In order to appreciate more fully what we believe, it may help to understand the religious beliefs of others.
There are five major religious faiths in the world today. Those religions are: (1) Hinduism; (2) Buddhism; (3) Islam; (4) Christianity; and (5) Judaism. In this issue of Teen Bible Study Guide, we will discuss how the world’s predominant religious beliefs are compared to the United Church of God fundamental beliefs .
Basic Religious Tenets
1. What is a religion?
Religion is defined generally as a relationship of devotion or fear of a God or gods. Fundamentally, religion includes a belief system of holy, divine, or sacred objects and beings. Almost all religions include a community of believers held together by common practices and ethical codes.
2. What are the basic common practices/ethical codes which hold our Church as a community of believers together?
Hinduism is the major religion of India. There alone over half a billion people are classified as Hindu. It has developed over 4,000 years making it one of the world’s oldest surviving religious belief systems. Unlike most Western religions, it has no known single founder or creed. However, all believers are committed to pursuing an ideal way of life, known as dharma.
Hindu society is broken into four classes, or castes. Each class has distinct duties and roles. The lowest class are the untouchables, who are considered inferior human beings. According to Hinduism, all moral beings are required to abide by honesty, courage, service, faith, self-control, purity, and nonviolence.
One of the identifying features of Hinduism is a belief in the transmigration of the souls, or reincarnation. They believe the soul undergoes a cycle of rebirth and passes from body to body. The body the soul moves into is determined by the goodness of a person’s actions, known as karma. Hindus also believe in a multitude of gods who abide in the universe. In addition, everything is sacred in a Hindu’s eyes. Therefore almost anything can be worthy of devotion.
- Briefly identify the major similarities and differences in Hinduism and our beliefs .
Buddhism was founded in northern India about 500 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, the buddha. There are currently more than 300 million Buddhists in the world. Most Buddhists, however, have incorporated practices from other religions, especially Shintoism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Hinduism.
Buddha taught that there were Four Noble Truths. First, all beings are caught up in maze of suffering. Second, the chain of suffering is caused by one’s actions. Third, the suffering can be stopped. Fourth, ethical and disciplinary practices provide a way for the suffering to cease. By good acts, meditation, and developing enlightened wisdom, Buddhists believe they can achieve a rebirth in the heavens. This final goal of enlightenment is known as nirvana.
- Briefly identify the major similarities and differences in Buddhism and our beliefs .
Islam is one of the world’s fastest growing religions. Almost 1 billion people practice Islam with nearly 25 million converts per year. The term Islam is based on the Arabic word "al-am", meaning an unreserved committing of oneself to God. Those who commit themselves to Islam are called Muslims.
Islam was founded in Arabia during the 7th Century by prophet Muhammad. Muhammad received divine revelations from Allah, via the angel Gabriel, and recorded them in the sacred book of Islam, the Koran. Although Islam’s origins date back to the lifetime of Muhammad, Muslims regard their religion as a timeless religion of eternal truth. The line of prophets recorded by the Koran include Muhammad, Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus. Muhammad is viewed as the ultimate restorer of the original religion of the patriarch Abraham. Islam also recognizes the Torah, the Psalms, and Gospel of Jesus.
Muslims trust and worship "the one and only God, Allah." Islam encompasses a way of life, a code of ethics, a culture, and a system of laws. The "five pillars" of the Islam faith are: (1) faith in God and the apostleship of Muhammad; (2) five daily prayers facing Mecca; (3) almsgiving; (4) fasting during Ramadan; and (5) a pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims believe faith and works go together. On the Last Day, of which only God knows the hour, everyone will have to account for his deeds.
- Briefly identify the major similarities and differences in Islam and our beliefs .
Christianity is the religion of over a billion people whose belief system centers on Jesus Christ and the instructions of the Bible. To Christians, Christ was the Messiah promised by God in the Old Testament. Through Christ, sinners who believe in Him can be saved and receive eternal life.
Throughout the ages many doctrinal splits have occurred within Christianity. The Catholic Church dominated Christianity during the early centuries. However, the Reformation of the 16th century divided the Christian world. The Protestant movements which emerged now include Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, and other Evangelical denominations.
In the 20th Century, a strong Ecumenical Movement is attempting to work for total Christian unity across sects by stressing common ground among Christians. However, major differences in belief exist between Christian groups. Some do not believe in the second coming of Christ. Many believe the Kingdom of God is presently among the faithful. Most profess the doctrine of heaven and hell along with the three person godhead of the Trinity. Also, the majority of Christians keep Sunday as a day of worship and observe Easter and Christmas as celebrations of Christ’s resurrection and birth.
- Briefly identify the major similarities and differences in mainstream Christianity and our beliefs .
Judaism claims over 14 million adherents around the world. It is the oldest religion in the Western world and is a common thread between Muslims and Christians. The basic source for Jewish belief is the Old Testament and specifically the first five books, known as the Torah or Pentateuch.
Jews believe their religion is valid for all time. According to the Old Testament, God or Yahweh, revealed his plan to the patriarchs. God entered into a special covenant with the ancient Israelites so that they could be an example to humanity of God’s way of life. Judaism consists of a system of laws which includes adherence to dietary restrictions, monotheistic worship, a Saturday Sabbath, and observation of annual holy day festivals. The Jews believe in a prophesied Messiah, but most reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Jews have been severely persecuted throughout history for these beliefs.
- Briefly identify the major similarities and differences in Judaism and our beliefs .
Mark:12:29-31 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke:6:31 "As you want men to do to you, do to them likewise."
1. What experiences have you had with friends of other religions?
2. How should we respond to people who have different religious beliefs?
3. How does God feel about us investigating other religions?
I Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things, hold fast what is good."
Romans:12:2 "...prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Deuteronomy:28:14 "You shall not turn aside...to go after other gods to serve them."
4. Does investigating other religions show a lack of faith? Is it a part of proving what we believe?
Revelations 12:9 Satan has deceived the whole world.
II Peter 3:9 God wants none to perish.
Acts:24:15 "There will be a resurrection, both of the just and the unjust."
5. How does God view people from other religions?
In the past, we have been described as a cult within Christianity. Is the United Church of God a cult?
A cult is defined simply as a group of religious people whose beliefs are founded on a single human leader. From that perspective, four of the world’s major religions are technically cults:
1. What does God teach about other religions (for His people today)?
2. What does society teach/believe about other religions?
3. What are your beliefs concerning other religions?