A Look Into Monotheistic Religions In The Modern Age

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Throughout the course, there has been much discussion about how religious practitioners, scholars, and non-believers came to view the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Scholars have deciphered the sacred texts of each religion to draw conclusions based on their similarities and their differences. In this discussion, religious scholars coined the term ‘Abrahamic’ to relate these three religions based on their mutual involvement of Abraham in each of their sacred texts. Over time, there has been much debate about whether this umbrella-like term is politically correct because it begins to take away from the uniqueness that each of these religions possesses. Scholars such as Hughes were against this representation of the three monotheistic religions categorized so closely together while others such as Bakhos conclude “The category at best simplifies, at worst distorts, the relationship between these religions” (Bakhos 218). In today’s world of violence and blame, it is important to draw on the similarities of these different religions and their cultural connection to instill peace and tolerance amongst an otherwise judgmental and violent society. However, in general, it is still very important to be educated on the beliefs and traditions of different religions and the distinct sects within each one. By doing so, there will be more understanding and alliances can become stronger between Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

In this analysis, that is exactly what I did. I interviewed three people of different faiths: one Christian, one Muslim, and one Jew. I asked a variety of questions that were connected to their religious rituals and worship as well as their personal traditions and thoughts on their religion and how others view them. The people I interviewed were between the ages of 18 and 25 as to show a perspective from the younger generation and how the older practices have been carried through many generations and are faring in a society focused on innovation and change. Throughout my interview, I asked a string of questions concerning their own personal views on their religion specifically.

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The first person I interviewed was Amaina Yehia who is a 21-year-old practicing Muslim who attends CSU Fresno. She described the most fundamental aspect of Islam, in her opinion, to be the 5 Pillars of Islam and the most unique aspect compared to other monotheistic religions to be the incorporation of modesty. She is a strong believer in her faith because of the words written in the Holy Qur’an and believes that Islam’s sacred book is a guide for her future path. Yehia believes in Allah as the one and only God and strongly advocates for his existence. She states, “Praying every single day and worshipping him has truly opened my eyes to realize that Allah does exist, and He makes it known”. Yehia explained that every Friday is the Muslim Holy day and when they go into the mosque (their place of worship) and pray the Masjid prayer alone, then following this they pray as a whole while the Sheik (Islamic worship leader) leads the prayer. Personally, her favorite time of year and favorite religious tradition is the Holy month of Ramadan where Muslims participate in fasting from sunrise to sunset. Some symbols of Islam include the 5 Pillars of Islam: 1. Prayer 5 times a day, 2. Give to charity, 3. Fasting, 4. Visit Mecca if possible, and 5. The Shahadah. She goes further into depth about the 5 prayers a day and how to pray you must be clean from head to toe and each prayer differs by each Muslim. By observing and performing these rituals, Yehia says that she grows closer to God and religion every single day. We then go on to discuss her relationship with others of different faiths. She believes that people suffer because of their sins, something she describes as “deen over Dunya”. To Muslims, this phrase basically means to put religion over everything else, and if you fail to do so, that is when people suffer. However, she believes that she cannot choose what happens to non-believers after their time on earth but everyone’s after death is a reflection on how they lived their lives on earth. She also stated the there is no conflict between Islam and science. Science is inquisition, and Islam is all about encouraging the seeking of knowledge, so in a sense, it is considered an act of worship. Lastly, Yehia addressed that she wished others knew how peaceful Islam is and ignore how the media depicts Islam as an inhumane religion when it is the complete opposite.

After talking with Yehia, I began to analyze the different aspects of her traditions and how they related to the readings that we discussed throughout the course. I’m going to start with the ideas of totemism and community in the readings from Emile Durkheim. Durkheim describes, “The species of things which serves to designate the clan collectively is called its totem” (Durkheim 108). This study conducted by Durkheim was, in truth, made by observing tribes and their religious/cultural traditions in a small area of Australia, and fails to represent a variety of other traditional cultures/religions in other places in the world. Durkheim explained that the totem does not only give the clan something to make important within the religion but also something that makes the clan a community under one belief. In Yehia’s interpretation of Islamic belief, the totem(s) is the 5 pillars of Islam that hold together the clan and make them all one and the same. Another point the Yehia made that can be related back to the texts reviewed in class is the relation between her dedication to prayer, the Friday services, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. As Yehia described, during the month of Ramadan there is to be no consumption of food between dawn and dark. This correlates directly with the reading concerning Islam’s worship and rituals by Corrigan, et.al. As Corrigan, et.al illustrates, “People feel close to God and to each other as they take this time to renew themselves and submit in deeper measure to God’s will” (Corrigan et.al 262). It makes sense as to why this is Yehia’s favorite time of the year because, for many Muslims, it is a time when they feel closest to God and others around them. From speaking with Amaina Yehia and understanding her view and practice of Islam, even as a member of the younger generation, allows me to draw the conclusion that it is possible for the rituals, traditions, and practices that were established so many years ago are still in effect in today’s bustling world.

