Forum: Arts / Religion

Descriptions Of The Main World Religions (karma: 26)
By Adidimember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Jan 11, 2005 11:40 AM
Edited by Adidi (30756) on 2005-01-11 11:33:31 oops.. missed a code! :D
Made sticky by MIClogger (28613) on 2005-01-17 00:05:15 member request - although, there are lots of religions missing, even with parts 1 and 2...I hope that there are more parts on the way
Moved to Religion by Lirit (28370) on 2005-11-27 18:28:16

And well... here's an Extra Large post about Religions.
Im doing this for people who like to know investigate about them.
And of course, for those who post here without knowing what the religions are about, here's just an overview of the major world religions, each with over three million followers.

Baha'i Faith

The Bahá'í World Faith is the youngest of the world's main religions. It was founded in Iran during the mid 19th century by Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad (1819-1850 CE). He assumed the title Bab ("the Gate") and prophesized the future arrival of "One greater than Himself." One of the Bab's followers, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892), announced that he was the Manifestation predicted by the Bab. He assumed the title Baha'u'llah ("glory of God"). His teachings on world peace, democracy, civil rights, equal rights for women, the acceptance of scientific discoveries, etc. were decades ahead of his time.

Bahá'ís believe in a single God who has repeatedly sent prophets into the world through whom he has revealed the "Word of God." Prophets include Adam, Krishna, Buddha, Yeshua ben Nazareth (Jesus), Mohammed, The Bab and Baha'u'llah.

The Bahá'í faith is still looked upon by many Muslims as a breakaway sect of Islam. Bahá'ís are heavily persecuted in some countries, particularly Iran.

*Bahá'ís believe that there is only one God who is the source of all creation.
*God is transcendent and unknowable. However, He has sent, and will continue to send, great prophets to humanity, through which the Holy Spirit has revealed the "Word of God." The Great Manifestations of God up to this time have been:

1. Adam (? BCE)
2. Abraham (? BCE)
3. Moses (1456 BCE)
4. Krishna (1249 BCE)
5. Zoroaster (1000 BCE)
6. Buddha (757 BCE)
7. Jesus Christ (34 CE)
8. Mohammed (613 CE)
9. The Bab (1844 CE)
10. Baha'u'llah (1863 CE)

(Dates shown are common estimates from historical and Christian sources; BCE dates are very approximate) A new prophet is not expected for many centuries into our future.

*The Bahá'í's believe in an essential unity of the great religions of the world. However, this does not mean they believe the various religious creeds and doctrines are identical. Rather, they view all religions as having sprung from the same spiritual source. The social and outer forms of different religions vary due to the circumstances at the time that they were founded. Other differences in doctrine and belief can be attributed to later accretions, after the death of the founder.
*Every person has an immortal soul. Unlike everything else in creation, it is not subject to decomposition. At death, the soul is freed to travel through the spirit world. The latter is viewed as a "a timeless and placeless extension of our own universe--and not some physically remote or removed place."
*Some of Baha'u'llah's most famous sayings are:
"The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice,"
"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens"
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
*Bahá'í beliefs promoted major social changes when originated in the 19th century: they supported gender and race equality; world government; freedom of expression and assembly; and world peace. In many ways, they were a century or more ahead of many other faiths. Followers are heavily involved in promoting these concepts today. Also, unlike many other religions, Bahá'ís view scientific inquiry as essential to expand human knowledge and deepen their members' faith. They feel that science needs to be guided by spiritual principle so that its applications are beneficial to all humanity. Notably missing from the Baha'u'llah's teachings is the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal, natural sexual orientation for a minority of adults. Neither the official Bahá'í website, 1 or the national web sites in Canada 2 or the U.S. 3 appear to contain any description of the faith's teachings on homosexuality. The Canadian web site, for example, states:

"The Bahá'í teachings promote the elimination of all forms of prejudice and uphold equal dignity and respect for all peoples, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious or national background. Equality of men and women, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and economic justice for all peoples, universal education, and the dignity of the individual are central Bahá'í principles." 4

However, sexual orientation is notably absent from their list of protected classes of humans.

Another policy, which appears to contradict the faith's promotion of gender equality, is the exclusion of women from serving on its highest religious court., the Universal House of Justice.

They believe that there will eventually be a single world government, to be led by Bahá'ís, and based on the Faith's administrative framework.

The Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, is the global governing body; its functions were set out by Baha'u'llah. It is an all-male body.
*National Spiritual Assemblies (NSA) supervise affairs in each country. The American NSA is located in Wilmette IL at the site of a Bahá'í House of Worship, one of 7 worldwide.
*In each locality where there are more than nine adult believers, affairs are administered by local spiritual assemblies. Each of these institutions has nine members and is elected, not appointed. Their functions have been defined by Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha in Bahá'í scripture.
*Bahá'ís have no clergy, sacraments or rituals.
*pray each day.
*observe the 9 holy days.
*fast 19 days a year.
*work to abolish prejudice.
*regard work as a form of worship.
make at least one pilgrimage, if they are able, to the Shrine of the Bab and the houses in which Baha'u'llah lived, which are situated near the Bahá'í world headquarters.
*Reflecting their early ties to Shiite Islam, Bahá'ís do not consume alcohol.

Sacred texts:

Bahá'í scripture comprises the writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, together with the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Among the better known writings of Baha'u'llah are, The Most Holy Book, The Book of Certitude, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys. There are many others books of Bahá'í scripture.

Holy days:

The Bahá'ís have created a new calendar. Its year begins on March 21, at the spring equinox. Other fixed seasonal days of celebration or commemoration are:
April 21, 29 & May 2: Baha'u'llah's public declaration of his mission
May 23: Bab's declaration of his mission
May 29: Passing of Baha'u'llah
July 9: Martyrdom of the Bab
October 20: Birth of Bab
November 12: Birth of Baha'u'llah


Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, being exceeded in numbers only by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It was founded in Northern India by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. In 535 BCE, he attained enlightenment and assumed the title Lord Buddha (one who has awakened)

As Buddhism expanded across Asia, it evolved into two main forms, which evolved largely independently from each other:

Theravada Buddhism (sometimes called Southern Buddhism; occasionally spelled Therevada) "has been the dominant school of Buddhism in most of Southeast Asia since the thirteenth century, with the establishment of the monarchies in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos."

