Even though there are many religions across the world, the common and widely known include Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism (Smith, 1991). Christianity is the largest with almost a third of the globe’s population adhering to its faith. It is closely followed by Islam as the second largest. Hinduism is, on the other hand, the third largest with a majority of its followers in India while Sikhism is mostly practiced in India and Punjab with a population of about 26 million believers globally and it is the youngest among the five religions. Judaism has about 13.4 million followers around the world with a majority living in Israel (42%). The United States of America and Canada have a combined population of 42% while a majority of the rest who practice Judaism reside in parts of Europe. This paper presents comparison of distinctive characteristics of the above religions.
Smith (1991) explains that baptism among the Christians and the Sikhs share one similarity in that the practice is seen as a way of purification and initiating the believers into faith by both religions. However, there are differences in the way the two religions conduct baptism such that Christians do it in churches or rivers through partial or complete immersion in water while Sikhs do it in Sikh temples referred to as Gurudwara. After baptism, Sikhs are required to put on the five K’s, a practice that is not done among Christians who do not have any further requisites thereafter.
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Concerning caste and gender, Hinduism and Sikhism have opposing views. Hindus believe in the caste system with four main clusters depending on the economic and socio-cultural status of believers (Smith, 1991). Depending on the cluster, a person is looked at as either inferior or superior. There is also gender discrimination with men dominating in the society and leaving women with little opportunities in decision-making and development issues. On the other hand, Sikhism considers everyone equal regardless of their status, gender, race or religion. It strives to offer equal opportunities to everyone across the gender divide.
According to Smith (1991), the issue of proselytizing is approached differently by Judaism and Sikhism. The former do not engage in active proselytization among the non-Jews. On the contrary, the Sikhs believe that there are many ways that lead to one God and all souls who sail on the path of righteousness will have ultimate salvation. They, therefore, accept people from all kinds of faiths. Concerning the choice to become a Sikh, it is very open and they do not believe that a person must necessarily be converted to Sikhism to achieve salvation but through virtuous and good deeds.
Finally, the religion sharing the most common aspects of faith, beliefs, and practice with Sikhism is Judaism. This is because they both share the sentiments that God is only one and there is no need for an intermediary but anyone can approach Him on their own. Just like the Jews, the males of Sikhs are normally bearded and their heads are always covered. The two religions neither believe in Satan (personified evil) or the creed of original sin as it is the case in Christianity. Additionally, they do not have priesthood and they both have a communal meal after services.