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June 24, 2014

A Study on Comparative Religion

God had created the human being in the ideal and most perfect shape. Life is a holy trust between the God and the man and must be led carefully and consciously. All our actions spring from inmost thoughts for thoughts precede actions. Man being an intelligent and rational creature, is responsible for all his actions. If our thoughts having soul values our actions are bound to be good, vice versa if our thoughts are only limited to the material values the actions or deeds are most probably not very good and must be similar to the actions of other animals. This power of discriminating between good and evil, fair and foul, right or wrong, just or unjust, springs from moral sense, which is due to the spiritual values, we have. Now coming the mundane scene, every body has to obey some one, some authority or some laws. This is how the affairs of the daily life run. But the question arise- what should we obey, when should we obey and whom should we obey? Here begin the tussle between the spiritual values and the command from any source. If the command clashes with our duties to God, they should be defied and the conscience be our guide.
People allover the world obey different religions; these religions have some similarities as well as differences. This report delves into the different approaches of Eastern and Western religions of the world.
Eastern and Western Approaches
Eastern Religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) are different in many ways with Western religions (Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam). Eastern approach of religion is singular and person’s inner quest towards religious goals whereas Western approach is searching the God outside. Eastern approach to religion considers that everything is sacred and God is present everywhere and in every thing whereas Western approach neither believes that God is in everything nor it considers that every thing is sacred. In fact there is a clear distinction between what is sacred and what is blasphemous.
Actually most of the Eastern religions were started and originated from India and from Hinduism. On the other hand Western religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have their roots in Abraham. Following are some of the Similarities and differences of Eastern and Western religions.
Similarities of Eastern and Western Religions
Following are some of the important similarities between Eastern and Westerns religions:
·         God: Both Eastern and Western religions consider God as the Supreme Being who had created this universe and the human beings. Although different religions have slight differences on the concept of God, e.g. different groups of Christians quarreling on the question whether the Christ was a man or God or how the three the God, Christ and the Holy Ghost could become one or one could be divided into three. According to the Muslims, God is a single and supreme being who is Eternal, and who is the creator of this Universe and all the living beings in it
·         Salvation: Salvation can be achieved through obedience of God. God is the king of the heavens and the earth. He forgives whom He pleases and Chastises whom He pleases and God is forgiving and merciful. He is the creator of the Universe and all the things including Humans in the universe. He is the Supreme Being and does whatever He pleases
·         Good Conduct: All religions uphold the spiritual values. These are the great repositories and magazine of all those pleasures that can afford solid refreshment to the soul. But it is the only pious life led exactly by the rules of the severe religion that can authorize a man’s conscience to speak comfortably to him. Its second ennobling property is that it bestows such pleasure as never satiates nor wearies, for it property effects the spirit. But an epicure cannot say so of any pleasures that he so much dotes upon. Spiritual progress and closeness to God can be achieved through good conduct
·         Destiny of Soul: Soul was considered as God’s breath, which He breathed in man. Its seat is in the heart and possesses the qualities of evil and virtue. Its higher aspect is will, which controls and regulates the two said qualities. The individual will is subject to the universal will. Death is the separation of the soul from the body, which is reunited at the command of God. But this inward march of soul from one station to another station was futile if it did not express itself in some form of social service. Social services or the service to the humanity is the highest form of devotion and spiritual services
Differences of Eastern and Western Religions
There are a vast number of differences between Eastern and Western religions approach, some of such differences are:
·         Creation: Eastern religions believed that world exists from eternity, there would be no absolute end of the world. God and World are not different things but there is a unity between them. On the other hand, all western religions believe that world was created at some particular time by God and will be destroyed by God at a specific date in future
  • Concept of God: All religions believe that there is one true God. Eastern approach says that each soul receives God’s grace according to its temperament and ability. God is an infinite Goodness but at some times God is terrifying too. On the other hand Western approach says that there is one true God, those who obey Him and His religion will enjoy the eternal rewards while the others are punished. Dr. Momen writes that, “In the Western religions, the transcendent reality is given the name of God and is thought of as a personal, omnipotent, omniscient Being, God as the Creator is usually conceived of as being wholly other than His creation…. In contrast, the Eastern religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism of the Advaita school, have no concept of God as a person; rather their concept is of Ultimate Reality as a process, a truth or a state of being” (Momen)
·         Basis of religion: All Eastern religions, being offshoots of Hinduism, are based on mythology as Hinduism itself is based on mythology. On the other hand western religions are based on pure history as thy all have a founder
·         God’ existence: Eastern approach proved God’s existence with the help of His Gurus whereas western approach says that God existence can be proved with His love and promise to men and with the help of His prophet
·         On Judgment Day: According to Eastern approach, there is no judgment day, because God does not judge or punish people. All paths lead towards Him and there is no such thing as sin. Western approach, on the other hand, believed that there is only one right path, which leads towards God. There will be a judgment day when all men will be judged, rewarded or punished, according to their deeds in the world
