How to Know God in Religion

Cosmic Cliffs in the Carina Nebula. James Webb Space Telescope. Glittering Landscape of Star Birth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. © GizemG /

The overwhelming majority of the world believes in God. Religion emerged through introspection and observing God’s bountiful creation. Prophets and teachers formed the world’s understanding of God, particularly in the three most popular religions: Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It is prudent to discuss their commonalities and differences, and how their modern supporters represent their faiths.

Most people in the world adhere to a religion. Followers of the top three religions constitute 72.5% of the world's population. The populace is 31.6% Christian, 25.8% Muslim and 15.1% Hindu. They all have one thing in common: a belief in God.

In history, man has realized that there must be a God that transcended everything, although he cannot perceive this deity with his usual senses. As time passed, the spontaneous realization of God gradually evolved into institutions that we now refer to as religion. People sought religion to address their concerns about natural phenomena and the powers that control them. Therefore, it is not surprising that the essence of all major world religions remains the unity of mankind. It is founded on the belief in the one and only God, which is worshiped through the multitude of idols in Hinduism, the Trinity in Christianity and the oneness in Islam.

When these three major religions are cleared of all man-made innovations, they boil down to many of the same virtues. They promote honesty, trust, compassion, love, peace, cooperation and brotherhood. They prohibit dishonesty, betrayal, theft, rape and murder. They inspire us to help the poor and disadvantaged. The following is a brief discussion of God as he is presented in these religions.

God in Hinduism

Among the world’s major religions, Hinduism is believed to be the oldest, beginning between 2,300 and 1,500 BC. It is rooted in monotheism, the belief in a single omnipotent God. In about 2,000 BC, an early Vedic hymn titled, Origin of All Things, set the foundation for Hinduism by referring to God as the source of life:

There was neither aught nor naught, nor air, nor sky beyond.

What covered all? Where rested all? In watery gulf profound?

Nor death was then, nor deathlessness, nor change of night and day.

The One breathed calmly, self-sustained; nought else beyond it lay.

As time passed, the deity was called the Brahman — “supreme, lord, eternal, unborn, imperishable.” He put in motion “creation, preservation, and destruction.”

Over time, Hindu writers went overboard in creating deities to illustrate the Brahman. He is now represented by over 30 million gods, vying for superiority. This is head-scratching for many. However, the hymn leads wise believers to one conclusion: “God alone knew how the world came into being.”

Hinduism’s core values are based on the purpose of life and ethical virtues. It teaches that given how our universe is created, it is in our best interest to work together for the well-being of mankind and other species. The primary belief of Hinduism is of a universal God. It perceives a pure, wakeful, omnipresent intelligence that created and maintains the universe. It professes the mindset that a clever person should have: He knows that God is beyond the grasp of knowledge, he sees God in every being and he does not get fixated on his choices in achieving eternal life.

Hinduism has influenced and been influenced by other religions. In particular, the faith has influenced Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. It shares numerous concepts with the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — including the soul (atman) and personal, loving devotion to a deity (bhakti).

The peaceful spirit of Hinduism must not be confused with the bigoted zeal of its followers in attacking minorities in India, especially Christians and Muslims. The country is considered extremely dangerous for women. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has disgraced the faith by demonizing the minority Muslims and polarizing Hindus against them. In the 2002 Gujarat massacres, Modi allegedly instructed other officials not to intervene as Hindu mobs killed Muslims. As punishment for failing to stop the massacres, the United States banned Modi from entering the country for years.

God in Christianity

Around 2,000 years ago in the early 1st century AD, Jesus Christ was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of his virgin mother, Mary. He was one of Abraham’s descendants. He rose among the Israelites and performed countless miracles.

According to biblical scholars, Jesus’s ministry began with his baptism by John the Baptist. He taught that besides worshiping the one God, people should treat others the way they want to be treated. His kind demeanor and peaceful approach provided a positive passivity permeated with intense love and charity toward others.

In his lifetime, Jesus attracted a few dedicated followers. But his message of compassion resonated in the hearts of millions long after him. His teachings became the doctrine of a new religion, dubbed Christianity.

