A Comparison/Contrast Between Christianity and Islam Essay
It is my nature to see the forest rather than the trees. Indoctrinated in the discipline of social science, my automatic response to any claim of "truth" is usually, "Where's your data?" So when it comes to world religion, it should not be surprising that I've been on a life-long quest to find the "universal truths" common to them all.
Before I begin, I'd like to share some of the vital events in my own religious life that may help to explain the metamorphosis into and . During my childhood, I loved wandering in the pasture of my family's West Texas ranch where I became a "junior mystic 3rd class." God's presence was always with me there (although I knew it was my own responsibility to watch out for rattlesnakes)!
About the same time, I first learned of religions different from my own Methodist doctrine when three of my best friends told me they were Jewish. Some grown-ups contended that God would condemn my non-Christian friends to eternal hell, but I knew that idea was clearly incompatible with the God in the pasture! My own parents countered that they thought my Jewish friends would go to Heaven, but my Great Aunt Alice -- who was a -- went one step further. She was positive that ALL people went to Heaven! Even though she couldn't explain the theology behind Universalism, she had planted the concept of Universalism in my growing brain and heart.
Fast forward to my freshman year at Baylor University where I took the required religion classes. Reading the Bible, I discovered that the dogma emphasized by the denomination was either absent or contradictory. Jesus liked to eat well and , and . Also, there was no mention of abortion at all! Instead of morphing into a nice conservative Christian, I became a at age 18 -- what we in call a "lateral" change. My developmental level had not increased; I had merely changed perspective. During this "Taliban" phase as a new Unitarian, I would fanaticize about climbing to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to destroy the image of God as an old man and replace it with God as pure LIGHT!
Two very positive things did happen at Baylor. First, I was introduced to -- wonderful, wonderful Zoroaster! It was the first time I'd realized that God talked to somebody who wasn't a Jew! Second, I discovered , the mystic with an "attitude." My search for the "generic" God had begun! Many years have passed, and I can say with some assurance that I've graduated to "senior mystic 2nd class," but my quest is far from over.
Whether the high God (or if you prefer Ultimate Reality) connects with creation in a personal way or not, there are two things that are true about God: God is REALLY BIG and God LIKES CHANGE! The further our science "sees" into the universe and our physics postulates other realities, the bigger God becomes. Change is a constant in the universe, and the only thing that is permanent is God.
For clarity, it is important to understand that all my references to "God" should be understood as a "generic" God. Some people have difficulty using the word "God," usually because it conjures up images of a scary God who is angry and judgmental. Jesus called God, "," an affectionate, personal term. In world religions, God has many names: , , , , , etc. These names are "God" in ethnic garb. In the 20th Century, it became fashionable to come up with alternative names for God, such as ," "Ground of Being," "Holy Other," or my personal favorite which appeared in the UU World a few years ago, "The Evolutor!" So feel free to translate your favorite word for "God" when I say, "God."
Some folks like to claim that their religion offers the one, exclusive path to God. But confining God to one religion would automatically make God small, petty, and in a very real way, evil. The God of the mystics and the God of religious revelation is constant. Fundamentally, the trappings of culture and the limitations of language are what make one religion different from another. So any "truth" about God in world religion must be universal or nearly universal. Right now, you probably realize that this is going to be a VERY short list.
To compare and contrast Jesus Christ ..
There are many such gurus to be found on the Internet who fit this definition; but there are several such experts like Ken who have contributed so much to making this website what it is today. How these experts became so important to my own personal research and enlightenment is a story worth telling. I will try to be as brief and precise as I can.
Before I had my own personal computer, I was a book worm reading everything I could get my hands on the subject of NDEs and Christianity. One of the books I read was Ken's wonderful book entitled which I highly recommend. But as a , the information I was reading about NDEs conflicted a lot with my strict Christian belief system. During the 1980's, I had a "crisis of faith" partly due to this conflict which ultimately led me to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The medication I began taking was in every way a lifesaver. One might say the medicine took away the "manic street preacher" inside of me and ultimately made me a more . The major source of information which greatly resolved my internal conflict between fundamentalist Christianity and near-death studies was my first guru - () - the Christian mystic whose information was my "bridge" connecting Christianity with near-death studies. The brand of Christianity revealed by Edgar Cayce agreed with what I was reading in all the NDE books which is: (1) the reality of ; (2) the and that is God; and (3) the higher teachings and "" of Jesus concerning a personal "resurrection" as a within a living person and - for those who have not experienced this spiritual "resurrection" - a of the soul by means of reincarnation which is the divine method for the evolution of the soul. According to Cayce, this system of bodily reincarnation also allows those who have already attained spiritual regeneration to reincarnate to help others in their soul's evolution and to help prepare the way for the "Kingdom of Heaven" on Earth. The Cayce Organization and their website is filled with wisdom on these mysteries which were ordained to be revealed at this time in history.
When I graduated with a computer science degree in the 1990's, the was in its infancy. At this time, I discovered my second guru - (). He is an international Internet expert who played a major role in bringing artificial intelligence to the Web in the form of bots and intelligent software agents. He has authored hundreds of free publications available for downloading including over , Internet , How-To , and about a variety of subjects available to both the "newbie" as well as the "seasoned" veteran. His free resources allowed me to be currently aware of important Internet sources especially in web development. One might say he was my "bridge" connecting my desire to present near-death studies on the World Wide Web via a website.
Then when I began creating the website, I had already known whom I refer to as my third guru - , () - who was one of the early researchers in near-death studies and one of the very few researchers who actually is an NDE experiencer. Her books, articles and website gave me a perspective of NDEs which agreed with my growing liberal Christian view. From almost the beginning of my website, she has personally allowed me to freely reprint numerous articles of hers including a column in my which spanned almost a decade. As someone who often presents NDE information to the Edgar Cayce organization, her knowledge was my "bridge" connecting NDE studies with .
About 80 years after the death of Jesus (), - widely accepted to be the author of the - tried to suggest that Paul's experience of Jesus was somehow different from the appearances of Jesus to his former earthly companions. Luke clearly explained that he was a compiler of stories that were handed down to him (). Luke's accounts of Jesus appearing to Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (; ; ) are somewhat contradictory, but in all three accounts Paul saw a "light from heaven" and heard the voice of Jesus. Although this experience sounds like a modern ADC (), it does not square with Paul's own first-person account that: