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Transcript of World Religions
Began 4,ooo years ago in Canaan by Abraham, which means "father of many." It is an ethnic religion, and is influential in its recently created country of Israel and New York City, NY, with 14 million adherents world-wide.
This religion was founded on the teachings of Jesus, who was crucified around A.D. 30 in Jerusalem. It spread thanks to missionaries, daily contact with nonbelievers in the countryside, and acceptance by the Roman emperor in the fourth century and other rulers. It is the predominant religion in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia, with majorities in Africa and Asia.
The word "Hinduism" itself originated in the sixth century B.C. to refer to people living in what is now India. Aryans brought their religion to the region, which was the basis of Hinduism. After intermingling for centries with the Dravidians in the area modified their beliefs.
With 900 million followers, mostly in India and Nepal, India is an ethnic religion and has diffused only by emigration. It is most influential in its hearth of India and the country of Nepal. It is a polytheistic religion with many different examples, most notable of which being Vishnu, Siva, and Ganesh (the elephant headed god).
The more recent of the main three universalizing religions, Islam was founded in 610 AD by Prophet Muhammad in Saudi Arabia. Spreading due to merchants and an army, it has 1.3 billion adherents. Islam ultimately traces its roots to Abraham, who was said to be the ancestor of Muhammad.
Hinduism has multiple holy scriptures, not one holy book. The one scripture considered holy by all Hindus is the Vedas.
Hinduism does not have a leader, as worship is usually done alone or with people in the household.
Jews believe in God. Their holy book is, collectively, the Tanakh, which includes the Torah, the first five books of the Christian bible.
Judaism is an autonomous religion; it has rabbi, which means "teacher," but only ten adult males are needed to conduct a full service (in some communities, females count as well).
Judaism is divided into three branches: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.
Ashkenazic Jews are of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and descendants. The word comes from the Hebrew word "ashkenaz," which is used to refer to Germany. Most American Jews are from this branch.
Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. "Sephardic" is derived from the word "Sepharad," which refers to Spain.
Orthodox Jews adhere the closest to the interpretation of the law. Prior to the 19th century, it was the mainstream expression of Judaism.
Conservative Judaism came about in the mid-19th century. It has its roots in a school of thought known as "Positive-Historical Judaism" as a reaction to the more liberal (modernized) religious positions taken by Reform Judaism. The word "conservative" signifies that Jews should attempt to conserve Jewish tradition.
Many reject the traditional Jewish idea that God dictated the words of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai verbally, but hold the traditional belief that God inspired the later prophets to write the rest of the Tanakh.
Reform Jews believe that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and compatible with participation Western Culture. Traditional Jewish law is often considered a set of guidelines rather than restrictions that must be followed.
Major holidays in Judaism include Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Passover (celebrates the Exodus from Egypt), and Purim (celebrates the prevention of extermination by Haman, a wicked adviser). Hanukkah, which marks the re-dedication of the temple and the consecrated oil that burned for eight days instead of one, was never considered a major holiday in Judaism. It became more visible and widely due to its proximity to Christmas.
Symbols include the Shield/Star of David, the menorah, the mezuzah (a scroll in a case with the Jewish letter Shin written on the outside as a reminder of God's presence and laws), tzitzit (fringes on the corners of four-cornered garments as a reminder of the Laws).
Islam spread via armies organized by Muhammad's successors, who extended Muslim control over an extensive area of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Intermarriage resulted in conversions, along with merchants traveling to Indonesia, one of the places it is influential, the others being North Africa to Central Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.
The oldest of the universalizing religions, Buddhism began c.592 B.C. in present-day Nepal, and spread via adoption and subsequent sending of missionaries by the Magadhan Empire about 257 B.C., at the hight of its power. Today it is mostly found in China and Southeast Asia with 400 million followers.
Muslims believe in Allah, or God, and their holy book is the Quran (also spelled Koran and Qur'an). They are autonomous, and the only formal organization is through coincidence of religious territory with secular states.
The core of what Muslims believe is represented by the five pillars of faith: there is no god worthy of worship except for God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God; five times daily, a Muslim prays facing the city of Makkah as a direct link to God; a Muslim gives generously to charity as an act of purification and growth; a Muslim fasts during Ramadan as an act of self-purification; and if physically and financially able, a Muslim makes a pilgrimage to Makkah.
Islam is divided into two branches: Sunni and Shiite. The division essentially comes from a disagreement about the line of succession of Islamic leadership.
