World Religions Studies and Key Concepts

What is religion?

Religion can be defined as beliefs and practices that underscore the relationship between people and their God. Every religion is characterized by beliefs and religious practices that every follower must observe. In addition, each religion has its own distinct practices that distinguish it from other religions (Casanova 245). Religious convictions, taboos, creeds, and myths are some of the symbols that convey the nature of the sanctified objects, merits, and powers that are attributed to the different religions. The major religions across the world include Christianity, which has more than 2 billion followers, Islam with over 1 billion followers, and Hinduism that has the same number of followers as Islam. Other religions include Confucianism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Taoism among others.

Why do you think it is important for us to study religion?

Cross cultural understanding

As described above, different religious groups have their different cultural beliefs. In the recent past, the differences in culture and beliefs have caused divisions amongst people across the world. Cultural and religious diversity are the major causes of violence and animosity amongst people, thus leading to acts of terror and other criminal acts (Flood 53). Teaching religion can go a long way in averting conflicts founded on different religious platforms.

Moral behavior

Studying religion is important in at a personal level since it models one’s behavior coupled with instilling a sense of discipline in that individual (Casanova 277). All religions share one thing, viz. they all advocate for moral behaviors amongst the followers. Religion ensures that people grow morally upright and that they develop the right virtues. Studying and gaining insight over a variety of religions drive an individual into respecting his/her traditions and norms, thus leading to improved discipline and moral behaviors. Religious studies instill a sense of tolerance and respect for other people’s religions, which leads to responsible global citizenship.

Career development

Religious studies may determine a person’s career (Doudna 77). A religious expert may find it quite easy to venture into becoming a religious leader (Flood 51). Religious knowledge is also helpful in other disciplines such as management since it instills a sense of understanding and critical thinking skills, thus leading to good relations in the work place (Alberts 233). Religious knowledge instills certain key traits in a leader and when implemented in the work place, they may work in favor of a firm. Additionally, studying religion improves the ability of a leader to understand each individual worker, thus creating good working relations. In addition, religious knowledge is crucial in counseling since in most cases the practice involves moral guidance.

Developing one’s philosophy

Studying different religions assists one to compare and contrast the concepts of each religion. Making such comparisons may result in a person developing his/her own philosophy, which shapes his/her life. Getting insight to the nature and principles of other religions helps one to make decisions on whether to abandon a religion in favor of a new one based on convictions.

Major religions in the world

Christianity

Christianity is a monotheistic religion that believes in Jesus Christ as the savior of humankind. Christians trace their origin to Abraham. This religion has attracted more than 2 billion followers spread over all the continents across the world. Christianity started during the Roman Empire before spreading to other countries in the world (Alberts 246). The religion is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in trinity of being in their God, viz. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have their own sacred book, viz. the Bible, which is divided into 2 sections; that is, the New Testament and the Old Testament (Flood 52). Christians dedicate at least one day per week to worship their God. Christians observe certain rites of passage, which include baptism, circumcision, and marriage (Doudna 86).

Islam

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with about 1 billion followers. The religion is monotheistic just like Christianity and it follows teachings from a sacred book known as the Qur’an (Casanova 289). According to its followers, the Qur’an contains Allah’s will as communicated through his prophets. They believe that Allah sent his prophets to convey his word to the people. However, the most influential prophet in Islam is Prophet Muhammad as Allah handpicked him as the only prophet to convey the final word to the Muslims (Doudna 93). Muslims believe in one God, viz. Allah, who is said to be invisible, omnipresent, and formless. Muslims also believe in angels and demons that are said to reside in heaven with Allah. Muslims allege that the angels and demons are charged with the responsibility of documenting the deeds of the living on earth to be used on the judgment day.

Hinduism

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world that have survived the threat of becoming insignificant due to the dominant religions (Flood 47). The religion is henotheistic, which means that the followers believe in one God, but they do not refute the existence of other gods. Each god is allegedly associated with a certain function. The religion does not have a universal scripture due to diversity in traditions amongst the followers (Doudna 102). The religion developed from a diversity of cultures and beliefs among the Hindus and no one is credited for being the founder of the religion. In addition, Hinduism is believed to have developed in stages over a long period owing to commonality in traditions and beliefs among its followers. The Hindus believe in sacrificial offerings to their gods to appease them in order to acquire blessings (Casanova 238).

Buddhism

Buddhism came into existence courtesy of the exploitive and strictness nature of the orthodox Brahmanism, which was a dominant religion in India. The orthodox Brahmanism was mainly dominated by the upper class and in most cases the lower classes were discriminated (Alberts 266). Due to this discrimination, the lower class defected and formed its own religion by the name Buddhism, which attracted members from diverse backgrounds (Casanova 247).

The religion views life as full of suffering brought by human desires (Flood 48). In addition, the religion holds that the suffering could be avoided through elimination of the desires. The religion draws its principles and concepts from a variety of literature. The madhyamā-pratipada is the main principle that the religion is based on and it emphasizes on the need for individuals to control their judgments by being moderate in whatever they do.

