The Abrahamic faiths of the twenty-first century in America include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These monotheist traditions were all born in the Middle East and have slowly intertwined with one another throughout history all the way up to the twenty-first century. When Abrahamic faiths were first conceived into the world, the traditional values, morals and practices have radically changed throughout time and they have adjusted to what society deems to be acceptable in the twenty-first century. Starting with the oldest religion, there are currently 7.5 million Jews in the United States of America (PCR). Christians, on the other hand, remain a large majority of the population in twenty-first century America. There are currently about 167 million individuals who identify themselves as Christians. In fact, the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, whereas the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing (PRC). As for the Islamic faith, there are currently about 2.45 million Muslims in the United States (PCR). Though these stats may seem high, there has in fact been a decrease of participation throughout these Abrahamic faiths within the twenty-first century. As society evolves, religious traditions and principles evolve as well. Many individuals view the values of these Abrahamic faiths to be “old fashioned”. With this, comes the idea of “spirituality vs. religion”. Participants of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are able to withhold core values within their faiths while evolving through the changing times of the twenty-first century.
Dating back approximately 4000 years ago, the first Abrahamic religion, Judaism was created. It was founded by a Hebrew man named Abraham and according to the sacred scripture of Judaism, the Torah, God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites. The covenant was God’s promise that Abraham and his descendants are the chosen people and they shall create a holy nation, which is Israel, that worships him. God’s believers are given a holy law known as the Ten Commandments. Through prophets, God gives teachings and he blesses Israelites for their good deeds and punishes them for their bad ones. Jewish temples of worship are known as synagogues and their religious teachers are known as rabbis. Judaism is represented by the six-pointed Star of David. Most Jews believe that their savior has not yet come to free them of the mortal world. There are seven different sects of Judaism, including Orthodox Judaism, which contain Hasidic Jews, Reform Judaism, which is what most modern-day American Jews follow, Conservative Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Humanistic Judaism, and Messianic Judaism. Throughout the 20th century, the Jewish tradition has evolved to meet the intellectual demands of modernity. Susan Grossman, spiritual leader of Beth Shalom Congregation explains that how the Torah will guide them from the twenty-first century and beyond. She speaks on behalf of Conservative Jews and how they must uphold the value of pluralism and mutual respect and cooperation (Grossman). With this, Grossman recognizes the needs of upcoming generation Jews. She states, “They want autonomy and acceptance” (Grossman). She believes that by putting God in the center of their lives, congregation will change and the expectations for lay leads and rabbis will change as well. So, the evolution of Conservative Judaism is not in the hands of America, but instead the people of the Torah and how they express their passion for God.
The second Abrahamic religion is known as Christianity and began in the first century AD. AD stands for “Anno Domini” in Latin, which translates to “in the year of our Lord.” The Julian and Gregorian calendars use AD to number their years and “Lord” refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is known as the Son of God and is one in the Holy Trinity, which includes God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The sacred scripture is called the Bible and is separated into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jews and Christians both follow the Old Testament, however the New Testament is included in Christianity. Christian teachings mainly focus on the “Passion,” or life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians believe that God sent his only son, Jesus, down to Earth as a Messiah, or savior, for everyone. They believe Jesus was crucified and died for all of their sins, also known as bad deeds, so that they could be forgiven by God in order to be able to enter heaven. The cross is known as the symbol of Christianity and it represents the three holy persons in God - the father, son, and holy spirit. Jesus gave Christians teachings through parables, or short stories, and he teaches them to: Love God, Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, forgive others who have wronged you, Ask God for forgiveness and more. Those who are last, the poor, will be the first in the Kingdom of God, while the first, the rich with the most material possessions, will be last. Christianity in the twenty-first century has been changing quickly to adapt to the modern world. In 2016, Pope Francis commented on the ban of ordained women in the church saying, “People ask me: 'Who is more important in the theology or in the spirituality of the church: the apostles or Mary, on the day of Pentecost?’... It is Mary!” (McElwee). Although the ban has yet to be lifted, the leaders of Christianity when it was first conceived would have never considered women to be equal to men. Pope Francis also altered the catechism of the Catholic Church, the biggest Christianity sect, by making sure the Church is against the death penalty. Traditional Christian values would have supported the death penalty for a murderer, a life for a life. “The first edition [of the catechism] acknowledged that capital punishment had been approved by the church for centuries. In fact, popes had executed criminals in the Papal States before Italy took them over in 1870” (Reese). Pope Francis is actively trying to abolish the death penalty worldwide, however, the majority of Christians in the U.S. today support the death penalty rather than oppose it. Despite this, he still changed the catechism and made it known to all of his followers as a change for the better.
The third and last Abrahamic religion is Islam, which means “submission to the will of God, and it dates back to the seventh century. Followers of Islam are called “Muslims” and they refer to God as “Allah”, which is Arabic for God. Muslims believe that they must submit everything to Allah and that nothing happens without His permission, although they still believe we have free will. Muslims respect some of the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, but they believe that Allah’s true word was revealed to the “final” prophet, Muhammed, through the angel Gabriel. Islamic places of worship are called mosques, their leaders are called caliphs and the Quran, Hadith, and parts of the Judeo-Christian Bible are their sacred scriptures. Muslims also recite the Quran daily as prayer and they believe in a judgement day for all of mankind and that there is life after death. Jihad, which translates to “struggle,” is the main idea of Muslims’ ways of defending their religion. After the death of Muhammed, they were split into two denominations, known as the Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. Islam had a schism and discourse over the new leader after Muhammed. Sunnis make up nearly 90 percent of Muslims and they believe that the first four caliphs after Muhammed are the true successors of Muhammed, while Shiites believe that only the prophet Ali and his descendants can be the true successors of Muhammed All Muslims follow five different principles, which are called the Five Pillars of Islam. They include Shahada, to declare faith and belief in Allah and Muhammed, Salat, to pray five times a day, Zakat, to give to the needy, Sawm, to fast during Ramadan, and Hajj, to make a pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime.