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Old 05-21-2006, 10:31 PM
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Default Are all Religions the same?


A look at Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and New Age.

By Marilyn Adamson


We all want to make it through life with some degree of success,
some sense that we did it right. And if others think they know how
life can be satisfying, even meaningful, it's at least worth
checking out. What about the major world religions? Is there
anything in them that would give our lives greater stability and
value?

The following is an opportunity to look into the major world faith
systems...Hinduism, New Age, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.*
Included is a brief description of each, its distinguishing
characteristics, and what a person can gain from each. The author
then presents for your consideration the ways in which Jesus'
teaching differs from the world's religions.

*Each of these systems has sects with differing beliefs. The
description given here focuses on the heart of that system. Other
major religions, such as Judaism, could be discussed, but for
brevity, we have chosen these.
Hinduism
Most Hindus worship one Being of ultimate oneness (Brahman) through
infinite representations of gods and goddesses. These various
manifestations of gods and goddesses become incarnate within idols,
temples, gurus, rivers, animals, etc.

Hindus see their position in this present life as based on their
actions in a previous life. If their behavior before was evil, they
might experience tremendous hardships 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: 1. Be
lovingly devoted to any of the Hindu gods or goddesses; 2. Grow in
knowledge through meditation of Brahman (oneness)...to realize that
circumstances in life are not real, that selfhood is an illusion and
only Brahman is real; 3. Be dedicated to various religious
ceremonies and rites.

In Hinduism, a person has the freedom to choose how to work toward
spiritual perfection. Hinduism also has a possible explanation for
the suffering and evil in the world. According to Hinduism, the
suffering anyone experiences, whether it is sickness or starvation
or a disaster, is due that person because of their own evil actions,
usually from a previous lifetime. Only the soul matters which will
one day be free of the cycle of rebirths and be at rest.
New Age
New Age promotes the development of the person's own power or
divinity. When referring to God, a follower of New Age is not
talking about a transcendent, personal God who created the universe,
but is referring to a higher consciousness within themselves. A
person in New Age would see themselves as God, the cosmos, the
universe. In fact, everything that the person sees, hears, feels or
imagines is to be considered divine.

Highly eclectic, New Age presents itself as a collection of ancient
spiritual traditions. It acknowledges many gods and goddesses, as in
Hinduism. The Earth is viewed as the source of all spirituality, and
has its own intelligence, emotions and deity. But superseding all is
self. Self is the originator, controller and God of all. There is no
reality outside of what the person determines.

New Age teaches a wide array of eastern mysticism and spiritual,
metaphysical and psychic techniques, such as breathing exercises,
chanting, drumming, meditating...to develop an altered consciousness
and one's own divinity.

Anything negative a person experiences (failures, sadness, anger,
selfishness, hurt) is considered an illusion. Believing themselves
to be completely sovereign over their life, nothing about their life
is wrong, negative or painful. Eventually a person develops
spiritually to the degree that there is no objective, external
reality. A person, becoming a god, creates their own reality.
Buddhism
Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism
often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha
(Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine, but rather he is
viewed by Buddhists as having attained what they are also striving
to attain, which is spiritual enlightenment and, with it, freedom
from the continuous cycle of life and death. Most Buddhists believe
a person has countless rebirths, which inevitably include suffering.
A Buddhist seeks to end these rebirths. Buddhists believe it is a
person's cravings, aversion and delusion that cause these rebirths.
Therefore, the goal of a Buddhist is to purify one's heart and to
let go of all yearnings toward sensual desires and the attachment to
oneself.

Buddhists follow a list of religious principles and very dedicated
meditation. When a Buddhist meditates it is not the same as praying
or focusing on a god, it is more of a self-discipline. Through
practiced meditation a person may reach Nirvana -- "the blowing out"
of the flame of desire.

Buddhism provides something that is true of most world religions:
disciplines, values and directives that a person may want to live by.
Islam
Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is
infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Allah is
viewed as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and
all evil. Everything that happens is Allah's will. He is a powerful
and strict judge, who will be merciful toward followers depending on
the sufficiency of their life's good works and religious devotion. A
follower's relationship with Allah is as a servant to Allah.

