, Research Paper
Christianity was “formed” around 15 to 30 BCE. Although some people say that it has existed since Adam and Eve because they were followers of God. Probably the most important figures in the Christian religion are Jesus Christ, the Savior. Most Christians believe in a trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three separate beings but they form a single unified deity. After the execution of Jesus, the disciples spread across the world and taught Christianity. Christianity spread to Europe and then to the Americas. Christians believe that Jesus was atoning sacrifice and removed the burden of sin from the world. They also believe that God is the one true god and that Jesus will return to the earth and bring all of his believers to heaven. Christians pray to God for guidance and read the Bible because it is the “handbook” for life. The largest denominations in Christianity are Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant. At one point in time the church was not separated but in 1054 CE the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church split because of a dispute over the use of religious icons. Through missionary activity the Christian religion is currently active all over the world.
Roman Catholicism a form of Christianity defined by six major characteristics, the first of which is that the Roman Catholic Church is the Body of Christ on earth and in order to be a follower of Christ you must become a member of this body. Secondly, the Catholic Church believes that Tradition and Scripture are equal sources of revelatory authority. Therefore, whenever a Christian must make a decision concerning morals, he or she must consult Tradition and Scripture. The Roman Catholics established the third characteristic, the Infallibility of the Pope, in 1870. The basic concept of this characteristic is that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra or as a bishop of Rome on behalf of the entire church regarding matters of faith and morals, his teachings are without error. Since the Pope is in fact human, he is fallible beyond a doubt. The office of the Pope is what is considered to be infallible. The fourth characteristic is that of Mariology. Mariology consists of two major Dogmas. The first Dogma, The Immaculate Conception of 1854, states that there was not original sin involved in Mary s conception. This concept is rejected by most other Christian faiths as it claims for Mary what is reserved for Christ alone, the absence of original sin. The second Dogma is the Bodily Assumption of Mary of 1950 that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven upon her death to be reunited with her son. Roman Catholics practice six sacraments, which include Baptism, Communion, Penance, Holy orders, Marriage, Extreme Unction, and Confirmation. The last major Characteristic of the Catholic Church is the acceptance of the Apocrypha in 1546 at the Council of Trent. Catholics consider the fourteen books the compile the Apocrypha canon.
Most Catholics are born into their faith or they converted in order to marry a person of this religion, as some Catholics do not believe in interfaith marriages; neither of which is true in my case. That is probably most of the reason I have chosen not to be of the Catholic faith. I believe that they are the most structured of the religions and that is very appealing to me. Most Catholics were born into their faith and I believe that you are more likely to have a strong grasp on what is expected of you as a Catholic if you are raised as one from the time you are born rather than when you convert later in life. You are able to learn from your parents, grandparents and perhaps even older siblings. Another reason I would consider converting to Catholicism is that often times you are raised in a Catholic School, reaffirming your catholic beliefs and traditions. I find it unfortunate that most protestant children do not have the opportunity to be raised in a school that instills religious beliefs as Catholics do.
I was raised Baptist, therefore I am a protestant. I never consciously made a decision to be one; I was, like many others, raised without any knowledge of any other faith. I just knew that I was Baptist and somewhat knew what it was that people of the Baptist faith believe in. Outside of that the knowledge I had of any other religion could be summarized in a couple of paragraphs most of which is negative. I have discovered some things since I have been in this class that I had not realized before. I found that I held some sort of contempt for Catholics and even Jewish people for reasons that I do not know. I do know that what I was feeling were the beliefs of other people and I believed them as I had little knowledge to form my own beliefs on any other form of religion. Ignorance is deadly, and I feel that I now have substantial knowledge to make valid decisions in my choice of religion. I think it is a shame that so many other people never find out for themselves what it is that they are seeking from religion and just idly go with the flow. I m glad I had the opportunity to learn so much so that I can be comfortable with my choices.