Judaism

Judaism traces its origin to Moses, who is a prophet through whom according to the believers, God’s commandments were revealed (Casanova 256). It is a monotheistic religion meaning that the followers believe in one Supreme Being. This section of believers acknowledges their God as the giver of everything and they reciprocate by observing His commandments and maintaining peace and unity. The Jews are in a “give and take” relationship with their God. They worship their God in synagogues, which are well-established worshiping sites and their leaders, who are known as the Rabbis, preside over the worship ceremony (Doudna 43). The religion observes one day in every week, which is usually the seventh day of the week, to worship God. Normally, the believers pray three times per day in exception of the Sabbath day when they pray four times.

Confucianism

Confucianism was developed by K’ung-fu-tzu – a Chinese philosopher of the ancient days (Alberts 263). The intention of creating the religion was mainly to cultivate good behaviors and conduct coupled with ensuring peaceful coexistence among the Chinese people (Flood 52). Confucianism is more of a school of thought than a religion since the Chinese philosopher, who credited for its formation, did not intend to establish a religion, but rather a set of moral rules that would govern the day to day living of the Chinese community (Doudna 96). It emerged as a religion following the death of the founding philosopher when certain structures were built in his honor (Casanova 239). The structures were then used to perform certain rituals, thus turning the philosophy into a form of religion.

Taoism

Just like Confucianism, a Chinese philosopher by the name Laozi founded the Taoism faith. Laozi allegedly drafted the sacred book used by the worshipers. The religion emphasizes the interdependence between man and the nature.

What do you find as most uplifting and most depressing?

Generally, the well-established religions like Christianity and Islam advocate for love and compassion for others especially the poor in society (Alberts 247). Additionally, all the religions help in shaping individual behaviors by ensuring that people grow morally upright (Casanova 232).

This view is the most inspiring aspect in all religions. However, some elements in different religions are depressing. For the Hinduism and the Buddhism, they do not believe in one god, as it is the case with the major religions. Believing in many gods underscores idol worship and this depresses me most concerning the tow aforementioned religions. On the other hand, Christianity contradicts itself in a number of ways. The two sections forming the bible, viz. the New and the Old Testament are self-contradicting, thus raising a question on the truthfulness of the religion (Flood 49).

On the other side, the founder of Islam – Prophet Muhammad, was married to 13 wives, which is a clear indicator that he was polygamous. Being a prophet, he ought to be the role model for his believers and people will tend to follow his style of living. According to me, polygamy is inappropriate and thus the issue is depressing. Judaism is based on a give and take relationship between the believers and their God. The Jews worship their God in exchange for the gift of life and all other things. I find this aspect depressing since one should worship his/her God without expecting anything in return. Confucianism and Taoism are more of philosophical ideas than religions. They are based on human views, and thus they lack divinity, which is an important aspect in any religion.

If you were to choose a religion, which one would you choose, why?

Having analyzed a number of religions, I conclude that Christianity is the best religion to be associated with (Doudna 66). In my view, Christianity has some degree of truthfulness in it since some prophesies were fulfilled. The Old Testament prophesies the coming of the messiah who is Jesus Christ. It details the messiah’s coming, his stay on earth, as well as his death and resurrection. Additionally, the New Testament presents the coming of the prophesied messiah. Therefore, the prophecy was fulfilled in the New Testament.

Given that the two books were written in different periods by different authors, there is a fulfillment of prophesy that is not evident in any other religion. Comparing Christianity with other religions, one can conclude that it is the most truthful since God’s existence is revealed through Jesus Christ. Additionally, Jesus performed miracles to affirm that he was the son of God. In addition to the fulfilled prophecies, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a clear indicator that he was really the son of God (Casanova 238). Apart from Christianity, no other religion that has indicated the resurrection of its gods. For example, Buddha died and he never resurrected. Muhammad, Krishna, and Confucius all died and they never rose from the dead (Alberts 238).

If you were not to choose a religions why wouldn’t you?

Religions share one thing, viz. they all seek for salvation of humankind. However, religions contradict each other in many aspects. For instance, polytheistic religions acknowledge the existence of many gods. In Hinduism, the followers believe in the existence of a number of gods. On the other hand, Christianity and Islam recognize only one Supreme Being. The view that religions contradict each other raises doubt on their truthfulness. Additionally, all religions are based on myths, which cannot be proven scientifically (Alberts 230). Each religion has its own rules different from others. Certain religions do not allow interaction with people from other religions since they consider them as idol worshipers (Flood 47). Equally, committing oneself to a certain religion deprives a person of his/her independence. Therefore, in my opinion, it is advisable to remain nonpartisan to the different religions.

Works Cited

Alberts, Wanda. Integrative religious education in Europe: a study-of-religions approach, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007. Print.

Casanova, José. Public religions in the modern world, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.

Doudna, Kelly. Religions around the World, Minneapolis: ABDO Pub., 2010. Print.

Flood, Gavin. “Reflections on Tradition and Inquiry in the Study of Religions.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74.1 (2006): 47-58. Print.