Although there are numerous groups in every major religious tradition, there are relatively few major religious traditions. Probably the oldest religious tradition is that of Animism, found mostly among the so-called “primitive” peoples of the world. Animism teaches that the world is populated by a myriad of spirit beings that can be appeased and manipulated through ritual and magic.
The Hindu religion has its center in India. In the form of Buddhism, it has spread all throughout East Asia. This ancient tradition teaches that all living beings are caught up in a cycle of reincarnation. It maintains that the only way to achieve salvation is to be freed of one’s burden of “karma.” Only then can one escape the cycle of reincarnation, lose one’s individuality, and merge with the Being of God like a drop of water in the sea.
Islam is the religion of Muhammad, a warrior/prophet who was born approximately 700 years after Jesus Christ. Islam is similar to Judaism and Christianity in some respects, upholding the authority of the Old and New Testaments and believing in one God. Its holiest book is the Koran. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam despises idolatry and believes in the reality of eternal punishment or eternal reward in the next life.
The only other great religious traditions are those of Taoism in China and Shintoism in Japan. These religions are pantheistic like Hinduism, but they also have a number of animistic characteristics.
Although there are elements of truth in all of the religious traditions, the Bible teaches that there is only one way that we can be saved. In John 3:13 Jesus stated clearly, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” In Romans 10:9 we read, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” ( John 14:6 ). We know that all salvation is accomplished through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and His atonement for the sins of the world.
(See the ATQ article Are All Who Haven’t Heard of Christ Damned?)