Historically, religion and philosophy were often intertwined in human life. At the same time, they served as a source of knowledge and self-discovery of human beings. Basically, the major religions and philosophical schools offer a unique view on human relationships with God, their freedom, enlightenment, true self and many other important aspects that were extremely interesting and mysterious for people. On the other hand, each religion and philosophy has its own particular ideas that make its ideas different from others. This is why, on analyzing various religions and philosophies, it is possible to reveal the extent to which the views on such problems as relationships between humans and God, discovering true self, enlightenment and others.
Major modern religions
Traditionally, all religions are, to a certain extent, similar. Practically in all religions the God finally acquired human features that is also typical for Ancient Greek mythology and literature. Traditionally, symbolic images of God are always associated with human beings, it refers both to Christianity and Buddhism and even Islam would have rather similar image but unlike Christianity and Buddhism such similarity cannot be observed through any physical image but it is implied through its spiritual image.
As a result specialists state that theistic deity, we now suspect, is nothing more than a projection of a human need into the sky.
For people, despite the place where they lived and the deity they worshiped, it was vitally important to believe in the existence of a supreme divine source being that was almighty and able to be everywhere at one and the same time. By the way the latter is typical for many religions, including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
Unfortunately, such a blind belief in an Almighty God, that had different names but in fact remain the same theistic deity for various religions. It may be found in any religion, including contemporary world religions, such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
There are some similarities between religions, especially between Christianity and Islam. To put it more precisely, these two religions dramatically limited individuals’ freedom and all human actions and even thoughts are subordinated to God’s overwhelming power. In stark contrast, Buddhism insists on the personal freedom and permanent evolution of human being and human conscious. In this respect, Buddhism is different because it emphasizes the necessity of self purification and self understanding by means of meditation and not by means of prayers to divine creatures since it is up to the individual to understand the nature of surrounding reality and when this is done all sufferings end and a Buddhist arrives to the state of Nirvana. In such a way, self-discovery, i.e. the possibility to find the true self, is one of the unique features of Buddhism. Instead Islam and Christianity basically rely on God while human beings cannot fully reveal the true self.
Speaking about differences, it should be said that despite traditionally common view on the equality of all people, Christianity and Islam still limited this freedom by unarguable religious dogmas, while Buddhism viewed human life as a source of new experience that people should learn and this is why, as the life is changing, adepts of this religion had a substantial freedom of thought unlike other religions.
Remarkably, philosophy dealt with similar problems as religion did but often philosophers interpreted the same problems as religions in different way. On the other hand, religion and philosophy were closely interlinked that engendered certain similarities in their ideas.
In this respect, ancient Greek philosophy is one of the most influential since it affects even modern world and philosophy, as well as religions. For instance, Sophocles in his works where he often refers to ancient Greek mythology, including images of Antigone and Pericles, is under the influence of religious views, according to which humans are weak and their life and fate are subordinated to the will of Gods. As a result, humans worshiping Gods do not really have freedom in their actions which are predetermined by their fate defined by Gods which make his views similar to Christianity and Islam. On the other hand, he partially admits the freedom of thought so popular in Buddhism.
Plato interprets human life in quite an original way. In his “Allegory of the Cave”, he suggests that people are in the darkness of the cave and are dependent only on the shadows and echoes they can see and hear from the fire behind them. In such a way, individuals are practically blind and cannot find true self neither understand true reality.
However, gradually, as the individual grows older he attempts to free himself, to gain independence and look at the world objectively but not every one can succeed in it. In fact, he allegorically depicts humans as chained prisoners in the cave that cannot see what is going on behind them. This is why only few can turn around and see the reality that is the highest level of personal development when human life is objectively perceive and does not depend on common prejudices, or stereotypes which are the basis of religions.
In fact, it is possible to say that as the prisoners in the cave get used to the darkness and the world of illusions, so people resist enlightenment but gradually they can arrive to discovery of the true self and reality, naturally, if they can turn and see the reality. Until this moment enlightenment the reality is hidden from humans and it is governed by some supernatural beings that actually create the reality ordinary people perceive in their everyday life.
Remarkably, he emphasizes the idea that truth is somehow embedded in human minds was powerfully influential for many centuries. In such a situation, education is probably the one way to achieve a profound knowledge which help to reveal the truth and reality and, what is more important, to reveal the good and, consequently, to realize the essential component of human life.
On the other hand, it is necessary to underline that the key to the mystery of this hidden truth is still in the human mind and people possess this knowledge a priori but often they cannot simply find the key. In this respect, his views are rather similar to Buddhism’s freedom of thought and human self discovery while these views are totally different from Christianity and Islam, according to which the truth is available for the God only.
Finally, it should be said that the same trend may be traced in Bhagavad Gita which is also more similar to Buddhist concepts of the true self, self discovery by means of meditation, and enlightenment resulting from observation of life and acquisition of new experience. However, Bhagavad Gita proposes that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the ego, the ‘False Self’, and that one must identify with the Truth of immortal Self, the soul, which makes this philosophy, to a certain extent close, to Christianity and Islam view on the dominating role of divine and spiritual powers, though the strong link to Buddhism is still obvious. At the same time, Bhagaved Gita is bound to the power of gods instead of the power of self discovery compared to Buddhism that makes it closer to Christianity and Islam as well as philosophical views of some ancient Greeks such as Sophocles.
Thus, in conclusion it should be said that religions and philosophies discussed above have both similarities and differences. Probably, one of the most important similar points is the strong believe in the existence of some external power that affects human life. On the other hand, the ways to freedom, finding true self, enlightenment may range from being gifts of divine beings to being the results of individual self discovering of humans.