Mahayana Buddhism (sometimes called Northern Buddhism) is largely found in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.

To which might be added:
Tibetan Buddhism, which developed in isolation from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism because of the isolation of Tibet.

Since the late 19th century:
Modern Buddhism has emerged as a truly international movement. It started as an attempt to produce a single form of Buddhism, without local accretions, that all Buddhists could embrace.

Core beliefs of Buddhism:[i/]

Buddhism, like most of the great religions of the world, is divided into a number of different traditions. However, most traditions share a common set of fundamental beliefs.

One fundamental belief involves reincarnation: the concept that one must go through many cycles of birth, living, and death. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana - a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.

[i]The Three Trainings or Practices:

These three consist of:

1. Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:
The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.
The principle of reciprocity: This is the "Golden Rule" in Christianity -- to do onto others as you would wish them do onto you. It is found in all major religions.
2. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
3. Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.

The first two paths listed in the Eightfold Path, described below, refer to discernment; the last three belong to concentration; the middle three are related to virtue.

The Four Noble Truths:

The Buddha's Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as:

1. Dukkha: The reality and universality of suffering. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the impermanence of pleasure.
2. Samudaya: The cause of suffering is a desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.
3. Nirodha: Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a.k.a. Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.
4. Magga: The eightfold path leads to the cessation of suffering.

It is not a simple task to write about Christianity. There are on the order of 1,500 different Christian faith groups in North America which promote many different and conflicting beliefs. Further, many groups believe that they alone are the "true" Christian church and that all of the others are in error. As a result, one cannot write an introduction or a history of Christianity that is acceptable to all faith groups. The following is supported by historical evidence and is probably agreeable to most.

About Yeshua (Jesus):

Christians follow the teachings of, and about, Yeshua of Nazareth, commonly referred to as Jesus Christ. (Jesus is the Greek form of Yeshua which is normally translated as Joshua; Christ is Greek for "the Messiah" or the "anointed one.") Yeshua was a Jewish itinerant preacher who was born probably between 7 and 4 BCE. He was executed by the Roman occupying authorities in Palestine, perhaps on a Friday, in the spring of the year 30 CE (e.g. 0030-APR-7). Estimates range over about a five year interal from the late 20s to the early 30s. Most Christians regard him as the son of God. They further believe that he is God, the second person in the Trinity. (The Trinity consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three separate persons, all eternal, all omnipresent, all omnipotent, all omnibeneficient, who form a single, unified deity.) Most Christians believe that Jesus co-existed with God before the creation of the world, was born of a virgin, was bodily resurrected three days after his death, and later ascended to Heaven. Most conservative Christians believe that Hell awaits anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Church history:

After Yeshua's death, his followers formed the Jewish Christian movement, centered in Jerusalem. One of Yeshua's followers, Simon Peter, may have headed the group. James, who was either Yeshua's brother, cousin, or friend, took over leadership later. They regarded themselves as a reform movement within Judaism; they continued to sacrifice at the temple, circumcise their male children, follow Jewish kosher food laws, etc.

Saul of Tarsus, originally a persecutor of the Jewish Christians, reported having a vision of the risen Christ, circa 34 CE while on the road to Damascus. Adopting the new name of Paul, he became the greatest theologian of the early Christian movement. His writings, along with those of the author(s) of the Gospel of John, provided much of the theological foundation for what has been called Pauline Christianity, a movement that he spread throughout the northern and eastern Mediterranean basin. Paul's ministry was directed mainly to Gentiles -- non-Jews. Another belief system was Gnostic Christianity. They taught that Jesus was a spirit being sent by God to impart knowledge to humans so that they could escape the miseries of life on earth. They regarded the Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to be an inferior, short tempered, vicious creator deity who performed many genocides, and other evil acts. In addition to Gnostic, Jewish, and and Pauline Christianity, there were many other versions of Christianity being taught. Often, there would be a number of conflicting Christianities being propagated within a single city. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Army in 70 CE, the Jewish Christian movement was largely dissipated. Gnostic leaving Pauline and Gnostic Christianity as the dominant groups. Gentiles within the movement took over control of the former movement.

The Roman Empire recognized Pauline Christianity as a valid religion in 313 CE. Later in that century, it became the official religion of the Empire. Church authority became concentrated among the five bishops or patriarchs located in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome. Gnostic Christianity was severely persecuted, both by the Roman Empire and the Pauline Christian churches. It was almost exterminated, but is experiencing rapid growth today. With the expansion of Islam throughout the Middle East during the seventh century CE, power became concentrated in Constantinople and Rome. These two Christian centers gradually grew apart in belief, and practice. In 1054 CE, a split was formalized between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches; their leaders excommunicated each others. The split remains in effect today. Efforts are being made to heal the division. However, they are making little progress.

The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century led to a split within the western church. The Protestant movement further fragmented into what is now thousands of individual denominations and groups of denominations.

Who is a Christian
If you believe that you are a Christian, you will probably have a personal definition of exactly who is a real Christian. The purpose of this thread is not to criticize your definition. It is to explain the full range of meanings that people have given to the term "Christian." Please do not reply with angry messages because the description of the beliefs differ from yours.

