Comparative Religions: Knowledge and Experience
Comparative Religions: Knowledge and Experience
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Religions whatever form it may be can shape and influence our belief systems - Comparative Religions: Knowledge and Experience introduction. Religions emerged out of the humans need to understand the complexities of life. Why do religions exist? Why do religions differ from one another? From a number of religions that exist all over the world, what religion is considered as the true religion? What is the main purpose of religion? Do we really need to have religions? These are all the questions that come to our minds when we think of why these major religions exist. Religions existed as demonstration of faith to a divine being and expression of man as a spiritual being.
Basically religions is characterize by set of teachings and rituals that deals with issues of reality, meanings of life, how to find fulfillment, the presence of supernatural force, divine beings, spiritual wholeness, eternity or afterlife, salvation and morality. Religions are the products of the diversity of people and beliefs.
Religions affected the way a person live and how he views life in many ways. Some religions prove to be beneficial and have help humans to endure sufferings and cruelties in life. Religions generally seek peace and enlightenment. It also seeks to understand supernatural events and the role of spirituality. People also have the desire to acquire powers or control of the mind, spirit and nature by studying and practicing rituals.
It is interesting to know how different religions influence each other and how they preserve their culture and traditions over the years. Some religions have close resemblance and interrelation with one another.
Religions have shape the way people live, think and respond to life. By looking and observing our daily life and relating with different people we are able to see the role of religious beliefs in our personal lives.
Origins, Basic Practices and Beliefs
Eastern religions included Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism. Western religions on the other hand included Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Buddhism originated in India and founded by Siddhartha Gautama. It is devoted to deities, meditations and believes in reincarnation. Its main belief is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment. It is polytheistic in nature.
Confucianism was founded by Confucius in China. It stresses correct role in the society. The purpose of life is to fulfill ones role in society with propriety, honor and loyalty.
Hinduism is an indigenous religion in India. It practices yoga, meditation, worship of gods and goddesses. It believes in reincarnation until one gain enlightenment. Shintoism is indigenous religion of Japan. It practices worship and offerings to kami at shrines at home. It believes that all things have spirits in them which they called kami.
Taoism was founded by Lao Tzu of China. The general attitude of detachment and non struggle with life was observed. They believe in yin-yang or the opposites make up unity. Purpose is to have inner peace, harmony and longevity. Pantheism characterized this religion where the Tao or the Way pervades all.
Judaism or the religion of the Hebrews practices circumcision at birth, synagogue services on Saturdays and observance of holidays related to historical events. Recognizes one God called Yahweh.
Islam was founded by Muhammad of Saudi Arabia. It holds beliefs on five pillars, faith, prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. There are mosque services on Fridays. It recognized One God named Allah.
Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ in Israel. Practice of bible reading, prayer, Eucharist, church on Sundays characterizes the religion. Salvation is through faith in Christ. One God who is a trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are part of the basic doctrine of faith.
Similarities and Connections
These distinct religions also have influence upon one another and having close resemblance. They share common features in some areas or aspect of their beliefs.
Looking at the eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism they have close similarities since both of them originated in India. They are different from another in some beliefs and practices but in other areas they do have similarities. They both worship many gods and not just one. They also believe in the power of meditation such as yoga. Nirvana, reincarnation and that the universe exists in an endless cycle are related to their religions. Yoga and meditation for them is done to control the mind and body, therefore attain a state of peace and perfection. Judgment day and the presence of eternal life and eternal punishment matters not much to them. They have many absurd beliefs which one cannot easily understand.
In another part of the world or in the Orient, Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism are the religions that share commonalities and influence one another. These religions have influence their culture, arts and traditions. They have simple system of beliefs with strong conviction to promote simple and honest life and emphasized respect to ancestral spirits. Some believes that these are not religions but merely as system of beliefs or philosophy. Confucianism and Shintoism don’t believe in the existence of God.
Still in another part of the world Christianity, Judaism and Islam emerged. They have many adherents or followers across the world. They seem to relate and share common beliefs with one another. They both believe in one life and eternal judgment, the presence of heaven and hell. There is only one God with different names for them. They believe in the same prophets like Moses and Abraham and believe in the teachings in scriptures or the Bible. Christians and Jews recognized and are knowledgeable of Jesus and his teachings. The word of God or the Bible is where they base their faith.
