Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
There are a few common roots and many common elements to Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam--the so-called Abrahamic religious heritage. Here are a few major ones
that these religions share similarities:
Belief about God.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions, namely they believe
that there is only one God. Jews and Muslims greatly stress the oneness and
unity of God. The affirmation of the oneness of God by Christians is sometimes
misunderstood, because Christians believe that the one God is triune (the Holy
Trinity). However, this is not a denial of monotheism but an affirmation of the
complexity of the Divine Being.
All three religions believe that this God is the origin and source of all that
exists. God cares about the entire creation and desires the well-being of all.
God is just and has provided basic rules for our guidance so that we may be good
and righteous, according to God's intention. God is also merciful; by means of
God's grace we are given strength to be more like what we ought to be.
Children of Abraham: Understanding human beings
The three religions believe that human beings are the highest creatures here on
earth. We are the children of Abraham. God created us full of mystery, which means potential for continuous
growth, both as a species and as individuals. We are capable of both good and
evil. When we grow in goodness, righteousness, and love we become more like what
God intended human goodness to be. When we abuse our freedom and do harm to
other people, ourselves, and the environment it means that we are going against
God's plans as we become evil-doers. Each person is capable, with God's help, to
turn away from evil, repent, and do good. We owe God our devotion,
glorification, and obedience.
No matter how difficult the past and present may be, the three religions are
hopeful about the future. Evil and suffering cannot ultimately prevail. God has
provided a condition (or state of being) for which our three religions have
different names, but we agree on the term Paradise. This future will bring about
God's unchallenged rule; unconditional bliss for all who live with God.
Divine Human Encounter
The three Abrahamic religions believe that God and human beings can and should
communicate with each other. By revelation God communicates to people, among
which the most important are revelation through prophets. These revelations are
recorded in the Holy Scriptures of each religion. While the Holy Scriptures of
the three religions are not the very same, nevertheless the younger two
religions acknowledge God's truth as found in the previous religions, and
encourage respect to the Holy Books. While each of the three religions does not
merely focus on one set of writings, the key Scripture of Judaism is the Torah,
the key Scripture of Christianity is the Bible, which consists of the Old
Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament, and the key Scripture of Islam
is the Qur'an.
The duty of people is to read or listen to God's Holy Writings and to respond
with prayer, praise, and with an appropriate acceptance of God's commandments in
God did not leave us without guidelines for behavior. God provided us with sound
basic rules to live by as well as a rational mind to learn how and when to apply
those rules to our everyday life. All three religions, for example, abhor
murder, the arbitrary killing of innocent people. Likewise, God wants us to be
telling the truth and not to take from others what rightfully belongs to them.
We are to respect the dignity of every person and help especially those who are
not capable of helping themselves, such as widows, orphans, and the poor. All
three religions believe in Golden Rule: doing to others what we wish others do
unto us. All three religions foster modesty, moderation, and honest work. We are
to submit ourselves to the will of God.
All three religions closely link religion and morality. Religion is to be
manifested by showing concern for the well-being and dignity of others, in a
life of service to others, and in personal and social ethical behavior.
What Difference Does It Make?
As monotheistic religions, sharing common ancestors, belief in divinely given
written scriptures, and common rituals and practices, such as regular prayer and
charity; valuing pilgrimage and sharing many common holy places; promising that
behavior will receive its proper rewards and punishments in the future, on earth
and in an afterlife; balancing and integrating strands of mysticism, legalism,
and pious devotion; the three religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
would appear to be naturally suited to co-existence and even to mutual
reinforcement. And indeed at times, notably in Spain, during much, but not all,
of the period from about 750 to about 1250, the three faiths coexisted and
gladly learned from one another. But such warm, reciprocally beneficial coexistence
has been the exception rather than the rule.
Perhaps two factors can explain the hostility that has often characterized the
relationships among these religions. First all three have been proselytizing
religions--although Judaism abandoned this practice early in the Christian era--
and their very closeness has made them bitterly competitive. Each has had some
feeling that it has come the closest to the essential truths of God and the
world, and that the others have somehow failed to recognize this. Both
Christianity and Islam, for example, accuse Judaism of stubbornly refusing to
accept later revelations that modify and update its original truths. Both
Judaism and Islam accuse Christianity of a kind of idolatry in claiming that God
begat a son who as actually a form of God and who walked the earth in human
form. Both Judaism and Christianity argue that God did not give a special, final
revelation to Muhammad. In each case these religions have looked at one another
and said that, despite elements of deep commonality, there exist also
fundamental heresies. Indeed within each of these religions, at various times,
splits have turned one group against another amidst cries of heresy and calls to
armed opposition. Truth was to be maintained, asserted, and defended through the
force of arms. (Religions with less insistence on doctrinal correctness, such as
Hinduism, and Buddhism, have had less, and less bitter, religious warfare.)
Second, as each religion developed, it sought the support of government. It
often sought to be the government. Truth was to be reinforced by power. Basic
competition over spiritual and philosophical truths spilled over into
competition also for tax monies, office, land, and public acceptance of specific
ritual and architectural symbols, and suppression of opposition. When they
could, these religions marched through the world armed. The idea that the state
and religion should be separated appeared as early as Augustine; but until
recently, in the lands where these three religions predominated, the state and
religion were usually intimately bound up with one another, and in many places,
the religion of the leader of the state was excepted to be accepted as the
religion of his subjects, or at least to be given preferred treatment over