Category Archives: Religion Series

Religion {16} ~ Christianity

Christianity is the most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion adherents.

~Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
~Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
~Christians believe that God sent his Son to earth to save humanity from the consequences of its sins.
~One of the most important concepts in Christianity is that of Jesus giving his life on the Cross (the Crucifixion) and rising from the dead on the third day (the Resurrection).
~Christians believe that there is only one God, but that there are three elements to this one God:
~God the Father
~God the Son
~The Holy Spirit
~Christians worship in churches.
~Their spiritual leaders are called priests or ministers.
~The Christian holy book is the Bible, and consists of the Old and New Testaments.
~Christian holy days such as Easter and Christmas are important milestones in the Western secular calendar

Religion {15} ~ Islam

The word Islam means ‘submission to the will of God’.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers. The 2001 census recorded 1,591,000 Muslims in the UK, around 2.7% of the population.

~Muslims believe that Islam was revealed over 1400 years ago in Mecca, Arabia.
~Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
~Muslims believe that there is only One God.
~The Arabic word for God is Allah.
~According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to His law.
~Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected as prophets of God.
~They believe that the final Prophet was Muhammad.
~Muslims believe that Islam has always existed, but for practical purposes, date their religion from the time of the migration of Muhammad.
~Muslims base their laws on their holy book the Qur’an, and the Sunnah.
~Muslims believe the Sunnah is the practical example of Prophet Muhammad and that there are five basic Pillars of Islam.
~These pillars are the declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving money to charity, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca (atleast once).

Religion {14} ~ Buddhism

Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life. There are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the sixth century BC.

There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible. The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. These states are called the tilakhana, or the three signs of existence. Existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again, experiencing suffering throughout many lives.

It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever. Our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of suffering.

The history of Buddhism is the story of one man’s spiritual journey to enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it.

The Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born into a royal family in present-day Nepal over 2500 years ago. He lived a life of privilege and luxury until one day he left the royal enclosure and encountered for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. Disturbed by this he became a monk before adopting the harsh poverty of Indian asceticism. Neither path satisfied him and he decided to pursue the ‘Middle Way’ – a life without luxury but also without poverty.

Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.

By finding the path to enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or ‘awakened one’.

Schools of Buddhism
There are numerous different schools or sects of Buddhism. The two largest are Theravada Buddhism, which is most popular in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar), and Mahayana Buddhism, which is strongest in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.

The majority of Buddhist sects do not seek to proselytise (preach and convert), with the notable exception of Nichiren Buddhism.

All schools of Buddhism seek to aid followers on a path of enlightenment.

~Buddhism is 2,500 years old
~There are currently 376 million followers worldwide
~There are over 150,000 Buddhists in Britain
~Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama’s quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC
~There is no belief in a personal God. ~It is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God
~Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent – change is always possible
~The two main Buddhist sects are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, but there are many more
~Buddhists can worship both at home or at a temple
~The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

Religion {13} ~ Atheism

Atheism is the absence of belief in any Gods or spiritual beings. The word Atheism comes from a, meaning without, and theism meaning belief in god or gods.

Atheists don’t use God to explain the existence of the universe.
Atheists say that human beings can devise suitable moral codes to live by without the aid of Gods or scriptures.
Reasons for non-belief
People are atheist for many reasons, among them:

~They find insufficient evidence to support any religion.
~They think that religion is nonsensical.
~They once had a religion and have lost faith in it.
~They live in a non-religious culture.
~Religion doesn’t interest them.
~Religion doesn’t seem relevant to their lives.
~Religions seem to have done a lot of harm in the world.
~The world is such a bad place that there can’t be a God.
~Many atheists are also secularist, and are hostile to any special treatment given to organised religion.

It is possible to be both atheist and religious. Virtually all Buddhists manage it, as do some adherents of other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity.

Atheists and morality
Atheists are as moral (or immoral) as religious people.

In practical terms atheists often follow the same moral code as religious people, but they arrive at the decision of what is good or bad without any help from the idea of God.

Religion {12} ~ Judaism

Judaism is the original of the three Abrahamic faiths, which also includes Christianity and Islam. According to information published by The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, there were around 13.1 million Jewish people in the world in 2007, most residing in the USA and Israel. According to the 2001 census 267,000 people in the UK said that their religious identity was Jewish, about 0.5% of the population.

~Judaism originated in the Middle East over 3500 years ago
~Judaism was founded by Moses, although Jews trace their history back to Abraham.
~Jews believe that there is only one God with whom they have a covenant.
~In exchange for all the good that God has done for the Jewish people, Jewish people keep God’s laws and try to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives.
~Judaism has a rich history of religious text, but the central and most important religious document is the Torah.
~Jewish traditional or oral law, the interpretation of the laws of the Torah, is called halakhah.
~Spiritual leaders are called Rabbis.
~Jews worship in Synagogues.
~6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in an attempt to wipe out Judaism.
~There are many people who identify themselves as Jewish without necessarily believing in, or observing, any Jewish law.

