What is Hinduism and what do Hindus believe?
Hinduism is one of the oldest known organized religions—its sacred writings date as far back as 1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods. Hindus have a wide variety of core beliefs and exist in many different sects. Although it is the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism exists primarily in India and Nepal.
The main texts of Hinduism are the Vedas (considered most important), Upanishads, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. These writings contain hymns, incantations, philosophies, rituals, poems, and stories from which Hindus base their beliefs. Other texts used in Hinduism include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.
Though Hinduism is often understood as being polytheistic, supposedly recognizing as many as 330 million gods, it also has one "god" that is supreme—Brahman. Brahman is an entity believed to inhabit every portion of reality and existence throughout the entire universe. Brahman is both impersonal and unknowable and is often believed to exist in three separate forms: Brahma—Creator; Vishnu—Preserver; and Shiva—Destroyer. These "facets" of Brahman are also known through the many other incarnations of each. It is difficult to summarize Hindu theology since the various Hindu schools contain elements of almost every theological system. Hinduism can be:
1) Monistic—Only one thing exists; Sankara's school
2) Pantheistic—Only one divine thing exists so that God is identical to the world; Brahmanism
3) Panentheistic—The world is part of God; Ramanuja's School
4) Theistic—Only one God, distinct from Creation; Bhakti Hinduism.
Observing other schools, Hinduism can also be atheistic, deistic, or even nihilistic. With such diversity included under the title "Hindu," one may wonder what makes them "Hindu" in the first place? About the only real issue is whether or not a belief system recognizes the Vedas as sacred. If it does, then it is Hindu. If not, then it is not Hindu.
The Vedas are more than theology books. They contain a rich and colorful "theo-mythology," that is, a religious mythology which deliberately interweaves myth, theology, and history to achieve a story-form religious root. This "theo-mythology" is so deeply rooted in India's history and culture that to reject the Vedas is viewed as opposing India. Therefore, a belief system is rejected by Hinduism if it does not embrace Indian culture to some extent. If the system accepts Indian culture and its theo-mythical history, then it can be embraced as "Hindu" even if its theology is theistic, nihilistic, or atheistic. This openness to contradiction can be a headache for Westerners who seek logical consistency and rational defensibility in their religious views. But, to be fair, Christians are no more logical when they claim belief in Yahweh yet live life as practical atheists, denying Christ with their sinful lives. For the Hindu the conflict is genuine logical contradiction. For the Christian, the conflict is more likely simple hypocrisy.
Hinduism emphasizes the necessity of escaping from material life and of extinguishing desire. Hinduism is very ritualistic and includes extreme self denial and self punishment. Cows are considered sacred as are rivers. Most Hindus believe in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), where when a person dies, his soul enters the body of a newborn child or even the body of an animal. Over and over. Therefore, devout Hindus will not kill even a fly. They are vegetarians, lest by eating meat they become cannibals.
Hinduism views mankind as divine. Because Brahman is everything, Hinduism asserts that everyone is divine. Atman, or self, is one with Brahman. All of reality outside of Brahman is considered mere illusion. The spiritual goal of a Hindu is to become one with Brahman, thus ceasing to exist in its illusory form of "individual self." This freedom is referred to as "moksha." Until moksha is achieved, a Hindu believes that he/she will be repeatedly reincarnated in order that he/she may work towards self-realization of the truth (the truth being that only Brahman exists, nothing else). How a person is reincarnated is determined by karma, which is a principle of cause and effect governed by nature's balance. What one did in the past affects and corresponds with what happens in the future, past and future lives included.
Major Problems With Hinduism
The caste system in India is directly related to their religious beliefs. Caste comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word "casta" which means "race", "breed", or "lineage". Many Indians use the term "jati". There are 3,000 castes and 25,000 subcastes in India, each related to a specific occupation. Originally, Hinduism recognized only four castes. These different castes fall under four basic varnas:
Brahmans, (highest) priests and scholars
Kshatriyas, (next) nobles and warriors
Vaisyas, (next) farmers and merchants
Sudras, (lowest) serfs and slaves
Later, these four castes multiplied until today where there are thousands of castes in India. Only Hindus practice the caste system; it is abandoned if a Hindu becomes a Mohammedan or a Christian.
