I was raised Catholic and attended parochial school through high school. The first day of Catholic high school I met someone who would become my best friend. My concern was that she was Methodist and I remember coming home that day and asking my mother if I could be friends with her because she was not Catholic. Sounds strange today, but that is how different attitudes were then. My friend is now a Methodist minister and it has been a fascinating journey learning how our two religions are similar but also very different.
The common ground between the two Christian faiths is the belief in Jesus as savior and Son of God however the major theology differences involve the Bible and how man is saved. Protestants believe that the Good Book is the sole reference point for the Christian faith and all beliefs, attitudes and behaviors are guided by it. For instance, the Protestants point to the bible which states that Jesus’ death on the cross for man’s sins is enough to redeem man and grant him access to heaven. Catholics on the hand believe that Jesus’ death alone will not get man into heaven. He must first spend time in the middle area of purgatory reflecting on his life and sins while relying on the prayers and intercessions of others to help him enter eternity.
The structures of the two religions are similar in that both have a hierarchy of Bishops, clergy and parishes. Holidays are also shared however; the most glaring difference between the Catholics and Protestants is the Vatican and the Pope who is the authority on matters of faith and practices for devout Catholics.
Protestants also do not worship Mary the mother of Jesus. The Catholic faith has an entire dogma surrounding Mary from the Immaculate Conception, Virgin birth and the Assumption. Prayers, rosaries, feast days and miracles are attributed to Mary. Catholics basically treat her as a goddess whereas Protestant faiths acknowledge her as the mother Jesus and that is where it ends. Additionally Protestants do not put much stock into saints. The exception to this is the Anglicans and Lutherans. However, Methodists, Presbyterians and others do not name their churches after saints or pray to them for intercessions or miracles.
Protestants also allow their clergy to marry and have families where the Catholic Church does not. Many have pointed to this as the source of the current problems in the Catholic Church as well as the shortage of priests and nuns that threatens its future.
This has been a brief synopsis of the differences and similarities between the two faiths and more could definitely be written on this topic. Hopefully this will provide the reader with a glimpse of the two major sects of Christianity leaving room for curiosity