How Different Religions See God


The world’s religions have varying concepts of God, and depict their deities in many different ways. Those diverse traditions have inspired great works of religious art, literature and cinema, and their influence even finds its way into people’s homes, in the form of the devotional objects that they hang on their walls and place on their shelves. Here are the basic explanations on the concepts of God in world religions.

 

Islam: Muslims believe there is one God, Allah, who created the universe and reigns supreme over it. Allah is immortal, all-knowing, and omnipotent, but also just and merciful. Allah is majestic but also has a close relationship with each person and provides both guidance and help to those in distress. Allah has no gender, shape or form. The will of Allah, to which believers surrender, is made known through the Quran, the sacred scripture which Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad, in the same line of prophets that also includes Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Allah has no gender or form, and does not resemble anything else that exists. Unlike Christianity, Islam generally forbids artistic depictions of Muhammad. “The prophet himself was aware that if people saw his face portrayed by people, they would soon start worshiping him,” Akbar Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Studies department at American University, told CNN in 2015. “So he himself spoke against such images, saying ‘I’m just a man.'”

Christianity: Followers of Christianity believe in one God, whose creation of the world is depicted in the Bible’s book of Genesis. God is viewed as eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, but also limitlessly benevolent. But from there, it gets a little complicated, because Christians also believe that God is a Holy Trinity of three distinct supernatural persons, all three of which humanity has experienced in different ways.

There is the Father, the powerful figure who is depicted in the Bible’s Old Testament. There’s also the Son, Jesus, who is incarnated on Earth in the New Testament to live among people and to die on the cross to atone for their sins.

Finally, there’s the Holy Spirit, which represents the supernatural effect that God has upon humans. Christianity has a centuries-old tradition in which artists have depicted Jesus and his life on Earth, as a way of enhancing the experience of the faithful in worship.

Judaism: The Jewish concept of God is expressed succinctly in the Shema, a prayer contained in the Biblical Book of Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Jews worship one God, who is omnipotent and omniscient, and whose greatness is so immense that as the 12th Century philosopher Moses Maimonides noted, He cannot be described adequately in human language.

Unlike Christianity, Judaism doesn’t believe in physically representing or describing God, out of concern that it will blur the distinction between God and humanity. The faith also teaches that God entered into a special covenant with the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, following their flight from bondage in Egypt in ancient times. As a result, Jews sometimes refer to God as “elohay yisrael,” the God of Israel.

Hinduism: This religion blends monotheism and polytheism in a complex way. Hindus believe that a single divine presence, the Brahman, is the creator of the universe and connected to everyone and everything in it.

The Brahman doesn’t have a gender, and it is formless, so it can’t be depicted. To enable humans to relate to it, the Brahman takes on different manifestations–the vast number of different gods and goddesses, who are depicted in Hindu art and religious writings.

There is a trinity of main Hindu deities—Brahma, the creator of the universe, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Others include Ganesh, the god of wisdom and learning, who is depicted as having the head of an elephant and a human body.

Buddhism: Unlike other religions, Buddhism doesn’t focus upon worshiping a god, but rather upon enabling a person to make spiritual progress and outgrow ignorance and irrationality, and ultimately to become a perfected human being.

Instead, Buddhist art depicts the religion’s founder, the Indian prince Siddhartha, who meditated beneath a tree to achieve enlightenment and became known as the Buddha, which means “enlightened one.” Buddhists don’t worship the Buddha, but statues, which sometimes depict him in the act of meditation, are seen as helpful in inspiring devotion and uplifting the mind.

Sikhism: The “God” or the “Lord of the Sikh” is monotheistic, as symbolized by “Ik Onkar” (one all pervading spirit), a central tenet of Sikh philosophy. However Sikhs believe that God also prevails in everything. The fundamental belief of Sikhism is that God exists, indescribable yet knowable and perceivable to anyone who is prepared to dedicate the time and energy to become perceptive to their persona.

The Sikh gurus have described God in numerous ways in their hymns included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhism, but the oneness of the deity is consistently emphasized throughout. God is described in the Mool Mantar, the first passage in the Guru Granth Sahib, and the basic formula of the faith is: There is but one all pervading spirit, and it is called the truth, It exists in all creation, and it has no fear, It does not hate and, it is timeless, universal and self-existent. You will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning.

Confucianism: The concept of God is tricky in Confucianism. Some people who practice Confucianism also believe another religion/philosophy, like Buddhism. So someone could take their ideals from Confucianism and combine them with a theistic religion. So in a way, people who believe in Confucianism have a God and some don’t.

Zoroastrianism:  Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Persia. It was founded about 3500 years ago by the prophet Zarathushtra. Zarathushtra preached that there was one God, whom he called Ahura Mazda. Ahura means “Lord,” and Mazda means “Wise,” so Zoroastrians call God the “Wise Lord.”  Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas and also consciously uses a masculine word for one concept and a feminine for the other, as if to distract from an anthropomorphism of his divinity. Zoroaster claimed that Ahura Mazda is almighty, though not omnipotent.

