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Similarities and Differences Among the Major Western Religions

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The major religions of the Western world share similarities as a result of their shared heritage, but are also very different due to their divergence from that heritage. All three started with the same stories that are found in the Judaic Torah. Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Noah all exist in the culture of all of these religions. However, as time progressed people would come that would impact those around them and cause the course of religion to change. The result is the establishment of Christianity with the Bible and Islam with the Quran.

Approximately 5,000 years ago a group of people started a religion based on a single omnipotent deity. They started writing their stories and used them as their guide for religion and life. They called themselves the descendents of Eber, or Hebrews (Wikipedia). These people eventually found a home in the lands of Judea, hence the name of their religion, Judaism. Judaism spread through the Middle East where it would come into conflict with various cultures.

Around 2,000 years ago a man came out of the Jewish religion that was believed by some to be a prophet, and others as the Messiah, or Christ, of the Hebrew people. The man was Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary, and the stories of his life and the messages and lessons he gave became the foundation for a new religion. This religion was named after this man and is called Christianity. The tenets of Christianity are shared with Judaism, but include additional beliefs that separate it from Judaism including the concept of resurrection and the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (religioustolerance.com).

Another group followed the teachings of another man, Muhammad. He proclaimed himself to be the last prophet of God, he provided many new tenets to his followers regarding the manner in which a person should live his or her life called the “Five Pillars” (Wenner). There are also six articles of faith that all Muslims believe in. Islam does recognize the existence of Jesus, but only as a prophet and not as the physical manifestation of God on Earth. Because of this difference, Islam does not subscribe to a belief in resurrection of the soul.

The major religious beliefs of the Western world share similar origins and stories. The separation of the religions over time resulted in their divergent beliefs, but they are still bound by beliefs based on the shared stories. Conflict sometimes arises when people with different beliefs are brought together. Sometimes, however, it is possible to find the common ground and work together.

Retrieved from the Internet 5/16/2008

Religious Tolerance.com
Retrieved from the Internet 5/17/2008

Wenner, Sara
“Basic Beliefs of Islam”
http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/religion/islam/beliefs.html Retrieved from the Internet 5/18/2008

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