The castes became hereditary which meant that all sons are necessarily members of the same caste as their fathers and that he has to follow his father's occupation. The 25,000 modern castes even include a caste of thieves!
If someone is expelled from his caste or has no caste by birth, he is known as an Untouchable or Dalit, a pariah, and such a person is in a hopeless and pitiable condition. There are currently more than 250,000,000 untouchables or Dalits worldwide with around 180,000,000 million of them living in India alone.
Hinduism teaches that anyone born into a lower caste or an Untouchable is being punished for the sins committed in his past life. If such a person is calmly resigned to his fate and lives rightly, he will be elevated in caste in his next life. This premise tends to make the members of the lower castes and the untouchables submissive to the terrible economic and social conditions under which they live.
While the discrimination based on caste system (not the caste system itself) has been abolished under the Indian constitution since 1950, a 2007 report to the United Nations showed that there still is discrimination and prejudice against Dalits in South Asia. Since India's independence, significant steps have been taken to provide opportunities in jobs and education. Many social organizations too have proactively promoted better conditions for Dalits through improved education, health and employment.
According to a UN report, approximately 110,000 cases of violent acts committed against Dalits were reported in 2005. The report claimed 6.7 cases of violent acts per 10000 Dalit people. For context, the UN reported between 40 and 55 cases of violent acts per 10000 people in developed countries in 2005; and the total number of cases pending in various courts of India, on Dalit related and non-Dalit related matters were 31.28 million as of 2010.Also see: Apartheid Varna System
The system of varnashram dharma (a form of caste system) is upheld by popular Hindu scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad-Gita. In Ramayana, for example, Rama kills Shambuka simply because he was performing tapasya (ascetic exercises) which he was not supposed to do as he was a Shudra (low) by birth.
Similarly, in Mahabharata, Dronacharya refuses to teach archery to Eklavya, because he was not a Kshatriya by birth. When Eklavya, treating Drona as his notional guru, learns archery on his own, Drona makes him cut his right thumb as gurudakshina (gift for the teacher) so that he may not become a better archer than his favorite Kshatriya student Arjuna!
Manu Smriti is one of the most heavily criticized of the scriptures of Hinduism duo to its evil content. Manu Smriti's upholds a form of caste system that is notoriously unjust to the perceived "low" birthers in society.
The Sudras (the lowest) for example are repeatedly referred to as 'animals', and never treated as humans in the Hindu scriptures.
"Having killed a cat, an ichneumon, a blue jay, a frog, a dog, an iguana, an owl, or a crow, he shall perform the penance for the murder of a Sudra."
-- [ Manu IX.132 ]
"'You may breed cows and dogs in your house,' wrote Mr. M.C. Raja. 'You may drink the urine of cows and swallow cowdung to expiate your sins, but you shall not approach an Adi Dravida"
-- [ Original Indians: Dalits, Sudras, tribal people ]
"The murder of a Sudra by a Brahman is equal only to killing a cat or a frog or a cow."
-- [ Stat ] [ Wilk.248 ]
Whereas Brahmans are classed with gods, Sudras are classed with animals.
"Elephants, horses, Sudras and contemptiable Mlecchas, lions, tigers, and boars form the middle dark condition"
-- [ Manu i.43 ] [ Muir I.41 ]
Similarly, for contesting the claims of the noble pretentious Aryans, the Sudra is to have his tongue cut off, hot oil poured in his ear, or a nail thrust into his mouth.
"A once-born man (Sudra) who insults a twice-born man (Aryan) with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin."
-- [ Manu VIII.270 ]
"If he mentions the names and castes (Jati) of the (twice-born) with contumely, an iron nail, 10 fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth."
