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A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

OF THE MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS


FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
by Ernest Valea

The goal of this site is to investigate whether or not there is sufficient


evidence to prove that world religions are complementary, according to the model inspired by an old
Indian tale - that of the blind men who tried to describe an elephant. It is said that once upon a time a king
gathered a few men who were born blind. They were asked to describe an elephant, but each one was
presented with only a certain part of it. To one was presented the head of the elephant, to another the trunk,
to another its ears, to another the leg, the body, the tail, tuft of the tail, etc. The one who was presented with
the head said: "The elephant is like a pot!" The one who was presented the trunk answered, "The elephant
is like a hose." The one who touched only the ears thought that the elephant was a fan, the others said that
it was a pillar, a wall, a rope, a brush, etc. Then they quarreled among themselves, each thinking that he
was the only one right and the others were wrong. The obvious truth is that the elephant is a unity of many
parts, a unity that they could not grasp in their ignorance.

According to the pattern suggested by this tale, it


is often said that world religions form a unity, and only this unity provides the right perspective on ultimate
truth. A similar pluralistic trend is encouraged by the suggestion to consider the various world religions as
alternative paths to the same transcendental finality or, using a known illustration, many paths to the same
mountain peak. Although this vision is arousing a lot of enthusiasm in many people today, it is important to
know that it is not the only one, as Christianity and Islam each claim to be the only right path to God.
Therefore the other option is that world religions are not pieces of the same puzzle (parts of the same

spiritual "elephant") or alternative paths to the same goal.


Theoretically, both possibilities exist. Therefore, a proper evaluation of such opposite views must be done
before we decide on a course of action. If the first is true (all religions lead us to the same finality), and we
choose the second (only one of them is right), we have not lost anything. Despite our ignorance, we will
arrive at the same happy end as the other travelers who have chosen other spiritual paths. A less happy
situation would be given by the second possibility, that a single spiritual path is valid and we have chosen
the wrong one. In this case religious pluralism misleads travelers to spiritual disaster, so they at least
should be warned. A third possibility, that all spiritual paths are wrong, is denied by the nature of our
spiritual quest itself, which demands a real fulfillment. Otherwise, our hunger for ultimate truth could not
be justified and all religions would be nothing but human fantasy.
The following articles are not meant merely to generate a conflict of rational proofs for justifying one or
another alternative. No matter how complex and logical the rational proofs on behalf of one or the other
cause might be, it is possible to find counterpoints of the same nature, so that at a rational level, the dispute
could fill many books with no benefit to anyone. Nobody can be persuaded or converted to one or another
religious perspective only through rational proofs. This may be possible in science, but not in religion.
However, rational proofs have to be considered because we are rational beings. Reason should not be
rejected and experience proclaimed the only way of knowing truth. No divorce between reason and
experience should be accepted, because they are complementary and work together, so that neither can
exclude the other. As a result, we do not have to reject a priori the proofs of reason in our spiritual quest in
order to abandon ourselves to the arms of mystical experiences, whatever their nature might be.
Rather than generating sterile debates, the information presented here should help you clarify your own
stand toward comparative religion and develop a critical ability to analyze today's spiritual market.
Suggestions, comments and critiques are strongly encouraged, with the hope that they will improve the
content of this site. Please make them as specific and clear as possible.
The comparative analysis presented here is focused on Christianity and the major Eastern religions,
especially Hinduism and Buddhism, because they play a major role in defining today's world spirituality.
This is an obvious phenomenon on the Internet too, where a lot of spiritual movements indebted to classic
Eastern doctrines and practices can be found. Some may believe that a comparative analysis of the major
world religions like this may fuel religious hatred and intolerance, but this is wrong. Religious tolerance
and freedom cannot be built on ignorance but rather on the understanding of commonalities and
differences. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of teaching love for one's neighbor despite religious
differences (see The Parable of the Good Samaritan). Unfortunately, some of his followers have done the
opposite. Loving the person is possible even if one rejects his or her religious convictions.
The Christian approach will be grounded on The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as statement of faith,
which is common to all three branches of Christianity - Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and
Protestantism. The Holy Bible (NIV ecumenical translation) is acknowledged as the first doctrinal
authority, and second the doctrinal commentaries of the Church Fathers of the first centuries AD, as far as
they are accepted by each of the three branches of Christianity.