·         Hell: Eastern religions have the opinion that hell is neither a physical place nor it is eternal. Hell is a state of mind, where suffering is dependent upon the deeds of men. Western approach believes that Hell is a physical place, it will be the destination of all sinners and they will live there for eternity
·         Worship: the nature of worship in Eastern religions is complex, ritualistic and centered around the individual. On the other hand, in western religions, worship is simple and congregational
Common Theme of Religions
There are several common themes in all important Eastern and Western religions but it is not true to say that all religions are similar and have a common theme. They are similar in the sense that all religions invoke inquiry, makes man to reflect and think about the creation and probe into the secrets of universe. It awakens in man the faculty of reason, inculcates the spirit of inquisitiveness and exhorts him to use his intellect. Life is real, so religion enjoins on man to see things in the light of reality. Both the concrete and the abstract make up man’s life complete. The religion gives equal importance both to the objective and subjective realities. These both aim at pursuit of truth. The acquisition of knowledge both by scientists and humanists is aimed to search for truth and human well being.
All religions tell men what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is evil, what is fair and what is foul, what is moral and what is immoral, what is to be done and what is to be shunned etc. Man is free to choose between the two; and therefore responsible for what he does. This is the philosophy behind the social order of religion.     
Although the essence of all the religions is almost same but they have vast differences in some important issues like nature of God, creation, judgment day, worship, concept of hell etc. (Rowe). According to Netland, “Careful examination of the basic tenets of the various religious traditions demonstrates that, far from teaching the same thing, the major religions have radically different perspectives on the religious ultimate” (Netland, p.37).
Some scholars believed that the essence of all religions is ethical values but other scholars argued that religion is not limited to ethics only and the truth of one religion’s ethics is tied to this religion’s theology. Different religious claims of different religions deny each other. Due to this, only one claim can be true Thus McGrath rightly said, “There is a growing consensus that it is seriously misleading to regard the various religious traditions of the world as variations on a single theme” (McGrath, p.155).
Impact of Eastern and Western Approaches to Each Other
Religion contributes to social harmony. The basic commandment of most major faiths stress love of God and love of one’s neighbor. This sometimes extends to loving even those of other faiths. We might say that religion teaches good citizenship.
The western religions are congregational in nature, and so the members are bonded to one another through their shared faith and rituals, they find themselves pitted against members of other faiths. Thus Western approach of religion can teach social harmony, congregation and duality to Eastern approach of religions.
On the other hand, “non-dual reality” and the “awareness of oneness” can be found in Eastern approach of religion. Thus from Eastern approach western thought can learn the awareness of oneness and social harmony. It teaches the western thought how any person can reach to the path of salvation.
Thus it can easily be concluded that both Eastern and Western approaches can learn from each other.
Importance of Religion in Modern World
In our present world we have suffered from international tensions, mutual hatred and distrust, regionalism, economic exploitation, dishonest earnings, poor respect for human rights, growing materialistic tendencies, moral bankruptcy and spiritual barrenness have killed human conscience. The only hope for humanity lies in the religion, in the revival of moral values and in the revival of spiritual values and spirituality.
Humanity has never, so badly stood in need of Love and Peace, as at present. In fact in love and peace lies the only hope of the survival of the mankind. Modern man has no peace of mind, no contentment; hence no happiness. Despite of all our scientific progress, material comforts and easy run of life, we pine for love, peace and happiness. There is the United Nations; there are numerous other international organizations, conferences, meetings and parties; but all in vain because we only put our heads together and do not put our hearts together.
How Religious Expression Changes?
Religious expressions are continuously changing. Expression of religious beliefs is dependent upon the culture of the society. It is important to note that in free societies, like western societies, people are more liberal to express their religious beliefs but at the same time, people also have the liberty to express vigorous remarks about other people’s religious beliefs. For example, France had banned scarf in schools because the government of France thought that scarf and veils are used by Muslim fundamentalists.
Thus, it can be said that religious expression differs from culture to culture and the expression of religious beliefs are mainly dependent on the society.
Future of Religion
According to some scholars, “The most illustrious figures in sociology, anthropology, and psychology have unanimously expressed confidence that their children, or surely their grandchildren, would live to see the dawn of a new era in which, to paraphrase Freud, the infantile illusions of religion would be outgrown" (Stark and Bainbridge, p. 1).
The emergence of Global village has affected the future of religion. People of Eastern religion living in western societies have not adopted their religion as they might have adopted if they were living in their own society.
Clash of different cultures has affected the beliefs of different religions. Ninian Smart said about the future of religion and how people select their religion that, “…one that was perhaps more pragmatic and service-oriented, might appeal to those others. So I think you have to take your values into account” (Insight & Outlook).
Thus nobody can say with certainty, what would be the future of the religion; but as discussed above, religion and spirituality is the need of present world, so let’s hope that future of religion will be better than the present condition of religion in our societies.



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