Religion-Building Blocks Essay, Research Paper
Religion: Building Blocks of our Society
Religion is the expression of man s belief in and reverence for a higher power. Each religion consists of a basic, common structure with unique beliefs and ideas. These differences constitute the evolution of a variety of religions in modern society. Contrasts in belief range in every aspect of spirituality from daily values to life after death. The following main types of religion are divergent and parallel in many ways: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.
The Christian religion is one of the largest religions in the world maintaining it s strong image with its vast number of followers across the globe. Right now approximately thirty-three percent of the world, almost 2015 million people, believe in Christianity. Grouped by their distinct and individual beliefs there are many branches of Christianity. In North America alone there are hundreds of Christian groups each with their own set of beliefs and practices. Within each faith group there also exists a large element of individual opinion. These differences are present in matters of religion in the historical Jesus, how they should interpret the Bible and on controversial social debates on topics such as equal rights. Some examples of Christian religion branches are Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants and Anglicans.
The Christian religions present much more of an appealing atmosphere than other large religious groups. The punishment for a sin is not as severe and forgiveness for these sins is easier to attain. In Christianity even if you have lived a life of sin, as long you repent in the end, you will be saved and given eternal life. In Hinduism, for every action you do there is an opposite, equal reaction that comes back to you. Hindu s also believe that punishing the body is a step on the path to salvation. Another attraction to Christianity is that it has a reputation of being flexible, as it has undergone changes to conform to modern society. These adjustments have given Christians a very acceptable approach to spirituality in modern times. Although rituals have changed the central and original beliefs remain the same.
Like other religions Christianity has a main, central figure; Jesus Christ is to Christians what Buddha is for Buddhists. It is often thought that the Bible is proof that Jesus existed but research states that it was written much later after his death. Even the Shroud of Turin, the cloth Jesus was thought to wear is proved to be from almost a thousand years after his life. This uncertainty, to many is one of the major drawbacks to the Christian religion.
Hinduism is our planet s original and oldest living religion, with no living founder. Shortly, the number of Hindu adherents will number over a billion in the twenty first century. These followers will represent a broad range of beliefs, sadharas and mystical goals. Vata, the banyan tree, Ficus indicus is a strong symbol for the Hindu religion. Like Hinduism the tree branches out in all directions, draws from many roots, spreads shade far and wide, yet stems from one great trunk. The god Shiva, as Silent Sage sits beneath this tree.
A unique belief that distinguishes Hinduism from Christianity is that Hindu s believe there is no eternal Hell or intrinsic evil. This is a large contrast with Western faiths that postulate a living evil force, embodied in Satan, that directly opposes the will of God.
There are numerous similarities and differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. In Buddhism the place of women is an inferior one, which stems from traditional, cultural, and social values of Asia. Although females can accumulate good karma, they can rarely attain Nirvana and therefore must wait until they are born as men. In Hinduism the role of women is downgraded as well and no act is to be done according to her own will. A woman must always be cheerful and clever in the household business and keep the furniture well cleaned. She must always have a free hand. She must have only one husband, even if he dies. If a woman commits adultery, she must be burned to death and all property a couple may acquire belongs to the male.
Many Hindu beliefs and goals are similar if not the same as Buddhist beliefs and goals. The concept that life is suffering is common to both as well as the concepts of reincarnation, Dharma, Karma and Nirvana, although they have some slight differences. In Buddhism there is the concept of two extremes, one devoted to pleasure and lust and one devoted to mortification. Both are considered profitless and therefore one should take the middle path, which leads to insight. Hindus believe that life has no ultimate significance and is but a small part in a vast everlasting, and essentially meaningless cycle of life and death, they believe everything has a soul or atman.
A great aspect of Hinduism is that it allows real freedom of choice in worship. There is room for the Ve d aant in who approaches God within as his own self without any form. If you wish to approach God through a form there is Siva, Vishnu or Kumaara. If you don t believe in a human form of God you can worship basically anything: a tree, a snake, a rock, you can see God in anything you like. Because God created everything in his own image, everything on earth is his expression.
