Answer by Jim Ashby:
First and foremost, everybody interprets scripture (or holy text) subjectively. What George Bernard Shaw noted about the Bible applies to virtually every religious text: “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.”
People will take away from religion whatever they want to take away from (or read into) it. And with a world full of every imaginable type of person, the full spectrum of potential interpretations will occur. There will be liberal and conservative interpretations; apathetic and extremist interpretations; hawks and doves; and everything in between.
This is why scripture should never glorify war or prescribe punishments or condone the subjugation of our fellow human beings (i.e. women and slaves). By doing so, they give divine license for man's inhumanity to man.
As to differences in the teachings of religion's revered "sages", the biggest difference is whether they preach peace or violence, tolerance or intolerance. Of course, it is obligatory for religion to include peace, love and intolerance: they all, to varying degrees, do so. The question is: "How do religions manifest in their adherents?"
Until fairly recently, it could be said that nobody ever died in the name of Buddha. Unfortunately, that's no longer true. Buddhists have, on several occasions, attacked Muslims and mosques in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Hindus have also been attacking Muslims. I haven't followed these stories closely enough to know what justifications there were, if any. The point is that, even "peaceful" religions my have adherents who don't wholly subscribe to peace.
The Abrahamic religions, of course, are known for violent histories. Judaism and Christianity have enjoyed reforms that render them relatively benign in comparison to the unreformed religion of Islam. Recently, while Israel and Palestine were engaged in war, many times more Muslim deaths were occurring at the hands of other Muslims around the world . . . unspeakable atrocities: beheadings, mass executions and sadistic torture. World news has been dominated by Muslim violence for decades. Islam's adherents are getting a black eye from the mindless bloodlust of their extremists. Will the moderate majority (if it truly exists) ever police their own adherents and take control of their religion? It doesn't look promising, does it?
Buddhism and Hinduism have much more peaceful histories and traditions of tolerance. They're not monotheistic religions. And that is one of the many reasons for their non-violent reputations.
Monotheistic religions all claim exclusive ownership of God and truth. I think we can all see how this would inevitably lead to conflict between them. Monotheism, is inherently intolerant and totalitarian. It can be fairly asserted that the Abrahamic religions have been THE most persistently divisive influence in human history.