Evangelical Protestants:

A person becomes a Christian through being saved -- by being born again:

Some definitions:
*When Matthew Bell, an Evangelical Christian, engaged in a debate with a Roman Catholic, he offered the following definition: "A Christian is an individual whose life has been transformed by the Grace of God from a hellbound sinner, to a heavenbound saint, this being made possible and accomplished by and through the Person of Jesus Christ and his efficacious sacrifice."
*Other Evangelicals use a simpler definition: A Christian is a person who has repented of their sins, and who sincerely trusts Jesus as her or his personal Lord and Savior.
*Some conservative Protestants delete the need for repentance because it is a human action. They believe that salvation is dependent solely upon grace offered by God and is not brought about as a result of even the slightest degree of personal effort.

Both of these definitions seem to imply that church sacraments or rituals do not save a person -- only a repentance of sins and a specific declaration of trust and faith in Jesus. Such definitions would probably classify most Roman Catholics as non-Christian.

More definitions:
*A Fundamentalist Christian said lthat the only "true Christians" are those who have been saved or "born again.": i.e. have been filled with the Holy Spirit and are thus part of the Body of Christ. He continued by saying that most Americans are not Christians, because they are "not filled with God's Spirit and anyone not filled with His Spirit is in opposition to God..." Probably about 1 in 3 adult Americans would meet his definition of "Christian." One poll has found that about 39% of adult Americans say that they are "born again."
*Amanda Christian Bookstores' definition is more restricted than the preceding: "... a Christian is a person who is totally full of Christ, occupied by Christ, living for Christ, living out Christ to express Christ, and even living Christ. By this definition, most people who call themselves Christians actually are not. They might have believed and received Christ, yet they are not living as adherents of Christ." 21
*Jeff Bonser, writing for the British Broadcasting Corporation, stated: "Being a Christian is not about keeping rules and regulations, performing rituals, or even going to church. It's about a friendship - a friendship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said that knowing him is the doorway to a special relationship with God." 22
*Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) writes: "Theologically speaking, a Christian is someone who has received the Lord Jesus as Savior (John 1:12), trusts Him alone for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 4:12), has put not trust in His [sic] own efforts (Isaiah 64:6) to please God, and repented from his/her sins (Mark 1:15). Experientially speaking, the life of a Christian does not consist only of theological knowledge....we have a living and open relationship with the Lord Jesus. We experience Him through His indwelling Spirit." 25

Conservative Protestants often teach of an "invisible church." This is made up of saved individuals "that mysteriously exists in the midst of all the differences and mistakes and sins of men—a church that is holy, whose membership is known only to God..." 3 The term "Body of Christ" is often used to refer to those individuals who have been saved, (a.k.a. born again). One author writes: "Whether we are Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Lutheran or Roman Catholic matters not at all...We are the body of Christ. We stand scattered among the world of unbelievers. We are even scattered among the religious who think they are Christians because they are a part of a church or because they work for Him." 2

Roman Catholicism:

A person becomes a Christian through a valid sacrament of baptism:

Roman Catholics believe that there are three groups of individuals who, in combination, form the "one Mystical Church and Body of Christ." 4 These groups are: "the Church Militant on earth, the Church Triumphant in heaven, and the Church Suffering in purgatory..." Further, they believe that "communication can take place between [sic] all three." 4 [Purgatory is a place and state of being that some people experience after death. In Purgatory, they are punished until they are sufficiently purified and cleansed of their sins that they can enter Heaven.] These beliefs differ from those of Protestants, who generally reject the concept of Purgatory because, they feel, it is not mentioned or implied in the books of their versions of the Bible. Also, most believe that if Purgatory existed, it would negate the salvation promised in the Bible once one trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the sacrament of baptism as "the door of the Church of Christ and the entrance into a new life. We are reborn from the state of slaves of sin into the freedom of the Sons of God. Baptism incorporates us with Christ's mystical body..." 5

Eastern Orthodox Churches:

James Clement Taylor, a member of St. Mary's Eastern Orthodox Church in Calhan, CO defines a Christian as a person: "...who has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and who has made a personal, free-will decision to commit himself and all his or her life to our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ." 23

Archbishop Paul of Finland defines "Orthodox Christian" in his book "The Faith We Hold." Since there is little that is uniquely Orthodox in this definition, it might also suffice as his definition of the term "Christian." He writes: "The Orthodox Christian has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and follows the ideals and beliefs of both the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. He believes in a living and loving God, Whose Grace protects and guides him in the path of redemption. He believes that God has revealed Himself in the Bible through the Prophets and especially in the Person of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son who is man's Savior. He especially believes in the Incarnation of Christ as God-Man, in His Crucifixion and Resurrection, in His Gospel and Commandments, and in the world to come." 26

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):

A person joins the denomination by concurring with a statement of faith:

Dr. Kenneth Teegarden, General Minister and President Emeritus of the denomination explains: "Standing before a congregation of Disciples to confess faith in Jesus Christ and become part of the church, a person is asked only one question. It is usually phrased, 'Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Savior?' " By answering in the affirmative, the person becomes a member of the Disciples of Christ., and thereby also of "The universal church."
This essay is continued below

The Apostles' creed:
This creed is widely accepted within almost all Christian denominations, and is used by some to define who is a Christian. It is not accepted by the Eastern Orthodox churches. It contains a list of beliefs that the early church expected its members to believe.

A common English translation reads:

"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. [He descended to the dead.*] On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

* This sentence appears to be a later addition by an unknown forger.

There is no consensus over the origin of the creed:
*Traditionally, the creed has been dated to about 30 to 40 CE when many of the apostles were preparing to follow the Great Commission -- to leave Palestine and teach the gospel throughout the world. In order to make certain that each apostle taught the same message, they jointly composed the Apostles' Creed before their departure.
*According to religious liberals, the creed was written by unknown author(s), in the 4th century CE or later.

