In this brief overview of the history and teachings of the major world religions, emphasis will be on the ethical teachings of each, the impact each has had on society, and the current status of each. Doctrine will be discussed only to the extent that it directly affects teachings on ethical and social behaviour, and not in any comprehensive terms. It is beyond the scope of this book to make detailed comparisons of major religions at all doctrinal points.
It is worth noting that the classifying of many such systems of teachings as "religions" is a modern Western idea. A body of beliefs and activities may not be separable from the culture and society of which they are a part. It could therefore be argued that such classifications can be done only for the sake of making comparisons between ones that claim cultural independence and universality (Christianity, Buddhism, and branches of Hinduism and Islam) and ones that do not. A better model for most of the latter group might be as social or philosophical systems. For instance, one properly speaks of the religion of the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Babylonians as having been principally cultural and educational phenomena. Their priests were the primary preservers of culture--of all the available knowledge--and not just of their philosophy or theology. However, these have all passed from the world stage with the cultures that spawned them, and those that do remain must compete into the future for human souls, so it is they that must submit to such comparisons.
There are also numerous folk religions that survive to this day, but these are usually confined to limited geographical areas and only occasionally play an influential role on the world scene. Their impact can be substantial on local variations of some of the major religions, as the latter will often accommodate themselves to local practices and beliefs and incorporate many of them into their own structure. Because of the wide variety of such systems and their limited impact on the larger society, they will not be considered in any detail here.
The philosophical and ethical system attributed to Buddha (563-483 B.C.) in India was not at first a religion as the people of the West might view one. Buddha, the wealthy son of a warrior king, renounced his inheritance and family for the asceticism of a monk and then for the role of reformer. The Buddhist philosophy is based on the "Four Noble Truths":
1. Existence involves suffering.
2. Suffering is caused by indulging insatiable desires.
3. Suffering will cease if these are suppressed.
4. This suppression can be achieved by following the eightfold noble path, which consists of striving for: right views, right goals, right speech, right actions, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation.
Buddha did not mention a supreme being, but after his death he himself came to be venerated as a deity, for the people of the polytheistic societies in which his teachings spread quickly added him to their pantheon of gods. Followers of some Buddhist sects came to believe that anyone could reach a state of Buddhahood or enlightenment and also become an immortal deity (or at least absorbed into the life force of such). As can be seen, the ethics of Buddhism are negatively expressed and individualistic. They are directed to improving the self through suppression of desire, and have little to say to the society at large. Evil is entirely an individual responsibility, and if it has not been sufficiently put down to achieve Buddhahood or nirvana as did the founder, then his followers teach that the person's karma will cause reincarnation to another life.
In China and Japan, where most modern Buddhists live and where there are also more Buddhist deities, the faithful are often organized somewhat as in Western churches. Nirvana--the salvation offered--involves a deliverance from the necessity to live another life and to continue suffering. It is not always clear whether this is comparable to the Western idea of heaven or if it is simply personal annihilation.
Though Buddhism has split into many sects, it is not confined to national boundaries but has been adapted to a number of rather different societies and could be said to claim it is universal. Certainly it has been missionary, and portions of it are even now being adopted by many in the West as interest in new philosophies and exotic religions grows.
The industrial age is a very late arrival in traditional Buddhist countries, and it remains to be seen whether its essential pessimism of humanity in general and of the body, and women in particular, will allow it to secure a place in the optimistic, humanistic, and egalitarian late industrial and early information age. It may be that in the short term aspects of Buddhism will be incorporated by Westerners into a diverse and fragmented religious menu that simply ignores any aspects of it that seem inappropriate. In the countries where Buddhism is widely practised, the industrial age had a rather late start, and its presence is still rather uneven. The transition to the fourth civilization will likely bring bout the demise of a number of totalitarian regimes in that part of the world, as it already has in the West. However, there do not appear to be inherent conflicts between Buddhism and the information paradigms.
The teachings of the Chinese philosophy and culture were organized by their greatest expositor, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) who did not so much set about to found a religion as to effect social, political, and educational reform. It was important to him to place a sound and authoritative philosophical foundation under the institutions of society--family, social class, and nation. Veneration of this sage began after his death. He was given many titles by later emperors, and temples for his worship came to be erected throughout China. This worship had begun to decline somewhat even before the communists came to power in China and has been suppressed since then, as have all other religions. It is not clear how much of it has survived at this point as a distinct religion, but elements of its cultural and nationalist zeal can be detected in the devotion to the communist leaders, which was similar to that commanded by the earlier emperors.