Zoroastrian theology includes a duty to protect nature. This has led some to proclaim it as the “world’s first ecological religion.”

The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end.

In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to “darkness”—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time, a savior-figure will bring about a final renovation of the world (frashokereti), in which the dead will be revived.

Yazidism: Yazidism is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel.

The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God.

This belief has been linked by some people to Sufi mystical reflections on Iblis, who also refused to prostrate to Adam despite God’s express command to do so. Because of this similarity to the Sufi tradition of Iblis, some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan.

Bahai: The Bahá’í view of God is essentially monotheistic. God is the imperishable, uncreated being who is the source of all existence. He is described as “a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty”.Though transcendent and inaccessible directly, his image is reflected in his creation.

The purpose of creation is for the created to have the capacity to know and love its creator. God communicates his will and purpose to humanity through intermediaries, known as Manifestations of God, who are the prophets and messengers that have founded religions from prehistoric times up to the present day.

Druze: While the Druze are not regarded as Muslims by other Muslims, they regard themselves as Muslims as well as carriers of the core of this Islam. The Druze seem, to a large extent, to have originated from a group of Shi’is, the Isma’ilis, but they have diverged much, and the Koran does not seem to be a part of their religion. The Druze call themselves ‘monotheists’.

The theology of Druze religion is called hikma and its main theme is that God incarnated himself in the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, who they claim disappeared in 1021. While most Muslims believe he died in 1021, the Druze disagree and believe that al-Hakim is awaiting to return to the world in order to bring a new golden age to true believers.

Druze believe in one God and claim that the qualities of God cannot be understood or defined by humans. Al-Hakim is worshiped in Druze religion, he is called ‘Our Lord’.
But while God incarnated himself in al-Hakim in his unity, other aspects of God can be incarnated in other human beings.

Central in the Druze world system is the belief in reincarnation, through which all souls are reborn as humans, good as well as bad. Good people have a more fortunate rebirth than bad people. Behind this system is the belief that humans cannot reach perfection and unite with God.

Taoism: Taoism does not have a God in the way that the Abrahamic religions do. There is no omnipotent being beyond the cosmos, who created and controls the universe. In Taoism the universe springs from the Tao, and the Tao impersonally guides things on their way. But the Tao itself is not God, nor is it a god, nor is it worshipped by Taoists.

Nonetheless, Taoism has many gods, most of them borrowed from other cultures. These deities are within this universe and are themselves subject to the Tao. Many of the deities are gods of a particular role, rather than a personal divine being and have titles rather than names.

Jainism: In Jainism, the soul of every living organism is perfect in every way, is independent of any actions of the organism, and is considered God or to have godliness. But the epithet of God is given to the soul in whom its properties manifest in accordance with its inherent nature.

There are countably infinite souls in the universe. In the nature of things the true God should be free from the faults and weaknesses of the lower nature; [he should be] the knower of all things and the revealer of dharma; in no other way can divinity be constituted.

He alone who is free from hunger, thirst, senility, disease, birth, death, fear, pride, attachment, aversion, infatuation, worry, conceit, hatred, uneasiness, sweat, sleep and surprise is called a God.

Jainism does not teach the dependency on any supreme being for enlightenment. The Tirthankara is a guide and teacher who points the way to enlightenment, but the struggle for enlightenment is one’s own.

Moral rewards and sufferings are not the work of a divine being, but a result of an innate moral order in the cosmos; a self-regulating mechanism whereby the individual reaps the fruits of his own actions through the workings of the karmas.

Mormonism: In orthodox Mormonism, the term God generally refers to the biblical God the Father, whom Mormons sometimes call Elohim, and the term Godhead refers to a council of three distinct divine persons consisting of God the Father, Jesus(his firstborn Son, whom Mormons sometimes call Jehovah), and the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit).

Mormons believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings, and that the Father and Jesus have perfected, glorified, physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost is a spirit without a physical body.

Mormons also believe that there are other gods and goddesses outside of the Godhead, such as a Heavenly Mother who is the wife of God the Father, and that faithful Mormons may attain godhood in the afterlife. This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity in several ways, one of which is that Mormonism has not adopted or continued the doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same substance or being.

Also, Mormonism teaches that the intelligence dwelling in each human is coeternal with God. While Mormons use the term omnipotent to describe God, and regard him as the creator, they do not understand him as having absolutely unlimited power, and do not teach that he is the ex nihilo creator of all things.

Deism: This religion is essentially the view that God exists, but that He is not directly involved in the world. Deism pictures God as the great “clockmaker” who created the clock, wound it up, and let it go.

A deist believes that God exists and created the world, but does not interfere with His creation. Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved. Thomas Jefferson was a famous deist, referring often in his writings to “Providence.”

It’s easy to understand how deism could be considered a “logical” position. There are some things in the world that seem to point to God being inactive in the affairs of the world. Why does God allow bad things to happen? Why does God allow the innocent to suffer? Why does God allow evil men to come to power? An inactive God would seem to answer these dilemmas.


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