After studying Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, how might beliefs differ from faith? What is the role of faith in religion? How does free will impact religion?
This might be parsing words in a very fine manner. In the religions identified, faith is the foundation from which beliefs are formed. Faith represents the fundamental starting point in the articulation of religious doctrine. In all of the religions, faith is needed for the individual to advance in any part of it. Faith is what drives religious beliefs. For example, the beliefs in Christ's example, Buddha's teachings, or Muhammad's vision all are rooted in faith. In order for the individual to advance in the religious doctrine, faith becomes essential. Faith is what enables beliefs to develop and for actions to be taken. It is here in which a difference between faith and beliefs is evident.
In the religions identified, faith is essential. It enables the individual to become closer to the religious identity each exploration offers. The level of intimacy with which the individual interacts with religion becomes increased when there is more faith. Faith allows the individual to become closer to the religion. It enables the entrance into the religious exploration and increases hold over the individual the more faith they possess. If an individual is able to surrender more of doubt into a specific spiritual construction, there is greater intimacy fostered within the religious experience. It is here in which faith occupies an important role in the religious experience.
Finally, free will is critical in all of the religions identified. For each, free will has to be geared towards the spiritual vision offered in each religion. Character and individual identity within the religion is enhanced through free will. Individuals are commanded in each religion to use their free will in accordance to the spiritual example offered. Free will is the means by which the individual can move closer to the realm of divine while existing on Earth. The broadest understanding of each religion compels the individual to use their free will in bringing the example of the divine into their own world. For example, using free will to model what Muhammad stated helps to move the Muslim devotee closer to the spiritual. Following Christ's example through free will helps the individual move closer to the example Christ set forth. In using one's free will to shed one's ego and attachment, individuals are able to embrace the examples of Hinduism and Buddhism. When free will is used to "to reciprocate God's concern for the world" in the Judaic faith, one embraces the ideas that the God of Abraham had commanded. Free will becomes the means by which the individual can move closer to the divine. In each of the religious experiences, the individual can really only move closer to the divine example through free will. Free will becomes the means by which the individual can move their own earthly being closer to the realm of the sacred. Free will is how transcendence is possible, for it is through individual actions that one's faith can be represented. The manifestation of faith can be recognized through actions and it is here in which free will becomes essential to the religious experience.