Religion has been one of the most controversial subjects in human history. It has been a subject that has caused wars and genocide. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the mere mention of this word at a dinner party will cause angst and spark controversy. At the very least, the topic of religion is one so stressful that it is among two most taboo subjects to discuss in public – religion and politics.
Understandably so, religion is the ruler which people use to measure others morality. Since the dawn of man religion has served as an instrument of judgment and discrimination. A very powerful word, religion has been used to condemn humanity in present life and afterlife. Not to mention, religion’s history of abuse, murders and greed and overall crimes against humanity. No one will nor can ever argue the opposite. It is a known fact that in the name of their Deity(ies), religion has been the cause of terrible holocausts and strife.
In an effort, to understand why humanity historically have given religion so much power and importance that lives have been taken and sacrificed by the millions. it is paramount to know the basics of the five most popular religions of the world. Only by knowing these five religions can we begin to comprehend, not excuse, the reasons why people have in the past lost their lives and are at odds with religion yesterday and today.
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. More than 70 percent of the world’s population identify with one of these five religions around the world. All these religions have their own religious books and the one thing they have in common is a belief in life after death.
Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with over 2.4 billion followers worldwide. Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Bible. The religion played an important role in the development of Western civilization. The three largest branches are the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestantism.
Christianity is a monotheistic belief. Christians believe in one eternal god adopted from the god of the Hebrews. According to the Bible and of the belief system of Christians; Jehovah is the name of God and the Romanic equivalent of YHWH, IEOVAH and YAHWEH the Hebrew name of the creator of all that is. He is viewed as a loving God based on Old Testament accounts. Jesus is the son of god who’s coming was prophesized throughout the Old Testament and is was a descendant from the lineage of both Aaron and Moses as predicted.
Followers of Jesus regard the Bible as God’s written message to humankind. In addition to Bible being a confirmed historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, the Bible’s Old Testament reveals Gods personality and the New Testament reveals Jesus’ personality as well, of Jesus’ purpose and of his unconditional love and truth, and how one can know and relate to God, as you could a friend.
Christians believe and see Jesus as their Savior, as the Messiah who was prophesied by all the prophets of the Old Testament, in the Bible. They believe that Jesus Christ, out of love for us, paid for the sin for all of humanity by dying. Jesus death was at the request of the Hebrew rabble who at first believed he was The Messiah. The Hebrews received Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem as he rode in on a donkey. Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and was well received by the Israelis as King exactly as prophesized in the Old Testament, but the Hebrews quickly turned-coat and betrayed their King when Jesus wanted no part of the revolt against the Roman’s occupation of Jerusalem and refused to oppose their tyrannical rule of the Jews, especially disconcerting to the Jews was his sanction of the Roman’s imposed taxation. Jesus in a famous speech that sealed his fate said, “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s.” Jesus explained that the salvation he was offering was not only for the Jews (from the Romans) but a broader salvation for all of humanity.
Jesus was killed exactly as prophesized in the Old Testament, and exactly as prophesized three days later, he rose from the dead as he had promised, proving that he was the son of Yahweh/Jehovah God.
Root and influences: Abrahamic Religion, Judaism and Paganism (celebrations i.e. Dec 25)
Different branches: Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestantism and others (Mormons, Baptist, Pentecost, Evangelical, etc.)
Deity(ies): YAWH, Son of God – Jesus (not considered a Deity to all Christians)
Prophets: All Writers of the Old Testament and some of the New Testaments
Prophecies: Coming of The Messiah and death
Book(s): Bible – Old and New Testament
Basic beliefs: Christ is the Salvation, heaven and hell (unfounded), judgment and resurrection.
Years Active: 1st century AD
Important Facts: The Deity of the Christians is the same Deity of Judaism- YHWH, the life of Christ is substantiated Biblically and Historically, as well as the Miracles of both YHWH and Jesus. Hebrews had accepted Christ as King and Messiah until he refused to align himself with the rebellion against the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Christ refused to take a political side and reiterated that his purpose was not salvation to one group for one specific purpose, but he was here for a higher purpose of bringing salvation to all of humanity.
Islam is the second largest religion, with over 1.8 billion followers. The Islamic religion is based on the teachings of the prophet of Muhammad in their holy book the Quran. Followers of Islam are based primarily in the Asia Pacific region and in the Middle East.
Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Allah is viewed as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and all evil. Everything that happens is Allah’s will. He is a powerful and strict judge, who will be merciful toward followers depending on the sufficiency of their life’s good works and religious devotion. A follower’s relationship with Allah is as a servant to Allah.
Though Muslims honors several prophets, Muhammad is considered the last prophet and his words and lifestyle are that person’s authority. To be a Muslim, one must follow five religious duties: 1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one’s lifetime to worship at a shrine in Mecca. At death — based on one’s faithfulness to these duties — a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell.
For many people, Islam matches their expectations about religion and deity. Islam teaches that there is one supreme deity, who is worshiped through good deeds and disciplined religious rituals. After death a person is rewarded or punished according to their religious devotion. Muslims believe that giving up one’s life for Allah is a sure way of entering Paradise.
Root: Abrahamic Religion, (unsubstantiated) revelations by archangel Gabriel to Muhammad in a cave
Different branches: Sunni, Shiites, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, Suffis, Nation of Islam
Miracles: None by Allah (only miracles of YHWH) none substantiated or accredited to Allah nor Muhammad in the Quran. The Quran is accredited as Miracle of Muhammad.
Prophets: Adam– Abraham- Moses- Jesus- Muhammad
Prophecies/realization: The coming of Muhammad in The Old Testament (Question as to who was coming was prophesized… Thought to be Jesus not Muhammad.)
