World Religions – A Summary

In my last nine post I discussed the road to happiness as promoted by three Middle-Eastern and Eastern religious traditions: Islam (Middle East and North Africa), Hinduism (India and Nepal), and Buddhism (Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand).

According the Pew Forum, theses three Eastern traditions represented 45.3% of the world population in 2010.  When you add Christianity (The Americas, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand) and Judaism (North America and Israel) the number increases to 77%.  Finally, when you add in those without a religious affiliation (those primarily from China and North Korea), the number increases to 93.3%.  For the remaining 6.7% of the world whose religion I did not discuss, I apologize.

Let us first discuss the similarities among the three major religions and that of the West.

1) Happiness is the freedom from suffering, fear, and anxiety during our lifetimes.  It is also a spiritual enlightenment, or experience, or transcendence, or connection with God.  Is some cases it is a joining with God in his kingdom after death.

2) Many virtues are needed to reach happiness.  Wisdom, ethical conduct, compassion, and love are among the virtues needed if one is to reach happiness.  Excluding Buddhism, there is a recognition of the realities of everyday existence.  These realities require an occupation to feed, house, and cloth one’s family, and to provide protection from the harm of others.

3) Excluding perhaps Buddhism, there is a need for knowledge and self-esteem if one is to lead a life aimed at attaining happiness.

4) All have a guide for traveling the road: Buddhism has the Noble Eightfold Path; Hinduism has dharma; Islam has Divine Will, and the West has virtues and the adventure.

5) Excluding Buddhism and Islam, the segments of the path to happiness are arranged in a hierarchy.  First education and training, then social skills, then a job leading to self-esteem with recognition and prestige.  Perhaps this is followed by a desire for knowledge and aesthetic pleasures.

These similarities are comforting.  They lend support for a shared understanding of the path to happiness.  Even the great thinkers and the masters of the fine arts from the West support these requirements shared by the world’s religions.

Next post, those requirements that are different.


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