During prayers, a Muslim is required to be in a state of calmness and humbleness, and a series of sayings and actions must be performed. These include parts of the Quran and other sayings, and it gives them the opportunity to ask God for anything they desire.
Before certain rituals, Muslims are expected to perform a form of purification known as ablution or "wubu" in Arabic, which involves washing hands, face, arms, and feet with water.
Major Islamic holidays and days of observance include the month of Ramadan, mourning of Muharram (a Shia holiday), Mawlid (the day of Muhammad's birth), Laylat al-Qadr (anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed), and Eid al-Fitr (marks the end of Ramadan).
While there are no official Islamic symbols, several symbols and images have a special place in Islam. The star and crescent is the best-known of these and features prominently on many countries' flags, but it is not Muslim in origin. It's use is sometimes controversial because it was a polytheistic icon adopted during the spread of Islam.
Green is a symbolic color because it was Muhammad's favorite color, it symbolizes vegetation and life, or because the Quran says to "wear green garments of fine silk." Whatever the reason, it has been firmly in Islamic culture for centuries.
Jewish rituals are grounded in Jewish Law. They govern everything, from religious life to daily life. Observance of the Law shows gratitude to God. One ritual is the circumcision of the male after eight days, during the day. It must be removed by a mohel (rhymes with "oil"), a pious and observant Jew educated in the relevant Jewish law and surgical techniques.
Hindus believe that it is up to the individual to decide the best way to worship God. Such "paths" include the path of knowledge, the path of renunciation, the path of devotion, and the path of action. As long as they are in tune with your true nature, you can pursue your own path; the appropriate form of worship for two people may not be the same.
Similarly, each individual chooses suitable rituals due to the fact that there is no one, official holy book. One that is most common is bathing in the Ganges River at least once in their lifetimes.
Since there are many different gods and concepts, there are multiple branches, each devoted to a different one.
Major holidays and festivals likely to be observed by most Hindus include Holi (festival of colors and spring), Rama Navami (birthday of Lord Rama), Raksābandhana (renewing bonds betweeen brothers and sisters) Ganesha-Chaturthi/Ganesha Utsava (festival of Ganesh), and Diwali (festival of lights and Laksmi).
Some common Hindu symbols are the aum/om (a sacred sound that is considered the greatest of all mantras, and represents several important triads), the Shiva Linga (symbol of Shiva and the form in which he is most commonly worshiped), the lotus (represents beauty and non-attachment), and the trisula/trishul/trihsula (a trident spear that is the emblem of Shiva).
Buddhism doesn't believe in any gods, so it's viewed by many as more like a philosophy, added on to the fact that one can adhere to Buddhism and other Eastern religions; this religion is autonomous. The holy book is the Sutras (in Sanskrit) or Suttas (in Pali).
Buddhists believe in the Four Noble Truths: All living things must endure suffering; suffering, which is caused by a desire to live, leads to reincarnation; to goal of all existence is to escape from suffering and endless reincarnation into Nirvana; and Nirvana is attained through the Eightfold Path.
Buddhism is split into three main branches: Thervada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana.
Thervada Buddhists believe that they are closer to Buddha's original approach, and that Buddhism is a full-time occupation. They emphasize self-help and solitary introspection.
Mahaynists claim that their approach to Buddhism can help more people because it's less demanding and all-encompassing. They emphasize teaching and helping others.
Tantrayanists emphasize the value of magic and the "propitiation of the bodhisattvas and gods in the quest for Nirvana." They have also developed many meditation techniques.
Common Buddhist rituals are meditation, mantras (sacred sounds), mudras (symbolic hand gestures), and prayer wheels (reciting mantras with the turn of a wheel).
Major holidays include Buddha's birth, Enlightenment, and death; Magha Puja Day, also known as Fourfold Assembly or "Sangha Day," which commemorates when Buddha's disciples came to pay respect to Buddha early in his teaching life; and Asalha Puja Day (or "Dhamma Day"), which commemorates Buddha's first teaching.
The color black in Buddhism symbolizes the primordial darkness, and a sound so high that no creature can hear it. "The wonders of creation may be manifested through the gradual slowing down of vibrations. The darkness becomes light, the shadows colors, the colors sound, and sound creates form."
The endless knot is a closed ornament with right-angled, intertwined lines. It overlaps without beginning or end, which symbolizes Buddha's endless wisdom and compassion.
The Zen circle represents the entire universe in a single, perfect stroke, and is difficult to paint successfully.
