Comparing World Religions
Christianity was founded in Jerusalem in 33 AD when Jesus Christ was
crucified, died, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven
to sit at the right hand of God. Of course there are many different denominations within Christendom, but most adhere to the following
- There is only one true God.
- The Godhead exists as a Trinity of three persons: God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.
- God formed creation to be distinct from Himself. The purpose of all creation is to glorify God.
- God created mankind as individuals, each accountable for his own life. God is active in the lives of men and women on earth,
and He is the judge of all mankind.
- The Bible is holy and divine.
and the afterlife, there are widespread views across many denominations. Oddly enough, the most
disagreement exists on the most important issue for mankind--how to
reach a place in the afterlife (usually called "heaven").
The primary schools of thought on this are those of Protestants and Roman Catholics, as follows:
One must have faith in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life in
the presence of God. This means that each individual must make a personal and humble decision to admit that he has done wrong
(Romans 3:23); to realize that his sins separate Him from God (Romans 6:23); and, that it is only through faith in the substitutionary act by
Jesus Christ on the cross that each person can attain salvation.
Jesus Christ had no human father, so He had no imputed sin
(Romans 5:12), and he lived a perfect life by never committing a personal sin.
Therefore, His was the only sacrifice acceptable to a perfect God, and His death, burial, and
resurrection covered the sins of those who believe in Him. Salvation
is a grace gift from God--not something that can be earned by
one's good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9), because all deeds of a sinful
person are unworthy (Isaiah 64:6). At salvation, the
righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believer. For
will be a life without sin,
but on "the new earth" rather than in heaven
itself (Revelation 21:1).
One's personal good deeds (works)
will indeed be judged
in the afterlife, in two separate aspects:
1) The good deeds of each believer will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Each believer's good deeds
will be tested with fire, revealing which were done with the appropriate motivation, and he will be rewarded accordingly (1
2) The good deeds of each unbeliever will be judged at the Great White Throne of God, and they will all be found to be lacking the
righteousness needed for eternal life. (Revelation 20:11).
Unbelievers are doomed to eternal damnation and separation from
God. Most Protestants believe that hell is a real place where
unbelievers will spend an eternity of suffering. However,
some evangelicals believe that hell is only symbolic, and the souls of
the unbelievers will simply be destroyed.
is based partially upon faith in Christ (as noted above), but also upon one's good works as well as participation in sacraments and
rituals. Those who die in God's grace and friendship are
assured of eternal salvation.
However, since they are still not perfectly purified, they must undergo a process of purification
known as Purgatory, where they will acquire the holiness necessary to
is possible only in the Roman Catholic Church, but this and other related doctrines are not usually
Other variations of the Christian doctrine of salvation include the
Calvinism was founded by John Calvin during the Protestant Reformation
of the 16th century, with an adherence to Lordship salvation.
They, like many other Protestants, believe in predestination
of the "elect" before the creation of the world, and God alone acts to bring
about salvation. Specifically, the five points of Calvinism
are as follows:
1) Total Depravity)
Because of man's fall into sin, he is unable to
save himself, and even unable to believe the gospel on his
own. His will is controlled by his sinful flesh, so he is incapable of choosing good over evil. Faith in Jesus
Christ is necessary for salvation, but it is not something that man
contributes. Instead, faith is itself a part of God's plan of
salvation, as God's grace gift to the sinner. By the process
of regeneration, the Holy Spirit gives new life to the sinner, making him born again, and giving him a new nature.
2) Unconditional Election
God chose his elect before creation, so this decision rests solely upon His own sovereign will. His
choice was not based upon any future obedience on the part of the sinner. Instead, God gives faith and repentance to each
selected individual. So, election is not determined by any virtues in man. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God
brings the elect to a willing acceptance of Christ. God chooses the sinner; the sinner doesn't choose God.
3) Limited Atonement
The redeeming work of Christ and God's gift of faith apply to only the elect, not the non-elect also.
4) Irresistible Grace
The Holy Spirit brings the elect to salvation
with a call that cannot be rejected. Man neither determines
nor limits God's work of salvation,
with not dependence upon man's cooperation. The Holy Spirit causes the elect sinner to
cooperate, to freely and willingly have faith in Christ. So,
God's grace is invincible, and it never fails to result in the salvation
of the elect.
