The five major world religions claim the vast majority of religious adherents. Christianity and Islam alone account claim over 4 billion people, more than half the total population on Earth. Each of the religions has a long, rich history and has shaped culture for generations. Art, architecture, philosophy, ethics, politics and even language have been heavily influenced by the world religions. Each has its own unique attributes, and each religion has something distinctive that marks its adherents as separate from practitioners of other religions. Despite their many differences and distinct histories, the major world religions do share a number of similarities. There are practices that all of them agree upon and beliefs that every adherent shares.
“What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin.”Perhaps the most basic tenet of any civilized society is the idea that murder is wrong. As such, all five major world religions uphold this idea. Each interprets the doctrine subtly differently. Many Buddhists, for example, take this to mean that they should not kill anything living and instead live by the idea of ahimsa, loosely translated “nonviolence.” Christians, on the other hand, tend to be accepting of death in such instances as self-defense, defense of another and warfare.
“I undertake the precept to abstain from sensuous misconduct.”Religions deal with death and the afterlife, but they also deal with life and how one should live. As such, it should be no surprise that the creation of life is of interest to each of the major religions. So, they all have rules that deal with sex. Much to some people’s displeasure, the five major world religions also tend to be in agreement on how a person’s sex life should be handled. They should wait until they are married to have sex, and then they should not have sex outside of marriage. Incest and adultery are universally condemned. Rape is also prohibited, though the definition of the crime has evolved over the centuries with society.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”All of the major world religions hold that prayer is an important part of daily life. How and to whom adherents of each religion pray varies wildly even within each religion, but there is no doubt that each major world religion emphasizes the importance of prayer. Salat, the ritual prayer performed by Muslims five times a day, is perhaps the most famous and distinctive Islamic practice in the world. Puja, a Hindu prayer ritual, is usually performed every day and ranges from lighting a stick of incense and saying a swift prayer to elaborate rituals including the Chatushasti Upachara Puja which has 64 distinct steps including offerings, prostration, waving lamps and chanting.
“To live means to suffer.”Life is not always easy, and the world is not perfect. These are two ideas that all adherents of the five major world religions would agree upon. Why the world is broken and what people are to do about the matter varies between religions, but none of the major world religions pretend that the world is a perfect utopia. It is flawed, can be cruel and people suffer throughout Earth. Christians place much of the blame for this upon the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Hindus believe that a person’s suffering is the result of karma unfolding and the actions of a person’s past lives bearing fruit. Regardless of why people believe the world is broken, all five major world religions recognize that there is not and cannot be a perfect utopia on Earth. The very nature of mankind and the world itself makes that impossible.
“That every man will turn from his evil way, then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”Sin and suffering may be inevitable, but each of the major world religions offers a solution to the suffering found in this world. Buddhism and Hinduism focus on the ideas of nirvana and moksha respectively. While there are differences between the two as understood by adherents of the two religions, both concepts offer an escape from the suffering of this world by allowing the soul of the Hindu or Buddhist to escape the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The three Abrahamic religions, on the other hand, focus on the idea of an afterlife that is free of suffering and sin.
“And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it.”According to each of the major world religions, wanting to escape suffering and sin is not enough on its own. It is a task that is greater than any man could ever hope to achieve alone and without guidance. Thankfully, each of the major world religions contains the very instructions that adherents need to live a life that will allow them to achieve peace and happiness. Texts, traditions and religious authorities all play a part in passing down the beliefs and practices that will lead religious adherents to moksha, Paradise or the equivalent state or place.
The major world religions are each very unique. They have their own holy texts, their own distinct practices and their own separate worldviews. That does not mean, however, that there are not things they all agree upon. Murder is evil, incest is wrong, prayer is good and the world is imperfect. Drop any combination of adherents of major world religions into a room, and they would all agree on those statements. They would have many differences and disagreements, but when it comes down to it, there is more common ground between religions than most people realize. That common ground is more than enough to create a world where people of various religions can exist in harmony regardless of their differences if people would stop focusing on where they disagree and start paying attention instead to what they all have in common.