-- [ Manu VIII.271 ]
"If he arrogantly teaches Brahmins their duty, the king shall cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and into his ears."
-- [ Manu VIII.272 ]
"Rites are declared to be prescribed by the Vedas for the three (highest) castes... Next the Sudras, produced from extinction, are destitute of rites. Hence they are not entitled to be admitted to the purificatory ceremonies, nor does sacred science belong to them. Just as the cloud of smoke which rises from the fire on the friction of the fule, and is dissipated, is of no service in the sacrificial rite, so too the Shudras wandering over the Earth, are altogether (Useless for purpose of sacrifice) owing to their birth, their mode of life devoid of purity and their want of observances prescribed in the Veda."
-- [ Muir I. 153 ] [ Hari.11820 ]
"With whatever limb a man of a low caste does hurt to (a man of the three highest castes) even that limb shall be cut off; that is the teaching of Manu. He who raises his hand or a stick, shall have his hand cut off; he who in his anger kicks with his foot, shall have his foot cut off."
-- [ Manu VIII.279-280 ]
"If a low-caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat with a man of a high caste, shall be branded on his hip and is banished, or (the king) shall cause his buttock to be gashed."
-- [ Manu VIII.281 ]
"If out of arrogance he [ a Sudra ] spits (on a superior), the king shall cause both his lips to be cut off; if he urines (on him), the penis; if he breaks wind (against him), the anus."
-- [ Manu VIII.282 ]
"If ha lays fold of the hair (of a superior), let the king unhesitatingly cut off his hands, likewise (if he takes him) by the feet, the beard, the neck or the scrotum."
-- [ Manu VIII.282 ]
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says that women, vaisyas [merchants], sudras [low-level workers], or any people of sinful birth are considered to be of lower birth/type than righteous brahmanas, devotes, and saintly kings, and that Krishna does not consider women to be in the category of "righteous brahmanas". So women are either unrighteous brahmanas or not brahmanas at all.
Here are two translations of Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9: verse 32-33:
"O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth — women, vaiśyas [merchants] and śūdras [workers] — can attain the supreme destination. How much more this is so of the righteous brāhmaṇas, the devotees and the saintly kings. Therefore, having come to this temporary, miserable world, engage in loving service unto Me." (Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9: verse 32-33)
"O Arjuna, even those who may be born from the wombs of degraded women, merchants and menials; if they take full shelter of Me, they also reach the supreme goal. What then again of devotees, virtues brāhmaṇas and saintly kings; having achieved this transient world full of misery, engage in devotional service unto Me." (Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9: verse 32-32)
The following is a classic Hindu commentary on the above passage:
Kesava Kasmiri's Commentary (on Bhagavad Gita 9:32-33): "It has been established that bhakti or loving devotion to Lord Krishna exclusively purifies a devotee of the blemish of heinous and abominable practices due to unrighteous character and habits and that bhakti alone is capable of leading such a one directly to the supreme destination of the spiritual worlds and into Supreme Lords eternal association. Now Lord Krishna enumerates on this supreme destination even being accessible to those who are unworthy due to circumstances of birth. This includes those of vile birth such as untouchables, mleechas or meateaters, those born illegitimately, those without education, vaisyas or the mercantile class which is situated below women and above sudras which is the menial class. All these lack the qualification for Vedic knowledge and thus destitute of righteous conduct are only eligible to exist on the lowest path of existence; but if they somehow or other receive the mercy of a devotee of Lord Krishna. By this mercy taking sole refuge in the Supreme Lord then they also will verily reach the Supreme destination as well.
"After having explained the position of the lowly and unfortuante Lord Krishna follows the line of thought of how much more assured is the supreme destination attainable by the higher members of society like the Brahmins and Vaisnavas who are noble and righteous. If those of low birth and demerits can attain the supreme destination then how much more can those of high birth and much merit including the royal sages who are the best of the ksatriyas or warrior class as well as the seekers of truth. This goes without question."
