All religions describe the beginning of all things, they give lessons about how to live our lifes, and they describe our final destiny together with predictions about the end of times.
The principle underlying the beginning of existence, is similar in all religions, whether theistic or non-theistic. Even science has a similar view on the origin of the universe and its development, being one ultimate source everything evolved and expanded from. At least all religions agree, something cannot come into existence out of nothing, so everything in existence must have an ultimate cause.
The discussion then, is focussed on whether we are created in an instant by God, or not. This, in fact, is a strange discussion. There is no contradiction between creation and evolution. From the viewpoint of the Creator, existing out of time, everything was made in an instant. From our viewpoint, through the eyes of time, we observe evolution.
Though it seems to be an important question, whether the world has been created or not, it is by far not the most important. Where beliefs start to differ, depends on the properties, given to the ultimate source of our origin. The most important is the keypoint, whether it has a will of itself, whether it thinks and loves, whether it has sent its Word into the world through messengers, and whether it intervenes in our lifes through actions.
As to life for humans, all religions agree our love and our human intelligence, our mind/consciousness, or spirit, are sort of trapped in a mortal body, and the desire to please and protect this body/individual existence is the cause of destructive emotions, sins or evil. They all teach how to develop our love and mind, by being aware of this destructive tendency. They also teach, we are all one big family and should not put our own interests above the interests of others but at least equal to our own interest. Furthermore, they contain advice as to what is healthy for the body including advice on hygienics and diet, and on how to structure life in a community of people including basic laws against harmful actions. Following these advices is to our benefit, as it gives joy, peace of mind and a compassionate, peaceful community.
So basically, those rules are very similar in all religions. Where beliefs differ, is as to what is in between our highest destiny and mortal life on earth. Is there more (intelligent) life in the universe? Are there intelligent beings on some higher level of reality? Do we have more than one mortal life? Are there lesser deities or gods? Do we have to worship those lesser gods? Depending on the answers to those questions, religious lessons contain rituals and rules for the sake of worship, to please and thank deities and/or God, and to ask for divine interference. Besides, some believe humans can achieve extraordinary powers – like for example healing, speaking with the death, knowing the future.
As to our final destiny, all religions promise a blissful ending if we succeed in living our lifes according to the teachings, to be judged in the end of times. All religions agree, the end of times does not mean the end of life on earth, it means the end of (the cycle of birth and) death, and a world that knows peace and order. All religions say we cannot achieve this without a saviour, so they all predict this saviour to come in the end of times. The difference is, that all religions say this saviour will come from among their own midst, and most believe, this saviour will only save those from their own religion. Yet, all religions also teach, humankind is one big family with ultimately the same anchestors and the same one ultimate source of existence, one God, no matter religion, so this is probably a misunderstanding, unless the saviour has 7 bodies. In fact, it is amazing there is so little interest in the fact, those prophecies are so alike….where do they originate from?
Those without a religion prefer to leave all answers to questions that cannot be known open, until science has given proof. As to developing inner human values, they use our human mind with the conscience, giving warning signals whenever we (plan to) do something wrong, while religious people have the opinion, we cannot trust this enough, so we need the ethics from the religion. Besides, we are ignorant, so they believe we need the religions prescriptions as to what is healthy for us and good for our community. And some believe, we cannot achieve higher powers nor can we achieve eternal life, without being a member of a religious institution.
To have religious harmony and true respect for other beliefs, it is not enough to find common ground on what beliefs have in common. It is also necessary to acknowledge this common ground as the most important element in beliefs, and have it prevail over all other assumptions and rules within a beliefsystem. To truly acknowledge this, would mean to reconsider religious laws and rules, not in line with the main scripture, to correct misunderstandings caused by false human interpretation, and to consider rituals and worship at least equally important to living the teachings. This is necessary to have unity within each religion; and it could contribute to a peaceful world, if only we could agree, their different philosophical views are approaches to the same final destiny.
ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ٱلۡحَىُّ ٱلۡقَيُّومُ
‘Allah…don’t think of Allah as a god: Allah is Life, the Ultimate Source of All Existence, and That Which Sustains All’ – Qu’ran, Surah 3:2