There has been much talked and written about in the media regarding the ‘Great Faiths’ recently, assuming it seems that we all know what they are. I suspect that most know as much as I did before I went to theological college, i.e. very little indeed. So if you are in the same boat as I was, here is a potted introduction.
Began in India, believe there is a God behind everything, so 300 million gods would not be considered too many. Colourful temples with a very relaxed atmosphere, very tolerant and welcoming as any other faith is regarded as another form of Hinduism.
Began with one man, Siddharta Gautama, born in India in 560BC. He became the enlightened one, The Buddha, a teacher who refused to be worshiped as a God. Colourful temples with statues, calm meditation and prayer, but often discipline can be austere.
Began in the Punjab by Guru Nanak around 1500 AD. Nine successive Gurus have succeeded him since then. The Sikhs holy book is read and hymns are sung in colourful temples called gurdwaras; the men wear turbans as an outward sign of their religion.
Began in the Eastern Mediterranean with the patriarchs, Abraham and his descendents. Belief is of a covenant between God and the Jews; worship is in word and songs in synagogues…the Hebrew Bible is written on scrolls and comprises of teaching, in addition to The Old Testament, of collections of writing called the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Began in Arabia with Muhammad (c570-632 AD) the final prophet or messenger of God. Allah inspired him to write the Qur’an, which completed the final revelation to the Jews and Christians. Worship is in mosques, full of space and empty of images.
Began with one man, Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew in the Eastern Mediterranean, a teacher who was crucified as a criminal and was revered as God in human form when he rose from the dead. His story is recorded in The New Testament, worship is through word and hymn in church buildings.
You can see just how much has been left out of the Christian faith by just giving a short description. Likewise each other faith has as many varieties within it as Christianity, some have more! However, it is only Christianity that teaches of how God came down from Heaven to Earth and took on our humanity in order to show us, by His example, how to live our lives.