Though a Muslim honors several prophets, Muhammad is considered the
last prophet and his words and lifestyle are that person's
authority. To be a Muslim, one has to follow five religious duties:
1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain
prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One
month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise
to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one's lifetime to worship at a
shrine in Mecca. At death -- based on one's faithfulness to these
duties -- a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise, a place of sensual
pleasure. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell.

For many people, Islam matches their expectations about religion and
deity. Islam teaches that there is one supreme God, who is worshiped
through good deeds and disciplined religious rituals. After death a
person is rewarded or punished according to their religious devotion.
Christianity -- faith in Jesus Christ
Christians believe in a loving God who has revealed himself and can
be personally known in this life. With Jesus Christ, the person's
focus is not on religious rituals or performing good works, but on
enjoying a relationship with God and growing to know him better.

Faith in Jesus Christ himself, not just in his teachings, is how the
Christian experiences joy and a meaningful life. In his life on
Earth, Jesus did not identify himself as a prophet pointing to God
or as a teacher of enlightenment. Rather, Jesus claimed to be God in
human form. He performed miracles, forgave people of their sin and
said that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life. He
made statements like, "I am the light of the world; he who follows
me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."1

Christians regard the Bible as God's written message to humankind.
In addition to its being an historical record of Jesus' life and
miracles, the Bible reveals God's personality, his love and truth,
and how one can have a relationship with him.

Whatever circumstances a Christian is dealing with in their life,
they can confidently turn to a wise and powerful God who genuinely
loves them. They believe that God answers prayer and that life takes
on meaning as they live to honor him.
Is there a difference?
In looking at these major belief systems and their views of God, we
find tremendous diversity:

* Hindus acknowlege multitudes of gods and goddesses.
* Buddhists say there is no deity.
* New Age followers believe they are God.
* Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God.
* Christians believe in a God who is loving and approachable.

Are all religions worshiping the same God? Let's consider that. New
Age teaches that everyone should come to center on a cosmic
consciousness, but it would require Islam to give up their one God,
Hinduism to give up their numerous gods, and Buddhism to establish
that there is a God.

The world's major religions (Hinduism, New Age, Buddhism, Islam,
following Jesus Christ) are each quite unique. And of these one
affirms that there is a personal, loving God who can be known, now
in this life. Jesus Christ spoke of a God who welcomes us into a
relationship with him and comes along side us as a comforter,
counselor and powerful God who loves us.

In Hinduism a person is on their own trying to gain release from
karma. In New Age a person is working at their own divinity. In
Buddhism it is an individual quest at being free from desire. And in
Islam, the individual follows religious laws for the sake of
paradise after death. In Jesus' teaching, you see a personal
relationship with a personal God -- a relationship that carries over
into the next life.
Can a person connect with God in this life?
The answer is yes. Not only can you connect with God, you also can
know that you are fully accepted and loved by God.

Many world religions place an individual on their own, striving for
spiritual perfection. Buddha, for example, never claimed
sinlessness. Muhammad also admitted that he was in need of
forgiveness. "No matter how wise, no matter how gifted, no matter
how influential other prophets, gurus, and teachers might be, they
had the presence of mind to know that they were imperfect just like
the rest of us."2

Jesus Christ, however, never alluded to any personal sin. Instead,
Jesus forgave people of their sin and he wants to forgive us of our
sin also. We all are aware of our faults, the areas of our lives
that may cause others to think less of us, areas that we ourselves
wish were not there...maybe it's an addiction, a bad temper,
impurity, hateful remarks. God loves us but hates sin, and he has
said that the consequence for sin is separation from knowing him.
But God provided a way for us to be forgiven and know him. Jesus,
the Son of God, God in human form, took all of our sin on himself,
suffered on a cross, and willingly died in our place. The Bible
says, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us."3

God is offering us complete forgiveness because of Jesus' death for
us. This means forgiveness for all our sins...past, present and
future. Jesus paid for them all. God, who created the universe,
loves us and wants to be in a relationship with us. "This is how God
showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the
world that we might live through him."4

Through Christ, God offers us real freedom from our sin and guilt.
He does not leave a person's failures on their shoulders, with a dim
hope of becoming a better person tomorrow. In Jesus Christ, God
reached toward humanity, providing a way for us to know him. "For
God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."5
God wants us to know him.