Religion {11} ~ Paganism

Paganism describes a group of contemporary religions based on a reverence for nature. These faiths draw on the traditional religions of indigenous peoples throughout the world.

~Paganism encompasses a diverse community.
~Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.
~Some groups concentrate on specific traditions or practices such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods.
~Most Pagans share an ecological vision that comes from the Pagan belief in the organic vitality and spirituality of the natural world.
~Due to persecution and misrepresentation it is necessary to define what Pagans are not as well as what they are. Pagans are not sexual deviants, do not worship the devil, are not evil, do not practice ‘black magic’ and their practices do not involve harming people or animals.
~The Pagan Federation of Great Britain have no precise figures but estimate that the number of Pagans in the British Isles is between 50,000 and 200,000 (2002).

Religion {10} ~ Bahá’í Faith

The Bahá’í faith is one of the youngest of the world’s major religions. It was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in Iran in 1863.

Iran was then mainly a Muslim country, and the faith was proclaimed by a young Iranian, who called himself The Báb. He said that a messenger would soon arrive from God, who would be the latest in a line of prophets including Moses, Muhammad and Jesus Christ.

~Bahá’u’lláh, which means the Glory of God in Arabic, was born Mirza Husayn Ali in 1817
~Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the most recent Manifestation of God
~Bahá’u’lláh himself stated that he is not God’s final messenger
~The Bahá’í faith accepts all religions as having true and valid origins
~The idea of progressive revelation is of central significance for the Bahá’í faith
~Bahá’u’lláh taught that God intervenes throughout human history at different times to reveal more of himself through his messengers (called Divine Messengers, or Manifestations of God)
~The central idea of the faith is that of unity. They believe that people should work together for the common benefit of humanity
~The followers of Bahá’u’lláh were descended from the Bábis – believers in the Báb who foretold the mission of Bahá’u’lláh.

There are 6 million Bahá’ís in the world, in 235 countries and around 6,000 live in Britain.

Religion {9} ~ Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago.

For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE.

It is now one of the world’s smallest religions. In 2006 the New York Times reported that there were probably less than 190,000 followers worldwide at that time.

~Zoroastrians believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) and He created the world.
~Zoroastrians are not fire-worshippers, as some Westerners wrongly believe. ~Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God’s light or wisdom.
~Ahura Mazda revealed the truth through the Prophet, Zoroaster.
~Zoroastrians traditionally pray several times a day.
~Zoroastrians worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary.
~The Zoroastrian book of Holy Scriptures is called The Avesta.
~The Avesta can be roughly split into two main sections:
~The Avesta is the oldest and core part of the scriptures, which contains the Gathas. The Gathas are seventeen hymns thought to be composed by Zoroaster himself.
~The Younger Avesta – commentaries to the older Avestan written in later years. It also contains myths, stories and details of ritual observances.
~Zoroastrians are roughly split into two groups:
~The Iranians
~The Parsis

Religion {8} ~ Sikhism

There are 20 million Sikhs in the world, most of whom live in the Punjab province of India. The 2001 census recorded 336,000 Sikhs in the UK.

Sikhism was founded in the 16th century in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan. It was founded by Guru Nanak and is based on his teachings, and those of the 9 Sikh gurus who followed him.

The most important thing in Sikhism is the internal religious state of the individual.

~Sikhism is a monotheistic religion
~Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals
~Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
~keep God in heart and mind at all times
~live honestly and work hard
~treat everyone equally
~be generous to the less fortunate
~serve others
~The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara
~The Sikh scripture is the Guru Granth Sahib, a book that Sikhs consider a living Guru
~The tenth Sikh Guru decreed that after his death the spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the teachings contained in that book, so the Guru Granth Sahib now has the status of a Guru, and Sikhs show it the respect they would give to a human Guru.

Religion {7} ~ Santeria

Santeria combines influences of Caribbean tradition, West Africa’s Yoruba spirituality, and elements of Catholicism.

To become a Santero, or high priest, one must pass a series of tests and requirements prior to initiation.

The Origins of Santeria
Santeria is, in fact, not one set of beliefs, but a “syncretic” religion, which means it blends aspects of a variety of different faiths and cultures, despite the fact that some of these beliefs might be contradictory to one another. Santeria combines influences of Caribbean tradition, West Africa’s Yoruba spirituality, and elements of Catholicism. Santeria evolved when African slaves were stolen from their homelands during the Colonial period and forced to work in Caribbean sugar plantations.

Santeria is a fairly complex system, because it blends the Yoruba orishas, or divine beings, with the Catholic saints. In some areas, African slaves learned that honoring their ancestral orishas was far safer if their Catholic owners believed they were worshiping saints instead – hence the tradition of overlap between the two.

The orishas serve as messengers between the human world and the divine. They are called upon by priests by a variety of methods, including trances and possession, divination, ritual, and even sacrifice. To some extent, Santeria includes magical practice, although this magical system is based upon interaction with and understanding of the orishas.