One philosopher's definitions:

Michael Martin studied Christianity from the point of view of a philosopher. He prepared various definitions of "Christian:"
*Basic Christian: "Person P is a Basic Christian if and only if P believes that a theistic God exists, that Jesus lived at the time of Pilate, that Jesus is the Incarnation of God, that one is saved through faith in Jesus, and that Jesus is the model of ethical behavior."
*Orthodox Christian (meaning a traditional Christian, not necessarily a member of an Eastern Orthodox church): "Person P is an Orthodox Christian if and only if P is a Basic Christian and P believes in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion [ordered] by Pilate, the Resurrection, and the Second Coming."
*Liberal Christian: Person P is a liberal Christian if they believe in "a theistic God, ...Jesus as a model of ethical behavior, ...[and] the historicity of Jesus."
*Extreme Liberal Christian: Person P is an extreme liberal Christian if they believe in "Jesus as a model of ethical behavior..." Presumably, such an extreme liberal Christian could also be an Agnostic, Atheist or Humanist. 10

Martin indicates that some would object to his minimal definitions, arguing that Christianity must be more than a set of beliefs; it must involve action. i.e. a Christian must attempt to follow the ethical teachings of Jesus. He suggests that each of his definitions could be given the suffix: "and P follows or attempts to follow the ethical teachings of Jesus."

Other dictionaries:
*Word iQ: "A follower of the faith of Christianity." 16
*Encarta: "Any phenomenon as complex and as vital as Christianity is easier to describe historically than to define logically...the centrality of the person of Jesus feature of all the historical varieties of Christian belief and practice. [However] Christians have not agreed in their understanding and definition of what makes Christ distinctive or unique." 5

1. [n] a religious person who believes Jesus is the Christ and is a member of a Christian denomination.
2. [adj] following the teachings or manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus Christ
3. [adj] (religion) relating to or characteristic of Christianity; 'Christian rites'." 17

*TheFreeDictionary: "A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior." 18
*Other dictionaries: According to, Robin's Nest, most English dictionaries define a Christian as: "n. person who believes in and follows Christ. adj. relating to Christ or Christianity; kind or good." 7


K'ung Fu Tzu (commonly pronounced Confucius in English) was born in 551 BCE in the state of Lu (modern day Shantung Province). He lived during the Chou dynasty, an era known for its moral laxity. Later in life, he wandered through many states of China, giving advice to their rulers. He accumulated a small band of students during this time. The last years of his life were spent back in Lu, where he devoted himself to teaching.

His writings deal primarily with individual morality and ethics, and the proper exercise of political power by the rulers.

In China, and some other areas in Asia, the social ethics and moral teachings of Confucius are blended with the Taoist communion with nature and Buddhist concepts of the afterlife, to form a set of complementary, peacefully co-existent and ecumenical religions.

There are approximately 6 million Confucians in the world. About 26,000 live in North America; almost all of the remainder are found throughout China and the rest of Asia.


Confucian ethical teachings include the following values:
*Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
*Hsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children for their parents
*Yi: righteousness
*Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
*Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
*Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.


Confucianism does not contain all of the elements of some other religions, like Christianity and Islam. It is primarily an ethical system to which rituals at important times during one's lifetime have been added.

Since the time of the Han dynasty (206 CE) four life passages have been recognized and regulated by Confucian tradition:
*birth: The T'ai-shen (spirit of the fetus) protects the expectant woman and deals harshly with anyone who harasses the mother to be. A special procedure is followed when the placenta is disposed of. The mother is given a special diet and is allowed rest for a month after delivery. The mother's family of origin supplies all the items required by the baby on the first, fourth and twelfth monthly anniversary of the birth.
*reaching maturity: This life passage is no longer being celebrated, except in traditional families. It takes the form of a group meal in which the young adult is served chicken.
*marriage: This is performed in six stages:
-Proposal: the couple exchange the eight characters: the year, month, day and hour of each of their births. If any unpropitious event occurs within the bride-to-be's family during the next three days, then the woman is believed to have rejected the proposal.
-Engagement: after the wedding day is chosen, the bride announces the wedding with invitations and a gift of cookies made in the shape of the moon.
-Dowry: This is carried to the groom's home in a solemn procession. The bride-price is then sent to the bride by the groom's parents. Gifts by the groom to the bride, equal in value to the dowry, are sent to her.
-Procession: The groom visits the bride's home and brings her back to his place, with much fanfare.
-Marriage and Reception: The couple recite their vows, toast each other with wine, and then take center stage at a banquet.
-Morning after: The bride serves breakfast to the groom's parents, who then reciprocate.
-death: At death, the relatives cry out aloud to inform the neighbors. The family starts mourning and puts on clothes made of a coarse material. The corpse is washed and placed in a coffin. Mourners bring incense and money to offset the cost of the funeral. Food and significant objects of the deceased are placed into the coffin. A Buddhist or Taoist priest (or even a Christian minister) performs the burial ritual. Friends and family follow the coffin to the cemetery, along with a willow branch which symbolizes the soul of the person who has died. The latter is carried back to the family altar where it is used to "install" the spirit of the deceased. Liturgies are performed on the 7th, 9th, 49th day after the burial and on the first and third anniversaries of the death.

Schools of Confucianism

There are six schools: Han Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, Contemporary Neo-Confucianism, Korean Confucianism, Japanese Confucianism and Singapore Confucianism.

Sacred Texts

These were assembled by Chu Hsi (1130-1200 CE) during the Sung dynasty. They include:
*The Si Shu or Four Books:
*The Lun Yu the Analects of Confucius
*The Chung Yung or the Doctrine of the Mean
*The Ta Hsueh or the Great Learning
*The Meng Tzu the writings of Meng Tzu (371-289 BCE) a philosopher who, like Confucius, traveled from state to state conversing with the government rulers
*The Wu Jing or Five Classics:
*Shu Ching or Classic of History: writings and speeches from ancient Chinese rulers
*The Shih Ching or Classic of Odes: 300 poems and songs
*The I Ching or Classic of Changes: the description of a divinitory system involving 64 hexagrams. The hexagrams are symbols composed of broken and continuous lines; one is selected to foretell the future based on the casting of 49 sticks.
*The Ch'un Ch'iu or Spring and Autumn Annals: a history of the state of Lu from 722 to 484 BCE.
*The Li Ching or Classic of Rites: a group of three books on the LI the rites of propriety


Hinduism differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." 1

Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. It claims about 762 million followers - 13% of the world's population. It is the dominant religion in India, Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. According to the "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches," there are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. 2 The "American Religious Identification Survey" is believed to be more accurate. 3 They estimated smaller number: 766,000 Hindus in 2001. Still, this is a very significant increase from 227,000 in 1990. Statistics Canada estimates that there are about 157,015 Hindus in Canada. 4

Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion.

