This is a world filled with many religions, and often times we find ourselves trying to categorize these based on which religion is better. This is not at all how we should go about doing this. As soon as we declare that one belief is better than another, is the moment that we start to cause divides between us.
Then, the question is not "which religion is better?" but is, "how can we categorize religions?"
With over 4,000 religious practices in the world today, how can we even start this? Well, similar to dividing them into better and inferior, we can categorize them into two different groups. Let's call the first group "True" and the second group "False."
Now, in order to make a judgement of any religion, we must have a standard to judge them against. So, our next question is, "what is this standard?"
To find this standard, we can look in several places. One person that I look to is Friedrich von Hügel, an Austrian writer. What I am interested in is what he says all valid religions have in common. That is Tradition, Doctrine, and Mysticism. The first two categories are self-explanatory, but the third, Mysticism, is not as clear. By this, Hügel means the religious experiences that individuals have. It may also be seen as the spiritual side of religion.
While I do think that Hügel's three commonalities are an excellent way to categorize religions, there is a simpler way. To find this way, I look to the Dalai Lama. He once said, "Love and Compassion are the true religions."
This is an easier and quicker way to categorize religion. In other words, a religion that we can consider "True" are those that are based on Love and Compassion. And those that are "False" are not based on Love and Compassion.
Now, before anyone starts to go and categorize religions with this method, we should clearly define what is meant by "Love and Compassion."
To define Love in this sense, I turn to the Greeks who have four different words for love. Of these four, Agape is the one that fits best. This is translated as "unconditional love," that is, love that never ceases and does not seek to exclude. Compassion goes hand in hand with Love. It is defined as "sympathy for others," in simplest terms. You could say that these are two sides of the same coin where Love is our love for God and Compassion is our love for one another.
With that cleared up, we can see that many religions start to fit into the "True" category. In fact, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism can all fit in this category as well as many others. These also fit with Hügel's method as well. If you were to continue to categorize, I think that you would find that many more religions fit into the "True" category than the "False" one.
To conclude, I will clarify one thing that may be misunderstood: that followers of some religions who should very well be classified as "True" act in uncompassionate ways. How, then, you may ask, can these religions still be considered Loving and Compassionate?
This is where our definitions of Love and Compassion come in. I said that "True" religions are based on Love and Compassion, yet religions themselves cannot be Loving or Compassionate themselves; they require a medium. In other words, it is the "True" followers of a religion that demonstrate Love and Compassion. Those that do not, are not "True" followers, but are more like "False" followers. So, you will be able to tell the "True" followers of a religion when they show the Loving and Compassionate values that their religion is based on.