We all want to reach the end of life with a certain degree of success, with some feeling that we are right. Some think they know a way of life that is satisfying and even meaningful. What about the main religions in the world? Is there anything about them that could bring greater stability and value to our lives?
Next, we will have the opportunity to investigate the main beliefs in the world: Hinduism, New Age, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, including a brief description of each one, their distinct characteristics and what a person can get from each of them. The author then points out where Jesus’ teachings differ from other world religions.
Religion and Spirituality: Hinduism
Most Hindus love a multitude of representations of deities through a multitude of gods and goddesses, about 300,000 of them. All these gods and goddesses are embodied in idols, temples, gurus, rivers, animals. Brahman is not a single god, but more of a concept for maximum divinity.
Hindus see their current condition in this life based on their actions in past lives. That is, if their previous behaviors were bad, they can experience tremendous suffering in this life. A Hindu’s goal is to become free from the law of karma, to be free from continuous reincarnations.
There are three possible ways to end this cycle of karma: being an affectionate devotee of any of the Hindu gods or goddesses; grow in knowledge through Brahman meditation (identity), to understand that the circumstances of life are not real, that individuality is an illusion and only Brahman is real; be dedicated to various ceremonies and religious rites.
In Hinduism, one is free to choose how to work towards spiritual perfection. Hinduism also offers a possible explanation for the suffering and evil in the world. According to Hinduism, the suffering that anyone experiences, whether it be illness, hunger or a disaster, is due to the very evil actions that the person has done, usually in past lives. The soul is the only thing that matters, because one day it will be free from the cycle of reincarnation and rest.
Religion and Spirituality: New Age
The New Age promotes the development of one’s own powers and divinity. When referring to God, a New Age follower does not speak of a personal and transcendent God, creator of the universe, but refers to a higher consciousness within themselves. A New Age person would see himself as God, the cosmos, the universe. In fact, everything a person sees, hears, feels or imagines is considered divine.
Highly eclectic, the New Age presents itself as a collection of ancient spiritual traditions. It recognizes several gods and goddesses, such as Hinduism. The Earth is seen as the source of all spirituality and has its own intelligence, emotions and divinity. But, supplanting everything, there is the Self. The Self is the creator, the controller and the god of everything. There is no reality outside of what the person determines.
The New Age teaches a wide range of Eastern mysticism and physical, metaphysical and spiritual techniques, breathing exercises, chants, drums, meditation, to develop a modified consciousness and the divinity of one’s own person.
Anything negative that a person experiences (failures, sadness, anger, selfishness, suffering) is considered an illusion. Believing that they have complete control of their lives, nothing in life is wrong, negative or painful. Finally, the person develops spiritually to the point that there is no external and objective reality. The person, becoming a god, creates his own reality.
Religion and Spirituality: Buddhism
Buddhists do not worship any god or gods. People who are not within Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine and Buddhists reject the notion of any supernatural power. The universe is operated by a natural law. Life is understood as a form of pain: pain at birth, illness, death, sadness and endless despair.
Most Buddhists believe that a person has hundreds or thousands of reincarnations, all of which bring distress. It is the desire for happiness that causes the person to reincarnate. Consequently, a Buddhist’s goal is to purify his heart and get rid of all desires. The person must abandon all sensual pleasures, all evil, joy and sadness.
To achieve this, Buddhists follow a list of religious principles and intense meditation. When a Buddhist meditates, it is not like praying or focusing on a god, it is more like self-discipline. Through continuous meditation, one can attain Nirvana, the “extinguishing” of the flame of desire.
Buddhism provides something that is true in most religions: discipline, values and guidelines by which a person can live. Some of these Buddhist guidelines are: do not destroy any living creatures; abandon all sensual pleasures; abandon evil qualities, as well as joy and sadness.
Religion and Spirituality: Islam
Muslims believe that there is an all-powerful God, called Allah, who is infinitely superior and transcendent to the human species. Allah is seen as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and all evil. All that happens is Allah’s will. He is a severe and powerful judge, who will be merciful to his followers, depending on how sufficient his good works and religious devotion are. A follower’s relationship with Allah is one of servitude.
Although a Muslim honors many prophets, Muhammad is considered to be the last of them and his words and lifestyle are that person’s authority. To be a Muslim, it is necessary to follow five religious duties: to repeat the creed about Allah and Muhammad; recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; give to the needy; one month a year, fasting food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; once in my life to wander to Mecca and worship in the holy place.
For many people, Islam meets their expectations of religion and divinity. Islam teaches that there is only one supreme God, who is worshiped through good works and disciplined religious rituals. After death, the person is rewarded or punished, according to his religious devotion. Upon dying, based on this person’s faithfulness to these duties, the Muslim hopes to enter Paradise, a place of sensual pleasures. If not, they will be punished in hell forever.
Religion and Spirituality: Christianity – Faith in Jesus Christ
Christians believe in a loving God, who has revealed himself and can be known personally in this life. With Jesus Christ, the person’s focus is not on religious rituals or doing good works, but on enjoying a relationship with God and getting to know him better.
Faith in Jesus Christ himself, not just in his teachings, is how the Christian experiences happiness and a meaningful life. During His life on earth, Jesus did not identify himself as a prophet referring to God or as a teacher of enlightened teachings. On the contrary, Jesus claimed to be God in human form. He performed miracles, forgave people of their sins, and said that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life. He made statements like, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. ” (John 8:12)
Christians have the Bible as God’s written message to humanity. In addition to being a historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, the Bible reveals the personality of God, his love and truth and how one can have a relationship with Him.
Whatever the circumstance a Christian is going through in life, he can confidently seek out a wise and powerful God who genuinely loves him. They believe that God answers prayers and that life has meaning as you live to honor that God.
Religion and Spirituality: Is there a difference?
