A Comparative Analysis of The Major World Religions From A Christian Perspective


By Ernest Valea

The goal of this site is to investigate whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prove that world religions are complementary and equally true, according to the model inspired by an old Indian tale - that of the blind men who tried to describe an elephant. It is said that once upon a time a king gathered a few men who were born blind. They were asked to describe an elephant, but each one was presented with only a certain part of it. To one was presented the head of the elephant, to another the trunk, to another its ears, to another the leg, the body, the tail, tuft of the tail, etc. The one who was presented with the head said: "The elephant is like a pot!" The one who was presented the trunk answered, "The elephant is like a hose". The one who touched only the ears thought that the elephant was a fan, the others said that it was a pillar, a wall, a rope, a brush, etc. Then they quarreled among themselves, each thinking that he was the only one right and the others were wrong. The obvious truth is that the elephant is a unity of many parts, a unity that they could not grasp in their ignorance.

According to the pattern suggested by this tale, it is often said that world religions form a unity, and only this unity provides the right perspective on ultimate truth. A similar syncretistic trend is encouraged by the suggestion to consider the various world religions as alternative paths to the same transcendental finality or, using a known illustration, many paths to the same mountain peak. Although this vision is arousing a lot of enthusiasm in many people today, it is important to know that it is not the only one, as Christianity and Islam each claim to be the only right path to God. Therefore the other option is that world religions are not pieces of the same puzzle (parts of the same spiritual "elephant") or alternative paths to the same goal.

Judging theoretically, both possibilities exist. Therefore, a proper evaluation of such opposite views must be done before we decide on a course of action. If the first is true (all religions lead us to the same finality), and we choose the second (only one of them is right), we have not lost anything. Despite our ignorance, we will arrive at the same happy end as the other travelers who have chosen other spiritual paths. A less happy situation would be given by the second possibility, that a single spiritual path is valid and we have chosen the wrong one. In this case religious syncretism is only a way of misleading the travelers to spiritual disaster, so they at least should be warned. A third possibility, that all spiritual paths are wrong, is denied by the nature of our spiritual quest itself, which demands a real fulfillment. Otherwise, our hunger for ultimate truth could not be justified and all religions would be nothing but human fantasy.

The following articles are not meant merely to generate a conflict of rational proofs for justifying one or another alternative. No matter how complex and logical the rational proofs on behalf of one or the other cause might be, it is possible to find counterpoints of the same nature, so that at a rational level, the dispute could fill a lot of books with no benefit to anyone. Nobody can be persuaded or converted to one or another religious perspective only through rational proofs. This may be possible in science, but not in religion. However, rational proofs have to be considered because we are rational beings. Reason should not be rejected and experience proclaimed the only way of knowing truth. No divorce between reason and experience should be accepted, because they are complementary and work together, so that neither can exclude the other. As a result, we do not have to reject a priori the proofs of reason in our spiritual quest in order to abandon ourselves to the arms of mystical experiences, whatever their nature might be.

Rather than generating sterile debates, the information presented here should help you clarify your own stand toward comparative religion and develop a critical ability to analyze today's spiritual market. Suggestions, comments and critiques are strongly encouraged, with the hope that they will improve the content of this site. Please make them as specific and clear as possible.

The comparative analysis presented here is focused on Christianity and the major Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, because they play a major role in defining today's world spirituality. This is an obvious phenomenon on the Internet too, where a lot of spiritual movements indebted to classic Eastern doctrines and practices can be found. Some may believe that a comparative analysis of the major world religions like this may fuel religious hatred and intolerance, but this is wrong. Religious tolerance and freedom cannot be built on ignorance but rather on the understanding of commonalities and differences. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of teaching love for one's neighbor despite religious differences (see The Parable of the Good Samaritan). Unfortunately, some of His followers did the opposite. Loving the person is possible even if one rejects his or her religious convictions.

The Christian approach will be done on an ecumenical basis, grounded on The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as statement of faith, which is common to all three branches of Christianity - Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The Holy Bible (NIV ecumenical translation) is acknowledged as the first doctrinal authority, and second the doctrinal commentaries of the Church Fathers of the first centuries AD, as far as they are accepted by each of the three branches of Christianity.

The analysis will survey a comparison of the following defining aspects of all world religions:

1. God or the Ultimate Reality, and creation
2. The human condition
3. Salvation and eternal destiny
4. The nature of evil
5. Conclusion

Special files are available concerning critical considerations regarding Eastern religions as spiritual paths toward Ultimate Reality:

1. Reincarnation. Its meaning and consequences. Reincarnation and Christianity.
2. Four criteria to evaluate any religious perspective
3. Critical considerations concerning pantheist religions and philosophies
4. Critical considerations regarding the dualistic Samkhya-Yoga metaphysics
5. Critical considerations regarding the Yoga technique as an instrument to attain liberation
6. Critical considerations regarding the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita
7. Critical considerations regarding Buddhism
8. The divine incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity; Jesus Christ and other Saviors and religious founders
9. Alleged Eastern equivalent sayings of Jesus Christ
10. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Buddhism and Christianity
11. Revelation and knowledge in Christianity
12. How can those who have never heard about Christ be saved?

The quotes used for describing each religious perspective belong to scriptures considered to be first hand authority by its followers. In presenting some special features of Christianity some useful links will be mentioned. There are also many links available for a more thoroughly comparative study of Christianity and Islam.

Since the domain of comparative religion is so vast, the present analysis had to be limited to a brief account, sacrificing many details and secondary aspects, but with the hope that global relevance will not be affected. You are invited to study this topic further, according to your interest in it, knowing that this is neither the first nor the last attempt to discuss the complementary and divergent thought among world religions. The discussions, arguments and debates in comparative religion did not start recently and will certainly not stop until the end of the world, the time when the Truth will reveal itself in fullness.



Source :  www.religioustolerance.com


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