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The population of the modern world practices a variety of different religions, the majority of them have ancient roots and originated many centuries ago. This essay is devoted to the analysis of similarities and differences between three important religions such as Judaism (predominantly practiced in Israel), Shinto (Japan), and Hinduism (India). The paper also focuses on the relations between Western and Eastern religions and studies whether their major teachings coincide in certain aspects.
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The foundation of the religions can give much valuable information about their nature and major principles. Judaism is considered to be a Western religion despite the fact that geographically this religion is closely connected with the Middle East. Judaism is rooted in the same cultural setting as Christianity, but these two religions had completely different paths of development. This monotheistic religion was created around three thousand years ago, but scholars cannot agree on any specific date. One of the most significant religious texts for the Jews is the Torah. It is considered to be the compilation of all wisdom that the God revealed to his “Chosen People”, the Jews. Similar to Judaism, Shinto plays an important role in the national identity formation as it is believed to be the religion of the people of Japan (Littleton 10). Shinto has no core sacred texts, as the main purpose of this religion is not to study some specific words of the god(s), but to establish strong connections between ancient Japan and the present-day country. Hinduism is also a very old religion and, similar to Shinto, it does not focus on one sacred text, although such scriptures as the Vedas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana play a crucial role in the process of formation of the religious principles. Among the religions analyzed in this essay, Hinduism has the larget number of followers, around 100 million people (Flood 16).
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Major teachings in these three religions have both similarities and differences. Judaism is the only truly monotheistic religion among the ones discussed in this paper. The god, as seen by the Jews, is unitary and solitary. Judaism, similar to Hinduism and Shinto, does not aim at converting as many people as possible. “There is no expectation in Judaism that all people will become Jewish, but the hope exists that the whole world will come to acknowledge the sovereignty of the one God” (Ehrlich 7). Shinto argues that the divine essence is kept in one thing called kami, but it does not make Shinto monotheistic as this single energy generates all the phenomena of the world; therefore, kami can be found everywhere – in plants, rocks or humans. Sacred temples are very important in Shinto that relates this religion to Judaism and Hinduism. There are around 80,000 shrines in Japan (Littleton 29). Hinduism is quite similar to Shinto in terms of rather vague borders and the absence of a single doctrine which is obligatory to all believers. This aspect also differs Hinduism and Shinto from Judaism that is based on very strict rules and principles that cannot be changed or varied. “The diversity of Hinduism is truly vast and its history long and complex” (Flood 5). In general, Hinduism can be defined as “belief in reincarnation determined by the law that all actions have effects”, but this element does not make Hinduism unique as many other Eastern religions also support the ideas of reincarnation (Flood 6).
Judaism, Shinto, and Hinduism play a very important role in the global development, although Shinto’s impact is obviously smaller than the one of Judaism or Hinduism. The reason for this situation is not based on the number of followerss as it is Judaism, not Shinto, which is the “smallest” religion. It can be partially explained by the nature of the religion and patterns of immigrations from the regions where the religions originated. Japan has always been a very close country and the number of people who left Japan and continued practicing their religion in other parts of the world is minimal in contrast to the immigrated Hindus or Jews. In Shinto, as it has already been mentioned, praying in particular shrines is very important and it cannot be done outside Japan. However, all three religions are extremely important for the development of the territories where they originated. In Israel, for example, Judaism had a huge impact on the state formation as for many centuries the Israeli tried to prove that they should have their own country as it had been given to them by Yahweh. Hinduism is, as Judaism, very important for the representatives of the diasporas who left their homeland and started living abroad. For example, only in Berlin there are around ten Hindu temples of various sizes (Flood 99). New York has approximately one thousand synagogues that are Judaism churches (Ehrlich 76). These religions serve as an important connection between different countries and allow immigrants to maintain their identity even in a new environment.
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To conclude, Judaism, Shinto, and Hinduism are rather different in terms of their major teachings, but still there are many similarities between them. These religions play an important role in the formation of national identity and practice worshipping to the god(s) in the sacred places. Shinto and Hinduism are similar in the absence of the distinct definition of the faith and rigid borders of the religion, whereas Judaism has a very strict code. All three religions have a significant influence on the development of the territories where they are rooted.
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