The beginnings of Judaism begin around 2000 BCE. God made a covenant with Abraham and made him the patriarch of many nations. The covenant between God and Abraham convened that God would protect Abraham and his descendants in their wanderings and give them a land of their own and they in turn would remain loyal to God throughout their history as depicted in the Book of Genesis.
The Jewish Scriptures mainly consist of the Torah. They also use the Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge and other things. The Jewish beliefs include that God is the creator of all, he is worthy of all praise. God monitors humans and rewards good things and punishes evil. They also believe that they are God’s chosen people. In no way is this meant to say that they are better than any specific group of people but they were chosen to study the Torah and to worship God only. The Jewish Calendar Year is one of ritual observance that enables them to live by sacred time. This calendar year formally begins in the fall with Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah consists of ten days of penance and ends with the observance of Yom Kippur, the great fast day. Also known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jewish People. Five days following Yom Kippur is the Sukkoth. The Sukkoth is a weeklong harvest festival that is also called the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jewish calendar next brings Hanukah, the Feast of Lights, which occurs at the winter solstice. Hanukah is based on the story of the success of the Maccabean Revolt. In late winter comes the minor festival of Purim. Purim commemorates the survival of the Jews despite the efforts of many to destroy them as depicted in the Book of Esther. Most important was the spring pilgrimage festival of Passover. Passover is a celebration recalling the Exodus from Egypt and the coming to freedom. The Jewish Calendar includes the weekly Sabbath. During the Sabbath, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, the Jewish people are to refrain from all work in order to partake in worship, study and to spend time with their families. The Sabbath celebrates the creation of the world and the gift of life.
There are three large groups of Judaism in the world today. Conservative Judaism: A group that was created in the nineteenth century to counteract the reform movement. Orthodox Judaism: The oldest, most diverse and most conservative form. They attempt to follow the initial form of Judaism. Reform Judaism: A liberal form in which many North American’s are enrolled. They follow the principled laws of Judaism but they leave it up to personal decision to follow or ignore the original laws.
There are many reasons for converting to Judaism. Some are explainable and some are indescribable. I personally believe that it is a mixture of both. One reason for converting to Judaism is the realization that there is one true satisfying relationship, and it is with God. To achieve this goal one must be a true believer and follower of the Torah. Even though one can not follow it properly all the time, there is still a sense of spiritual belonging. Judaism is not totally about the laws, it about the unity of all Jews believes in God and God believing in the Jews. But mainly it is about the fashion of morality and dignity by which all Jews should conduct themselves. Once one understands these and many other traits of the Torah, one can build a fundamental foundation of which one can live by.
Siddhartha Gautama founded Buddhism in Northern India. He left his family to search for the truth and later reach enlightenment. He had many disciples and that is how the religion was able to spread. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, life is a cycle. As soon as a person releases their attachment to desire and self they can attain Nirvana. The Buddha’s Four Noble truths are 1.) To be fully understood: the universality of suffering. 2.) To be abandoned: the desire to have and control things, which causes suffering, 3.) To be made visible: the supreme truth and final liberation of nirvana, which is achieved as the cause of suffering is eliminated. The mind experiences complete freedom and liberation. 4.) To be brought into being: the truth of the eightfold ariya path leading to the cessation of suffering. The path leading to the termination of suffering is the eightfold path. The eight steps are: right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration The Buddhist religion is not set in stone, many local rituals and customs.
Buddha taught that in order to live a life that is free from pain and suffering people must eliminate any attachments to worldly goods. Only then will they gain a kind of peace and happiness. They must rid themselves of greed, hatred, and ignorance. They strive to cultivate four attitudes, loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The basic moral code prohibits killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. Morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentrations form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith. By observing these, lust, hatred, and delusion may be overcome. This is known as Nirvana. It is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. The Buddhist has lasted because they have the ability to adapt to changing conditions and to a variety of cultures.