Christians believe in God, who is God in Three Persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit (also archaically called the Holy Ghost).
All Christians use the Bible, of which there are many different versions throughout the branches, with variations in what books are included in canon.
There are three main branches in Christianity: Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. What separates these branches is how salvation is achieved, who leads the Church, and interpretations of the Bible. Orthodoxy split first over the second reason, and then Protestantism split when Martin Luther posted complaints against the Church on the door of a church building in Germany.
The Roman Catholic Church is hierarchical, and much of the Earth is organized into an administrative structure ultimately accountable to the Pope.
The Pope, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Rome
Archbishops, each of which heads a province (a group of several dioceses) and is also a bishop of a dioceses.
Bishops administer a diocese.
Priests head a parish.
Protestant denominations vary from extremely autonomous to somewhat hierarchical. Episcopalian, Lutheran, and most Methodist churches have such structures similar to the Roman Catholic Church. Baptists and the United Church of Christ are extremely autonomous.
Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins, that He was raised from the dead by God, and He was resurrected from the dead. Anything beyond this varies from branch to branch and sect to sect.
All branches and sects participate in at least some of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance/Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Eucharist, although how the Eucharist itself is viewed varies from branch to branch.
Christmas and Easter are two well-known (and heavily commercialized) Christian holy days, and other holy days are Ash Wednesday, the Solemnity of Mary, All Saints Day, the Immaculate Conception, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Pentecost.
In Christianity, fire is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, another one being a dove. Crosses and crucifixes are commonly known symbols, as is the ichthys, the fish. Alpha and omega (representing that God is the First and Last, Beginning and End), the Chi Rho, and an anchor (represents hope).
Chi Rho (the "X" is chi, the "P" is rho.
The Wailing Wall
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (1890s)
St. Peter's Basilica
Golden Temple of Amritsar
Wat Phra Kaew
Paganism is usually used to refer to religions of the classical world (the ancient Greek and Roman empires), but also can be understood in include all other religions aside from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.
Paganism spread by the Greek and Roman armies, and has reemerged as contemporary paganism. Both versions are polytheistic, and doesn't have a holy book. It was mostly autonomous, with prophetesses at certain temples.
Pagans, in reference to the Greek and Roman versions, believed in many gods, each governing multiple things; stories were made up about them to explain why natural events happened. Roman gods were just renamed Greek gods, adopted as their own after they conquered the Greeks.
Roman rituals included sacrificing animals and offering things to the gods, and they required an accompanying prayer to be effective; public religious rituals had to be preformed by specialists and professionals perfectly, otherwise they might have to start all over. Greek ceremonies and rituals were mainly performed at altars, which were devoted to one or a few gods. Offerings were left at the altar, and sometimes animals would be sacrificed.
Many Greek festivals were specific to only one deity or city-state: festival of Lycaea was celebrated in Arcadia, which was dedicated to Pan; the Games, which culminated in the Olympic Games (not the modern ones), celebrated Zeus.
Roman calenders had roughly forty annual religious festivals, with sacred days outnumbering non-sacred days. They may have been organized according to broad seasonal groups that allowed for different local traditions. Some festivals included "ludi," or games, such as chariot races. Two festivals were Compitalia (held in honor of the Lares Compitales, household deities of the crossroads) and the Ludi Romani in honor of Liber (god of viticultre--science, production, and study of grapes--and wine).
A few symbols include the pentagram (symbolic union of male and female), Hecate's Wheel (the emblem of the moon goddess Diana), and the rod of Asclepius (which symbolizes the healing arts).
Greek island of Delos
Sanctuary of Apollo
Greek holy structures were constructed in the style known today, with many columns, with the buildings made from stone. Roman structures were based heavily off of those structures with the addition of domes and vaults (as in vaulted ceilings).
Greek pilgrimages could be either personal or state-sponsored, and were taken very seriously by everyone involved. They were often to other temples and asking oracles.
Funeral rites varied according to situation to situation, from elaborate to simple. Offerings were left to set an expectation of afterlife. Bodies were burned or not and then entombed or buried, and the eighth day of mourning, the family offered further sacrifice.
Greek funerals had three stages: the wake, the procession, and cremation. The body was prepared for burial, then it would be laid with its feet facing the entryway and a coin was placed in the mouth as payment to Charon. The viewing then lasted 48 hours, with a lamenting song and dance, called the threnos, which was improvised. After this, they would process to the burial site, all the while crying out. The body would be burned on a funeral pyre and then interred into the earth with food and other gifts.