Confucianism concentrates on relationships, especially those of friends, of family and of the subject to the state, with particular emphasis on the last. The superior man (this philosophy has little to say about women) does his proper duty in each relationship in a dignified and aristocratic fashion. Virtues such as propriety, sincerity, faithfulness, studiousness, justice, benevolence, reverence, moderation, calmness, and honesty are encouraged. These virtues were guaranteed by heaven or by an impersonal god, and the deity has supposedly implanted in everyone an inherently good moral sense. There are remarkable similarities between the good Confucian ruler and citizen and those of Plato.
Worship is to be directed toward heaven, earth, and one's ancestors. It was conducted by the emperor on behalf of the people of the whole nation, for there was no priestly role except for that of government officials. Emphasis is placed on social duties, a variation of the golden rule, the family, religious values in the state, and the wisdom of the past. Confucianism is national rather than universal, and salvation is humanistic and social rather than personal and other-worldly. Despite its religious-like observances, it is not clear that Confucianism ought to be termed a religion; perhaps it is better regarded as part of the Chinese culture. For this reason, it has not been exportable, and its devotional aspect may continue to have a troubled time in the light of rapid and dramatic changes in Chinese society.
Indeed, the most remarkable thing about the suppression of religion by communists has been the conversion of tens of millions to Christianity during the first fifty years of its reign, a process that continues at a rapid pace. This change has been even more substantial in South Korea, where fully a third of the population is now Christian and where the ancient philosophies of Buddhism and Confucianism are now on the decline, in relative terms.
Much in China does still remain of Confucianism, but it is woven into the social and cultural patterns of the Chinese people and is much less discernible as a devotional-style religious worship today than it was in the past. China has long been a closed and insular society, one with great Confucian regard for authority and self-sufficiency. However, Chinese communism has apparently not survived rapid industrialization, internationalization, and the beginning of the information age. It has not suffered catastrophic collapse as in the former Soviet Union, but has begun the process of dismantling itself from within by changing into a form of state capitalist dictatorship. Even this is only temporarily stable because of the cultural Confucian-like reverence for authority. Otherwise, the regime's brutal suppression of political and religious dissent would long since have resulted in collapse. Thus, Mao Zedung may have been the last Chinese emperor to receive old-style veneration, and China seems poised to perform the great leaps forward into the technological and information ages that it has hitherto been unable to make. How much of the Confucian philosophy will survive the ongoing wrenching social adjustments that will accompany the information age remains to be seen.
Hinduism is the term used to refer to the religious beliefs of the majority of India's people. These date to about 1500 B.C. and include a very broad range of philosophical and social ideas and gods--so broad a variation that they are difficult to characterize. A Hindu may be an atheist, a polytheist, a monotheist, a nature worshiper, a contemplative, a mystic, an agnostic, or a follower of formal ritual Hinduism. The last kind was until recently chiefly characterized by its caste system; to its followers, it was much more important what caste one's neighbours belonged to than the specifics of what they believed--as long as they were not adherents of a different religion altogether. There were more than fifty major castes and well over a thousand subcastes in addition to those who were noncaste, or "untouchables". This last concept was outlawed by the current constitution of India, and the whole caste system is under great pressure from foreign ideas, though in practice it is still an important feature of daily life.
The only unifying theology is belief in one all-present being or world soul called Brahma-Atman. Hinduism is more a religion of nature (pantheism) than of one god (monotheism), for the goal of human beings is to separate themselves from the illusion of life and reality as it is commonly perceived and merge themselves into the Brahma-Atman, or rather to fully realize that they are already part of it. Death is not final, for the individual soul (the atman) is reincarnated in some new form, which may be an animal or a higher caste member. These two--the belief in Brahma and that of the transmigration of the karma--were added after the caste system became prevalent.
There are a multiplicity of legal codes, movements, and deities in various Hindu traditions. One of the most popular gods is Krishna, the compassionate warrior-teacher, whose love his followers devote themselves to imitating. The eclectic nature of Hinduism is also illustrated by the Ramakrishna reform movement dating from the nineteenth century, which teaches that the same degree of mystic enlightenment can be achieved whether one comes from Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism. The founder of this group, Sri Ramakrishna, is now revered as the reincarnation of Krishna, Rama, Christ, and Buddha. A variant of this offshoot of Hinduism with its Krishna worship and belief in reincarnation has been exported to other countries in missionary fashion, whereas Hinduism in general has not, primarily because of the caste system.
