Religious Pluralism and Distinctive Features

Hinduism

The major difference between Hinduism and Christianity is that Hinduism encompasses many religious trends with a multitude of deities while Christianity is a religion based on a single doctrine. The various schools in the Hindu religion all hold that the universe originated from Brahman. The Brahman is an impersonal entity through which all moral, spiritual, and physical activities originated. According to the Hindu religion, all living things and the deities are just but the manifestation of the ultimate reality (Brahman). Brahman is composed of two aspects, the manifested and the un-manifested, and the process of manifestation is eternal with products cycling between the states of manifestation and un-manifestation. Christianity on the other hand believes in a personal and all-powerful God who created the entire universe and everything in it. In Christianity, the powerful Creator is the ultimate reality and the universe is a result of an act of creation through free choice and not through manifestation.

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Another important difference between the two religions is the aspect of sin and salvation. In the Hindu religion, there is no divine law that governs moral behavior. Hinduism holds that the soul is eternal and that after death all living things are reincarnated based on Karma (deeds). The main objective in life is to escape this reincarnation process by attaining enlightenment. Those who have escaped the process of rebirth enjoy everlasting peace and joy. In Christianity, all human beings will be judged according to their actions. Salvation is attained by accepting Christ as the son of God and through following the commandments of God. Christianity holds that people should live with regards to the Ten Commandments and the aspect of love. Hinduism on the other hand holds that human beings should strive to detach themselves from worldly pleasure and desires.

Buddhism

In Buddhism, Nirvana denotes the state of perfect bliss that is attained through enlightenment. It is achieved when the subject is free from worldly desires, anger, greed, and delusions. In Nirvana, the subject is free from human suffering and the mind has achieved perfect clarity. Nirvana can only be achieved when all acts of will (volitional formations) have been appeased. According to Buddhism, Nirvana is the highest spiritual achievement, and its attainment results in the termination of samsara (the cycle of rebirth).

Judaism

According to Judaism, the covenant is an agreement between God and the children of Israel. In the covenant, God makes certain promises to the children of Israel if they fulfill certain demands.

There are five major covenants that God made with the people of Israel. The first two covenants were made with the entire human race but the other three were only meant for the people of Israel.

The first covenant was between God and Adam after creation. In this covenant, God gave Adam the earth and dominion over everything in it. In response, God required that man should not eat out of the tree of knowledge.

The second covenant was between God and Noah. In this covenant, God saves Noah and his family telling them to fill the earth. He also promises that he will never destroy the world with water again.

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The third covenant made was between God and Abraham and was only intended for the people of Israel. In this covenant, God promises Abraham that he will have many descendants who will become a mighty nation. God also promises that those descended from Abraham will inherit the Promised Land (Canaan). In addition to this, God also promises that the nation of Israel will be blessed and through the other nations will be blessed. The circumcision of all young males was to act as a seal to this covenant. This covenant was reaffirmed to Isaac and later to Jacob who was renamed Israel.

The fourth covenant was between God and Moses and holds the basis of the Torah. In this covenant, God promises the children of Israel that they will be His people under His protection if they obey Him. God also promises the children of Israel that he will make them a holy nation. God directed the Israelites to follow the Sabbath as a way to affirm this covenant. God also gives Moses the Ten Commandment as part of the responsibilities which were to be fulfilled by the children of Israel.

The Final covenant was between God and David. In this covenant, God promises David that a royal dynasty will be established in his house and that David’s son (Solomon) will build the house of God.

Most Jews believe that the Holocaust was a result of God hiding his face from man. Before entry into the Promised Land, Moses warned the people of Israel that if they strayed from God, he shall cast away his face and withhold his favors. The Holocaust was just one of the many brutalities against the people of Israel that occurs when the people fall out of favor with God. Through repentance and patience, the children of Israel will inherit the earth once the Messiah arrives.

Christianity

The Trinity

The Trinity is an important doctrine in Christianity and holds that although God is one, he exists as three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Each person (hypostasis) in the trinity is distinct but they are all the same God. They share the same attributes, powers, and nature and exist in harmony making up one entity.

