Critical Review Essay
When we think about the ancient times, we should think of polytheism as an integrate part of the worldview of ancient people. Comparing to that, modern time is for the most part monotheistic. It is so because of the spread of the three Abraham religions around the globe. These religions, which are so popular nowadays, are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It appears that each of them is based on sacred scriptures, which increase the number of believers annually. Although these religions are very different at the first glance, they have a number of common beliefs. To add even more, these religions supplement each other. In spite of the many differences, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are similar in their basic beliefs.
First, all three religions are religions of the book. They all evolved and developed due to the sacred texts. With no scriptures, they would have no sense. Jewish Bible, Christian Bible, and Muslim Quran are the heart of the religion. They are the base for the reason that they embrace the key beliefs of these religions. They are the essence and real meaning of the faith. There, the believers may find what God wants people to do. For that reason, Christians, Jews, and Muslims have a special respect for sacred texts. It is especially true about Muslims who keep their books at a certain height, and wrap them with a piece of clothes. As the believers value the sacred texts so much, Abraham religions cannot exist without scripture.
Second, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam acknowledge some prophets. The common prophet of them is Abraham, the father of all nations. Besides, there were many prophets in the Old Testament. Among them were Amos, Hosea, Jonah and Obadiah. They warned people about the coming events. They have also predicted the Messiahs coming. Christians manage to interpret Old Testament prophecies as thus indicating the coming of Jesus Christ. New Testament texts usually find the correlation between some prophesies in the Old Testament and life of Jesus Christ. New Testament contains the Book of Revelation and the main prophecy about the future and the end of time. Thus, John the Apostle appears to be a prophet to some degree. At the same time, Muslims acknowledge all prophets because their religion encourages them to do so. Thus, the Abraham religions share acknowledgement of the prophets, among which Abraham is the first one.
Third, all three religions perceive information from the text as the revelation of God. Not only it is possible to learn some stories from the texts, but also people can learn something new about the nature of God. The followers of these religions accept what is written in the books as a truth. God is truth and so his word must be truthful, as well. Furthermore, God is an infinite truth and infinite wisdom. That is why people cannot comprehend all he intends to tell them. It can lead to many misinterpretations and contradictions. Nevertheless, it is all understandable as people are fallible and only God is flawless and knowing all in the world. This belief in Gods infinite wisdom is the heart of Abraham religions. So, this is one more common belief of the religions in question.
Last of all, Abraham religions share the same stories. In particular, these are the stories about a man called Noah and the Great Flood, the story of Joseph, the story of Moses and the Mount Sinai, and the story of Abraham and Isaac. These characters may have different names in different religions, but the plot does not change. As a result, they are all common and supplement each other in the details of the stories. It means that these three religions have more similarities than the majority of people think. While Jews and Christians share the same text, they all together with Muslims share the same stories. Followers of all Abraham religions acknowledge common prophets and even more. They heavily rely on the sacred texts. They perceive the texts as the revelation of God, which show his infinite wisdom and truth. Thanks to the sacred texts, people know how to behave and what God expects them to do. Thus, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are similar religions.
What is Religion?
Since the ancient times, people have tried to explain the world around them. Because they did not know science as we know today, they tended to give supernatural explanations for everything. The nature was divine, the animals were thought to have some spirits, and different spirits were everywhere. So, religion was something that helped people to explain what they saw. The interesting fact is that religion penetrates human worldview to a great degree. Religion is an inbuilt need of human nature. Not all humans have religious beliefs, but all of them have been religious. The story of the development of religion shows that clearly.
All religions have some common elements or concepts. These include powerful gods, sacred places, belief in life after death, and belief in spirits able to approach people in that communicate with people in multiple ways. They are so old no one can point to their origin. In ancient times, people typically divided world into three layers, sky, earth and underworld. They just had a sense it was right to do so. In a human mind, sky was the home of the greatest deities. As lightning and thunder came from the sky, people viewed it as actions of gods. That is why people usually chose the locations for sacred places on the mountains and hilltops. These places were thought to be closer to the gods, and people expected to win the favor of the gods via making sacrifices. As people did not know physical reasons of thunder, lightning and other natural phenomena, they had the only spiritual explanation for that. Thus, the world surrounding people led them to believe in something supernatural.
To continue, religion appears to be a part of a human nature as it grows out of human experience. As Oxtoby puts it, these experiences range from the fear of death to the hope for a good afterlife, from the uncertainty surrounding natural events to the sense of control over nature provided by a priest. It appears that the demand for religious experience gave rise to spiritual supply by special people. It means that people needed some intercessors between the world of people and the world of deities. At first, these were shamans. Shamanism was all about dealing with spirits, both friendly and unfriendly. Next, people started building ritual centers, and the priests worked there. When religion has reached the third level of its development the ritual centers transformed into the temples. Priests became a powerful social class. They had the respect of others, and their occupation was considered to be prestigious because they had to perform more functions. It all speaks of the increasing human need for communication with the gods and meeting of their spiritual needs.
In the course of time, people realized they could communicate with the gods and ensure good prospects after death. That was the point at which the prophets appeared because the threat of hell and the promise of heaven were powerful tools for any prophet seeking to persuade people to behave as they believed the deity demanded. As the time passed, human understanding of deities changed, as well. Some people ascribed human attributes to deities, while others believed that gods have no personality.
At last, religion gives people hope for eternal life after their death. They know that if they lead virtuous life on earth they will receive their reward in heaven. Different religions offer their own ways of salvation. Some of them suggest asceticism as the optimal lifestyle to win divine favor. It reveals the tracks of ancient mentality of sacrifices. Apart from that, some religions offer a concept of a savior, which promise that his followers will be saved.
Thus, religion plays an important role in human life. Religion is an inbuilt need of a human nature. It grows out of human experience. It gives answers to a range of questions. It fulfills human spiritual needs. Religion is what gives promise of eternal life and thus gives meaning to human life.