Islam is one of the most prominent religions to this day, averaging around 750 million people that practice its oaths daily. History books indicate the start of Islam actually derived from Christianity. Both of these religions share almost the same framework, but also differ in many ways.
The word Islam means surrender or submission , submission to the will of Allah, the one god. Islam has its own unique basic creed: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah. Islam teaches that there is one god, the creator and sustainer of the universe. The Islam belief is identical to that of one of Christianity s Ten Commandments that states I am the lord you god . You shall have no other gods before me . On the last day, or judgment day, the same holds true as in Islam in the Christian beliefs, the dead will be resurrected and either rewarded with heaven or punished with hell.
During the decades following the death of Muhammad certain essential principles were singled out from his teachings to serve as anchoring points for the Islamic community. These have come to be called the five pillars of Islam. Similar to the five pillars, the Ten Commandments are regarded as law in the Christian faith.
The revelations that Muhammad received were collected into a new book, the Koran, directing his followers what to believe and how to live. The Koran relies heavily on Christian traditions. It was Muhammad s contention that Christianity had departed from belief in God s message as revealed in their scriptures. God has sent many prophets, among them Abraham, who is considered the founder of the faith for Islam, as he is also for Christianity. The Koran, using sources in the older Scriptures and later traditions, relates the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Aaron, David, Solomon, Jesus and others, all of whom are declared to have been true prophets whose messages were largely ignored.
As you can see Islam and Christianity are indeed woven from identical fabrics. In a sense, it was geography that separated these brothers. In recent years Christians have come to view Islam as an evil religion, mainly because of the fanatics, but they must also look at the Christian fanatics who kill, and bomb in the name of God.
Buddhism is one of the most widely practiced and highly respected religions in the world today. Conceived in the 5th or 6th century it is based on the life and teaching s of prince Siddhartha Guatama who later in life would be known as the Buddha . Buddha s approach is set out in three sections, these are meditation, morality and wisdom. Much like Christianity, Buddhism has diverged into three different forms or churches, Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana, they all follow the same principles but Mahayana and Vagrayana are the more colourful containing more dancing, movement, art and singing.
Buddhism contains it own creed, code, and ceremony. Its creed involves the four noble truths. They are (1) Everyone s life contains suffering, “suffering” in Buddhism refers not only to physical pain, aging, sickness, and death. Suffering in the Buddhist sense, is a pervasive condition, no one escapes it. Even enlightened teachers grow old, suffer the pains of decay, and die. (2) Dukkha is caused by selfishness, a Buddhist s definition of selfishness extends far beyond the sense of greed or clinging to something closer to what the Christian tradition would call “pride”. (3) To stop suffering, we have to stop selfishness. If we could be released from selfishness, we would be released from suffering. When we fully face and lighten the blown up sufferings of our lives. When we begin to experience life beyond our confusions, a state of awakening, or as Buddhist s refer to it nirvana . (4) To stop dukkha, follow the Eightfold path. Buddha taught a method to lead away from self-sustained suffering toward a more enlightened and compassionate life.
On the surface both Jesus and Buddha s lives were similar, as Jesus was Jewish and Buddha was raised as a Hindu. They were both dissatisfied with the religious options available to them and their countrymen and both set about doing something to change it. Thus, you could say both Buddha and Jesus were religious reformers. Both contain similarities in their doctrine, Christianity has The Ten Commandments while Buddhism contains The Ten Fetters of Existence, both these principles are a set of guidelines to help us achieve the ultimate . For Christians this means admittance to heaven, for Buddhist s enlightenment. Additionally, both encourage a passive approach to confrontation believing that it is better to concede defeat than to resort to violence to solve a problem or disagreement.
Together Buddhism and Christianity realize that the majority of the world s problems are caused by selfishness and that the eradication of this selfishness is the only way to abolish human suffering.
Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism contain many teachings and examples that while at first glance may seem to be completely dissimilar from each other but upon closer inspection show a surprising similarity in both morality and beliefs. Despite all their differences expressed in the predeceasing sections of this essay Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism are corresponding in many respects and in short, all intertwined.