The idea that the divine permeates all of creation -- the idea upon which Hinduism and its practices is geared -- is pantheism, reprobated by Vatican I and other councils and teachings of the Church:
“The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth... Who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world...” (Constitutio Dogmatica de Fide Catholic, Sess. III, Cap. I)
God is distinct in reality and essence from His creation. Pantheism teaches that God and the universe are one. Pantheism teaches that the grass, trees, rivers, lakes, oceans, etc., were all united with Christ by virtue of the Incarnation. Pantheism "divinizes" the material world and leads to the "Gaia" belief of the New Agers that the material world lives and has a soul, and to environmental radicalism, in which trees and whales have more rights that human babies.
Since Hinduism is based on the idea of union with the divine within oneself and within all of creation, it is an expression of belief in the condemned pantheistic heresy that God and His creation are a single thing. Hinduism, therefore, is a false religion that expresses belief in a false god.See Self-Refuting Nature of Pantheism
Polytheism is belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. The word comes from the Greek words poly and theoi, literally "many gods." Most ancient religions were polytheistic, holding to pantheons of traditional deities, often accumulated over centuries of cultural interchange and experience. Present-day polytheistic religions include Hinduism, Mahayana, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism in the East, and also contemporary African tribal religions. Note that according to some Hindu literature, there are 330 million (including local and regional) deities or gods worshiped in Hinduism. It is interesting to note that even in polytheistic religions, one god usually reigns supreme over the other gods, e.g., Zeus in Greek/Roman mythology and Brahman in Hinduism.
For the polytheists, deities or gods are formed around a number of aspects of life. These include natural forces and objects such as fertility and atmospheric forces; vegetation such as trees, herbs, and vineyards; animal and human forms such as serpents, cattle, and animal - human hybrids; and assorted functions such as love, agriculture, healing, and war, etc. In short, polytheists adore and worship the created world as divine rather then the creator God himself.
However, there are some serious philosophical problems when thinking about the definition of God in relation to polytheistic beliefs. By the broadest definition in most dictionaries, God refers to the supreme being that is above everything else. By very definition, this requires that it be only One being. The reasoning is that if this being was just another one of many gods, He would not necessarily be the highest or supreme. A polytheist might reply that there is one highest God with multiple lesser gods (i.e. Henotheism). However, this is still in contrast to the definition because those lesser beings cannot be referred to as "God", simply because they are not the supreme being. The definition of a supreme God demands that He is One.See Self-Refuting Nature of Polytheism
I am a Hindu, why should I consider becoming a Christian?
Comparing Hinduism and Christianity is difficult, in part, because Hinduism is a slippery religion for westerners to grasp. It represents limitless depths of profundity, a rich history, and an elaborate theology. There is perhaps no religion in the world that is more variegated or ornate. Comparing Hinduism and Christianity can easily overwhelm the novice of comparative religions. So, the proposed question should be considered carefully and humbly. The answer given here does not pretend to be comprehensive or assume even an "in-depth" understanding of Hinduism at any particular point. This answer merely compares a few points between the two religions in effort to show how Christianity is deserving of special consideration.
First, Christianity should be considered for its historical viability. Christianity has historically rooted characters and events within its schema which are identifiable through forensic sciences like archeology and textual criticism. Hinduism certainly has a history, but its theology, mythology, and history are so often blurred together that it becomes difficult to identify where one stops and the other begins. Mythology is openly admitted within Hinduism, which possesses elaborate myths used to explain the personalities and natures of the gods. Hinduism has a certain flexibility and adaptability through its historical ambiguity. But, where a religion is not historical, it is that much less testable. It may not be falsifiable at that point, but neither is it verifiable. It is the literal history of the Jewish and eventually Christian tradition that justifies the theology of Christianity. If Adam and Eve did not exist, if Israel did not have an exodus out of Egypt, if Jonah was just an allegory, or if Jesus did not walk the earth then the entire Christian religion can potentially crumble at those points. For Christianity, a fallacious history would mean a porous theology. Such historical rootedness could be a weakness of Christianity except that the historically testable parts of the Christian tradition are so often validated that the weakness becomes a strength.
