After discovering that I teach religion, a Fundamentalist Christian said to me, “I don’t have anything in common with Muslims and Jews, because they don’t follow the Bible and believe in Jesus as their Savior.” I, however, disagreed with him. In what follows, I explained to him why Jews, Muslims and Christians (members of the three major monotheistic religions of the world) have much in common, despite their differences.
First, Muslims, Christians and Jews share in a common species, namely, the human species and, therefore, have the same human nature, being equally human beings. Thus, as human beings, Christians are not superior to Muslims and Jews. They are, in fact, members of the same human race.
Second, the members of all three monotheistic religions inhabit the same planet, namely, earth, and are concerned about preserving the world, because they love their children and, for future generations, their children’s children and descendants. Love, therefore, desires to perpetuate itself by caring for the earth in which other human beings will live.
Third, Christians, Jews and Muslims are concerned about alleviating common human problems, namely, poverty and starvation. That concern is motivated by variations of the religious directive to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To meet the basic needs of other human beings is an act of kindness or charity, revealing religious cooperation at its best.
Fourth, all three religions teach a form of the Golden Rule. In other words, what you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do to others. Since, then, Christians do not want to be murdered, then they should not murder others. Similarly, since Muslims do not want to be hated for their religion, then they should not hate others who belong to different religions.
Fifth, Muslims, Jews and Christians share in the universally human aspiration of happiness. After all, no human being really wants to be unhappy — even if he or she is, at the moment, not happy. Thus, the members of all three monotheistic religions want to be happy by striving to lead a good life. They desire, then, to live in human conditions that promote happiness.
Sixth, Muslims, like Christians and Jews, have the need to belong to a social unit, namely, a family. They have, then, the human need to love and be loved; that is, to be nurtured by love and, thereby, develop their personalities in a human community. No one, therefore, really wishes to be isolated, alienated, without some kind of social interaction, because — to paraphrase Aristotle — human beings, by nature, are social creatures.
Seventh, Jews, Muslims and Christians, regardless of where they may be in the world, believe in love, either consciously or unconsciously or in both respects. In other words, love gives them a reason to live every day: To wake up, fulfill their responsibilities to others and themselves, fall asleep and get up the next day, doing it all over again, discovering ever-new meanings to their lives. While Christians, Jews and Muslims also believe in the lesser human virtues or values of faith and hope, they believe that the greatest human value is love.
Make no mistake: I am not saying that the differences between Muslims, Christians and Jews are neither real nor serious. Rather, my point is that discussions between members of different religions should begin with what they have in common. From there, they can move toward their differences, attempting — with an open mind — to understand their disagreements, especially why they disagree, and always seeking to respect each other as persons.
Therefore, the next time someone says that Muslims, Jews and Christians do not have anything in common, simply reply: Their humanity is what they have in common.