The next person I interviewed was Kylie Crow, a 19-year-old practicing Christian who attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She explained that the most fundamental aspect of Christianity is the belief in God, as the father, Jesus, as the son, and the resurrection of Christ. She expressed that the most unique aspect of Christianity, in her opinion, was that you do not have to earn your way into Heaven, you simply have to believe in God and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you will be saved. Crow recounted a time that made her a strong believer in her faith, which was when her younger cousin entered remission after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and only given a few months left to live. Crow believes that within her religion, God provides a plan for each of his followers that will allow them to prosper as long as they remain in the belief of him. She illustrated the Christian worship service to include songs of worship at the beginning, a sermon and ends with fellowship. When asked about communion, she added that they participate in communion during the first week of every month and it is a time to repent their sins and take part in ingesting the body of Christ, representing the last supper as told in the Christian Bible. This takes me to the sacred text of Christianity, which is the Christian Bible, composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Crow believes that Jesus is the son of God who was sent to earth and born of the Virgin Mary, and he died as a sacrifice for all of the sins of Christians to save them from hell. She believes that after three days, Jesus was resurrected to show people the power of God and then rose to Heaven to be with God. Crow’s relationship with God is not a fearful one but she sees God as merciful to all who believe in him. She described the cross, upon which Jesus Christ died, to be the greatest symbol of Christianity because it portrays Christ’s dedication to those who worship him. Some of the rituals and traditions that Crow discusses and favors the most include Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, where Christians do not eat meat on Fridays and give up something for the 40 days during this period to show devotion to God. She favors this time because it makes her feel closer to Christ and makes her feel as though she is giving back to Him after all that He gives her. She details how she does not always pray daily, but she does pray at most religious meetings, at bible study, and when she is feeling down and is seeking guidance from God. She says that receiving Christian influences through different areas of her life helps her maintain her faith. She believes that God is fair and just, so the reason why people suffer is a direct result of their own actions (sins) and lack of belief in God. She adds that sometimes these instances that cause suffering are set as tests for believers to prove their faith and devotion to God. She also believes that all those who have faith in God will go to Heaven and that those who do not will go to purgatory and be given the option to learn about God and end up in Heaven or go to Hell. She adds that the people in the world who recognize God and choose not to believe or have anything to do with him will go to hell and spend all of the eternity undergoing punishment. Lastly, I asked if, in her eyes, religion is in conflict with science. She states that there are so many theories that can never actually be proven, so as of now she is just going to hold fast to her faith and what makes sense to her.

Throughout the writings transcribed by James Kugel, there is much discussion concerning the tests that Abraham endured to prove his devotion and belief to God. These tests included the stories of Abraham destroying his father’s false idols, trusting God to take care of his wife, Sarah, in Pharaoh's house in Egypt, casting out Hagar and Ishmael with faith that God will take care of them, and trusting in God when Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his own son. Through these tests of faith, God found Abraham’s heart to be pure and loyal to God (Kugel 166). These tests have been deciphered and interpreted throughout many extra-scriptural texts and provide an idea of how Christians believe God tests them in their everyday lives. Many Christians go through tests such as a death of a loved one or a time of low financial states, and they are able to look to God for guidance, find understanding in His Word, and come out with equal or stronger faith than before then Christians believe that they have passed God’s test of faith and will be rewarded with good. However, if Christians lose faith and begin to sin as a result of the test, they will be given more trials as a direct result of their actions. Although these ideas of tests have been discussed thoroughly by religious scholars, it is important to add that the idea of tests of faith is not always shared by all Christians and can be interpreted in a variety of different ways.