The many forms of Hinduism are henotheistic religions. They recognize a single deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. Henotheistic and polytheistic religions have traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant faiths. However, until recently, a Hindu nationalistic political party controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the federal government, and nationalism led to a degeneration of the separation of church and state in India. This, in turn, has decreased the level of religious tolerance in that country. The escalation of anti-Christian violence was one manifestation of this linkage. With the recent change in government, it is hoped that the level of violence will diminish.

This religion is called:
*Sanatana Dharma, "eternal religion," and
*Vaidika Dharma, "religion of the Vedas," and
*Hinduism -- the most commonly used name in North America. Various origins for the word "Hinduism" have been suggested:
-It may be derived from an ancient inscription translated as: "The country lying between the Himalayan mountain and Bindu Sarovara is known as Hindusthan by combination of the first letter 'hi' of 'Himalaya' and the last compound letter 'ndu' of the word `Bindu.'" Bindu Sarovara is called the Cape Comorin sea in modern times. 1
-It may be derived from the Persian word for Indian.
bullet It may be a Persian corruption of the word Sindhu (the river Indus)
-It was a name invented by the British administration in India during colonial times.

Early history of Hinduism:

Beliefs about the early development of Hinduism are currently in a state of flux:
*The classical theory of the origins of Hinduism traces the religion's roots to the Indus valley civilization circa 4000 to 2200 BCE. The development of Hinduism was influenced by many invasions over thousands of years. The major influences occurred when light-skinned, nomadic "Aryan" Indo-European tribes invaded Northern India (circa 1500 BCE) from the steppes of Russia and Central Asia. They brought with them their religion of Vedism. These beliefs mingled with the more advanced, indigenous Indian native beliefs, often called the "Indus valley culture.". This theory was initially proposed by Christian academics some 200 years ago. Their conclusions were biased by their pre-existing belief in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). The Book of Genesis, which they interpreted literally, appears to place the creation of the earth at circa 4,000 BCE, and the Noahic flood at circa 2,500 BCE. These dates put severe constraints on the date of the "Aryan invasion," and the development of the four Veda and Upanishad Hindu religious texts. A second factor supporting this theory was their lack of appreciation of the sophisticated nature of Vedic culture; they had discounted it as primitive. 2 The classical theory is now being rejected by increasing numbers of archeologists and religious historians.
*Emerging theory: The Aryan Invasion view of ancient Indian history has been challenged in recent years by new conclusions based on more recent findings in archaeology, cultural analysis, astronomical references, and literary analysis. One scholar, David Frawley, has established a convincing argument for this new interpretation. 3 Archeological digs have revealed that the Indus Valley culture was not "destroyed by outside invasion, but...[by] internal causes and, most likely, floods." The "dark age" that was believed to have followed the Aryan invasion may never have happened. A series of cities in India have been studied by archeologists and shown to have a level of civilization between that of the Indus culture and later more highly developed Indian culture, as visited by the Greeks. Finally, Indus Valley excavations have uncovered many remains of fire altars, animal bones, potsherds, shell jewelry and other evidences of Vedic rituals. "In other words there is no racial evidence of any such Indo-Aryan invasion of India but only of a continuity of the same group of people who traditionally considered themselves to be Aryans...The Indo-Aryan invasion as an academic concept in 18th and 19th century Europe reflected the cultural milieu of the period. Linguistic data were used to validate the concept that in turn was used to interpret archeological and anthropological data." 2

During the first few centuries CE, many sects were created, each dedicated to a specific deity. Typical among these were the Goddesses Shakti and Lakshmi, and the Gods Skanda and Surya.

Sacred texts:
*The Mahabharata, were written 540 to 300 BCE, and have been attributed to the sage Vyasa. They record "the legends of the Bharatas, one of the Aryan tribal groups." The Bhagavad Gita is the sixth book of the Mahabharata. It is a poem describing a conversation between a warrior Arjuna and the God Krishna. It is an ancient text that has become the main sacred text of Hinduism and other belief systems.
*Among the most important of all Hindu sacred texts are the Vedas: the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. Rig Veda (a.k.a. Rigveda) is the oldest, having been composed about 1500 BCE and written down about 600 BCE. They contain hymns, incantations, and rituals from ancient India. 4
*Another group of primary texts are the Upanishadas. They are "a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a persons' actions." 4
*Another important text is the Ramayana. It is "a moving love story with moral and spiritual themes." It is dated to the first century CE and has been attributed to the poet Valmiki.
*Other texts include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, Puranas, and the Aranyakas.

Hindu beliefs and practices:

Categorizing the religion of Hinduism is somewhat confusing:
*Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses. Although a widespread belief, this is not particularly accurate.
*Some have viewed it as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well.
*Some view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad -- one God with three persons:
*Brahma the Creator who is continuing to create new realities
*Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations.
*Shiva, the Destroyer, is at times compassionate, erotic and destructive.
*Strictly speaking, Hinduism is a henotheistic religion -- a religion which recognizes a single deity, but which recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that supreme God.

Most urban Hindus follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism:
*Vaishnavaism: which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity
*Shivaism: which generally regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.

However, many rural Hindus worship their own village goddess or an earth goddess. She is believed to rule over fertility and disease -- and thus over life and death. The priesthood is less important in rural Hinduism: non-Brahmins and non-priests often carry out ritual and prayer there.

Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul. This is the transfer of one's soul after death into another body. This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their many lifetimes. It is called samsara. Karma is the accumulated sum of ones good and bad deeds. Karma determines how you will live your next life. Through pure acts, thoughts and devotion, one can be reborn at a higher level. Eventually, one can escape samsara and achieve enlightenment. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn as a lower level, or even as an animal. The unequal distribution of wealth, prestige, suffering are thus seen as natural consequences for one's previous acts, both in this life and in previous lives.
Hindus organize their lives around certain activities or "purusharthas." These are called the "four aims of Hinduism," or "the doctrine of the fourfold end of life." They are:
*The three goals of the "pravritti," those who are in the world, are:
*dharma: righteousness in their religious life. This is the most important of the three.
*artha: success in their economic life; material prosperity.
*kama: gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual, sexual, and mental enjoyment.
*The main goal for the "nivritti," those who renounce the world. is:
*moksa: Liberation from "samsara." This is considered the supreme goal of mankind.

Meditation is often practiced, with Yoga being the most common. Other activities include daily devotions, public rituals, and puja, a ceremonial dinner for a God.

Hinduism has a deserved reputation of being highly tolerant of other religions. Hindus have a saying: "Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names"

Origin of Islam:

The name of this religion, Islam, is derived from the word "salam," which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" would be a better translation. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God. Many Muslims feel that the phrases "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim terrorist," which have been observed so often in the media, are oxymorons.

Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet (peace be upon him).* He lived from about 570 to 632 CE). The religion started in Mecca, when the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) read the first revelation to Muhammad (pbuh). (Mohammed and Muhammed (pbuh) are alternate spellings for his name.) Islam is the youngest of the world's very large religions -- those with over 300 million members -- which include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

* Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets (peace be upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their names.

However, many if not most of the followers of Islam believe that:
*Islam existed before Muhammad (pbuh) was born,
*The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, and
*Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of a series of Prophets.

Followers of Islam are called Muslims. "Allah" is an Arabic word which means "the One True God." An alternate spelling for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim"; it is not recommended because it is often pronounced "mawzlem": which sounds like an Arabic word for "oppressor". Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as "Mohammedism"; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Muhammad the Prophet (pbuh) was in some way divine.

About Muhammad (pbuh) :

Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's (pbuh) birth and childhood:
*His mother said "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."
*Also at the time of his birth, "...fourteen galleries of Kisra's palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians' sacred fire died down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank down and collapsed."
*His foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while he was in their care.
*As a young child, the angel Jibreel visited the boy, ripped his chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and returned him to normalcy. 4

While still young, he was sent into the desert to be raised by a foster family. This was a common practice at the time. He was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by his uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria by his uncle at the age of 9 (or perhaps 12). Later, as a youth, he was employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. Muhammad (pbuh) later managed caravans on behalf of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and was able to observe and learn about Judaism, Christianity and the indigenous Pagan religions.

After marriage, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of 40, (610 CE), he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriel. He developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and materialism.

He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north to Medina due to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the hegira . Here he was disappointed by the rejection of his message by the Jews. Through religious discussion, persuasion, military activity and political negotiation, Muhammad (pbuh) became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established throughout the area.

About Islam:

By 750 CE, Islam had expanded to China, India, along the Southern shore of the Mediterranean and into Spain. By 1550 they had reached Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling Muslims from Spain and Europe. Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they did not an develop extensive sea trade (as for example the English and Spaniards). As a result, the old world occupation of North America was left to Christians.

Believers are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity.

Many do not look upon Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them). Muhammad's (pbuh) role as the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and to purify it by removing foreign ideas that had been added in error.

Important texts:

There are two main texts consulted by Muslims:
*the Qur'an (Recitation) are the words of God. Muslims believe that it was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Jibril (Gabriel). This was originally in oral and written form; they were later assembled together into a single book, the Qur'an. Its name is often spelled "Koran" in English. This is not recommended, as some Muslims find it offensive.
*The Hadith, which are collections of the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh). They are regarded as the Sunnah (lived example) of Muhammad. The Quran gives legitimacy to the Hadith. It states: "Nor does he say aught of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him" (53:3-4). However, the writings are not regarded as having the same status as the Holy Qur'an; the latter is considered to be God's word. The great Islamic scholar Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi compiled a collection of 43 sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is is now known as "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" 5

Islamic beliefs:
*Islam considers six fundamental beliefs to be the foundation of their faith:

1. A single, indivisible God. (God, the creator, is just, omnipotent and merciful. "Allah" is often used to refer to God; it is the Arabic word for God.)
2. The angels.
3. The divine scriptures, which include the Torah, the Psalms, the rest of the Bible, (as they were originally revealed) and the Qur'an (which is composed of God's words, dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad).
4. The Messengers of God, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad -- the last prophet; (peace be upon them). Muhammad's message is considered the final, universal message for all of humanity.
5. The Day of Judgment when people will be judged on the basis of their deeds while on earth, and will either attain reward of Heaven or punishment in Hell. They do not believe that Jesus or any other individual can atone for another person's sin. Hell is where unbelievers and sinners spend eternity. One translation of the Qur'an, 98:1-8, states: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." ("People of the Book" refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims). Paradise is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death
6. The supremacy of God's will.

*Other beliefs include:
-God did not have a son.
-Jesus (pbuh) is a prophet, born of the Virgin Mary. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus (pbuh) to be blasphemous; it is seen as a form of polytheism.
-Jesus (pbuh) was not executed on the cross. He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise.
-The existence of Satan who drives people to sin.
-Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness.
-All people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.
-All children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure, natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc.
-When a child reaches puberty an account of their deeds is opened in Paradise. When the person dies, their eventual destination (Paradise or Hell) depends on the balance of their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life) and their bad deeds.
-Alcohol, other drugs, eating of pork, etc. should be avoided.
-Gambling should be avoided.

