If you are new to finding a faith that fits, sizing up the different religions in our world can be daunting. We can get caught up in asking questions such as: What do each believe? What are their main differences? Why is one better than the other or is it? How do I choose?
I'm going to try and break down a few of the main ones and give you (hopefully) a better understanding. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor does it cover everything within each religious belief system. It is up to you to do further research, but here are some of the basic beliefs and differences:
Islam - This is a religious system which began in the 7th century by Muhammad. He is considered by his followers to be the final prophet of God.
Muhammad was a religious man who spent considerable time in a mountain cave in prayer, and who reportedly had a visitation by the angel Gabriel. According to custom, Gabriel gave Muhammad a revelation from Allah (their name for God), and Muhammad began to preach these revelations publicly. It is believed these oral revelations from Gabriel are what makes up the Quran (central religious text of Islam) which is read today.
Muhammad did not believe in the trinity; believed that Jesus was not God's Son, but another prophet along with Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.; believed that the only way to please Allah was through total submission and through the Five Pillars or obligatory acts of worship: oath and creed; daily prayers; almsgiving; fasting in the month of Ramadan; and a pilgrimage to Mecca; and believed that they will be judged on their deeds and works such as charity, prayer, and compassion to animals would get you a pass to heaven.
Buddhism - This religion originated in India, and is based on the teachings of one person called the Buddha, or "enlightened one".
Buddhists believe in a cyclicality of all life, and liberation from this cycle of existence is the goal, with Nirvana being the end result--the highest state someone can attain; a state of enlightenment where individual desires and sufferings go away; and where there is a total extinction or disappearance from existence.
There are several instances where numbers play a huge role in the life of a Buddhist. First, there are three Jewels of Refuge: Buddha, Dharma (the teachings), and Sangha (the Buddhist community).
Buddhists have three higher trainings: Morality, concentration, and wisdom. There are also Four Noble Truths of Buddha's teaching: Life is suffering; All suffering is caused by an ignorance of reality and an attachment to this world; Suffering can end by overcoming ignorance and attachment; There is a path which leads from suffering and cravings and ends with peace.
Judaism - Judaism is the original monotheistic religion and derived its name from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. We know this people group by their shortened name, "Jew". Their religion is one of ethnic identity as well as faith. The Holy Torah is their foundation. Their Bible contains 26 books instead of the 66 books the Christian Bible contains.
Judaism is built around their 13 Principles of Faith which includes: God is a creator God; unparalleled and absolute unity; He has no likeness; He is eternal; He should be worshipped exclusively; all words by the prophets and in the Torah are true; the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu were true; the whole Torah was given to Moshe Rabbeinu; Torah will not be changed; God is omniscient; God rewards and punishes; there is a coming Messiah; there will be a resurrection of the dead.
Jews do not believe that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
Hinduism - This religion began in Europe over 3,000 years ago with the Aryans, and then migrated to India, and grew to over 800 million worldwide.
Though Hindus do not have a core statement of beliefs, they do have common beliefs which revolve around the impersonal nature of the universe. They believe in a supreme, impersonal god called Brahman, and many extensions of this god into smaller demi-gods. They maintain that all things in the universe are a part of Brahman, therefore the universe is also called Brahman, and eventually, a person will lose themselves and become one with him.
A Hindu believes in a continuous cycle of reincarnation, therefore, one may die and come back as a bug, animal, or person, all depending on how he or she lived their previous life. They also believe there are three ways to break this cycle: through "works" and following the teachings of the Vedas (their holy scriptures); through knowledge or denying one's individual life and adopting an identity with Brahman; or through the "way of devotion," or dedicating one's self to a certain deity.
They do not believe in the God of the universe (Yahweh); they do not believe in the trinity; they believe Jesus was just an "appearance" of the supreme god; they do not believe in the inspired Word of God, but that the Vedas are the holy scriptures.
Mormonism - This religious sect was founded some 200 years ago by Joseph Smith who claimed to have been visited by God the Father of Jesus Christ. It is reported he was told that all churches and their beliefs are an abomination, therefore, he started his own true church on earth.
Contrary to Christian belief, Mormons believe there are four divinely inspired works: the Bible (when translated correctly); the Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants; The Pearl of Great Price.
They believe God has not always been the supreme being of the universe, but attained His status through righteous living and effort. They believe that God the Father has bones and flesh; there are different levels or kingdoms in the afterlife; our eternity depends on what we do and believe in this life; Jesus was the result of a sexual relationship between God and Mary; Salvation can be earned; and any human can become a god.
Christianity - This religion focuses on a relationship with Christ over religious works and deeds. We base our doctrine on the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible alone, which according to scripture is God's Word (2 Tim. 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).
We believe in one God--the Creator of the universe (Genesis 1:1), made up in three persons of the trinity--God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:22; John 14:26; 2 Cor. 13:14)
We believe there is a literal heaven and hell--the former for those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ and the latter reserved for Satan and his demons, along with those who have forsaken Christ. (Romans 2:6-8; Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10; Matt. 25:41; John 14:2)
We believe God sent His one and only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross and took our sins upon Him so that we may have eternal life. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8)
We believe Jesus died and rose on the third day defeating death, hell, and the grave. (1 Cor. 15:4)
We believe that salvation is only received through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only way. (John 14:6; John 11:25-26; John 10:9; John 15:13; Romans 10:9-10)
We believe works will not get you to heaven. (Eph. 2:8-9)
We believe that Jesus is coming back soon to take His bride, the church, home with Him. (Rev. 19:7; Eph. 5:27; Matt. 24:44; Matt. 24:42)
We believe God is a personal God who knows our thoughts, motives, actions, and who knit us together in our mother's womb. He knows every hair on our head and He wants to have a relationship with us. (Psalm 18:1-3; Psalm 139:13-14; Luke 12:7)
As you can see, there are many differences in religions and what they teach. It is up to you to wisely, carefully, and prayerfully decide which is truth.
May the One true God open your eyes and reveal to you the truth about Himself and His Word. May He show you His divine nature and His extreme love. May the scriptures come alive to you and direct you to Him.