Synagogues were historically built in the style prevalent in the time and place it was constructed; i.e., Chinese synagogues look similar to Chinese temples of that time and era. After the second World War, synagogue architecture became modernized.
There is no set blueprint for synagogues, thus the shapes and interiors of them will vary greatly. They always contain an ark where the Torah scrolls are kept.
There are three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavout (occurs during the late spring harvest, and is the celebration of the giving of the Torah), and Sukkot (celebrates the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for forty years). They created an opportunity for the Jewish community to reaffirm their commitment to the covenant with God.
When someone dies, before the burial, the body is laid on the floor and covered, with candles lit next to the body. It is never left alone until after the burial as a sign of respect.
When the body is prepared for burial, it is thoroughly cleaned and wrapped in simple linen and a tallit (a shawl-like garment worn during morning services) with the tzitzit (fringes of the tallit) rendered invalid. The body must be buried in the earth, but coffins are not required. Open casket ceremonies are forbidden by Jewish law. The graves are marked with tombstones, which are traditionally revealed twelve months after the burial.
Churches are an expression of religious principles, and were traditionally the largest and tallest buildings, placed at a prominent location. They reflect both the cultural values of the denomination that constructed it and the region's architectural heritage. Byzantine-style Orthodox churches tend to be highly ornate, topped by prominent domes; Protestant churches are simple, which reflects their idea of a church as an assembly hall.
Christians usually bury their dead in a cemetery. In ancient Rome, catacombs were used when Christianity was illegal to bury the dead and house the faithful. After Christianity was legalized, they buried their dead in the yard around the church, then outside the city walls. Some Christians are buried with their feet towards Jerusalem.
Pilgrimages were first made to sites connected with Jesus, such as Jerusalem and Mount Tabor, then were made to sites associated with the Apostles, saints, Christian martyrs, and places where there have been apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
Muslims bury their dead, who are washed and wrapped in a white shroud, which is scented and perfumed. There must be three wraps of fabric for a man and five for a woman. Before the body is buried, a ritual called the "Janazah salaah" is performed, with the body buried as soon as possible afterwords.
A mosque is organized around a central courtyard, which is traditionally open-air. The pulpit is on the end closest to Mecca. Surrounding the courtyard is a cloister used for schools and nonreligious activities. One distinctive feature of mosques is the minaret, a tower where a muzzan summons people to worship.
All pilgrims who are physically and financially able are required to undertake the hajj to Mecca. All dress in plain white robes, and a precise set of rituals is practiced, leading up to a visit to the Ka'ba.
A typical Hindu temple contains a small, dimly lit interior room where a symbolic artifact or another image of the god to be worshiped rests. The site of the temple may also have a structure for a caretaker and a pool for ritual baths, with space that may be devoted for ritual processions. Size and frequencies of temples are determined by local preferences and commitment of resources.
Hindus generally cremate their bodies in a slow fire after being washed with water from the Ganges River. Burial is reserved for children, those who lead severely simple lives (think monks), and those with certain diseases.
Pilgrimage sites are often in spots of natural beauty thought to be pleasing to deities as well as humans.
Hindus make pilgrimages to remember special people (saints), to fix the mind on God and glorify Him, for spiritual development and to gain spiritual merit, for purification and atonement of sins, for meeting and taking guidance from holy people, to perform specific religious rites, for self-reflection and contemplation, and for spiritual inspiration.
Buddhist pagodas are frequently elaborate and delicate in appearance and include tall, many-sided towers arranged in tiers, balconies, and slanting roofs, and contain relics believed to be a portion of Buddha or his clothing. They are not designed for congregational worship.
Family members are encouraged to clean and dress the body of the deceased in everyday clothing. The deceased can either be cremated or buried, and there is no restraint on how long the body should lay in state before the funeral. Monks can be invited to perform the Buddhist rites. If cremated, the ashes can only be collected the following day, and may be enshrined in a columbarium or pagoda or scattered at sea.
Main sites connected to the Buddha's life are important places of pilgrimage, a few being Lumbinī, souther Nepal, where Buddha was born; Deer Park, Sarnath, India, where Buddha gave his first sermon; Rajagrha, where Buddha tamed a wild elephant; and Valisālī, Thailand, the site of Buddha's announcement of his impeding death.
All religions believe in something, whether it be God or gods or what happens after death, although they vary. Splitting into different branches is almost inevitable, as people have different ideas about different areas of their religion. Each religion has similar concepts, but different specifics.