1. Many Early Christians Believed in Reincarnation
Reincarnation was a widely accepted belief among the early Gnostic Christians. The idea that someone went to heaven or hell based on something they did in one lifetime was a doctrine developed by the Roman Catholic Church, most likely to establish more control over adherents to the religion. After all, if people got more than one chance to get to heaven, the laws of the church would then be rendered meaningless because sinners would get infinite chances to try again.
2. The Buddha Was Probably Not a Vegetarian
Many Buddhists are vegetarian because of the first Buddhist Precept: I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life. This precept also includes the taking of any animal life. Interestingly, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all Buddhists need to become vegetarians. In the Pali Canon, a major Buddhist text, it was said that the Buddha would not eat meat from an animal killed specifically for him, but apparently didn’t have a problem eating meat bought from the marketplace and already dead.
3. Jesus Christ is Mentioned 5 Times in the Qur’an more than Muhammad
Jesus is considered one of the great prophets of the Islamic religion, and is highly revered, though not as the son of God as Christians believe.
4. Hindus Can Also Be Atheists
Hinduism is generally viewed as a Polytheistic religion with a rich mythology. It is, however, quite possible to be both Hindu and Atheist. Although Hindu Atheists may not have the same eschatological beliefs as other Hindus, they do follow the same moral and ethical code.
5. Judaism Evolved from a Polytheistic Religion
According to Mark Smith in The Early History of God, the Jewish God Yaweh was one out of four main Gods worshiped by the early Jewish people. The other three gods were El, Asherah and Baal. It was only later that Yahweh became the one and only God for the Jewish religion.
6. Meditation is not Limited to Eastern Religions
These days meditation, or the practice of increasing spiritual awareness through the cultivation of high states of concentration, is often associated with Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. It turns out, however, that every major religion has meditation techniques associated with them. There’s Christian Meditation, Islamic Meditation and Jewish Meditation. Within each of these religions are various meditation techniques which bear a striking resemblance to meditation techniques practiced in Buddhism and Hinduism.
7. New Religious Texts Continue to Be Discovered
If you’re the founder of a religion, people will write a lot of stories about you, many of which aren’t true. This is why the Bible has so many outtakes (See #14). Does this mean, however, that when new religious texts are discovered we should dismiss them as historical curiosities or should we examine them against our current beliefs? One good example of a text that warrants study is the Gospel of Judas, a recently discovered Biblical text that portrays Judas Iscariot, commonly seen as the Bible’s villain, as the one apostle who fully understood Jesus’ teachings and turned Jesus over to be crucified because Jesus asked him to.
8. The Buddha was Canonized as a Christian Saint
A Buddhist text from the 4th century was eventually translated and retranslated until the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment was retold in the context of a prince named Josaphat who renounced the world and converted to Christianity. Apparently this story was so compelling that this Josaphat became a Christian Saint.
9. Islam had the First Theory of Evolution in the 9th Century
While religion and science have been and continue to be at odds, one notable exception is during the height of the Islamic empire, when scientific ideas advanced significantly. Even the idea of evolution, an idea which still remains a difficult one to swallow by some fundamentalist Christians, was first advanced by a devout Muslim and scientist by the name of al-Jahiz.
10. Non-Jews Can Get Into Jewish Heaven
According to Rabbi Sholom Lipskar “One does not have to be Jewish in order to be able to merit going to heaven in the afterlife and meriting all blessings of God.” There doesn’t seem to be many references to the afterlife in the Torah, but there seems to be agreement that the “righteous of all nations” will enjoy the blessings of an afterlife.
11. The First Buddhist Statues Were Made in the Greek Hellenistic Style
Greco-Indians living in the region of Gandhara were actually the first to carve images of the Buddha. The topknot hairstyle common in most Buddha statues today was probably borrowed from similar statues of the Greek God Apollo. The historical Buddha probably didn’t have this hairstyle.
12. The World’s Oldest University was Established by a Muslim Woman
The Islamic religion has long been characterized as backward and misogynistic. This characterization is misleading, however, and there are many examples throughout history which have shown the opposite to be true. One of them is the University of al-Karaouine, founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a rich merchant. At the university subjects like rhetoric and astronomy were taught alongside religious studies. By some accounts, this was the first school that handed out academic degrees.