As a ruler I would be most inclined to follow Confucianism because it is not so much a religion in a traditional sense, but a set of rules for human interaction. It is a system of social ethics concerned with the formal, external aspects of life. Confucianism is humanism, a philosophy or attitude that is concerned with human beings, their achievements and interests, rather than with the abstract beings and problems of theology. In Confucianism man is the center of the universe: man cannot live alone, but with other human beings. For human beings, the ultimate goal is individual happiness. The necessary condition to achieve happiness is through peace. To obtain peace, Confucius discovered human relations consisting of the five relationships which a based on love and duties. War has to be abolished: and the Great Unity of the world should be developed. Confucius applied the term ritual to actions beyond the formal sacrifices and religious ceremonies to include social rituals. He saw these time-honored and traditional rituals as the basis of human civilization, and he felt that only a civilized society could have a stable, unified and enduring social order. There was another side of Confucianism. Confucius not only stressed social rituals but also humanness (ren). Ren sometimes translated to love or kindness, it is not any one virtue, but it s the source of all virtues. A ritual performed with ren has not only form, but ethical content; it nurtures the inner character of the person, furthers his or her maturation. If the outer side of Confucianism was conformity and acceptance of social roles, the inner side was cultivation of conscience and character. Cultivation involved broad education and reflection on one s actions. As a ruler I would find Confucianism to be very attractive because it provides a philosophical framework for an orderly society. Confucianism is human centered and concerned with relation among people. The authority of the ruler is not derived from religion therefor religion does not compete with the state as a source of authority. Because Confucianism emphasized conformity with social roles, it would reinforce the social hierarchy, which would place me as the ruler at the top. So Confucianism not only provided a rational for the rulers authority it also enforced it. Confucianism would also be attractive to a ruler because it could co-exist with already existing religions. It would not be necessary to repress existing religions, which would create instability during already unstable times. Instead the adoption of Confucianism would require the education of individuals to an outlook on life and patterns of behavior which would lead to an orderly society, and reinforce the authority of the ruler. In choosing a school of thought for my dynasty to follow, I would want a philosophy that would enable me to still have control over the people. At the same time the people can still live in the harmony that they seek, because Confucianism instills in individuals a se e of self-worth that is derived from conformity to the social order, it achieves both goals.
Hinduism was founded sometime between 1500 and 500 CE in the are of the Indus valley civilization making it the oldest religion of the World. Since the population in India is vast and the majority of the population is Hindu it is also one of the largest religions. There is no individual founder and no names given to say who developed it. When the Indus Valley cities began to decline, circa 1500 BC, a group of people called the Aryans came to India. They came as a nomadic tribe, but eventually they built cities along the Ganges River. They brought a religion with them, which later became Hinduism. The word Hindu comes from the name of a river in India, the Sindhu (now known as the Indus). When the Persians came to India, they couldn t pronounce the letter s , so they called the river the Hindu . Religion has always played a major role in the lives of people throughout history . Hinduism is no exception, impacting many aspects of the lives of the people of India, especially in the areas of lifestyle, laws, social structure and lifecycles. Hinduism is a unique religion. It has a very distinct social hierarchy called a caste system . There are four main castes, which one is born into and cannot change. Each division of people is called varna. Varna means color, suggesting that the people were divided on a racial basis. The first Varna, the Brahmans, are the priestly and intellectual and have the lightest of caste. Next, the Kshatriyas are the people in the government, politics, and the military and are often powerful businessmen. The Vaisyas are the smaller businessmen, farmers, proprietors and the self-employed such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The darkest class is that of the Sudra. Sudras consist of the lesser-educated, blue-collar workers who are often employed in sanitation, garbage and the handling of the dead. The lowest of the classes are the outcasts.