Second, while both Christianity and Hinduism have key historical figures, only Jesus is shown to have risen bodily from the dead. Many people in history have been wise teachers or have started religious movements. Hinduism has its share of wise teachers and earthly leaders. But Jesus stands out. His spiritual teachings are confirmed with a test that only divine power could pass, death and bodily resurrection—a fact which he prophesied and fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 16:21; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31; 1 Luke 9:22; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians 15).
Moreover, the Christian doctrine of resurrection stands apart from the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation. These two ideas are not the same. And it is only the resurrection which can be deduced convincingly from historical and evidential study. The resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular has considerable justification through secular and religious scholarship alike. Its verification does nothing to verify the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation. Consider the following differences.
Resurrection involves one death, one life, one mortal body, and one new and immortally glorified body. Resurrection happens by divine intervention, is monotheistic, is a deliverance from sin, and ultimately occurs only in the end times. Reincarnation, on the contrary, involves multiple deaths, multiple lives, multiple mortal bodies, and no immortal body. Furthermore, reincarnation happens by natural law, is usually pantheistic (God is all), operates on the basis of karma, and is always operative. Of course, listing the differences does not prove the truth of either account. However, if the resurrection is historically demonstrable, then distinguishing these two after-life options separates the justified account from the unjustified account. The resurrection of Christ and the larger Christian doctrine of resurrection are both deserving of consideration.
Third, the Christian Scriptures are historically outstanding, deserving serious consideration. In several tests the Bible surpasses the Hindu Vedas, and all other books of antiquity for that matter. One could even say that the history of the Bible is so compelling that to doubt the Bible is to doubt history itself, since it is the most historically verifiable book of all antiquity. The only book more historically verifiable than the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is the New Testament. Consider the following.
1) More manuscripts exist for the New Testament than for any other of antiquity—5000 ancient Greek manuscripts, 24,000 in all including other languages. The multiplicity of manuscripts allows for a tremendous research base by which we can test the texts against each other and identify what the originals said.
2) The manuscripts of the New Testament are closer in age to the originals than are any other document of antiquity. All of the originals were written within the time of the contemporaries (eyewitnesses), in the first century AD, and we currently have parts of manuscript as old as 125 AD. Whole book copies surface by 200 AD, and the complete New Testament can be found dating back to 250 AD. Having all the books of the New Testament initially written within the times of eyewitnesses means that they did not have time to devolve into myth and folklore. Plus their truth claims were held accountable by members of the Church who, as personal witnesses to the events, could check the facts.
3) The New Testament documents are more accurate than any other of antiquity. John R. Robinson in Honest to God reports that the New Testament documents are 99.9% accurate (most accurate of any complete antique book). Bruce Metzger, an expert in the Greek New Testament, suggests a more modest 99.5%. Both the Old and New Testaments, of course, are known to be 100% accurate for believers depending on the sense scripture is to be understood: spiritually or corporeally.
Fourth, Christian monotheism has advantages over pantheism and polytheism. It would not be fair to characterize Hinduism as only pantheistic ("God is all") or only polytheistic (having many gods). Depending on the stream of Hinduism to which one ascribes one may be pantheistic, polytheistic, monistic ("all is one"), monotheistic, or a number of other options. However, two strong streams within Hinduism are polytheism and pantheism. Christian monotheism has marked advantages over both of these. Due to space considerations, these three worldviews are compared here in regards to only one point, ethics.
