Friday, May 11, 2007

Catholicism & Hinduism: 10 Similarities

I know everyone will not be happy with this post. That's fine - healthy discussion is usually a very good thing.

After having lived in the USA and India, I have been exposed first hand to both Catholicism and Hinduism. This pertains to both belief and practice. Let me say first of all that not all Catholics believe the same things or practice in the same ways. This is also true for Hindus. Therefore, the following 10 similarities are generalizations based upon what I have experienced both here in America and in South Asia.

I'd also like to point out that we have friends who are Catholics, and friends who are Hindus. This post is not intended to be an assault on either religion, but rather a comment on similarities that I have observed.

That said, here we go:

Ten Similarities:

1) Repeated sacrifice
- At every Catholic Mass, Jesus is again "sacrificed." This is why the elements of the Mass are literally thought to be Christ's body and blood. When Hindus go to temple, they have to perform some sort of sacrifice, usually presenting some sort of offering to the gods.

2) Rituals - The Mass itself is a type of ritual. Also, the Rosary is one of the most well-known rituals of the Catholic faith. At a Hindu temple, various rituals are performed such as ringing a bell to wake the gods, bowing before the gods, and chanting different mantras.

3) Prayer to multiple saints/gods - Many Catholics (not all) pray to various saints within the Catholic church. Most Hindus (not all) pray to various gods within the Hindu pantheon. Some of the most popular are Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Ganesh.

4) Priests - both Catholics and Hindus must go through a priest to get to god. There is no direct access to any god.

5) Cathedral/Temple
- In both religions, all important practices occur at some type of building. There is little encouragement for meeting in homes because priests cannot be at multiple homes at the same time.

6) Images & Icons - In Catholic churches, pictures and statues of saints are common-place. These typically receive veneration. At any Hindu temple, there will be multiple statues of the various gods. These will include Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, and others.

7) Works-based salvation - In both Catholicism and Hinduism, salvation is based, at least in part, upon the works of the individual. This is far different from the cry of the Protestant Reformation: "Justification by faith alone."

8) Lack of knowledge of sacred writings - Within both religions, the typical follower of the faith has limited knowledge of the sacred writings of his religion. The same is true within Protestantism, but to a much lesser degree. Within Catholicism and Hinduism, the priest is heavily relied upon for scriptural knowledge and understanding.

9) Centered on Rome/Ganges River - Both religions are very centralized. Rome is the epicenter of Catholicism, is the home of the Pope, and is a destination for thousands of Catholics each year. For Hindus, the Ganges River is the site of pilgrimage. Many Hindus travel hundreds of miles to take a dip in the "holy river," in the hope that it will wash away their sins.

10) Death: purgatory/reincarnation - Both faiths teach that upon death, people do not go directly to heaven or hell. For Catholics, purgatory awaits. For Hindus, death leads to another cycle of reincarnation.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of these similarities. If you have any comments about why you think these exist, please let me know.


Link & Mary said...

Good grief, Eric. You obviously have more time on your hands than you know what to do with.
First, you write as an outsider. Many of your comments are incorrect and some reflect the Catholic church back in the middle ages. Secondly, you write that you didn't intend this to be an assault, but how else could one take it when you compare our Christian religion to a pagan religion. It is more than offensive.
Next time you take on such a discussion, make sure that your facts are correct.
Yours in Christ,

Eric said...

Dear Link & Mary,

Thank you for responding.

You are correct to say that I am an outsider to the Catholic faith. I am also an outsider to the Hindu faith. Therefore, my comments are based upon observation rather than direct faith experience in either religion.

In your response, you said "many of your comments are incorrect" and "make sure that your facts are correct." However, you did not tell me any specifics. Could you please let me know which one (or more) of the similarities you believe is/are incorrect? If I have made any mistakes, I would certainly like to make changes.