There are many gods in the religion of Hinduism. Many Hindu followers believe that one of the gods is the true god, this creates a division in Hinduism, Vaishnavaism and Shivaism. People who follow Vaishnavaism believe that Vishnu is the one true god and people who follow Shivasim believe that Shiva is the one true god. Yet there are many sects that worship both gods. Hinduism can be described as a monotheistic or a polytheistic religion depending on the point of view but Hindu people describe themselves as henotheisitic, which is the belief in one god without denying the existence of others. Hindus believe that the soul is immortal and re-enters a body of flesh and blood to resolve experiences and learn all the lessons that the material life has to offer. Hindus also believe in karma. They believe that karma is one of the natural laws of the universe. If you do good things, good things will happen to you. If you do negative things, negative things will happen to you. They believe in the Ahimsa principle in that they are to do no harm to any living thing. For this reason, they are necessarily vegetarian and pacifist. The major contribution of Hinduism to the world is meditation. Hindus have individual worship in order to overcome one s separation with God. Their individual worship entails Pujah s such as chants, hymns, and the preparation of food. The Hindu purpose is to try to get to know the self totally and completely because they believe to know the self is to know God.
Islam is one of the three major monotheistic religions. Muhammad the prophet between 610 and 632 founded Islam in Arabia. Muhammad was born in Makkah in 570 A. D. He was orphaned at an early age and was adopted by his uncle. He worked as a caravan leader on a trade route. He was known to be honest and able. His employer Khadij a, a wealthy window of the age 40, put him in charge of this business and proposed marriage to him. He went to a cave outside the city in 610 AD to pray and fast revelation (vision) there. He was told to recite. “Recite in the name of your lord, the creator who created man from clots of blood. Recite! Your lord is the most bountiful one who by the pen has taught mankind things they didn’t know.” His second vision to rise and worn people. In 613 AD he preached to his family and friends that there was one god. And all that believed in him are equal. The rich shared with poor lots of the converts were poor. The rich merchants and the religious leaders did not like Muhammad and the Muslims were persecuted. After some threats on his life in 632 AD he sent 60 families to Yathrib and then followed them in secret, this was later known as the Hjrah immigration. 622 AD also know on the Muslim calendar as the first year. Muhammad became the rules of Yathris then it was called Medinch al-Neb or Madinah ”the city of the prophet.’ ‘The Madinch Compact of 624 A.D. was the foundation of Islam state. Muhammad was the Judge and commander in chief. They extended protection, to Jews and Christians who accepted Islam s political authority. Makkems invaded Yathrib and the Muslims fought in self-defense. The Makkans were defeated. And the Muslims won support of the Arab groups outside of Madinsh. They later invaded Makkah and hod little resistance. They accepted Islamic Religion and Muhammad. They destroyed idols, and turned the shrine of Prophet Abraham into a place of worship. Makkah was the spiritual capital and Mdinth into the political capital. In 631 AD the Arabian Peninsula was supported by an army representing each of the Arab tribes. Muhammad later died at Madinah in 632 AD believing The Quran was the divine messages from God over a period of 22 years. It was written down or memorized that was compiled into a written collection (Quran) is the final matters of faith and lifestyles. It was written in Arabic. It is stories, teachings, and exhortations of what is written in the Bible. Values Basic Moral values in the Quran are similar to Christianity and Judaism. Murder, lying, stealing and adultery are condemned. Honor parents, protect widows and orphans, show kindness to neighbors and give money to the poor. They weren’t allowed to eat pork, drink alcohol; ambling. They have rules for marriage, divorce, family life business practices, and property inheritances. Law is not separated from religion. There is no rated in order of clergy. Sharii’ ah organization moral principles into a body of law. Five pillars of Islam faith Confessions of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” All Muslims are required to submit to god’s will as given in the Quran. Muhammad role is stress in the Confession that he is just the messenger and not divines. Muslims think that he is the last and the greatest of the Prophets. They see life as a preparation of Judgement Day. And when they rise from the grave, they will be judged for their actions (heaven or hell). Allah is also the god of the Jews, Christians, Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. They are all considered to be prophets. Muslims have great respect for the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity. They believe that the Arabs are descendents of Ishmael, son of Abraham. Prayer: They pray five times a day sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening facing Makkah using the same motion and words. They kneel, bow, and touch their foreheads to the ground (sign of submission). They pray no matter what. Friday at noon in a mosque (shrine, court, school, and shelter). Imam (leader of the prayer) can be any male with the proper religious training. Alms are charity done privately and a state tax. Fasting: Is in the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Ariabian calendar). They can not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. After the fasting they have a three-day feast. Children sick and pregnant women are exempt. Cannon sounds for the prayers. Pilgrimage- (Haji) everyone goes to Makkah at least once in their life. Once they go they are honored in their community. Haji is two months and ten days after Ramadum fast. They have three days of ceremony, prayer, and sacrifice. Now they worship at Kaaba, Nakkah, and Madinah. It is a visible expression of unity and an expression of ideas. Role of Women “Men are responsible for women”. Womens postion is largely defined by her relationship with her male relatives and Husbands. They stopped the tribal killing of baby girls. They limited polygamy down to 4 wives. But they had to be equal to each other. Women had control over her own property and she could inherit property from her father and remarry. Their lives are invested into the family and household.