As we look at these main belief systems and their views of God, we find tremendous diversity:
- Hindus believe in 300,000 gods;
- Buddhists say there is no deity;
- New Age followers believe that they are gods;
- Muslims believe in a powerful but distant God;
- Christians believe in a loving and accessible God.
Are all religions worshiping the same God? Let’s think about it. The New Age teaches that everyone must come to focus on a cosmic consciousness, but that would require Muslims to give up their God; of Hindus, to give up their innumerable gods and Buddhists to establish that there is a God.
The main religions of the world are quite different. And of these, one claims that there is a personal and loving God, who can be known now, in this life. Jesus Christ showed a God who loves us, who welcomes us in a relationship with Him and who is on our side as a comforting, advising and powerful God.
In Hinduism, a person finds himself alone trying to get rid of karma. In the New Age, one is working on one’s divinity. In Buddhism, there is a personal quest to be free from desires. And in Islam, the individual follows religious laws to reach paradise after death. In the teachings of Jesus, you see a personal relationship with a personal God, a relationship that continues into the next life.
Can A Person Relate To God In This Life?
The answer is yes. You can not only relate to God, but you can also be sure that you are completely accepted and loved by Him.
Many religions place the individual alone, striving for spiritual perfection. Buddha, for example, never admitted to not having sinned. Muhammad also admitted that he needed forgiveness. “It doesn’t matter how wise, talented and influential other prophets, gurus and teachers may have been. They had the presence of mind to recognize that they were imperfect like the rest of us. ” (Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ Among Other Gods , Chicago, Moddy Press, 1994, p. 63)
Jesus Christ, however, never alluded to any personal sin. On the contrary, Jesus forgave people of their sins and He also wants to forgive us of ours. We are all aware of our faults, the areas of our lives that can make others look down on us, areas that we ourselves would not like to have, an addiction, bad mood, impurity or hateful words. God loves us, but hates sin. And He said that the consequence of sin is that we are prevented from knowing it. However, God provided a way for us to be forgiven and to know him: Jesus, the Son of God, God in human form, took all our sins on himself, suffered on the cross, and died in our place of his own free will. The Bible says: “In this we know what love is: Jesus Christ gave his life for us …”(1 John 3:16)
God is offering us complete forgiveness because of Jesus’ death for us. This means forgiveness for all our past, present and future sins. Jesus paid for all of them. God, who created the universe, loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. “That’s how God manifested his love among us: he sent his Only Begotten Son into the world, so that we could live through him.” (John 3:16)
Through Christ, God offers us true freedom from our sins and guilt. He doesn’t leave a person’s failures on his shoulders, with the vague hope of becoming a better person tomorrow. In Jesus Christ, God reached out to humanity, giving us a way to get to know Him. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 6:35)
God Wants Us To Know Him
We were created by God to live in communion with Him. Jesus said: “He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty. ” (John 14: 6) Jesus called people not only to follow his teachings, but to follow him. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” In saying that it is the truth, Christ goes beyond mere prophets and teachers, who simply said that they were speaking the truth. (Lutzer, p. 106)
Jesus identified himself as God and even proved it. Jesus said that he would be crucified and that after three days He would be resurrected. He did not say that he would reincarnate one day in a future life (who would know if He really did that?). He said that, three days after he was buried, he would show himself alive to those who saw his crucifixion. On that third day, Jesus’ tomb was found empty and many people witnessed seeing him alive again. He now offers us eternal life.
It’s a Mutual Relationship
Many religions focus on the person’s spiritual efforts. Christianity is a mutual interaction between you and God. He calls us close to Him. “The Lord is close to all who call on him, to all who sincerely call on him.” (Psalm 145: 18) You can communicate with God, He will answer your prayers, give you great peace and joy, guide you, show you His love and transform your life. Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it fully.” (John 10:10) This does not mean that life will be perfect and without problems. But it does mean that, in the midst of life, you can relate to God, who is wanting to be included in your life and be faithful in His love.
This is not a commitment to a self-improvement method like the Eight Unfolded Truths, or the Five Pillars, or meditation, or good works, or even the Ten Commandments. These seem like clear, well-defined, easy-to-follow steps for spirituality. However, they become a heavy struggle for perfection, while the relationship with God is still far away. Our hope is not to follow laws or standards, but to meet a Savior who accepts us completely because of our faith in him and his sacrifice for us. We do not earn our place in heaven through religious efforts or good works. Heaven is a free gift for us, given to us, when we begin our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Would you like to be totally forgiven and come to know God’s love for you personally?
Starting A Relationship With God
You can start your relationship with God right now. It’s so simple. Just sincerely ask God to forgive your sins and invite him into your life. Jesus said: “Behold, I am at the door [of your heart], and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter. ” (Revelation 3:20) Would you like to start a relationship with the God who created you, who loves you deeply? You can do it right now, if this is your heart’s desire: “God, I ask you to forgive me and I invite you to enter my heart right now. Thank you Jesus for dying for my sins. Thank you for coming into my life, as I said I would. ”
The Bible tells us that “to those who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave them the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) If you sincerely asked God to enter your life, you started a personal relationship with Him. It is as if you have just met Him and He wants to help you come to know Him. you better, to know his love for you, to guide you with wisdom in whatever decisions confront your life. The book called “John” in the Bible is a good place to learn more about your relationship with God. You may want to tell someone about the decision you made to invite Jesus into your life.
In other religions the person has a relationship with teachings, ideas, paths and rituals. Through Christ, a person can have a relationship with the loving and powerful God. You can talk to Him and He will guide you in this new life. It doesn’t just point you to a path, a philosophy. He welcomes you to experience happiness and to have confidence in His love in the midst of life’s challenges. “See how great the love that the Father has given us: that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3: 1)