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What Do Three Major Religions Have in Common?

By Sanali Rajapaksa

Why do we care about religion? Some might fear the consequences of not being a follower, such as, going to hell. For others, it may provide solace, or it can be interesting to learn about. I want to compare three religions: Christianity, Islam, and Buddism. My first question is, who do they pray to or see as the greatest? Second, what is their belief in the afterlife? What happens when we die? Finally, what are women’s roles in the religion?

Christianity is a widespread religion with approximately 2.3 billion followers, with two main groups, the Protestants and Catholics. Catholics believe in the pope (the head of the religion). Protestants pray directly to God. However, in Catholicism, you pray to saints, Jesus, or Mary. Views on women vary from religion to religion.  In Christianity, women and men pray together. However, in some extreme groups or traditional faiths, some believe the men will be distracted by the women and won’t be able to concentrate during sermons so they are then separated. Also, traditional beliefs say women are not allowed bishops, priests, or any major role. Now women are able to be in those roles (in some faiths). Many religions have ideas on what will happen to us when we die. In Christianity, there is a judgment day. Some people believe that it happens after you die. Some think that it will happen at the end of time. Some believe it’s a combination of the two. Then God decides if you go to heaven or hell. People who led good lives and believed in Christ are sent to heaven. People with many sins are sent to hell.

Although Islam and Christianity belive in the same god, Muslims call the god Allah. Allah is said to be all-forgiving, but if you believe another god is equal or superior to him then that is a sin that will not be forgiven. Muslims (followers of Allah) pray directly to him. “Muslims believe Allah chooses that when you die you will stay in your graves until Yawm al-din, the Day of Judgement. On that day, you will be raised from your grave and brought before Allah and judged on how you lived your earthly life. This belief is known as the resurrection of the body.” Those who have performed more good deeds than bad will enter Jannah, or Paradise. Jannah is a place described as a ‘garden of everlasting bliss’ and a ‘home of peace’. In Jannah there will be no sickness, pain or sadness.” Like the most traditional Christian faiths, women don’t pray in the same place as the men, because women are considered a distraction during prayers. 


Another religion is Buddhism, with 605 million followers. Buddhists believe in the Buddha, who is Siddhattha Gotama, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama. There are no actual gods, but there is something similar to them called bodhisattvas. “A bodhisattva, according to Buddhism, is a Buddhist who has attained enlightenment. “In Buddhism, enlightenment is when a Buddhist discovers the truth about life and ceases to be reborn. Bodhi means Enlightenment. You can become Enlightened by following the Middle Way.”

When someone chooses to stop being re-born, and as a selfless act, delays his or her entry to Nirvana (non-existence) for the sake of others (they are bodhisattvas).” 

People enter Nirvana when one escapes the cycle of rebirth…through karma and enlightenment…(and an)… end to suffering.” There are not many restrictions on women but, in Nichiren buddhism, “People are divided into groups based on their location and will then appoint an overall leader of the group, a men’s and women’s leader and a youth division leader.”  Some types of buddhism have views or stories on women, “These narratives state that enlightenment is only possible for women if they gain good karma and are reborn as men beforehand. Others posit that as women edge closer to enlightenment, they will spontaneously transform into a male form as a prerequisite for attaining final awakening.”


After researching these three religions, I discovered how confusing it can be. However, they are similar in many ways. I was also surprised how different modern day society is different from when the religion was created. Things that are seen as offensive now might have not been in the past (sexism, classism, etc.). Will we soon stop following certain religions and make our own in the future?