What is the meaning of life in the spirit of interfaith tolerance and acceptance?
The good news is that if you choose to follow a religious path along your personal spiritual journey, you have many choices. While there is a significant difference between religion and spirituality, religious ways are hugely varied and many:
Aboriginal/Native religions are more than 60,000 years old. Believers celebrate co-creator male and female gods/goddesses that are intimately the source of all of nature and indivisible from daily living. As a pantheistic religion, they believe landscape features may be the embodiment of deities themselves. There are 3 categories of gods/goddesses: creator, ancestral and totemic. Life’s purpose is to honor the gods and live honorably in communion with nature.
Baha’i faith emphasizes the unity of humanity. The purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity. We are intrinsically eternal spiritual beings. Life in this material world provides abundant opportunities to grow and develop our divine qualities and virtues. Baha’i grew from Islam with Baha’u’llah as its primary prophet with Manifestation of God demonstrated through a series of prophets.
Buddhism promotes training the mind to end conflict and suffering through meditation, non-attachment, the eight-fold path of right-living and the practice of compassion toward all beings. Life is a process that can ultimately result in enlightenment and the state of Nirvana. Nirvana is freedom from both suffering and re-becoming within the cycle of Karma.
Christians believe “God made me to show his goodness and to make me happy with him in Heaven.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born, lived among us and died to redeem us. He rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven. Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Messiah prophecies and established a new law: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The reward is eternal life in Heaven. We are sinners and need grace to redeem us. God spoke to his people through Jesus.
Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, teaches that salvation is “Life, Truth and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness and death destroyed.” Heaven is not a place but a state of mind in which all manifestations are harmonious and immortal. All healing is a spiritual condition that originates in the mind.
Confucianism, dating back to 479 BC in China, teaches the purpose of life is to fulfill your role in society with propriety, honor and loyalty.
Hare Krishna has its roots in a 15th century Hindu movement. Krishna is considered the supreme Hindu God. Salvation is attained by a return to Godhead through Krishna Consciousness. Believers chant, dance, favor celibacy, live in monastic vegetarian communities and evangelize daily.
Hindus believe the meaning of life is to realize the fundamental truth about ourselves – we are all perfect children of God. We’re in bondage to ignorance and illusion. We can escape. Atman (spirit,soul) is the person’s eternal and true self. Spiritual growth happens across many lifetimes and goals should match the state of development of the individual. There are four goals to living: Kāma (wish, desire, love and sensual pleasure); Artha (wealth, prosperity, glory); Dharma (righteousness, duty, morality, virtue, ethics, ahimsa [non-violence] and satya [truth]); and Moksha (liberation from Saṃsāra, the cycle of reincarnation).
Islam teaches life’s objective is to worship the creator Allah by submitting to his will and abiding by all rules revealed in the Quran and the Tradition of the Prophet. Earthly life is merely a test, determining one’s afterlife, either in Paradise or Hell. God spoke to his people through the prophet Mohammad.
Jains believe in the importance of self-discipline following the ascetic teachings of Jina, a human achieves enlightenment (perfect knowledge). Jainism divides the universe into living and non-living beings. Only when the living become attached to the non-living does suffering result. Therefore, happiness is the result of self-conquest and freedom from external objects. The meaning of life is to learn to use the physical body to achieve self-realization and bliss.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in one God (no Trinity) with Christ being the first creation of God. The Holy Spirit is a divine force. Salvation comes from belief in Christ and obeying Jehovah’s rules. The end of the world is immanent. Their is the promise of heaven for 144,000 chosen believers… all other faithful believers will live out eternity on a new Earth. Blood transfusions, celebration of holidays and religious images are forbidden. Believers are expected to evangelize.
Judaism teaches the meaning of life is to live in harmony with God by embodying the ideals, values and rules of the Torah – the written instruction/law within the Jewish sacred texts. Yahweh has a covenant with his chosen people. He created humans to be stewards of his creation. God spoke to his people through his tribal/religious leaders and prophets.
Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) believe we existed before earthly life and are called to return to God by having faith, following his commandments, doing good works and evangelism. We are spirit children of God, the Father with unique potential to progress to become just like Him. We were given the choice to come to Earth (a crucial stage in our spiritual development). Our mortal body and freedom of choice is the ideal environment to learn, grow and follow the rules to return to Paradise. God spoke to his people through Joseph Smith and the LDS prophets.
New Thought is a religious movement originating in the USA with roots from Sweden during the 19th Century. Many follow the original teachings of Phineas Quimby. The movement comprises 3 major religious organizations: Religious Science, Unity Church and Church of Divine Science. Sometimes known as “Higher Thought”, teachings promote God as supreme, universal, everlasting Infinite Intelligence. Spirit is the totality of everything, humans have a divine identity and divine thought, by definition is a powerful force for good. Illness originates in the mind. “Right thinking” has a healing effect. All are called to love unconditionally by way of positive thinking, the laws of attraction, creative visualization and belief in personal power. Some New Age sects are based on New Thought beliefs.
Seventh Day Adventists believe in one creator God of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Second Coming of Jesus is imminent. Our purpose is to have faith in Jesus and follow his teachings fervently with strong emphasis on a healthy lifestyle.
Sikhs believe in devotion and remembrance of one God – Ik Onkar, Nam. Founded by Guru Nanak Dev, “Sikh” means student. Followers are expected to live forever learning. Followers are ordained to follow the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus, enlightened leaders, as well as the holy scripture – the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Life’s purpose is to overcome the self, align with the will of God and become a “saint soldier” for the good of all.
Taoists believe in pantheism – the Tao pervades all through Ying/Yang opposites that strive for unity. All sentient beings are returning to the primordial to rejoin with the Oneness of the Universe. The path is self-cultivation and self-realization. The purpose of life is inner harmony, peace and longevity achieved by living in accordance with the Tao. All originates from Tao. We’re tasked to realize the temporal nature of existence. “Only introspection can then help us to find our innermost reasons for living … the simple answer is here within ourselves.”
Unification Church, founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in South Korea teaches that our purpose in life is to find true love and create world peace. True love and the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth will be restored by “true families.”
Unitarian Universalism is a pluralistic religion. Believers are free to believe in one God, many gods or no God. The purpose of life is spiritual health or wholeness. Believers seek inner and outer peace, insight, health, compassion and strength. Some believe in afterlife…others do not.
Wiccans base their ancient “pagan” beliefs on polytheism centered on a creator Goddess and God in various forms. “If it harms none, do what you will.” Most believe in reincarnation toward perfection in Summerland. Contemporary sects include aligned Animists, Pantheists and Druids.
Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions from ancient Iran 3500 years ago, was founded by the prophet, Zoroaster (Zarathustra). Influencing Judaism and Vedic religions, there is one creator God, Ahura Mazda. Creation is asha, truth and order but it is in conflict with its antithesis, druj, falsehood and disorder. The purpose of life is for mankind to triumph over evil through prayer, ritual purifications and “good words, thoughts and deeds.” We are free to do good or evil… our choice.