5) Perseverance of the Saints
The elect are, redeemed by Christ, given faith by the Spirit, and eternally saved. They are kept in the
faith by God, so they persevere to the end.
In sharp contrast to Calvinism, Arminianism was founded in the 16th century by Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). Although
Arminians agree with Calvinists on total depravity, they believe that
each person can resist God's offer of salvation,
and even lose his salvation
through a loss of faith in Christ. Arminians
emphasize man's free will in the process of salvation.
Free will implies free choice, so each individual can choose to accept or
reject the free gift of salvation.
Specifically, the five points of Arminianism are as follows:
The fall of man into sin did not leave man without
spiritual ability. Although God enables every sinner to believe, He doesn't interfere with man's free will. Each
sinner has the power to choose whether to cooperate with God's Spirit and be regenerated, or to resist His grace and die in a state of
eternal separation from God. The sinner's faith is an individual act of his own free-will and the sinner's contribution to
the process of salvation.
2) Conditional Election
God's choice of the elect was based upon His foreseeing into the future that they would respond to His
call. He selected only those who would freely believe the gospel.
So, election was determined by what each individual would do. Faith is not given to the sinner by God, and it was
not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. It is solely the result of each person's own free-will to decide to
believe. Therefore, the ultimate cause of salvation
is the sinner's choice of Christ, instead of God's choice of the sinner.
3) Universal Atonement
Christ's redeeming work was for everyone, not
just the elect, although it didn't actually secure the salvation
of anyone. Although Christ died for all men, only those who have faith in Him are saved. His death on the cross allowed God to
pardon sinners based upon their faith, although it didn't actually absolve anyone's sins.
4) The Holy Spirit can be resisted.
Sinners are able to resist the call of the Holy Spirit. They must choose to accept Christ's
redemption, so free-will limits the Spirit in applying Christ's saving work. God's grace is not invincible, and it can be
5) Falling from Grace
Those who believe can lose their salvation
by failing to maintain their faith and obedience.
Universalists agree that everyone is born in sin
and in need of salvation by faith in Christ. However, they believe that
judgment in hell doesn't last forever, and that God's judgment brings
sinners to repentance.
Church of Christ
The Church of Christ originated in the U.S. during the late 19th century as an offshoot of the Stone-Campbell Restoration
Movement. The Church of Christ leans toward an Arminian view of salvation.
However, they also believe that the process of salvation
includes a series of steps, as follows:
- Be properly taught, and hear the gospel message (Rom. 10:17, Matt.
- Believe the gospel message (Heb. 11:6, Mk. 16:15-16)
- Repent, or turn from one's former lifestyle to choose God's ways (Acts 2:38, 17:30, Luke 13:3)
- Confess belief that Jesus is the son of God (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:36-37)
- Be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Romans 6:3-5; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16)
- Remain faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10).
To believe that baptism is required for salvation seems to imply that
the Church of Christ promotes the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. However, many Church of Christ members would
say that this is not the case. They would argue that faith is the reason_ that a person is saved, but baptism is the time_ at which
he is saved. They say that water baptism is a confessional
expression of faith and repentance, but not a "work" that earns salvation.
Judaism was founded in about 2000 BC with the calling of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the eventual giving of the Law (including the Ten
Commandments) to Moses. The sacred books of Judaism include the Torah (The Old Testament) and the Talmud (commentary on the Torah).
Judaism emphasizes rewards and punishments in this life, but it addresses the afterlife with less clarity. The many opinions
about the afterlife include the following:
- The souls of the righteous dead go to heaven, a place of spiritual
- The souls may wait until the Messiah comes, and then they will be
- Wicked souls may be destroyed at death, ceasing to exist.
Not all places in heaven are equal. Only those who are very
righteous go directly to heaven. Most people go to Gehinnom,
which is a place of punishment or purification. Some souls are punished for a certain period of time. The most wicked souls are
either destroyed or they will spend eternity in a state of
consciousness and remorse.