We were created by God to live in relationship with him. Jesus
said, "He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes
in me will never be thirsty...and whoever comes to me I will never
drive away."6 Jesus called people not only to follow his teachings,
but to follow him. He said, "I am the way, and the truth and the
life."7 In claiming to be the truth, Christ goes beyond mere
prophets and teachers who simply said they were speaking the truth.8

Jesus identified himself as equal to God, and even gave proof. Jesus
said that he would be crucified on a cross and that three days after
his death, he would come back to life. He didn't say he would
reincarnate someday into a future life. (Who would know if he
actually did it?) He said three days after being buried he would
show himself alive to those who saw his crucifixion. On that third
day, Jesus' tomb was found empty and many people testified that they
saw him alive again. He now offers eternal life to us.
It's a two-way relationship.
Many religions focus on a person's spiritual efforts. With Jesus
Christ it's a two-way interaction between you and God. He welcomes
us to go to him. "The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all
who call upon him in truth."9 You can communicate with God, who will
answer your prayer, give you greater peace and joy, provide
direction, show you his love, and transform your life. Jesus
said, "I came that they might have life, and have it more
abundantly."10 It will not mean that life will become perfect and
free of problems. But it means that in the midst of life, you can
relate to God who is willing to be involved in your life and
faithful in his love.

This is not a commitment to a method of self-improvement like the
Eight Fold Path or the Five Pillars, or meditation, or good works or
even the Ten Commandments. These seem clear, well-defined, easy-to-
follow paths for spirituality. But they become a burdensome striving
for perfection, and connection with God is still distant. Our hope
is not in following laws or standards, but in knowing a Savior who
fully accepts us because of our faith in him and his sacrifice for
us. We don't earn our place in heaven by religious efforts or good
deeds. Heaven is a free gift to us, when we begin a relationship
with Jesus Christ.

Would you like to be totally forgiven and personally come to know
God's love for you?
Beginning a relationship with God.

You can begin a relationship with God right now. It is as simple as
sincerely asking God for his forgiveness of your sin and inviting
him to enter your life. Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door [of
your heart] and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come into him."11 Would like to begin a relationship with the
God who created you, who deeply loves you? You can do so right now,
if it is your heart's desire: "God, I ask you to forgive me and
invite you to enter my heart right now. Thank you Jesus for dying
for my sins. Thank you for coming into my life as you said you
would."

The Bible tells us that "as many as received him, to them he gave
the right to become children of God."12 If you sincerely asked God
to come into your life, you have begun a personal relationship with
him. It is like you have just met God and he wants to help you grow
to know him better, to know his love for you, to guide you with
wisdom in whatever decisions confront you. The book called "John" in
the Bible is a good place to learn more about a relationship with
God. Perhaps you might want to tell someone else about the decision
you have made to ask Jesus into your life.

In the world's religions a person has a relationship with teachings,
ideas, paths, rituals. Through Jesus, a person can have a
relationship with the loving and powerful God. You can talk with him
and he will guide you in this life now. He doesn't just point you to
a path, a philosophy, or a religion. He welcomes you to know him, to
experience joy, and to have confidence in his love in the midst of
life's challenges. "See what love the Father has given us, that we
should be called children of God."13

I just asked Jesus into my life (some helpful information follows)...

I may want to ask Jesus into my life, please explain this more
fully...

I have a question...

{1} John 8:12
{2} Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ Among Other Gods (Chicago: Moody
Press,1994), p. 63
{3} 1 John 3:16
{4} 1 John 4:9
{5} John 3:16
{6} John 6:35
{7} John 14:6
{8} Lutzer, p. 106
{9} Psalms 145:18
{10} John 10:10
{11} Revelation 3:20
{12} John 1:12
{13} 1 John 3:1


From: "Emily Cragg" chaiyah2001@yahoo.com

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