Each religion stands out because of its main distinction from other forms of religions. It sets them apart from other religions in terms of point of view or major religious belief that they express and practice.
Buddhism and Hinduism differ from one another in terms of its founder. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama while Hinduism was not founded by a single man. Hinduism strongly believes in the presence of Atman or the individual soul and Brahman the Supreme creator. Buddhists organizes themselves into a monastic order and the monks live in groups while Hinduism doesn’t have it. Buddhism acknowledges the existence of gods and goddesses but give them a lower status unlike in Hinduism.
Buddhist considers that ending the sorrow is the chief aim of human life while the Hindus believe pursuing the four chief aims of life such as religious activity, material possessions, desires and passions and salvation is the most important.
Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism also have major differences with one another. Taoism believes in Pantheism, one that believes that god and the universe are the same. In Confucianism god and after life are not clearly addressed.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are also highly different from one another. In Judaism they base their beliefs on the Books of Torah while the Muslims based their doctrines on the Quran. The place of worship for the Jews are in the synagogues whiles the Moslems called them mosques.
Christianity recognizes Jesus as the main founder while the Jews believed more in Prophet Abraham and Moses to be the founder. The Moslems recognized Mohammed as their leader. The Jews place importance on celebration of holiday or festivals related to historical events not done by other Christians. They are monotheistic in nature believing in one God. Judaism based their faith in historical facts.
Religious Rituals and Traditions
These religions produce rituals and religious traditions or practices that made significant influence in the society and influences many other cultures.
Shamanism which is present in Buddhism includes practices of divination, interpretation of dreams, astral projections, controlling spirits, ability to diagnose or cure sickness or even cause suffering by casting spells. Shamans can be found in remote places.
Caste system includes the presence of Brahmins or priest or intellectuals, rulers and warriors called Kshatriyas, merchants and artisans or Vaisya to the menial position of Sudras and lastly the Untouchables. People have seen how this social system has promoted and tolerated discrimination in the society.
Yoga and meditation has been adapted by various people acknowledging the mental and emotional benefits one can get from this ritual. Prayer and fasting, including not eating of pork and no alcohol intake are common religious practices. We observe it in some of our religious practices.
Pilgrimage includes journeying to a sacred place. Moslems are known to practice it as part of their religious duties. Even Christians believe in the benefit of doing this religious practice to increase their spirituality and also to fulfill a duty.
Karma emphasized the effect of ones actions in the determination of the fate of the person was derived from Hinduism. Many use to believe in these principles. Reincarnation or new birth and new form were also a belief in Hinduism. It believes that one is a product of past life or reincarnation.
Compared to Christianity many Christians called their spiritual rebirth as born again or transformative experience. Christians believes that one needs to be born again to receive salvation. People need to be baptized and accept Jesus as their savior and Lord.
Understanding the nature of our religions help us to make comparison and evaluation of the system of beliefs we have. In ones work as a Christian educator and trainer, knowledge of these things will help us to answer some sensitive issues regarding religious matters.
There are people who considered themselves religious while others don’t value any form of religion. They prefer to practice atheism or follow new age beliefs. The religions mentioned here are ancient, traditional world religions old enough as compared to new modern forms of religions that already exist. We observe in our world today how we apply and practice some rituals performed by other religions. We don’t even know that we are already adapting other forms of religions. There are people around us that consider themselves as pagans. They don’t acknowledge God. Some believe religion cannot help or can make life even worse for them.
There is dangerous side in the practice of some religions since it can sometimes deceive people and trap them to wrong or false beliefs. Some religions tend to be misleading and even blinding its believers to practice unusual traditions. Studies have shown that religious affiliations really affect and influence ones life. Religions shape a nation, a society. Even if the religions are purely man made and not divinely inspired people still follow. Religions have indeed shape the way we think, live and respond to life.
Working as a missionary to different parts of the world you will be able to meet and learn the different religious backgrounds of the people. Sometimes religions is hard to break specially if has become deeply rooted in ones culture and tradition. Christians aim to convert as many people as possible to Christianity but other religions seemed to hinder or made their missions more impossible. Christians do all know that Christianity is the true religion and the other religions that exist are false or counterfeit. Even if people don’t share same beliefs we still need to show respect for their customs and traditions.
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