The ethics of Hinduism are as diverse as its theology. Good and evil are not entirely distinguishable, and defects such as ignorance, or the violation of caste rules, while lamentable, can always be corrected in another incarnation. Evil is an illusion, and it is overcome by being immersed in the Brahma-Atman and by complying with the social conventions of caste. Individuals have little value as such, nor can they improve their situation in this life. Worship is ceremonial and meditative, and a deity is more a force than a personal being. In general there are no universal absolutes of behaviour.
Thus, even the industrial revolution, let alone the information one, runs up against religious or cultural obstacles in India, because both require improvement of the individual and of society as a whole through education. As long as the caste system and the relatively low estimate of the individual and of women survive, movement into the information age will probably continue to be slow in India. Moreover, despite broad religious tolerance within Hinduism, India is troubled by religious differences internally with the minority Sihks and externally with its Islamic neighbour of Pakistan, and the temptation to use nuclear weapons to resolve these conflicts may yet prove irresistible. Yet the diversity of Hinduism is such that occasional elements of it can easily be exported and added piecemeal to the religious menu of the West. That same diversity may in time allow India to import the cultural assumptions, scientific ideas, and techniques from the West that make the third and fourth civilizations possible.
Like Hinduism, this religion is a national cultural and social phenomenon confined to a single country--in this case to Japan. Its chief feature is a belief in the divine origin of the islands of Japan, and the divine appointment of the Mikado, or emperor. Its ceremonies are both patriotic and devotional, and its gods are many, including the emperor himself. There are a variety of nature gods, the most important of which is the sun-goddess. To these are made many ceremonial offerings to purify the faithful from guilt and to cement their relationship to the state and to Japanese culture as a whole. In this, there is a strong resemblance to the Confucian philosophies.
At times, Shintoism has been combined with Buddhism and other Chinese religions, and it has always expressed a tolerance of these, even though it has traditionally taught the essential superiority of the Japanese people and culture. This doctrine was formally repudiated after the surrender by the emperor to the Americans in 1945, as was his own divinity, and thus the connection of the Japanese state to Shintoism was officially severed. Devotional Shintoism is still self-sacrificing and patriotic, though the patriotism is now somewhat more vague. It emphasizes purity, though it lacks specific moral injunctions except as these have been borrowed from Buddhism and Confucianism. It teaches reverence for one's superiors, and especially for the state, but offers no hope for a new life after death, no place for outsiders, no intrinsic individual value, nor specific guidance for living morally.
The Japanese are quite prepared to use both Western science and technology to advance their collective cultural interests, and it may be said that their religious zeal (if the word is appropriate for a cultural phenomenon) has been turned from the former goal of military superiority to one of economic domination. Thus, the Japanese continue to have a patriotism and desire to serve national interests that give them organizational unity and flexibility. These seem likely to serve them in good economic stead well into the information age, despite that the elements Westerners would call "religious" are now of somewhat lesser importance than they once were. A philosophy that is attuned to this life rather than to a hope for the next must be pragmatic, and the pragmatism of collective economic advantage can serve to unify and energize a nation in the place of a religion for a generation or two, if not longer.
As the information age progresses and the Japanese people continue to be exposed to religious ideas that claim to be universal from the rest of the world, there may be some reassessment of their cultural beliefs. Such a reassessment may also happen as a result of inevitable economic declines that are part of the normal cycle of activities; if economic success has indeed been incorporated into the Shinto culture, such events could be extremely painful for the entire nation.
At the present time, the Japanese still remain much less open to outside religious and cultural ideas than, say, the Koreans and the Chinese. They have, however, no reluctance to borrowtechnique and, up to the late 1990s, were among the most successful of the late adapters of many industrial age methods. These adoptions were, however, into a closed and highly nationalistic context, and reluctance to be fully internationalized partners in trade and banking ultimately brought them serious economic difficulties in the late 1990s, ones that have still not been dealt with a decade later. Since success in an information age requires openness, cooperation, and the free flow of goods, ideas, and capital, continuing Japanese success into the fourth civilization appears to hinge on making extensive internal and external adjustments. As any such changes would have cultural (and therefore religious) overtones, it is not clear that they can easily be made. On the other hand, the economies of the rest of the world's nations have become too closely interconnected with that of Japan for them to allow her to collapse and so threaten their own stability. Thus an accommodation to circumstances will undoubtedly be found that will either bring Japan into much greater international cooperation (at the expense of local cultural sensibilities), or cushion her decline back into isolationism (preserving traditional nationalism at economic expense) so that it takes place gradually.
