Christianity and other religions
What are the main differences? How can we be sure Christianity is right?
Firstly, I want to give a big plug for the book "A Spectators Guide to World Religions" by John Dickson. This book will cover in more detail the sorts of things I'm about to say here, and will be arguably one of the most useful books to have on your bookshelf at home.
Ok, so there are lots of world religions but the four most influential religions other than Christianity would have to be: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism, so I'll focus on these religions and the main differences with Christianity.
What Christians believe
Here's a run down on some of the main Christian beliefs that are different to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or Judaism:
- Christians believe in one God
- Christians believe God created all things and that those things are not evil.
- Christians believe that at a particular point in world history God became a human (in the person of Jesus), that he was born of a woman, lived, suffered, died, and was raised again to new life never to die again.
- Christians believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah from the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament).
- Christians believe that at the return of Jesus, they and all creation will one day be transformed from this present brokenness and made a new and perfect physical creation where the relationship with God and with each other is untainted by sinful rebellion.
What other religions believe:
Here's where these things contrast with Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism:
Hinduism: Believes in tiers (or levels) of multiple gods (hundreds) with one supreme "being" called Brahman. All things are part of Brahman, but the world as we know it has been separated from him and is therefore evil. All people need to escape the physical world by reaching enlightenment and be rejoined with Brahman. Enlightenment is reached through lifelong dedication to one of the many gods. The 2 most popular gods are Vishnu and Krishna. If enlightenment is not reached in your lifetime, you will continue to be returned to the physical world after death by reincarnation. If you lived a good life devoted to your god then you are reincarnated to a better position, if you lived a bad life you will reincarnated to a worse position.
Buddhism: Is a philosophy that rejects the existence of any deity (god) and is therefore essentially an atheistic religion. Like Hinduism, Buddhism is about trying to remove yourself from the suffering of this world through enlightenment. Enlightenment is reached by emotionally distancing yourself from the world and others. All feelings, whether happy or sad, are evil because they lead to suffering. If enlightenment is not reached in your lifetime, you will continue to be returned to the physical world after death by reincarnation.
Islam: Believes in one God (like Christianity & Judaism) but rejects the claim that Jesus is God or anything more than a prophet. Islam believes that God (Allah) is a supreme and perfect being who is distant from this evil world - though he is in control over it. It is therefore deeply insulting to Islamic belief to suggest that God would became a frail human and live and die in this evil world. A supreme and perfect being cannot do such a thing.
Judaism: Believes in one God (like Christianity & Islam) but also rejects the claim that Jesus is God or anything more than a prophet (like Moses or Elijah). Judaism therefore, is still waiting for and expecting the coming of the promised messiah.
These are some of the main differences but there are plenty more incompatible ideas if you want to delve deeper.
How can we be sure Christianity is right?
The question "why are we right and they wrong?" is probably not the most helpful question to ask because it involves a measure of arrogance and makes the focus of the question more about human pride than seeking a truthful answer… Nevertheless, why does Christianity stand out as more convincing than other religions? Because Christianity makes an historical claim that is open to the process of historical investigation.
That central claim is that God walked upon this earth in a specific place, at a specific time in history, which means that you are able to test Christianity by historical processes. And the evidence is compelling, that Jesus said what he said, did what he did, and is who he claimed to be.