Islam was founded by the prophet Muhammad in 610 A.D, when he received the Quran (The Divine Book, the code of law, and the holy scriptures of
Islam), from God (Allah Almighty). Muhammad is the last of many holy prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and
Jesus. They adhere to their Five Pillars (mandatory acts of worship), as follows:
1) The statement "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet"
2) Prayer, including the above statement, conducted five times daily while facing Mecca
3) The giving of alms (charity)
4) The fast of Ramadan during the ninth month of the Muslim year
5) A pilgrimage at least once to Mecca, if possible
in Islam means the eventual entrance to heaven, and one's
fate depends on what he does in this life on earth. Those who believe in the one true God as well as his message (Islam) are assured
of salvation. The only thing that guarantees one will not
is if he doesn't believe in the one true God. Those who believe in the one true God but not in Islam might be
forgiven by God, but they might not be. Islam also promotes
the idea that faith is not enough to escape hell--one
must also be free of sin;
i.e., seek God's forgiveness for sin, and repent.
Islam also teaches that there are different levels in heaven
and in hell.
The goal is to attain the highest level in heaven,
and this is done by accumulating more and more good deeds.
Hinduism was founded in India in about 1200 BC. Although the Hindus believe in a single supreme God, it is set apart from Western
religions by many other beliefs, including the following:
- The God of Hinduism is present in everything, including inanimate objects.
- Hindus also believe in other lesser gods.
- Hindus believe in reincarnation (transmigration of the soul). The soul experiences a series of being passed from one
body to another, being born into a new body after the death of a previous body.
- Hinduism promotes a belief in Karma, which is closely related to reincarnation. Karma determines the value of each life,
depending upon one's behavior in a previous life (body). The quality of the new birth is determined by the result from all of the
actions in previous bodies. The only way for a person to end this cycle is to finally live a life of good deeds. Then his
soul will be released from this cycle of lives, and be united with the Universal Soul, or the Supreme Being.
- Hinduism is not a set of beliefs.
- Hinduism has no fundamental doctrine.
- Hindus have no sacred text which gives them direction from God in their everyday lives, such as the Bible of Christianity.
- Hinduism emphasizes the importance of verbal customs.
- Hinduism has no tradition of a Western type of worship.
In addition to its religious aspects, Hinduism commands a strong influence on all other aspects of the society of its followers,
including their ethnicity, community, and politics. The Hindu life is one of continual self-development through the knowledge of wise
In Hinduism, salvation
means the liberation from the otherwise endless cycle of death and rebirth, and, the attainment of the highest
spiritual state. This liberation is called moksha, and it is the ultimate goal of Hinduism. Moksha is one's final release
from a worldly conception of one's self, as well as from experiential duality, and it re-establishes one's own fundamental nature.
Hinduism recognizes several paths for achieving the ultimate goal of moksha. These paths include selfless work (Karma Yoga),
self-dissolving love (Bhakti Yoga), absolute discernment and knowledge
(Jnana Yoga), and royal meditative immersion (Raja Yoga).
In Hinduism, there are many heavens (worlds of light), and many hells (worlds of darkness). Heaven is a world ruled by Indra, and
inhabited by many noble souls. It is a pleasant to be--a
world free of pain. In heaven,
ordinary souls are transformed into gods.
Hell is ruled by Lord Yama, who decides on each soul's punishment,
based upon one's activities. When the soul leaves the body, it can travel either along the path of light, or the path of the
night. However, for the people who accumulate very bad karma, these paths are denied. Instead, these people enter hells
where they endure a long period of suffering which ultimately cleanses and purifies them.
One's stay in heaven
or hell is not permanent. Instead, souls
eventually return to earth for final liberation.
The Western phenomenon of the New Age movement derives many of its facets from Hinduism.
Buddhism was founded in India in the 6th Century BC as an offshoot of Hinduism. It is quite similar to Hinduism, in that it
includes the doctrines of reincarnation, karma, the cycle of death and rebirth, and the possibility of escaping from this otherwise endless
cycle through religion and nirvana--freeing oneself from all desire.