This name, given to the national religion of the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), is borrowed from that of one of the last surviving identifiable tribes of Israel's children--that of Judah. It is the earliest of three religions, including Christianity and Islam, to proclaim a single, personal, all-knowing, ethical creator God who has revealed His existence and actions, and that He has righteous moral demands upon all people. These revelations began with Abraham, who was influenced by them to break away from his polytheistic culture and religion to become the father of a new faith in one single highly ethical and all-powerful God. Typical of those of a nomadic culture, neither he nor his descendents did anything to propagate their faith beyond their own family. It was to Moses, centuries afterward, who codified both sacred history and the ethical demands of God in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). However, when his followers subsequently conquered Palestine under Joshua, they quickly adapted as their own a large pantheon of local gods and goddesses known as "baals." Much of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament was written to counter this idol worship and to warn the people of the consequences of continuing in it.
The Jewish God's ethics are revealed in His commands respecting relationships, to Himself, family, neighbour, and nation, which are highly detailed and reflect concern and care for fair treatment of the defenceless orphan and widow, of the poor, and even of the foreigner. He emphasized production of an ethical nation to reflect God's character in the conduct of an entire people. When they turned away from His law and participated instead in temple prostitution and infant sacrifice, worshipping Molech and other gods, He turned His back on their nation for a time. Their subsequent captivity in Babylon burned away all trace of polytheism, and the Jewish people have been relatively monotheistic since. On their return from this exile, their teachers gradually expounded upon and expanded the codes of Moses until priestly interpretations of law became comprehensive legalistic regulation of every aspect of life. Simultaneously, there arose an ever more elaborate religious ritualism centred about the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
Much of this was obliterated by the Romans when they sacked Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews about 70 A.D. following a rebellion against the empire. During this time the rabbis (teachers), rather than the priests, became their religious leaders, and their sayings too came to be collected in a work known as the Talmud. Though dispersed widely, speaking many languages, and severely persecuted, the Jews maintained both their religion and their cultural identity for centuries, principally in Europe and later in America as well. Their persecution reached its greatest depths in Hitler's holocaust, during which some six million Jews perished, nearly a third of their total number.
Subsequently, the Jewish people were able to re-establish a national homeland in Palestine, naming their new country Israel, though it is a secular rather than a religious state. Its citizens are diverse, both in cultural origin, and in religious practice, which vary from the highly traditional to the rather liberal, with some professing no religion at all. Israel's national unity may depend not so much on religion as on a desire to survive the hatred of enemies on all sides.
Two major streams of religious thought have existed in Judaism--that of detailed observance of the form of the law as the means of salvation, and that of devotion to the law as part of a personal relationship to God. In both cases, the chief characteristics are a scrupulous ethic and monotheism as well as an insistence upon the sovereignty of God over all of life. God's ethical demands are universal, even if His promise of a saviour (Messiah) is held to be a national one. At the same time, their long history of persecution by countries whose leaders they would not bow to, and by the zealots of other religions who could not convert them, left the survivors a profoundly pragmatic people. This, coupled with their belief in the regularity of God's creation, has helped to make them eager adapters of techniques of all kinds, and given them great success in the industrial age and good promise in its successor.
Next to Christianity, Islam is the second largest of present-day religions. Like Christianity, it was personally founded, claims universality, is monotheistic, and is missionary--to the point of being, perhaps, the fastest-growing religion today. It was founded in distinct opposition to Christianity by Muhammad of Mecca (570-632 A.D.), whose experiences, teachings, and visions were later recorded by his followers in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. After his death, Muhammad came to be regarded as more than a prophet, approaching the status claimed by Jesus Christ except that he is not considered to be God.
God is represented in Islam as an ultimate unity, and the representation that Christianity has three gods is explicitly attacked. God, or Allah as he is termed, is punisher of the wicked and rewarder of the good. However, good deeds alone do not necessarily assure one of paradise, for nothing is certain about the next life, except that Allah, in his good pleasure, will reward whom he regards as the faithful and will punish others.