Polytheism and pantheism both have a questionable basis for their ethics. With polytheism, if there are many gods, then which god has the more ultimate standard of ethics for humans to keep? When there are multiple gods then their ethical systems either do not conflict, conflict, or do not exist. If they do not exist, then ethics are invented and baseless. The weakness of that position is self-evident. If the ethical systems do not conflict then on what principle do they align? Whatever that aligning principle is would be more ultimate than the gods. The gods are not ultimate since they answer to some other authority. Therefore there is a higher reality to which one should adhere. This fact makes polytheism seem shallow if not empty. On the third option, if the gods conflict in their standards of right and wrong, then to obey one God is to risk disobeying another incurring punishment. Ethics would be relative. Good for one god would not necessarily be "good" in an objective and universal sense. For example, sacrificing one's child to Kali would be commendable to one stream of Hinduism but reprehensible to many others. But surely, child sacrifice, as such, is objectionable regardless. Some things by all reason and appearance are right or wrong, regardless.
Pantheism does not fare much better than polytheism since it asserts that ultimately there is only one thing—one divine reality—thus disallowing any ultimate distinctions of "good" and "evil." If "good" and "evil" were really distinct then there would not be one single indivisible reality. Pantheism ultimately does not allow for moral distinctions of "good" and "evil." Good and evil dissolve into the same indivisible reality. And even if such distinctions as "good" and "evil" could be made, the context of karma voids the moral context of that distinction. Karma justifies any evil act committed against another person, because according to the doctrine on karma, whatever bad thing happens to you, you deserve. According to the Bible even a person who is suffering or who is in need or handicapped, isn't always suffering or in need or handicapped because God is punishing them, but sometimes to test them (as evidence for or against something, like if they are patient or impatient, good or bad), or to show his love through them, like when Jesus healed various people who were handicapped. Karma is an impersonal principle much like a natural law such as gravity or inertia. When karma comes calling on some sinful soul, it is not a divine policing that brings judgment. Rather it is an impersonal reaction of nature. But morality requires personality, personality which karma cannot lend. For example, we do not blame a stick for being used in a beating. The stick is an object with no moral capacity or duty. Rather we blame the person who used the stick abusively. That person has a moral capacity and a moral duty. Likewise, if karma is merely impersonal nature then it is amoral ("without morality") and is not an adequate basis for ethics.
Does karma consider it a good thing to kill a person who is deserving of death according to the Divine law? Does it consider it an evil eating certain food in front of another person considers immoral to eat? Does it consider saying, "Allah doesn't exist", "Buddha doesn't exist", or "Moses didn't exist" evil things to say? Does it consider that one person's conscience isn't the same as someone else's, and that some people have no conscience? Does it consider any lying to be evil, even when one commits a lie that doesn't seem to harm anyone but instead saves a life or lives, or does it consider it to be a less evil and forgivable? Does it consider stealing a weapon or what someone intends to use as a weapon to commit murder a good thing or a bad thing? Does it even consider it as stealing at all? Where is the rule book or commandments of karma? Some might argue that karma judges you by your own standard, but if that is true, and my standard is to do whatever I feel like: steal, lie, commit adultery, hate people, dishonor my parents even when they do good to me, abuse animals, endanger the lives of others, including by polluting in such a way that it is a certain danger to others, or murdering people whenever I feel like it, and I do those things, then shouldn't karma "reward" me? Some might argue that no one is like that, but that isn't the point, the point is that that can be a standard, and besides that, there are people like that, and hundreds of millions of people have died because of people who made it their standard, at least for a moment, to speak and act in those wrong ways (see Major Problems With Karma).
In contrast to karma, Christian monotheism roots its ethics in the person of God and the natural law. The natural law is the law that every person knows by instinct from birth. It is planted by the Creator in our heart, and everyone – even pagans who have never heard about God or the true Christian religion – receive this gift from God. Examples of sins that break the natural law and that are easy to recognize are: murder, rape, theft, pedophilia, slander, lying, and so on. The conscience always convicts a person who do these things and thus there can never be an excuse for people who commit such sins. God's character is good and, therefore, what conforms to Him and His will is good. What departs from God and His will is evil. Therefore the one God and the natural morality implanted on our heart serves as the absolute basis for ethics, allowing a personal basis for morality, and justifying objective knowledge about good and evil.
