Wash Post: Mormon lifestyles and religious differences

Are all religions essentially really the same? Or do they differ substantially one from another?

It depends upon the dimension of the religion we're examining. Let's ask these questions at three levels for present purposes.

First, are there differences in the behavioral codes that are officially prescribed in the religions' scriptures? Second, are there differences in how the teachings of the religions are accepted and reflected in the day-to-day lives of the majority of their adherents - does the religion change what they do and how they feel? And third, does "winning" mean something different to members of different churches? In other words, do views differ on the purpose of our lives and what rewards await those who consistently follow the prescribed behavior?

Along the first dimension, a strong case can be made that the desirable behaviors of major religions are stunningly similar. The commandment to treat each other in a considerate, forgiving and respectful manner is an ethic that is common to Catholic, Protestant and Mormon Christianity; Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Confucianism; and many others. I know some who have eschewed organized religion because "more people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other cause." This isn't true. Charlatans masquerading under the banners of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and many others have indeed done horrific things. But these are not the practice of religion. They are the malpractice of it.

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