Throughout much of its history, Islam has been closely associated with the state, and there have been numerous Islamic theocracies (officially Islamic countries). There have also been many sects in Islam, though the chief ones today are the Sunni (traditionalists) of the majority and the Shia (militant mystics) of Iran, Lebanon, and some parts of Africa. Other sects have included the Baha´i--though they now claim to be a world movement that encompasses all the major religions and are severely persecuted in their birthplace of Iran by the Shia.
Insofar as technology is concerned, Islamic scholars were the great preservers of philosophy and developers of mathematics and philosophy during the Middle Ages of Europe. Yet, for the most part, modern technology and the industrial revolution were not imported into Middle Eastern Islamic countries until lately, when oil revenues allowed those nations to purchase the products of both. In more recent years, there has been a simultaneous increase in missionary expansion and a turning inward to a strict fundamentalism. Highly ethical Islam castigates the people of Western countries--which nations it often equates with Christianity--for what is seen as their immorality, and it continues to promote the establishment of officially Islamic nations whose laws are those of the Koran. In some such countries, converts to any other religion face the death penalty, on the theory that they have insulted the prophet.
With its current power, wealth, and success, Islam is aggressive, expansionist, confident, and devotional. It appeals to force when necessary, is somewhat fatalistic, and postulates a sensuous heaven. It gives women a low social and spiritual status, though greatly improved on what Arabian women previously had, and it continues to be somewhat fragmented. It is therefore difficult to predict the future of Islam, but for the time being it is one of the most potent religious forces in the world, and therefore one of the most important shapers of ethics and of culture even if not presently of technique. It appears to be the chief contender, along with Christianity, and Buddhist/Hindu syncretisms for the religious-style heart allegiances of all peoples in the years to come.
On the other hand, the closed nature of Islam with its hostility to new ideas and information, place it in fundamental conflict with information age paradigms, and this makes it more likely to aggressively resist the fourth civilization than to embrace it. This does not bode well either for the material prosperity of the predominantly Islamic nations or for world peace.
Statistically, Christianity is the largest of all religions--in its various forms numbering perhaps a billion or more adherents. Its scriptures incorporate and explain those of Judaism, its predecessor, as the Old Testament, and add to these the account of the life and sayings of Christ together with those of His apostles. Christianity is monotheistic but teaches that the one God is manifested in three personalities--the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Uniquely among all religions, its personal founder claimed to be the Almighty God Himself, having taken on human form for the express and sole purpose of providing an answer for the general problem of evil and for offering a way to relate to a holy God despite the pervasiveness of sin.
Specifically, Christianity holds that evil is an offence against God's standards and character as revealed in moral laws He gave to Moses. All human beings violate those laws and are therefore already judged by God, condemned, and sentenced to the eternal and painful punishment of separation from Him--this by their own choice not to seek Him. The Jewish sacrificial laws established through Moses are explained as pictures of the one final and completely effective sacrifice--that of Christ on the cross who alone, being perfect and divine, is capable of actual substitution for the punishment of death due the sinner. By this act, God extends His grace to individual human beings, giving each the power to overcome the problem of sin, to gain salvation, and to have an eternal life in His presence.
The New Testament teaches that salvation is entirely a gift of God, not due to any merit on the part of the one saved. The sins of the one coming to faith are forgiven, and God chooses to regard the one so redeemed as having the perfect righteousness of Christ and so fit to enter heaven. It also teaches that not only are God's past acts toward humankind rooted in history, but that He will yet return personally to earth to judge each person individually according to his or her relationship with God. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is not just the evidence of His defeat of death, but is also a foreshadowing of the general resurrection of all people to an eternal body in which each person will individually receive either reward for Christ's righteousness seen in them by God because of their faith, or will instead receive punishment for their pervasive and unatoned-for evil.
There are several major divisions within Western Christianity. The Roman Catholic tradition holds that the New Testament was created by the church and can be interpreted and modified by it. Thus, the supreme source of doctrine is the church and the final arbiter of the faith is its head, the Pope, when speaking formally as its doctrinal teacher (ex cathedra). Here, good works by a baptized person are also held to be essential to participate in the salvation offered by Christ, and one's status is never really secure until one dies, for at any given moment one's sin account may be larger than one's works account. Similar doctrines are found in many other groups within Christendom as well. In this particular case, it is coupled with a large body of Catholic law that is held to have the same force as the ethical principles of the Bible itself.