The Incarnation

The incarnation denotes the taking of human form by the second person of the Holy Trinity (the Son). It is the belief the Christ took human form when he was conceived by the Virgin Mary thus becoming both man and God. The nature of God and man were joined through incarnation to yield one person who was both divine and human at the same time.

The Atonement

This is a doctrine that describes the forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It mainly describes the sacrifice God made by giving his Son to be crucified so that man can be reconciled to Him.

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Islam

The five pillars of Islam are mandatory acts expected to be carried out by each Muslim. They form the foundation for worship and a sign of dedication to the Islamic faith. The First pillar is called Shahada and is a declaration of faith. It entails professing that there is only one God and Muhammad is His messenger.

The second pillar is called Salat and describes the daily set of Islamic prayers. The Salat contains five prayers each recited at different times of the day. These prayers are mandatory for all Muslims and must be performed while facing the Islamic holy city of Mecca. The prayers are a means for the people to commune with God and affirm their faith.

The third pillar is referred to as Sawm. This describes the three types of fasting expected of all Muslims. The first type of Sawm occurs during the month of Ramadan and is a type of ritual fasting. Muslims must refrain from eating and other worldly pleasures from dusk to dawn during this period. This fasting period is meant to atone for sins, show gratitude to God, and to seek closeness to God. The other types of Sawm, are ascetic fasting and fasting as a means for repentance.

The fourth pillar of Islam is Zakat and it involves partaking in charity. Zakat is a mandatory activity for those who are capable and is geared at alleviating pain and misery for others. It entails using 2.5% of all accumulated wealth to help the needy. Those who cannot afford to contribute material wealth are required to offer good deeds as a form of Zakat.

The final pillar of Islam is Hajj. Each year on the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah, a Pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca is carried out by Muslims. According to Islamic teachings, this pilgrimage must be carried out at least once by those who are capable. The pilgrimage is composed of several rituals that must be completed by all present. The pilgrimage is a means through which Muslims show their devotion to God and their unity as a religion.

The pillars of Islam hold the religion together and provide a guideline for worship. The pillars also forge unity amongst the many believers. The pillars are observed by the rich and the poor, the young and the old, and as such, they create commonness amongst the Muslim community emphasizing that everyone is equal before God.

Religious Pluralism

John Hick proposed a hypothesis that holds that all the world religions are but responses to a single ultimate reality. He argued that the differences noticed between religions are mainly due to cultural conditioning and human interpretations. Various objections have however been raised against this religious pluralism hypothesis.

First, critics argue that all religions claim to be true. Most of the religions present in the world contradict each other therefore, these religions can’t be the manifestation of a single ultimate reality.

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The second objection with Hick’s hypothesis is that all religions worship the same entity which he describes as “the Real”. This has raised many questions as certain religions have many deities. Another problem is that the personalities and characterization of the ultimate entity are mostly religion are very different. It is impossible to say all religions worship the same God when there are so many divine entities with a vast range of abilities, personalities, and powers.

Finally, Hick argues that one’s perception of the afterlife does not play any role in the salvation or liberation experience brought about by religion. Critics have argued that this could only be true if salvation in all religions could be described through moral transformation. This however is not the case since all religions have a different understanding of salvation.

These objections to Hick’s hypothesis are difficult to overcome but not impossible. All religions believe in a higher power and strive to instill a set of values in their believers. Although it is difficult to reconcile on matters of faith, different religions can engage in dialogue on aspects of human rights, justice, freedom, righteousness, and equality. The contradiction in truth claims can also be overcome through the willingness of different religions to accommodate and learn from each other. Underneath all the differences witnessed in the various religions, the teachings on important aspects of human nature are the same.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 5). Religious Pluralism and Distinctive Features. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/religious-pluralism-and-distinctive-features/

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1. StudyCorgi. "Religious Pluralism and Distinctive Features." March 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/religious-pluralism-and-distinctive-features/.


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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Religious Pluralism and Distinctive Features." March 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/religious-pluralism-and-distinctive-features/.

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