There are different criteria on which one could compare those 3 religions. I want to focus here only on the most important one: which one of the three is closest to truth.
Christianity claims that the full truth has been revealed 2000 years ago only to Jesus Christ by the one Supreme Being (called God in English), and therefore truth is only with his Church. All must become Christians and follow what Christ said, if they want to be saved from hell.
Islam claims that the final truth has been revealed some 1400 years ago to Prophet Mohamed by the one Supreme Being (called Allah in Islam) and therefore Islam is the only true religion. All must become Muslims and follow what Prophet Mohamed said, if they want to be saved from hell.
Isn’t it strange that even in the 21st century those unsubstantiated claims about eternal hell for “others” are not debated and dismissed as superstition? Further, obviously at least one of those religions can’t be true, if not both – so why nobody mentions this? Yet instead of a debate on what is true, the “right to freedom of belief” is protected. It’s surely strange.
Now where does Hinduism stand? It usually is seen as inferior to the two big, established, ‘respected’, rich religions. And if one goes by common perception, Hinduism is mainly about caste system, sati and worshipping many gods, which (idol worship) is the greatest sin in both Christianity and Islam, because the Christian God and Allah are claimed to be jealous of other gods.
Hinduism is a rather new term. It was introduced by the British for the ancient traditions in India based on the Vedic texts.
Why was Hinduism introduced? Today’s ‘Indians’ were called Hindus earlier and even today are called Hindu in China. Hinduism would be akin to Germanism or Frenchism.
I got a clue why Hinduism was introduced, when I read that Voltaire, too, among many others in the west, praised the Vedas as the greatest gift to mankind and said “we are eternally indebted to India”. Voltaire fought against the influence of the Church and indeed, when the Vedas reached Europe, it had two effects: the influence of the Church went down and science took off in a big way (intriguingly, it is not mentioned today that those 2 effects could have anything to do with Vedic knowledge reaching the west).
Clearly, the Church was not amused that the intellectual elite preferred Vedic wisdom over Christianity. It needed some strategy to stop losing her sheep.
Now what is contained in the Vedas which are claimed to be as old as the universe? Veda (it means knowledge) is about what we need to know to live a meaningful, fulfilling life. Vedic knowledge is vast, though most of it has been lost by now. Vedas tell us even about maths, the age of the universe, of parallel universes, even the distance to the sun, how to analyse, how to connect with powers (devas) greater than humans, etc.
And most important, the Vedas tell us the truth about us, the Supreme Being and the universe.
The Vedas differs from the two other religions in a major point:
The Vedas claim that Brahman (Supreme Being) has become this universe. It means all is permeated by Brahman. All is essentially divine including our person. The names and forms are not really real. They appear only as real. Brahman alone is real, and Brahman is best described as sat-chit-ananda (blissful awareness). And the Upanishads, which are part of the Vedas, declare “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman), or “Ayam Atman Brahma”(This Atma is Brahman).
Does this claim make sense? Yes, it does. Quantum physics came meanwhile to the conclusion that all is one energy and that there are no separate entities anywhere. Incidentally, physicists like Schroedinger, Einstein, Heisenberg, etc. drew inspiration from the Vedas. So far, the Vedas were never proven wrong by science whatever was tested.
So the claim, that Brahman is the essence in all, is surely closer to the truth than the claim by Christianity and Islam that the Supreme is separate from his creation, including the human being, and will send all those who don’t believe in a certain book for eternity to hell. This Vedic claim of divinity in humans gives naturally inner strength to a human being and also kindness (as Brahman is in others, too).
Now why was Vedic knowledge suddenly made into a Hinduism, placed next and yet below the 2 big religions and associated from the start with a ‘divisive’ caste system (which is a social issue and prevalent everywhere) and other negatives like sati?
My conclusion is that the Church was afraid it would lose out when people come to know what Vedic knowledge really contains. They would stop blindly believing but go after genuine knowledge which is there in the Vedas.
That’s why they had to coin a new term and demean “Hinduism” in the eyes of common people right from the start. They were successful. Everywhere children learnt in schools about the ‘terrible caste system’ in Hinduism. People didn’t ask further. They *knew* now that Hinduism is greatly inferior to the two big religions.
Yet there is always the fear that people may discover that they were deceived for the sake of power and that truth may be different from what they were taught in religious class. In Germany, there is a saying which expresses certain folk wisdom:
The King says to the Pope: “You make sure that people stay stupid and I make sure they stay poor.”
By Maria Wirth