1. Islam experiences some significant differences in it’s perceptions of heaven and hell when compared to the other two Abrahamic traditions. Islam seems to take more detail into account it describing heaven and hell and the realms of them. Christianity describes heaven and hell in perhaps broader terms. Judaism, in my experience, really avoids the topics for the most part with the exception of heaven being the place where God resides. There is little spoken of afterlife and almost no mention of hell in modern Judaism. The most significant differences regarding heaven and hell when speaking of Islam and Christianity then is the issue of how one gets to either place. Christianity focuses on the notion of salvation or lack of salvation being the ticket to either place, that is that faith is the primary factor. Islam insists that faith is a piece of it, but good works and actions here on earth during life are also deciding factors in judgement.
2. I feel compelled to answer this discussion question with a personal anecdote. Several years ago at Christmastime, I was watching some generic travel documentary series on PBS. Really it was on in the background while I was doing other things, and I think they were filming either in or in the region of Greece on the subject of public instillations of holiday decorations. The focus was on these glorious displays of lit orbs, so imagine white light/golden hue globe ornaments, but big and hung from many things. The show mentioned that the symbolism of this at Christmas was the celebration of light coming in to the world via Christ and Christ’s salvation, his birth, and the orbs of light were symbolism for Christ’s birth, which was symbolism for Christ’s arrival and forgiveness, which (in this particular place and it’s history) was symbolism for the winter solstice. That really blew my mind at that time and place. As a Jew, Christmas is not a spiritually significant time for me. As an Alaskan, winter solstice is a very significant time for me because it literally means that we are on the upswing in terms of literal light available for my brain to consume. Seeing how that makes SO much sense for winter solstice to align with Christmas and the implications and symbolism involved in both really opened my eyes to the ways that traditions build upon other traditions, like Christianity incorporated in to pagan traditions.
3. In Gilgamesh or the Iliad, gods are not God. That is that these were polytheistic people whose gods had power but were not necessarily righteous. These gods reproduced with humans and committed what the old and new testaments would consider sins like gluttony and jealously. This changes drastically when it comes to the new testament’s claims that God reproduced with a human only once and only as a gift to humanity. Jesus was not a warrior or a king but rather a preacher and a humble teacher, willing to suffer for the sake of all of his father’s “children”. This put humans in the position of really seeing God as father, not simply a powerful or masterful being but as a compassionate and protective force.