Some USMB members have objected when I've said that from an outside point of view, the three religions of the Middle East seem more alike than different. Here is an attempt to try to explain my statement better, by contrasting some of their shared beliefs with Hindu beliefs: The Middle Eastern religions (MERs) believe in a single God/Allah/Yahweh. This god is angry and jealous--he does not tolerate others. This God is usually worshipped via group activities and rituals, such as church attendance, Sabbath rituals, or praying towards Mecca at prescribed times. By contrast, Hindus believe in a vast panoply of gods, which are thought of, not as the separate gods of the ancient Greek and Roman world, but as various aspects of the one. Any and all modes of worship are acceptable, and Indian religious practices are by far the most elaborate and varied of any of the world's religions, covering everything from meditating naked in frozen ice caves in the Himalayas to Tantric sexuality to worshipping via doing one's everyday work well. The individual is completely free to choose the mode of worship and path to enlightenment that works for him. The MERs believe in linear time with judgement day at the end and an eternal afterlife (they got this from the Egyptians and the Persian Zoroastrians). By contrast, Hindus believe in cyclical time, with Brahma creating the world, Vishnu preserving it, and then Shiva destroying it--after which the whole cycle begins again. Similarly, human life is thought of as a circle from birth to death, rather than a line from pre-birth-non-existence to life to post-death-soul. Reincarnation can be taken literally, or can refer metaphorically to the cycle of parents begetting children who become parents. The MERs have heaven and hell. Hinduism has all sorts of different places, whch can all be thought of as representing states of consciousness, but no eternal heaven and hell. Many adherents of the MERs take their dogma literally. Jesus WAS the son of God, or Mohammed heard Allah's voice. By contrast, Hindus are encouraged to see everything at multiple layers of meaning. The Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna urges Arjuna to fight a necessary war, in language similar to Shakespeare's "band of brothers" speech in Henry IV, can be seen as a a goad to action in difficult circumstances, or even as glorifying war--or it can be seen in its metaphorical dimension, as representing a war in the soul. God, in the MERs, has one type of relationship to humans--that of father to child--and is separate from them. By contrast, in Hinduism, we're thought of as a jar filled with air. That inside us is the same as that which surrounds us, if we can uncap the jar. God is not only in all of us, but in every thing, animate or inanimate. Hence the typical Hindu gentleness towards living and nonliving things--Hindus don't have an obsession with remaking the environment or having "dominion" since they see themselves as no more or less than the rocks or animals. Also, in various Hindu traditions, God can be father, mother, sibling, lover, or even enemy. (Hindus believe that struggling against God is one way of engaging him.) The MERs believe in good and evil, and in a Satan that is nearly as powerful as God and will be defeated by him in a final cataclysmic battle. By contrast, Hindus do not believe in evil. The closest word is "avidya," which means "lacking knowledge." In other words, Hindus believe people do bad things through ignorance. This suggests that the right way to alter people's bad behaviors is to help them understand better what they are doing, rather than to punish or kill them, and is another aspect of Hindu tolerance. The MERs place the earth at the center of the universe, and give man a special relationship with God. By contrast, Hindus (correctly, it turns out) long believed that the earth was one of many trillions of worlds, that the universe is vast beyond comprehension, and that the age of the universe is in the billions of years. Hindus are perfectly happy to feel tiny within a vast creation. They believe that any life form on any planet would arrive at the same spiritual truths via insight, without need of hearing voices or seeing miracles. The MERs address science and have at times come into conflict with it. By contrast, Hinduism is explicit about being about the inner world--ethics and states of consciousness. Hinduism is also deeply curious about the outer world in a way very similar to the ancient Greeks, and therefore very compatible with science. Hence the vast number of Indian scientists, engineers, and physicians--and the fact that a taxi driver in Delhi might draw you into a conversation about the Higgs boson. The MERs see man as made on God's image, and hence have difficulty swallowing evolutionary biology. By contrast, Hinduism has no difficulty accepting evolution, astrophysics, or other challenging scientific theories. I could go on and on, but I hope that this makes some sense of my statements that the Middle Eastern religions are very alike when compared with a truly different religious outlook. Mariner.