Book(s): Quran and Bible – Old Testament
Purpose: Surrender, submission, commitment and peace to Allah and Islam
Basic beliefs: Monotheism, God’s Justice, prophethood, Muhammad, judgement and resurrection. Heaven and Hell (unfounded).
Years Active: 610 A.D.
Important facts: The newest of all five religions. The entire Religion is based on the word of one man… Muhammad. Allah has never made an apparition on Earth. And, no miracles are substantiated by either Muhammed or Allah.
Hinduism is an Indian Religion practiced in the Indian Subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism is considered the oldest religion in the world and is the world’s third largest religion, boasting almost one billion followers. The Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are its most important religious scriptures.
Most Hindus worship one Being of ultimate oneness (Brahman) through infinite representations of gods and goddesses. These various deities become incarnate within idols, temples, gurus, rivers, animals, etc.
Hindus believe their position in this present life was determined by their actions in a previous life. Hinduism therefore provides a possible explanation for suffering and evil in this life. If a person’s behavior before was evil, they might justifiably experience tremendous hardships in this life. Pain, disease, poverty or a disaster like a flood is deserved by that person because of their own evil actions, usually from a previous lifetime.
A Hindu’s goal is to become free from the law of karma…to be free from continuous reincarnations. Only the soul matters which will one day be free of the cycle of rebirths and be at rest.
Hinduism lets a person choose how to work toward spiritual perfection. There are three possible ways to end this cycle of karma: 1. Be lovingly devoted to any of the Hindu deities; 2. Grow in knowledge through meditation of Brahman (oneness)…to realize that circumstances in life are not real, that selfhood is an illusion and only Brahman is real; 3. Be dedicated to various religious ceremonies and rites.
Root: Aryans, And, grew out of cultural and religious challenges faced in India.
Different branches: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism.
Deity(ies): Krishna, Devi, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu
Miracle(s): Many unsubstantiated Miracles from mind taming, animal taming, etc. Raining gold coins and transformative supernatural powers.
Prophet(s): Sri Krishna, Ramakrishna
Prophecies and realization: The composition of the books Gita and Vedas
Book(s): Gita and Vedas
Purpose: Realization of Self
Basic beliefs: God and Divinities can take many forms. Truth is eternal, Brahman is truth and reality, The Vedas are the ultimate authority, everyone should strive to reach dharma, individual souls are immortal, the goal of the individual soul is moksha. Reincarnation.
Years Active: 1,600 BCE
Important Facts: Primitive belief system. Unsubstantiated belief system composing of old folklore and fairytale.
Important facts: None of the Hindu Deities has ever made an apparition on Earth that can be substantiated historically.
Buddhism has more than 350 million followers worldwide, and its followers believe attaining nirvana is the ultimate goal. Gautama Buddha also known as Siddhartha Gautama aka simply Buddha. He was born in Lumbini, Nepal and died at the age of 80. He was a monk, teacher, philosopher and a religious leader. He was born to a Hindu religious family and his mother was a princess. Buddha was said to reach the ultimate stage of enlightenment; Nirvana.
Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine, but rather he is viewed by Buddhists as having attained what they are also striving to attain, which is spiritual enlightenment and, with it, freedom from the continuous cycle of life and death.
Most Buddhists believe a person has countless rebirths, which inevitably include suffering. A Buddhist seeks to end these rebirths. Buddhists believe it is a person’s cravings, aversion and delusion that cause these rebirths. Therefore, the goal of a Buddhist is to purify one’s heart and to let go of all yearnings toward sensual desires and the attachment to oneself.
Buddhists follow a list of religious principles and adhere to personal restraint, fasting and very dedicated meditation. When a Buddhist meditates it is not the same as praying or focusing on a god, it is more of a self-discipline. Through practiced meditation a person may reach Nirvana — “the blowing out” of the flame of desire.
Buddhism provides something that is true of most major religions: disciplines, values and directives that a person may want to live by.
Different branches: Taoism, Confucianism
Deity(ies): Maitreya, Tara, Manjushri, and many others …
Prophets: Gautama Buddha, Teacher and Founder
Prophecies and realization: None
Book(s): The Tripitaka, Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As well as, The Pali Canon which means “the word of Buddha.
Basic beliefs: Existence is suffering (dukkha), suffering has a cause (trishna), cessation of suffering which is Nirvana. The eightfold path of cessation is right: views, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
Years Active: Between 4th and 6th BCE
Agreed upon religious doctrines: Buddhism describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity and substance.
Important Facts: Buddha was a teacher who was born from a Hindu family. He is not a Deity. However, he is the symbol of all Deities for The Buddhist religion.
Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, and the religion’s texts have influenced Christianity and Islam. Judaism is derived by the name Yehuda or Judah and it is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God of YHWH established with the children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion worldwide but its influence on Christianity and Islam makes it the fifth most important religion on Earth Today.
Root: Abrahamic Religion
Different branches: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, (Reconstructionist, Humanistic, Karaite, relations.)
Deity(ies): YAWH, YAHWEH, IEOVA or the Anglicized name JEHOVAH
Prophets: Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Isaiah, Samuel, Ezequiel, Malachi and Job (Jesus).
Prophecies and realization: Birth of Moses, promise land, the coming of the Messiah
Book(s): Bible – Old Testament, Torah, Talmud
Purpose: the coming of the Messiah
Basic beliefs: a variation of heaven and hell although believing in the end of life with the end of physical life.
Years Active: 1500 BCE
Important Facts: The only Deity the world has ever known to exist and seen His power Biblically and historically was the God of the Jews (and for Christians) which is YHWH.