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Abrahamic Faiths in Society
Exclusivity at the Expense of Piety
Exclusivity is a defining feature of many major religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. With some exceptions, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. Muslims identify Islam as the one true religion. Jews view themselves as the Chosen People.
Some interfaith discordance is thus inevitable. After all, why adhere to a particular belief if other religions are entirely correct in their tenants?
Conflict between religious faiths has been with us since time immemorial. History is replete with examples of inter-faith hostility, and these conflicts most certainly exist today. However, religious differences need not result in the destructiveness that has sadly, often been associated with interfaith relations.
In the case of the Abrahamic faiths, exclusion becomes destructive when it occurs at the expense of the very principles that the adherent is attempting to uphold.
Extremist groups that are hateful, vitriolic and cruel to others (including members of their own faith) have existed throughout history and persist today across each of these religious communities. Examples of such behavior include the all too familiar promulgation of hatred, the defiling of sacred texts and even murder in the name of God.
The moment when the actions of a Jew, Christian, or Muslim are fraught with inhumanity is the moment when the perpetrator loses sight of the fundamental religious principles upon which the Abrahamic faiths are based.
A Shared Purpose in Life
Each of the Abrahamic faiths maintains a different view on eternal life and its prerequisites, which for many is the bottom line of their beliefs. In Christianity, for example, salvation cannot be achieved by works, but by grace, through faith. For most Christians, this alone is the most critical aspect of their beliefs. Likewise, the three Abrahamic religions each emphasize the historical underpinnings of their faith, such as the shared history of Jews or the life of the Prophet in Islam. Nonetheless, the religious teachings of each group devote significant attention to the subject of how individuals should live their lives in the present.
As any society in which religious communities co-exist illuminates, there are many observable differences between the practices of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Religious law, religious leaders, houses, times, and methods of worship all differ in tangible and often fascinating ways.
Yet, in examining these practices we discover that, at the most basic level, the members of each community share a common aim in this life: the glorification of God. While the motivations for this aim may differ across each religion, the means by which it is carried out on a day-to-day basis are strikingly similar.
In all three Abrahamic faiths, a believer’s relationship with God revolves around worship—praising Him, giving thanks, and seeking guidance for the future. Worshiping God allows for the study of His character so that one may seek to reflect it. In doing so, the worshiper aims to honor God through motives, thoughts and actions. Worshiping God and striving to reflect His character enables the enjoyment of life, one another, and the world which He has created.
These themes of worshiping God, walking in His footsteps, and living in harmony with His creation are apparent in the holy books of each of the Abrahamic faiths. For example, in Judaism, Micah 6:8 asks: “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your G_d.” In Matthew 22: 27-40, Jesus reinforced this idea when he commanded: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.” In Islam, Surah 2:177 defines the “truly pious” as those who “believe in God,” “spend their substance…upon their near of kin and…the needy…,” are in “constant prayer,” “keep their promises…,” and are “patient in misfortune and hardship.”
On the subject of interacting with humanity, each of the Abrahamic faiths adheres to the oft-cited “Golden Rule,” which states that one should treat others as one would like to be treated. One concept of the Golden Rule has its roots in a well-known verse of the Torah: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18). For Christians, Jesus said “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Mathew 7:12). In Islam, this maxim has been expressed implicitly in numerous verses of the Qur’an, but was explicitly declared by Prophet Muhammad, who stated: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]” (Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146).
In discerning religious guidance on how to treat members of a different faith, nothing could be more straightforward than this Golden Rule.
A Common Voice
The community of Abrahamic faiths must focus less on easily-identifiable differences and more on the deeply-rooted purpose and shared principles that guide their lives and bind them together while here on earth. An emphasis on common elements need not detract from the distinctiveness of each religion, but, nevertheless, should form the foundation on which Christians, Jews, and Muslims seek to build better inter-faith relationships, stronger societies, and a more cohesive global community.
From this foundation of shared values, a louder voice must emerge to speak out against extremism. The interfaith community must do more to jointly promote common principles while denouncing those who act with hatred and violence. It is up to members of this interfaith community to answer for the world: Who is the one true God of Abraham, and what does He look like…hatred or compassion?
Editor's Note: This image is from
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