Comparing and contrasting Christianity and Islam
Introduction. About the religions themselves
Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam are three closely related religions and are often linked together as Abrahamic
However, their many points of similarity are no guarantee
that their followers can get along. Most of the serious religiously motivated conflicts, mass crimes against
humanity and genocides in the 20th century
have been between Muslims and Christians. This has included genocides
in Bosnia Herzegovina, East Timor, and the Sudan, as well as serious conflicts in Cyprus,
Kosovo, Macedonia, and the Philippines. As of early 2011, two of these conflicts
(Sudan and Philippines) are still active. However, a plebescite in Sudan during 2011-JAN may end the slaughter by separating the predominately Muslin north from the Christian/Animist south. Three other past conflicts are relatively inert only because of peacekeepers on the ground; however, the hatred continues.
It is difficult to compare
Christianity to any other religion, because there is such a wide range of
beliefs and practices among various wings of Christianity:
Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican communion, and the
tens of thousands of Protestant faith groups. Some commentators have suggested
that Christianity consists of a number of different religions which share little
more than the Bible and the name of their religion. Protestant
Christianity is obviously divided into a least
liberal and conservative wings -- divisions which hold few beliefs in
common. Some of the descriptions below will thus
necessarily be somewhat simplistic and lacking in precision.
Similarly, Islam is divided into many different traditions including Sunni, Shii'te, Sufi, and many minority groups.
To complicate matters further, religious practices and beliefs throughout the
world are influenced by many factors:
|What the religion's holy book says.|
||How passages in the book is interpreted by theologians and clergy
|The impact of scientific findings.
|Individuals' personal experience, and above all:
||The culture in which the religion is embedded.|
These factors vary from country to country. This leads to selective reading
of the Holy Books to find justification for local practices. To take one example,
consider what different faiths in various countries teach about homosexual
behavior, and how their legal systems treat lesbians, gays, and bisexuals:
|Same-sex behavior is a capital crime in six Muslim countries.
||One mainly Christian country in Africa, Uganda, is considering making such behavior a capital crime. |
|Many countries, both Muslim and Christian, assign long term jail sentences
to sexually active gays and lesbians.|
|Other countries have no laws on the books regarding same-sex behavior.
||Same-sex couples in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, South
Africa, a few other countries, five states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia -- all at least nominally Christian jurisdictions -- can marry. Other U.S. states have civil unions or registered domestic partnerships that grant same-sex couples some or all of the privileges, rights and protections of marriage without the right to be considered married.|
Thus, it is quite impossible to compare the Muslim and Christian beliefs and practices concerning same-sex behavior without going into a major explanation --
something for which we have no room in this section.
About the religions themselves:
|Name of the religion:
|Meaning of the name:
||Follower of Christ (a Greek word
||Submission to the will of God.
|Name of a believer:
|Date of founding:
||circa 30 CE.
||622 CE. 2
|Name of founder(s):
||Yeshua of Nazareth (aka Jesus Christ, 3
||Most religious historians credit Muhammad (pbuh) as the founder. 3 However, Muslims generally
regard Islam as dating back to the time of creation
|% of world's population as followers:
|Worldwide growth rate in numbers of members
|Growth rate of the religion as a % of the world's population:
||About 0.0%. Percentage has been static for
||Increase of about 0.6%/yr.
|Estimated year when Islam will become the most popular
||As early as 2023 CE (if above numbers
are valid and remain stable) to as late as 2200 CE (as estimated by some religious
|% of U.S. population as followers:
study estimates 76%, and declining.
study estimates 0.6%; some Muslim groups estimate 6 million (2%).
|Major traditions or denominations:
||Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox,
Anglican, Protestant, and others.
Sufi. (Sufi is a mystical tradition).
- The Christian church is normally considered to have begun at
Pentecost, 50 days after Christians believe that Jesus was executed. Unfortunately, the year, month, and day of
his death are all unknown.
- Most religious
historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE. However, many if
not most of the followers of Islam believe that:
|Islam existed before Muhammad (pbuh) was born.
|The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world.
- Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets (peace be
upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their
- Greg H. Parsons, Executive Director, "U.S. Center for World Mission,"
Pasadena, CA; quoted in Zondervan News Service, 1997-FEB-21.
Copyright © 2001 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-AUG-4
Latest update: 2011-MAR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson