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Religions: Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Apr 26th, 2021

In the Bhagavad Gita, three yogas, or paths to liberation (=to moksha), are outlined: jnana yoga, which liberates one via knowledge; karma yoga, which liberates one via actions; and bhakti yoga, which liberates one via devotion. (Raja yoga was created as a complementary practice by the Yoga School.)

Karma yoga means practicing disciplined action, acting in a karmically positive manner. The motives for such actions need to be deontological, that is, one should do these actions because they are right rather than to achieve certain goals.

Jnana yoga means achieving moksha through knowledge, which is achieved via study, usually under the supervision of a guru. The knowledge that needs to be achieved pertains to the awareness of the unity of atman (= one’s “real” self,) and brahman (=the absolute and impersonal reality). The study needs to include not only personal reflection but also philosophical scrutiny.

Thus, karma yoga is practiced via acting deontologically in a karmically positive manner, while jnana yoga is practiced via gaining knowledge and conducting reflection.

In Buddhism, nirvana (“quenching”) is the key aim of the path of a Buddhist, the cessation of dukkha (=suffering) via the riddance from its causes; nirvana also means the end of the samsara (=the endless circles of deaths and rebirths).

The four noble truths of Buddhism state that

  1. there is suffering which is
  2. caused by the desires but
  3. can be get rid of via eliminating the causes of it through
  4. following the madhyama pratipad (=the Middle Way).

Doing so allows one to eliminate the desires (passion, ignorance, and aversion), as well as one’s individuality, and, thus, to end the suffering. The state in which these desires are eliminated, or nirvana, is the state of the quietude of one’s heart; it transcends human comprehension. Nirvana means that one loses one individuality and breaks free of the samsara.

Thus, nirvana is the final aim of a Buddhist, the release from all suffering. Importantly, it is open to any human who practices Buddhism.

Holocaust is a significant challenge to Judaism because, according to Judaism, God actively participates in the history of humanity, and it is difficult to explain how He allowed for such a phenomenon as genocide of His chosen people.

According to Judaism,

  1. only one God exists,
  2. He is involved in history,
  3. Israelites are His “chosen people,” with whom he made covenants.

Because of 1 and 2, it is possible that God “arranged” Holocaust (and no other supernatural force could have done so), or at least allowed it to happen, which is a challenge. This is especially strange considering that Israelites are his “chosen people.” Thus, it is unclear if God let the Holocaust happen, and if yes, then why; can a good God even allow let such things happen; did Israelites violate the terms of the contracts, or have they lost their status as the “chosen people”; and so on?

It is also unclear whether to interpret Holocaust as a punishment for Jews’ sins, or as an atonement for the sins of other peoples. It is also hard to tell whether Judaists should preserve their traditional views, or reject them in the light of this catastrophe.

Thus, the phenomenon of the Holocaust challenges the very basis of Judaism, according to which Israelites are the “chosen people”, the God is good, He intervenes in history, and should not have allowed for such a catastrophe to occur.

A “miracle” can be defined as a happening in which the laws of nature have been violated; thus, it cannot occur due to natural causes on their own and is inconsistent with and incomprehensible from the point of view of science. In Christianity, a miracle occurs as a result of an intervention of God or a certain supernatural agent. The examples of Christian miracles include the resurrection of Christ (the pivotal miracle), as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, certain actions done by Jesus, etc.

Numerous objections have been raised against the actual occurrence of miracles; one of the most prominent of them was offered by skepticist David Hume. It is hard to state that Hume claimed miracles could not occur; he questioned the rationality of believing in them based on testimony. In particular, he states that a law of nature is the regularity with no inclusions observed to it; thus, the evidence for a law of nature is extremely strong.

On the other hand, a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; thus, all the experience of humanity contradicts the claim that a miracle occurred. Besides, a miracle, as a highly improbable occurrence, needs extremely strong evidence to confirm it; on the other hand, the testimony is rather weak if compared to the evidence which shows that a miracle cannot take place. Thus, Hume concludes that a belief in miracles is unreasonable.

Noteworthy, Hume’s argument is epistemological, but it is hard to object against the reality of miracles in principle. A miracle is by definition a violation of the laws of nature, so it cannot be objected to by referring to the laws of nature.

Therefore, a miracle can be defined as a violation of the laws of nature; in Christianity, it is believed to be caused by a divine or otherwise supernatural intervention. There are some arguments against the reality of miracles; Hume’s epistemological argument is one of the most well-known ones.

The five pillars of Islam are

  1. shahadah or the confession of faith;
  2. salat, or prayer;
  3. zakat, or the obligatory tax in favor of the poor;
  4. sawm, or fasting during the month of Ramadan,
  5. hajj or a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The five pillars of Islam are believed to be obligatory by the adherents of the faith and thought to constitute the foundations of a Muslim’s life.

  1. Shahadah. Every Muslim is required to state: “there is no god but God (=Allah), and Muhammad is his prophet”. It must be recited at least once in the life of a Muslim, but is, in fact, the most common act of an Islamic adherent, resembling a prayer.
  2. Salat. Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day: in the dawn, midday, afternoon, evening, and night. A Muslim must face Kaaba (in Mecca) while praying.
  3. Zakat. A Muslim is obliged to pay a special tax to help the poor; usually, it equals 2.5% of a Muslim’s capital and income per year.
  4. Sawm. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, which occurs at various times of the year. Muslims are not allowed to drink, eat, smoke, or have intercourse during daylight time. Only after dusk, the prohibition is lifted.
  5. Hajj. Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca, which an adult must carry out at least once in their lifetime if they are capable of doing so. It occurs during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Thus, the five pillars of Islam are obligatory practices for any Muslim and are believed to form the basis of a Muslim’s life.

  • One of the key similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that all of them (at least partially) use what is called the Bible by Christians. On the other hand, they use it to a different extent. Judaism only uses 24 books divided into 3 sections: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketubim, together abbreviated as Tanakh. Christians utilize all these books, calling them (and some additional books, in some Christian groups) the Old Testament, and also use the New Testament. Finally, Muslims only use certain parts of the Bible, believing them to be a revelation from God, but believe that Bible is partially corrupted; the Quaran is regarded as the main book in Islam and is believed to have been dictated to Muhammad by God via Gabriel the angel. Interestingly, Muslims call Christians and Judaists “the people of the book”, and believe they still can be saved.
  • All the three religions are considered to be monotheistic. However, Judaism and Islam are strictly monotheistic, believing in one God. On the other hand, the Christian God is believed to be one and to be three simultaneously; the Trinity comprises the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Christian God is “one essence”, but, at the same time, three persons.
  • All the three religions believe in messiahs and prophets, in the Judgment Day, in Paradise, and Hell. All the three religions have their Commandments, and their adherents practice fasting.
  • In Christianity, Jesus is the son of God. In Islam, he is *a* prophet. In Judaism, he is a false messiah.
  • In Islam and Judaism, it is obligatory to have several prayers during the day.
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