Muhammad was dubbed the prophet of Allah, the only god. He was considered last in line of prophets they went from Abraham to Jesus. Islam spread fairly fast, it went from Spain in the west to India in the east only a century after Muhammad’s death. Muslims believe that Muhammad was visited by Jibreel (the angel Gabriel) and given the duty of converting his countrymen from their pagan ways. There are two mains texts that used Qur’an and Hadith. The Qur’an are the words of god and the Hadith are the words of Muhammad. The Muslims have five duties known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The first is to recite the shahadah at least once during their lifetime. Most Muslims say it everyday. The second is to perform the salat, which is prayer, five times a day. It’s done during the morning, noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping. The third is to donate through the zakat, which is a 2.5 percent charity tax. The fourth is to fast during the month of Ramadan. The fifth and final is if physically and financially able, to make one pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslim’s are strictly monotheistic, there is one true God that is merciful. They believe that Satan drives people to sin and they also believe that Jesus was only a prophet, nothing more. They also believe that Jesus was not executed on the cross and the Christian concept of Jesus is blasphemous. There are three main types of Muslims. The Sunni Muslims are 90 percent of the Muslim believers and main stream traditionalists. The Shi’ite Muslims split from the Sunnis over a quarrel over Muhammad. They have their own translation of the Qur’an which they enforce. The final group is Sufism they took ideas from Christianity and Buddhism but they are more of a different style rather than a different school. The Muslim religion represents about 22 percent of the world’s population and are the second largest religion. The largest concentrations of Muslims are in Africa and Asia.
Today s Muslims are branded as terrorists or fundamentalists. But their religion is a gentle religion. On the Arabian Peninsula, home of the Arabs, was isolated and they were able to develop their civilization without outside influences. It is about 1 million miles square that is located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. There are two distinctive regions. The first has well-watered valleys between mountains and the second is arid plains and desert. Grass grows quickly during the showers of the rainy season. In ancient times the Arabs were nomads that herded sheep, goats, and camels and lived in tents made of felt from camel or goat hair. They ate fresh or dried dates and drank milk from their herds. On special occasions they ate mutton. Their tribes were made of related families. They valued family ties because they ensured protection and survival. They had a chief (sheikh). The sheikh ruled as long as the tribe allowed him. They had a council of elders. There was warfare over waterholes and pastures. They believed in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth as means for punishment. To improve warrior skills they had camels and horses. They had story telling in front of the campfire. They had poetry about battles, desert, camels, horses, and love. In 500 AD they started a town called Makkah, which was fifty miles inland of the Red Sea. Trade was mostly of animal products for weapons dates grains, spices, jewels ivory, silk, and perfumes. They had caravans travel there from as for china. Arabs had and worshipped many deities business ties were replacing family ties, and old tribal laws were not adequate. Byzantine and the Persian armies were threatening to conquer them. The tribes had the some language but they had no central government, or sense of unity, The Arabs searched for new beliefs.
