While the similarities in ethical and theological concepts are great, some differences emerge. For instance, Islam seems to be the more fundamental or faith-based of the two religions, as Robinson (2008-1) points often to a liberal branch of Christianity that questions even the very fundamentals of the faith. For instance, while Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin, even though they do not accept him as the Son of God, liberal Christians do not accept the idea of the virgin birth (Robinson, 2008-1). While Christianity has gained its share of criticism, many critics have targeted Islam in the wake of the September 11, 2009 attacks. Many criticize Islam for the concept of Jihad, a term that Robinson (2008A) argues is one of the most misunderstood in the religion. Some interpret this term as war against non-believers. Ellian (2008) also criticizes Islam for its inability to accept criticism and intense devotion to the Holy Koran. Thus, Islam and Christianity share many basic theological and ethical beliefs, differing on the importance of Jesus and the trinity, among other ideas. Both are the recipients of criticism at home and abroad.
Buddhism, however, is much different from both Christianity and Islam. In fact, some even argue that Buddhism is not really a religion, but a philosophy. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in ancient India. The Buddha entered a quest to seek enlightenment, and when he did so, he sought to teach others. Some believe that Buddhism was heavily influenced by Hinduism, which also claims the three core beliefs of Buddhism -- Karma, Dharma, and Reincarnation (Robinson 2009). Many believe that Buddhism is not a religion because it does not require faith or a belief in a supernatural being. Buddhists do not worship the Buddha, nor do they believe they can attain salvation through him. Instead, the relationship between the Buddha and his followers is that of the teacher-student relationship (Thera, 2009, paras. 1-3). In much the same way, Buddhism does not support the main historical tenants of religions like Christianity and Islam, such as salvation, sin, and the concept of heaven and hell (Robinson 2007). This being said, Buddhism does share some aspects of both Islam and Christianity. These aspects have primarily to do with ethics, as well as philosophy. For instance, all three religions adhere to some sort of golden rule, suggesting that it is important to refrain from committing heinous acts against one another. In addition, the three religions all advocate the importance of positive aspects, such as morality, justice, and love. Finally, all three religions share a belief in the existence of an afterlife, although this is much different in the form of Buddhism than the heaven and hell mentioned in the Koran and Bible. The Buddhist's afterlife, instead, consists of reincarnation reflecting Karma and a step in the process toward enlightenment. Still, it is arguable whether or not Buddhism can really be called a religion, though it is certainly a philosophy undertaken by many.
Thus, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are three of the world's largest religions, and even though they seem to be completely different -- so different that they cause conflict -- there are aspects shared by all three. This has important implications for the study of contemporary religions, as well as for the religious seeker.
Ellian, A. (2009). "Criticism and Islam." Retrieved June 10, 2009, from The Wall Street
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Robinson, B.A. (2008). "Christianity: A Brief History." Retrieved June 10, 2009, from Religious Tolerance.org. Web Site: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_intr1.htm
Robinson, B.A. (2008B). "Comparing Christianity and Islam: the world's two largest religions." Retrieved June 10, 2009, from Religious Tolerance.org. Web Site: http://www.religioustolerance.org/comp_isl_chr.htm
Robinson, B.A. (2009). "Buddhism, based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama."
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Thera, N. (2009). "Buddhism in a Nutshell." Retrieved June 10, 2009, from Buddha Net.