The appearance of differences in religion seems to be just that, an appearance. As I review my limited knowledge of the various religions, they all seem to focus on the truth and since the truth can’t be changed, improved, or updated, what can account for their differences? To answer this question, I felt consideration must be given to those who brought religion to us. I can accept the position that religion not only allowed humans to peacefully co-exist and that is what we call civilization, as we know it. It is within this civilization that may hold the key to their differences.
During the time that the great teachers and prophets spoke, I believe their message had to take into account the culture, the time, the beliefs, the level of understanding, and the needs of the people they were speaking to. In my review of the major religions, I found what I believe is a boilerplate that is shared by each. I have included Buddhism because I believe its religious content comes from the commitment not its worshiping a deity. We have the scriptures: Vedas, Quran, Holy Bible, Torah Scrolls, and Dhammapada. We have the messengers: Vishnu, Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and Buddha. We also have laws governing moral and religious conduct like the Dharma Sutras, Ten Commandments, and the Sharia.
The true differences in religion seem to be how they are divided according to their practice. These practices focus on the relationship between humans and divine activity in the achievement of salvation. Among the religions, there are those in which man alone is responsible for his salvation (Buddhism); where God alone is responsible (Hinduism); where man and God work together (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). In these three religions, salvation is something that’s viewed as unattainable in this world and this seems to suggest that our lives on earth are like probation and we spend that probation preparing for our departure.
Another difference seems to suggest that there are two distinct forces within us that are responsible for good and bad behavior. This interpretation seems to contradict a human’s freedom to choose, known as free will, and that comes close to relieving humans of the responsibility for their actions. Therefore, if a human is not responsible for his/her actions, does that mean that if God can’t rid the world of evil and suffering, he is not all-powerful? If he can but won’t, does that mean he is not all good? And finally, if God is all-powerful and all-good, should we assume that he is not all-wise because even though he is doing his best, evil and suffering continue.
And finally, could the Son of God have come to earth more than once? Why would the Son of God only speak to the people between Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem? What about the people in China, North America, South America, and India? Could the Son of God have come to earth as Vishnu or Abraham or Buddha or Jesus or Muhammad? As the Son of God, that would be as easy as changing clothes. If so, this would seem to justify the fact that all religions have a very similar foundation, which is devotion to God (except Buddhism), living a morally correct life, loving one another, and having a path to salvation.
The Time The Messenger The Scripture
3000 BCE Vishnu The Vedas are written down
430 BCE The Torah is established
80 BCE The Pali Canon is written down
73 CE The Gospels are written down
610 CE The revelation of the Quran begins
650 CE The written text of the Quran is established
Source: Newsweek’s World Religions