Religion is described as “the service and worship of God or the supernatural” or “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (merriam-webster. com). The major religions of the world share many similarities. The commonality of idol and deity worship, supreme beings, festivals, prayer, recitations and after-life are common themes of the most popular religions. In this paper, I will discuss eight major religions and their common theme of the concept of ultimate reality.
Ultimate reality is described as ”something that is the supreme, final, and fundamental power in all reality. The ultimate reality in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is God” (Merriam-webster. com). My personal beliefs of an ultimate reality or Supreme Being is a force I call God. More specifically, as a Roman Catholic, I believe in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Having said that, I am a firm believer in evolution as well. We were created, as amoeba that crept out of the seas to evolve into apes and then man.
An evolution designed by my God. The idea of an ultimate reality in different religious cultures interests me in our modern era of discovery and science. Beliefs that are so different and yet so similar about a supernatural being that created our existences are fascinating to me. In broad strokes you can sub-categorize the eight religions into three entities: religions of Abraham, eastern religions and Chinese religions. The religions of Abraham include Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The eastern religions are Hindu, Buddhism and Jainism.
The Chinese religions of Taoism and Confucianism are the final group. These sub-categories share more similarities with each other and still maintain differences. Judaism is the oldest of the religions of Abraham. It was established as a covenant between God and Abraham (Nigosian, 318). Jews believe that God spoke to prophets, Abraham and Moses especially, and commanded they obey rules and follow their teachings (Nigosian, 321-322). Through these brushes with God, Jewish people believe they are a “Chosen people” who look to God as their creator and ultimate reality.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion evidenced by the Ten Commandments that were given Moses by God, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods besides me” (Nigosian, 323). The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ brought the Christian era into being. Christians, through the teachings of Christ, view their Supreme Being as a trinity; encompassing three completely individual beings into one (Nigosian, 381). The belief is monotheistic although it could appear to be tritheistic to anyone outside of the religion. 00 years later, Mohammad was born and was believed to have had intimate revelations from Allah (God) through the Angel Gabriel (Nigosian, 415). These revelations were sent from the “God of Abraham” (Nigosian, 434).
Islam’s vision of an ultimate reality differs from its older brother Christianity’s vision. According to the Quran “They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the third of three. ” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. Quran 5,73). ” The Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are similar and closely interwoven. None of these religions recognize a ‘creator god’. Hinduism “considers truth or ultimate reality one, but it maintains that human beings have diverse ways of expressing and reaching that truth. ” (Nigosian, 135). Hindus can be monotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, atheists or agnostics (Nigosian, 135). There is god-worship in Hinduism, like Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma that make up the Trimurti. The Trimurti portrays the “Absolute Reality” (Nigosian, 147).
Buddhism also denies a creator god, and believes an ultimate reality to be enlightenment. Enlightenment “achieved when one realizes experientially…that opposites are in truth one and the same“ (Nigosian, 185). Jainism was established by Mahvira 6th century BC during period of dissatisfaction in India (Nigosian, 207). Jainism essentially takes worship and prayer out of its culture that derived from Hinduism, stating “Gods, prayers, worship and rituals are profitless” (Nigosian, 210). Jainism also denies a creator god.
In all of the above religions, there is an afterlife that is either a place (heaven or hell) or a state of being (Nirvana or enlightenment) that is governed, in a way, by the ultimate reality. Actions, morals, deeds etc. , are all affects to this transport to a ‘better place’. Peoples of these faiths act in accordance with their faiths to honor their deity or achieve their supernatural goal. The Chinese cultures of Taoism and Confucianism also do not specify a creator god, but allude to a creator or ultimate being.
Having said that, Taoism and Confucianism lean more towards philosophy and politics and societal understandings than they do towards religion, as the earlier definition explains it. According to patheos. com, Confucianism states “the nature of ultimate reality and the intentions and expectations of divinities are beyond human capacity to know or understand. Human morals should therefore be based on human relationships, without reference to some higher order” (patheos. com). Taoism also alludes to a creator outside the realm of human understanding, but does not assign reference.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand” (Tai Te Ching, Ch. 1)” (Nigosian, 248) As I stated above, the definition of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. Religion, the sarcastic may say, is a ploy used to keep the masses in line and to prevent complete breakdown of society. Karl Marx said “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.
It is the opium of the people”. The threat of the eternal hereafter being the impetus to behave and follow the rules. To the believer, religion is a powerful tool against evil, darkness and ignorance and a sacred way to honor the individual’s ultimate reality. So, since the dawn of religion, is the worship of all-powerful deities and seeking of divine truth a commonality that was founded in true belief? Or is it an ethereal babysitter? I truly cannot speak for anyone but myself when I say “I believe in God the father, almighty, creator of heaven and earth” (Nicene Creed)(bible. org).