The last person I interviewed was an 18-year-old Jewish student from UCLA, David Sutherland. He stated that the most fundamental aspects of his religion were the belief in one God and Tzedakah, the importance of giving to others. The most unique aspect, in his opinion, is this emphasis on anonymous tzedakah, giving to others, with the belief that the most valuable gift is one where the giver will never meet the receiver. According to Sutherland, “Judaism is not just a religion, it is a culture”. The years of persecution suffered by the Jewish people have brought them together in a way the other faiths have not necessarily experienced and this idea of a pseudo-ethnicity aspect of Judaism allows Jewish males to trace their lineage consisting of the same Y-chromosome. These ideas make Sutherland a strong believer in his faith, as well as make up an essential part of his heritage and identity. He places great importance on the community atmosphere that is associated with Judaism because of the catastrophic events that have occurred in Jewish histories, such as the holocaust. He believes that the Torah consists of a series of stories interwoven with lessons as a guide for your life that boils down to maintaining faith in God and bringing joy to the world. During the worship service, Sutherland describes a time of prayer, which are all in Hebrew, a Torah service, a sermon where the rabbi interprets the texts in the form of a lesson on how to improve the congregation’s personal lives, and then it ends with a prayer for the sick and for those who have passed away. The main book of Judaism is the Torah, which is read during their services that take place every Saturday. Sutherland believes that God is one and he is omnipotent and omniscient. Personally, Sutherland sees God as bringing good things to good people and bad things to bad people; even if it seems unbalanced, it will be made right in the end. He believes everyone has a personal relationship with God and it is up to them whether or not they want to pursue it. Sutherland described many different holidays within Judaism that have their own traditions and rituals. His personal favorite is Passover because it is the most meaningful holiday. Passover comes from the story where God crashed the Red Sea upon the Egyptians in order to allow the Jews to escape Egypt. In solidarity for the Egyptians who lost their lives, Jews eat bitter foods and drink poor wine; Sutherland believes this is especially touching since, in Jewish eyes, the Egyptians are the enemy. Sutherland mentions that he practices Reform Judaism, which is a specific sect, and so he personally does not observe many of the daily practices accustomed to Judaism such as keeping kosher and praying. However, the details that he does pray whenever he hears an ambulance for the quickness and skill of the paramedics and will catch himself praying when encountering superstitious events such as when the clock hits 11:11, seeing a shooting star, and throwing a coin into a fountain. He explains that the two main symbols of Judaism are the Menorah, which has been historically used to signify Judaism, and the Star of David, which has stronger connotations to Israel since its rise of popularity after the Zionist movement in Israel. To Sutherland, suffering is very narrow in scope and if Jews were to see things in God’s infinite wisdom, they would be able to see the balance of the good and the bad. In connection to other religions, he has no direct opinions on other religions, and their practices but maintains respect for everyone’s different beliefs. However, he believes that after death everyone’s souls will go up and live under God’s wing for eternity without differentiation between believers and non-believers because everyone on earth is one of God’s children. Sutherland adds that, in relation to science, modern Judaism does not conflict with science and there is still a belief that God created the universe but the differences in time could just be from the lack of a sense of time in the time that God created the earth and when the creation story was written. Lastly, Sutherland would like non-Jews to understand the culture behind Judaism and the emphasis on studying the Torah and how this has translated into a very high value placed on education and success.

As a believer in Reform Judaism, which came about in the 19th century to modernize Judaism and Jewish practice, Sutherland emphasizes the incorporation of Judaism as a culture and as a tie to a community. As discussed by Corrigan et.al, Reform Jews were in search of a way to make Judaism more fitting with modern ideas as well as prove the worth of Jews and their religion to members of society after the Nazi rule between 1939 and 1945 (Corrigan et.al 227). Interestingly enough, the idea of community and culture has been a major piece of Judaism because of these historical events and have played into what the religion is like today. Another piece of Sutherland’s narrative that can be considered in relation to Durkheim’s work was the connection of religion to science. Sutherland’s belief system when comparing religion and science discusses a lack of conflict and entertains the possibility that both could be possible. In agreement with Durkheim, a sociologist, it is possible for religion and science not to conflict because religion and science can coexist. Religion is something undeniable in many societies and is fundamental to many cultures. Science is just as well an important aspect of modern society and many connections can be drawn between the two religions.

After discussing and analyzing these three different monotheistic religions, I am about to make a few generalizations. First, each religion maintains a belief in a single God who is the creator of the universe. Second, each religion has a form of worship, a form of Church, and a way of prayer that connects the believers to their God in a spiritual way. Finally, each religion has a spiritual text that plays a major part in worship services and provides a guide to a believers’ future and way of being. The biggest take-away from this analysis is that the three religions are similar in many ways but also maintain their own uniqueness that makes each one different from the other. After interviewing these three people, Kylie Crow, Amaina Yehia, and David Sutherland, I am able to conclude that many of the traditions and ideologies from the different religions have been preserved over the years and are still prevalent in today’s younger generation, however, there are also many aspects and rituals that are taken more lightly and many interpretations that are ignored due to their lack of relevance to modern society.

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A Look Into Monotheistic Religions In The Modern Age. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-look-into-monotheistic-religions-in-the-modern-age/
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