The founder of Taoism is Lao-Tse, which lived between 604-531 BCE. Taoism began as a combination of philosophy and psychology but was later turned into a state religion in 440 CE. Lao-Tse was later established as a deity. In 1911, support for Taoism had disappeared and with the communist victory in 1949 there was very little room for religious freedom. Taoism has many sects and groups that have been influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism. Taoism is still practiced in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong although the current government has made attempts to suppress it. The Taoist beliefs are that there is no god and that Tao is a force that flows. There are no personified beliefs in Taoism and they do not pray to a god. They seek out life’s problems through meditation and observation. Much like Hinduism, time is cyclical. There are five organs of the earth water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Lao-Tse developed “Yin” and “Yang” which are two competing energies found in all things which must be “balanced.” There is not a specific number of Taoists in the world. It’s hard to find the exact number of Taoists because at one time a person in China could be a Buddhist, a Taoist and a Confucian. The main concentration of Taoists is in China and Taiwan.
In order to go into Taoism at all, we must begin by being in the frame of mind in which it can understood. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind, anymore than you can smooth rippled waters. But let’s say that our starting point is that we forget what we know, or think we know, and that we suspend judgment about practically everything, returning to what we were when we were babies when we had not yet learned the names or the language. And in this state, although we have extremely sensitive bodies and very alive senses, we have no means of expressing what is going on around us. You are just plain ignorant, but still very much alive, and in this state you just feel what is without calling it anything at all. You know nothing at all about anything called an external world in relation to an internal world. You don’t know who you are, you haven’t even the idea of the word you or me. It is before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control, so you don’t know the difference between the noise of a car outside and a wandering thought that enters your mind- they are both something that happens. You don’t identify the presence of a thought that may be just an image of a passing cloud in your mind’s eye or the passing automobile; they happen. Your breath happens. Light, all around you, happens. Your response to it by blinking happens. So, on one hand you are simply unable to do anything, and on the other there is nothing you are supposed to do. That’s what is called Tao, in Chinese. That’s where we begin. Tao means basically “way”, and so “course”; the course of nature. The Tao is a certain kind of order, and this kind of order is not quite what we call order when we arrange everything geometrically in boxes, or in rows. That is a very crude kind of order, but when you look at a plant it is perfectly obvious that the plant has order. We recognize at once that is not a mess, but it is not symmetrical and it is not geometrical looking. The plant looks like a Chinese drawing, because they appreciated this kind of non-symmetrical order so much that it became an integral aspect of their painting. In the Chinese language this is called li, and the character for li means the markings in jade. It also means the grain in wood and the fiber in muscle. We could say, too, that clouds have li, marble has li, and the human body has li. We all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape painter, a portrait painter, an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying to express the essence of li. The interesting thing is that although we all know what it is, there is no way of defining it. Because Tao is the course, we can also call li the watercourse, and the patterns of li are also the patterns of flowing water. We see those patterns of flow memorialized, as it were, as sculpture in the grain in wood, which is the flow of sap, in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles of flow. In the patterns of flowing water you will all kind of motifs from Chinese art, immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle of yang-yin. So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing pattern of liquid, because Lao-tzu likens Tao to water: The great Tao flows everywhere, to the left and to the right, It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them. For as he comments elsewhere, water always seeks the lowest level, which men abhor, because we are always trying to play games of one-upmanship, and be on top of each other. But Lao-tzu explains that the top position is the most insecure. Everybody wants to get to the top of the tree, but then if they do the tree will collapse. That is the fallacy of American society. Lao-tzu says the basic position is the most powerful. So, therefore, the watercourse way is the way of Tao. Now, that seems to some Protestants, lazy, spineless, and altogether passive. I think it would be wonderful to be that carefree and relaxed, but nearly an impossible goal for anyone raised in the fear of God. From a superficial point of view I would suggest that a certain amount of passivity would be an excellent corrective for our kind of culture because we are always creating trouble by doing good to other people. We wage wars for other peoples benefit, and attempt to help those living in “underdeveloped” countries, not realizing that in the process we may destroy their way of life. Economies and cultures that have coexisted in ecological balance for thousands of years have been disrupted all around the world, with often-disastrous results.