The most important difference between Hindus and Buddhists is the doctrine of Anatta. In Buddhism, a man doesn't have an
eternal soul. Instead, individuals consist of a set of habits, memories, desires, etc. All of these facets are
transferred from body to body. The desires of the senses and the mind lead to suffering, but they are not recognized as belonging to
one's self. In the end, they will vanish, and this will lead to the state of nirvana.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are as follows:
1. Life means suffering, because neither the world nor human nature is perfect. One must endure physical suffering, such as pain,
sickness, injury, fatigue, old age, and death, as well as mental suffering, such as sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and
depression. Life is imperfect and incomplete because one is never able to permanently keep what we attain.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things, as well as the ignorance of those things. Transient things include
physical objects, as well as ideas, and all other objects of our perception. Ignorance is one's lack of understanding of how
his mind is attached to things that cannot be permanently kept. The reasons for suffering include desire, passion,
and pursuit of wealth, prestige, fame, or popularity. Because of the transient nature of the objects to which one is attached, the loss
of those objects is inevitable. As a result, suffering must necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include one's
self, which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What one calls self is just in his imagination, and he is simply merely
a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.
3. The end of suffering is attainable through Nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual attraction, as well as conceptual
attachment. Suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion, allowing Nirodha to extinguish all forms of attachment. So,
suffering can be overcome through human activity by removing the cause of the suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a
process which includes many levels which ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana provides freedom from all worries,
troubles, complications, fabrications, and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.
4. The path to the end of suffering is a gradual path of self-improvement. It constitutes the middle ground between the two
extremes of hedonism (excessive self-indulgence) and asceticism (excessive self-mortification). This path leads to the end of
the cycle of rebirth. Any other path is simply wandering on the wheel of becoming, because it has no final object. The
path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes. Every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning.
Craving, ignorance, delusions, and their effects will gradually disappear gradually as progress is made on the path.
In Buddhism, salvation is found in the form of the liberation of
nirvana. This is seen as the permanent end to all suffering, rebirth, and ignorance. The Dalai Lama believes that,
although the world's greatest religions appear on the surface to have many differences, they all share the common goal of the pursuit of
Releasing from this cycle of death and rebirth is the main goal of every Buddhist. After 45 days after the death the spirit either enters
nirvana or returns to earth for rebirth.
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in India in the 15th Century
AD. It is an offshoot from Hinduism, although this claim is an insult to its followers. Sikhs believe in a single God of
creation. They live their lives according to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus; they dedicate time to pondering about God and the scriptures;
and, help others. Other facets of Sikhism include the following:
- Equality for everyone
- Everyone can directly communicate with God.
- Sikhism is not the only way to God.
- Rituals should be avoided.
- One should turn to the use of force only as a last resort.
- Death is not an end.
- The main scripture is the Adi Granth (the Guru Granth Sahib).
Similar to Hinduism, salvation
in Sikhism means ending the cycle of death and rebirth, which results in merging with God. The
primary goal is union with God. This is attained by conquering one's ego, then realizing his true nature, which is the
same as God's. Sikhs have five spiritual stages on their journey to this final goal, as follows:
1) The realm of Righteous action
2) The realm of Knowledge
3) The realm of Spiritual endeavor
4) The realm of Grace
5) The realm of Truth
Moksha, or liberation, can be attained only through human birth. Even the demi-gods must re-incarnate as humans and
then practice right faith, knowledge and conduct in order to achieve liberation. Since human birth is rare and priceless, each
individual must make his choices wisely.
Jainism promotes Moksha and Nirvana, similar to Hinduism. In
Jainism, Moksha means liberation, salvation
or emancipation of soul. This is a blissful state of existence of the soul, completely free from the cycle of birth and death, and karmic
bondage. A liberated soul has attained its true infinite bliss, knowledge and perception. This liberated soul is
called siddha or paramatman, and it is considered to be a supreme soul or God. This is the whole objective in Jainism.
Everything else is contrary to the true nature of soul. All souls can achieve this state if they have right faith, knowledge, and
In this emancipated state, there is no pain, no pleasure; no suffering, no birth, no death, no sleep, no thirst, no hunger, no Karma, and no
worry. There are no obstacles and no surprises. As with Sikhism, Moksha can be attained only through human birth.
Although the Greeks had widely varied views of the soul and the afterlife, one popular belief was that the soul survived the
body. The soul would hovered about the tomb or depart to a melancholy existence in need of offerings brought by their
relatives. The disembodied soul could inflict injury upon the living, so proper funeral rites were necessary in order to ensure the
peace and goodwill of the deceased.