root cause of the problem that is afflicting humanity. Both religions identify the separation from God as the root cause of the problem. This separation is brought about due to the disobedience of the commands and directions of the deity and as such the result is the separation. According to these religions, disobedience of the commands of the deity is a serious offence that has the result of separating human beings from their creator. In the case of Islam, the root cause of the problem is the ignorance and lack of commitment to the teachings of the scriptures. Under Islam, man is ordained as the most important creature of Allah and has enormous potential. He is gifted with wisdom and Allah has shown him the right path to follow through the scriptures that he is required to read and understand and follow its teachings (Levenson, 57-114). But because he has not read nor understood the requirements of the scriptures, he shall live a perpetual cycle of entrapment, where he shall be born, live and die only to be born again.
The Goal of Transformation
Having identified the basic problems that face humanity and the root causes of these problems, every religion then creates the need for transformation of human beings. The basic question is that, why is it important for man to be transformed? In the case of Islam, the goal of transformation is meant to liberalize human beings from the entrapment of the cycle of life and that they shall be free to live for eternity without the fear of dying. However, in the case of Judaism and Christianity, the goal of transformation is in order to seek reconciliation with the God.
The Means of Transformation
Each of the three religions provides means through which human beings can undergo transformation in order to achieve reconciliation and liberation with their deity. It is this means of reconciliation that takes a long time in the life of a religious person as they require commitment and sacrifice in order to be fully transformed. For example, under Christianity and Judaism, transformation can be achieved through reorientation to the way of life ordered by God. This process requires total commitment and an acceptance of the rules that one must obey and the changes that one must take in order to achieve this transformation. In Islam, transformation is through the overcoming of material attachment and spiritual ignorance. This process demands great personal sacrifice as it is not easy to detach yourself from the materials of the world and learning the scriptures is not an easy task either. However, this provides the only way through which transformation can be achieved.
The Nature of Reality
This refers to the way each religion perceives the aspect of time in reality. It is how things happen in reality according to the views of each religion. For example in Islam, the life of a human being is characterized by the beginnings and endings of each life cycle. This is because man is entrapped in the cycle of life until the point of transformation. In the case of Christianity and Judaism, the reality of a human being has a definite end. That when he dies, it shall be an end of him as a mortal being.
The Sacred and How the Sacred may be Known
The sacred refers to the god that each religion believes in, a superior being that controls their actions and commands their ways. In Islam, the sacred will be known through the disciplined study and pursuit of scriptures in order to gain spiritual knowledge. However, in the case of Judaism and Christianity, the sacred will be known through a process of self-revelation on the part of the god (Gauss, 115-147).
In conclusion therefore, the seven rubrics of comparing and contrasting the three religions of the world provide the basic steps that can be used in identifying the points of convergence and the points of divergence in those religions. They provide a careful study into the primary aspects that underline the three religions.