Jesus called the Jews to return to God and observe the commandments laid out in the Torah, the Jewish holy law. In Jesus’s spoken language of Aramaic, God is called Alaha. This is cognate to the Arabic word ilah, the root of Allah (al-ilah, “the God”), the name Arabs and Muslims would go on to use when referring to God.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” He preached, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Even as the Romans crucified him, he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The gospels were written years after Jesus. So, some contradictions and inaccuracies are not surprising. However, one thing is clear in all four gospels: Jesus preached the worship of only one God. On occasion, the scribe’s imagination scandalously stretched, equating Jesus or the Holy Spirit with God.

From his message, it is clear that Jesus worshiped the single God, Alaha. This defies the Trinity, an innovation that emerged years after he was gone. The idea of the Trinity, rooted in “threefold”, was first used by Tertullian (d. 200) in his small circle. 

In the 4th century, the First Council of Nicaea, discussed Christ's relationship with the Father and formalized the doctrine of Jesus being of the same substance as God. After that event, the Gospel of Matthew must have been tempered for the Trinity.

As for the Bible, Jesus’s teachings hang on two commandments: First, you must love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Second, you must love other people as you love yourself.

Jesus’s early followers considered themselves Jews by birth or conversion. They believed in the Jewish God and Jesus as the Savior, considering him the prophesized Jewish mashiach, or messiah. They insisted on following Jewish laws and rituals. They never thought of Jesus as the divine. They believed God would destroy their enemies and set the stage for the coming mashiach. He would gather all Jews and bring justice and peace, specifically to Egypt.

Jesus’s disciples lived alongside other Jewish sects, such as Essenes, Sadducees and Pharisees. Some of them were referred to as Ebionites and Nazarenes. Jesus’s early followers closely obeyed his teachings. These peaceful people lived by loving their neighbors, adversaries and persecutors. They never referred to themselves as Christians, as Jesus never gave a name to the faith or followers. However, they considered themselves those Jews who worshiped the one God and exercised love for one another.

Christ preached for people to love one another unconditionally. The aggressively vicious behaviors of Christendom must not be bemused with his teachings. In his book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon wrote: “Jesus did not bring peace on the earth, but a sword; his patient and humble virtues should not be confounded with the intolerant zeal of princes and bishops, who have disgraced the name of his disciples.”

God in Islam

In 610 AD, in a forgotten land that interested neither Romans nor Persians, a middle-aged man undertook a task no man had ever achieved: to unite mankind. His only weapon was his passionate conviction in the oneness of God, and thus the oneness of humanity. Like Noah, he was patient, persistent and faithful to God. Like Abraham, he reasoned to explain his ideas in a simple language that his people could easily comprehend. Like Moses, he spoke only a few words, filled with wisdom and meaning. Like Jesus, he was humble, compassionate, forgiving and looked after the sick and orphaned. His eloquence pierced the hearts of his listeners.

In his early years of preaching, no one beyond his close family joined him for fear of retribution from the tribal chiefs. After preaching for 13 years in his hometown of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, few people followed him. That only made him more determined. His perseverance finally paid off when he left his home; his teachings changed the desolate Arabian peninsula and the world. This brilliant man was Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.

Muhammad preached Islam, an Arabic word meaning, “submission to the will of God.” This was the continuation of God’s message to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He spoke of the one God, Allah, Who commanded him:

Say: He, God is one.

God is He on whom all depend.

He begets not, nor is He begotten.

And none is like Him.

As for the oneness of God:

If there were, in the universe, other gods besides God, there would have been confusion!

1,400 years ago, Muhammad rejected superstitions and the tradition of following the paths of ancestors. He called people to think, reason and reflect.

At a time when women had little value, Muhammad addressed men and women equally. When men considered daughters shame and killed them, Muhammad preached rights and privileges for women and forbade the people from molesting and hurting them. When the economy ran on the toil of slaves, Muhammad encouraged people to set them free for goodwill and penitence. He championed equal opportunity and encouraged people to give to those less fortunate what they loved for themselves.

These days, we must all have a keen mind when absorbing information. We must not be fooled by the propaganda against Islam that the US has disseminated across the globe. It is perpetuated to distract from domestic issues, cover for atrocities and justify interventions in Muslim countries. The Western support of the Israeli genocide against Palestinians clearly demonstrates that the West has long abandoned its Christian values.

To take a page again from Edward Gibbon, we can say: “[Islam] is free from suspicion or ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca [Muhammad] rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish.”


The article was originally published by Fair Observer on March 26, 2024.