The Protestant Reformation of Luther, Calvin, and others was an attempt to remove institutional trappings and to uphold the Bible as the only rule of Christian faith and practice. The reformers taught that the Bible documented the church's reason for being, rather than the other way around. They concluded, therefore, that good works were not a means to the end of salvation, for that was God's finished work and perfect gift. Rather, moral behaviour was something the already saved would naturally exhibit out of gratitude for the gift of God, and was due to the Holy Spirit dwelling in each believer and so incarnating in that person the character and works of Christ.
However, many of the churches founded by the reformers themselves acquired the status of self-perpetuating institutions, and their elders and deacons became, if not priests, at least a professional class of clergy with their own agenda for self-preservation. Eventually, some of them discarded reform teachings either for a vague doctrine of salvation by works or a teaching of universal salvation for everyone regardless of what they believed or practised. Others retreated into nominalism, perhaps retaining social action for its own sake, but losing interest in doctrine and beliefs. Some came to view Christ as an interesting moral teacher, His actions exaggerated by His followers to provide an example to emulate but one that is impossible for anyone, even Himself, to achieve. Eventually finding themselves with no raison d'etre in faith, such groups began a slow decline into oblivion. Thus, there have periodically been new reform movements within Protestantism in an attempt to sharpen the distinction between institutional and nominal Christianity as represented by the formal denominations on the one hand and the cross-denominational "true church" of faith-affirming converts on the other. For example, modern evangelicals hold with the earlier reformers that a person is a Christian not by virtue of being a citizen of a country or a member of a church of Christendom, but only by a specific act of the will by which one becomes a member of the family of God and is assured of salvation.
It is therefore possible to view Christianity as an institutionalized religion, one among several others, or as an individual relationship with a personal and living God. Seen in the former way, it can be analysed beside other institutions and cultural movements. Seen in the latter way, it is not a religion in the institutional or cultural sense at all, but something quite different. Indeed, in the latter view, much of what is popularly or traditionally seen as within the realm of Christendom (e.g., religious wars or persecutions) is not Christian at all.
It is also worth remarking that there are numerous sects or cults that have borrowed ideas or language from Christendom and which are sometimes loosely regarded as part of it, but which ought properly to be considered as different religions. The usual test for inclusion in any form of Christianity would be whether a group at least believed in a triune God and specifically in Christ as God's Son (and Divine Himself); lacking this distinguishing doctrine would classify them as something other than Christian in even the most liberal and general sense of that term.
As remarked earlier in this book, it is principally the Christian institutions that have made their way into Western historical accounts and that have had the main recorded interactions with society and with science and technology. The rise of science and the industrial age both took place in a society galvanized and energized spiritually by the Christian reformers in particular, and both must be considered in the context of the religious atmosphere in which they began. That is, the history of the relationship of technique, especially that of science, to religion is essentially the story of its relationship to Christianity, and it is to this that the next section will be devoted.
It is not easy to separate many of the religions from the culture of which they are an integral part. Of the ones considered here, Shintoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism are so bound up in their national cultures that it may be a misnomer to term them generally as religions at all, in the Western sense, and this is particularly true of Hinduism, which has only a few beliefs common to all its people. Judaism is also a national religion and claims to have universal application, though it is not at the present time missionary. Besides certain fragmented portions of Hinduism, three religions claim universality and are missionary, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Of these, only the last two, along with Judaism, are monotheistic. All these have been associated with the state (or with particular economic models) in one form or another, though some, including Christianity, contain no doctrines in their scriptures to support such a partnership.
All religions contain some references to ethical codes, but only in some branches of Christianity is moral behaviour regarded as a natural consequence of having received the gift of salvation from God rather than as the means of earning it. All have at one time or another acted as the sole means for their culture of preserving and teaching knowledge, including the available techniques, but it was in Christian-influenced countries that modern science, industry, and technology arose. Most of the other religions still have the task of developing a doctrine and suitable cultural response to industrial-age and information-age ideas that arose in (to them) a foreign religious and social context. For Christianity itself to speak with authority to the people of the future, it needs to find a way of reconciling its own former partners of science and technology to itself--and this may prove to be an even more difficult task than that faced by the culturally foreign importers of science and technology. These prospects will be discussed in greater detail later.