Early History of Jain Dharma

Jainism traces its roots to a succession of 24 Jinas ("those who overcome", or conqueror) in ancient East India. The first Jina is traditionally believed to have been a giant who lived 8.4 million years ago. The most recent and last Jina was Vardhamana (a.k.a. Mahavira, "The Great Hero") He was born in 550 BCE) and was the founder of the Jain community. He attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation. In 420 BCE, he committed the act of salekhana which is fasting to death. Each Jina has "conquered love and hate, pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion, and has thereby freed `his' soul from the karmas obscuring knowledge, perception, truth, and ability..."

Jainism is a syncretistic religion, which contains many elements similar to Hinduism and Buddhism. The world's almost 4 million Jains are almost entirely located in India. There are about 1,410 in Canada (1991 census).

Jainist Beliefs and Practices
*The universe exists as a series of layers, both heavens and hells. It had no beginning and will have no ending. It consists of:
*The supreme abode: This is located at the top of the universe and is where Siddha, the liberated souls, live.
*The upper world: 30 heavens where celestial beings live.
*Middle world: the earth and the rest of the universe.
*Nether world: 7 hells with various levels of misery and punishments
*The Nigoda, or base: where the lowest forms of life reside
*Universe space: layers of clouds which surround the upper world
*Space beyond: an infinite volume without soul, matter, time, medium of motion or medium of rest.
*Everyone is bound within the universe by one's karma (the accumulated good and evil that one has done).
*Moksha (liberation from an endless succession of lives through reincarnation) is achieved by enlightenment, which can be attained only through asceticism.
*They are expected to follow five principles of living:
-Ahimsa: "non violence in all parts of a person -- mental, verbal and physical." Committing an act of violence against a human, animal, or even vegetable generates negative karma which in turn adversely affects one's next life.
-Satya: speaking truth; avoiding falsehood
-Asteya: to not steal from others
-Brahma-charya: (soul conduct); remaining sexually monogamous to one's spouse only
-Aparigraha: detach from people, places and material things. Avoiding the collection of excessive material possessions, abstaining from over-indulgence, restricting one's needs, etc.
*Jains follow a vegetarian diet. (At least one information source incorrectly states that they follow a frutarian diet -- the practice of only eating that which will not kill the plant or animal from which it is taken. e.g. milk, fruit, nuts.)
*They often read their sacred texts daily.
*Jains are recommended to pass through four stages during their lifetime:
-Brahmacharya-ashrama: the life of a student
-Gruhasth-ashrama: family life
-Vanaprasth-ashrama: family and social services
-Sanyast-ashrama: life as a monk; a period of renunciation

Divisions among Jains

There are two groups of Jains:
*The Digambaras (literally "sky clad" or naked): Their monks carry asceticism to the point of rejecting even clothing (even when they appear in public).
*The Shvetambaras (literally "white clad"): their monks wear simple white robes. The laity are permitted to wear clothes of any color.

The term "G-d" is used in this thread to respect the Jewish prohibition against spelling the name or title of the deity in full. Dates listed which are prior to the 4th century BCE are approximate.

Early History of Judaism

Circa 2000 BCE, the G-d of the ancient Israelites established a divine covenant with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. The term Abramic Religions is derived from his name. These are the four religions which trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i World Faith. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding the lives of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Joseph, who is recognized as a fourth patriarch by Christians is not considered one by Jews). Moses was the next leader of the ancient Israelites. He led his people out of captivity in Egypt, and received the Law from G-d. After decades of wandering through wilderness, Joshua led the tribes into the promised land, driving out the Canaanites through a series of military battles.

The original tribal organization was converted into a kingdom by Samuel; its first king was Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the religious and political center. The third king, Solomon built the first temple there.

Division into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 922 BCE. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BCE; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The temple was destroyed. Some Jews returned from captivity under the Babylonians and started to restore the temple in 536 BCE. (Orthodox Jews date the Babylonian exile from 422 to 352 BCE). Alexander the Great invaded the area in 332 BCE. From circa 300 to 63 BCE, Greek became the language of commerce, and Greek culture had a major influence on Judaism. In 63 BCE, the Roman Empire took control of Judea and Israel.

Four major (and some minor) religious sects had formed by the 1st century CE: the Basusim, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Many anticipated the arrival of the Messiah who would drive the Roman invaders out and restore independence. Christianity was established initially as a Jewish sect, centered in Jerusalem. Paul broke with this tradition and spread the religion to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Many mini-revolts led to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The Jewish Christians were wiped out or scattered at this time. The movement started by Paul flourished and quickly evolved into the religion of Christianity. Jews were scattered throughout the known world. Their religion was no longer centered in Jerusalem; Jews were prohibited from setting foot there. Judaism became decentralized and stopped seeking converts. The local synagogue became the new center of Jewish life, and authority shifted from the centralized priesthood to local scholars and teachers, giving rise to Rabbinic Judaism.

The period from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy persecution by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. Many groundless stories were spread, accusing Jews of ritual murder, the desecration of the Catholic host and continuing responsibility for the execution of Jesus . Unsubstantiated rumors continue to be circulated today. In the 1930s and 1940s, Adolph Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries of anti-Semitism, and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity. They organized the Holocaust, the attempted extermination of all Jews in Europe. About 6 million were killed in one of the world's greatest examples of religious and racial intolerance.

The Zionist movement was a response within all Jewish traditions to centuries of Christian persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 1948-MAY-18.

There are currently about 18 million Jews throughout the world. They are mainly concentrated in North America (about 7 million) and Israel (about 4.5 million).

Jewish Texts

The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:
*the Torah (aka Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
*the Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (2), Kings (2), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, and MalachiIsaiah.
*the Ketuvim, the "Writings" including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles (2).

The Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral choices, etc. It is composed of material which comes mainly from two sources:
*the Mishnah's, 6 "orders" containing hundreds of chapters, including series of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
*the Gemara (one Babylonian and one Palestinian) is encyclopedic in scope. It includes comments from hundreds of Rabbis from 200 - 500 CE, explaining the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological, etc. material. It often records many different opinions on a topic without giving a definitive answer.