Fifth, the question remains "What do you do with your sin?" Christianity has the strongest answer to this problem. Hinduism, like Buddhism, has at least two ideas of sin. Sin is sometimes understood as ignorance. It is sinful if one does not see or understanding reality as Hinduism defines it. But, there remains an idea of moral error termed "sin." To do something deliberately evil, to break a spiritual or just earthly law, or to desire wrong things, these would be sins. But, that morality definition of sin points to a kind of moral error that requires real atonement. From where can atonement rise? Can atonement come by adherence to karmic principles? Karma is impersonal and amoral. One could do good works to "even the balance" but one cannot ever dispose of sin. Karma does not even provide a context whereby moral error is even moral. Who have we offended if we sin in private, for example? Karma does not care one way or the other because karma is not a person. For example, suppose one man kills another man's son. He may offer money, property, or his own son to the offended party. But he cannot un-kill the young man. No amount of compensation can make up for that sin. Can atonement come by prayer or devotion to a Shiva or Vishnu? Even if those characters offer forgiveness it seems like sin would still be an unpaid debt. They would forgive sin as if it is excusable, no big deal, and then wave people on through the gates of bliss.
Christianity, however, treats sin as moral error against a single, ultimate, and personal God. Ever since Adam and Eve, humans have been stained by original sin. Sin is real, and it sets an infinite gap between man and bliss. Sin demands justice. Yet it cannot be "balanced out" with an equal or greater number of good works without atonement. If someone has ten times more good works than bad works, then that person still has evil on his or her conscience. What happens to these remaining bad works? Are they just forgiven as if they were not a big deal in the first place? Are they permitted into bliss? Are they mere illusions, thus leaving no problem whatsoever? None of these options is suitable. Concerning illusion, sin is too real to us to be explained away as illusion. Concerning sinfulness, when we are honest with ourselves we all know we have sinned. Concerning forgiveness, to simply forgive sin at no cost treats sin like it is not of much consequence. We know that to be false. Concerning bliss, bliss is not much good if sin keeps getting smuggled in. It seems that the scales of karma leave us with sin on our hearts and a sneaking suspicion that we have violated some ultimately personal standard of right and wrong. And bliss either cannot tolerate us or it must cease being perfect so that we can come in.
With Christianity, however, sin is punished though that punishment has already been satisfied in Christ's personal sacrifice on the cross. God become man, lived a perfect life, and died the death that we deserved. He was crucified on our behalf, a substitute for us, and a covering, or atonement, for our sins. And He was resurrected proving that not even death could conquer Him. Furthermore, He promises the same resurrection to eternal life for all who are baptized and have faith in Him as their only Lord and Savior (Romans 3:1023; 6:23; 8:12; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:21).
So, what does this mean for you? Jesus is the ultimate reality! Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. God offers all of us forgiveness and salvation through baptism if we will simply receive His gift to us (John 1:12), believing Jesus to be the Savior who laid down His life for us – His friends. If you place your trust in Jesus as your only Savior and die in state of grace (free from mortal sin), you will have absolute assurance of eternal bliss in Heaven. God will forgive your sins, cleanse your soul, renew your spirit, give you abundant life in this world, and eternal bliss in the next world. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?
If you are unsure about what you believe, we invite you to say the following prayer to God; "God, help me to know what is true. Help me to discern what is error. Help me to know what is the correct path to salvation." God will always honor such a prayer.
If you want to receive the faith and Jesus as your Savior, simply speak to God, verbally or silently, receive baptism (how to convert to the true Biblical Faith), obey His Church and His Law, and tell Him that you want to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. If you want a prayer to say, here is an example: "God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me. Thank you for providing for my forgiveness and salvation. I want to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus. I want to receive Jesus as my Savior. Amen!"
Spiritual Information You Must Know to be Saved
Biblical Information You Must Know to be Saved
Christian Dogma You Must Believe to be Saved
Baptism; the Steps to Convert to the Traditional Faith; the Steps for Those Leaving False Sects; and Conditional Baptism