Basic Jewish Beliefs:

There is a story in wide circulation about a question asked of Rabbi Hillel -- a notable rabbi from the 1st century BCE. A non-Jew asked the rabbi to teach him everything about the Torah while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel responded: "What is hateful to you, don't do unto your neighbor. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study."

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (a.k.a. Maimonides) is generally accepted as one of the most important Jewish scholars from Medieval times. He wrote a list of thirteen principles of faith. This list has been generally accepted by Jews for centuries as a brief summary of the Jewish faith. However, the liberal wings of Judaism dispute some of the 13 today.

1. G-d exists.
2. G-d is one and unique.
3. G-d is incorporeal.
4. G-d is eternal.
5. Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other.
6. The words of the prophets are true.
7. Moses was the greatest of the prophets, and his prophecies are true.
8. The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses.
9. There will be no other Torah.
10. G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men.
11. G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked.
12. The Messiah will come.
13. The dead will be resurrected. 9

Additional Jewish beliefs:

Some additional beliefs found commonly among Jews are:
*Some Jews view Jesus as a great moral teacher. Others see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity. Some sects of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition against saying an idol's name.
*The Jews are often referred to as G-d's chosen people. This does not mean that they are in any way to be considered superior to other groups. Biblical verses such as Exodus 19:5 simply imply that G-d has selected Israel to receive and study the Torah, to worship G-d only, to rest on the weekly Sabbath, and to celebrate the festivals. Jews were not chosen to be better that others; they were simply selected to receive more difficult responsibilities, and more onerous punishment if they fail.
*The 613 commandments found in Leviticus and other books regulate all aspects of Jewish life
*The Ten commandments, as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, form a brief synopsis of the Law
*The Messiah (the anointed one of G-d) will arrive in the future and gather Jews once more into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, will be rebuilt.
*A fetus gains full personhood when it is half-emerged from its mother's body.
*Boys reach the status of Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday; girls reach Bat Mitzvah on their

16 Replies to Descriptions Of The Main World Religions

re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By CheesePlusCakemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Jan 11, 2005 02:14 PM
Awesome :D

I didn't read every word, but I skimmed it. I just wanted to mention that the split between the Eastern and Western Catholic Church was called the Great Schism and that some Jainists put gauze masks over their mouths so that they won't accidentally inhale an insect and some carry brooms to sweep ants away so they won't be stepped on since they believe all living things have souls and shouldn't be harmed.
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By panicmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jan 12, 2005 10:27 AM
Wonderful work, Adidi!!! Karma! This needs to be made sticky.

Here's a link to page 2, in case they get separated in the forum. . . .
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By ItchyTorsomember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue Feb 08, 2005 01:22 PM
Great post! Karma for you!

By the way, you never finished your last sentence, so I'll do it for you. lol

"Boys reach the status of Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday; girls reach Bat Mitzvah on their"...12th birtday. This varies from country to country...
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By DancerUSA92
On Tue Mar 29, 2005 08:13 PM
Very cool! I thought it was interesting and helped me to understand some of the different religions!!!!! There were some that I knew nothing about...even though I didn't completly read it! I skimmed it! You definetly did your research! Great job!
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By dance_crazy_93member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Apr 16, 2005 01:59 AM
wow, great post hun
karma to you!
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By heartzjoymember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Apr 16, 2005 10:41 PM
Nice post, thank you!

I never knew what the Bahai faith was about, which is odd. I have a BA in Religion from a major univeristy in the US. Anyway, how did you come into all this knowledge about the relgions?
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By hylndlasmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Aug 14, 2005 04:24 PM
Very very nice job!

So neat to learn a little bit about other religions!
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By JwshIrshdancer
On Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:11 PM
A great website for this is!
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By Orangesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Aug 25, 2005 05:52 PM
Great job on convering all them..the Christianity one was great--good job on describing alot of them!! :]

re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By AisAis
On Sun Oct 23, 2005 11:39 AM
That's interesting!

It's so enoying, the only religions we learn about in RE are Christianity, Seeks (sp), Muslims and Hindus.
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By popergerm
On Fri Nov 11, 2005 01:54 AM
if you wish to learn more pick up a book at borders on comparitive religions , If you have one near you in the states that is.
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By Fishbulb
On Sun Nov 13, 2005 11:45 PM
Once I can give karma, you'll be getting some, this post is huge and obvoiusly took significant effort, points for you!
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By Allianamember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Aug 10, 2007 07:27 AM
nothing about paganism in there, I'm crushed. *cry*

lol, seriously though great post :)
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By Miyuki_chanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Mar 22, 2008 03:25 PM
Fantastic post!

Karma to you for typing that all out.

It was definitely very interesting. I've been considering converting to Buddhism for a while as most of my beliefs align with the teachings of Buddha, and it was nice to learn a little bit more about it before I decide firmly
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By RoyaletteCerramember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Jun 17, 2008 04:33 PM
Awesome post! I didn't even know voodism (sp?) was a religion.

Aww nothing on Wicca. Just my luck. lol
re: Descriptions Of The Main World Religions
By Miyuki_chanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue Aug 19, 2008 05:21 PM
I would just like to mention that there is another sect of Buddhism called Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism, which was established by Japanese monk Nichiren Daishonin in 1253. The characteristics of Nichiren Buddhism is the chanting of "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo" Nam means to devote onself, Myoho literally means Mystic Law, Renge means Lotus and Kyo means sound rhythm or vibration. as well as chanting the expident means and The Lifespan of the Thus Come One chapters of the lotus sutra.

The basic practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting Daimoku (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) and Gongyo (the lotus sutra) twice a day, for as long as you feel necessary. We use this time to focus on particular challenges that we are facing, and we chant to help us overcome them.


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