Religion has over the years become a contradictory issue regarding the definitions and practices of the various religions of the world. However based on the overall, Religion refers to a strong conviction in a supernatural power that control human destiny. It is a belief regarding the supernatural, sacred, or divine, and the practices and institutions associated with such belief.
In the present world, religion has become such a contention as to the point of leading people to war. This may be attributed to the passion that different people have towards their beliefs. To help us understand religion and have a clearer picture of why people do what they do, the paper will discuss the various religions of the world, analyzing their practices and their general ideas and perspectives. Most of the world religions, Buddhism, Chinese religions Japanese religions, Judaism and Christianity have evolved over the years and to some extent divided so as to have different factions. Christianity is notable for having many denominations which are almost close to 1000. Nonetheless all these Christian denominations from the Roman Catholic to the protestant churches all believe in the existence of one God. Their main difference is based on their different interpretation of their holy book which is the Bible.
Buddhism too has divided into three rafts; Theravada or Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana which has been caused by regional differences. The major Chinese religions include Taoism and Confucianism which have notable differences in their ideas and beliefs. In Japan the main religions include the teachings of Shinto and Mahayana Buddhism (Bleeker et al 516). To conclude that Islam is not divided too would be ridiculous, the Shiites, Sunnis and Sufi’s are all divergent Muslim structures (Caner et al 208). Whereas some religions share a lot in common, others are quite the opposite of others. Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a lot in common especially in regard to their idea in the existence of one God. Though they might have a different name in referring to their God but they all believe in his existence and his creation of the universe. Judaism, Christianity and Islam fall in the category of monoisthetic religions since they believe in the existence of one God. As a matter of fact Christianity is seen as having its roots from Judaism.
In the religions of China especially the Confucians also believed in the existence of God. Confucianism was based on the teachings of Confucius who regarded himself as a prophet of God (Giles 21). These beliefs were mainly manifested by him especially when he was in some sort of trouble when he would regard God as the almighty and the only one capable of delivering him from the present trouble (Giles 21). As a result, these teachings were passed on to his disciples who then passed them to their followers.
However religions of Buddhism as well as religions of Japan do not believe in the existence of one God. Their main beliefs and practices are based on different tenets mutually exclusive to them. Buddhism is famous on it’s quest to answer why people suffer, based on the teachings of the founder Buddha, Gautama who in his awakening dream foresaw that human beings must suffer during their stay on earth(Brodd 70). Henceforth Buddhism was based on the tenets of trying to establish the cause of this suffering as well as provide the remedies to ease this pain. While Christianity also acknowledges the suffering of human beings, it denotes that this must happen so as to fulfill the calling to Christianity just like Jesus Christ suffered while on earth. Buddhism on the other hand signifies that human suffering is inherent of their ego and desires without which there wouldn’t be any suffering (Burke 67).
The religions in Japan believed in the existence of three layers that made up the universe. The upper layer was referred to as the high plain or heaven which was occupied by beings which were the primary objects of worship of the Japanese. They did not believe in the existence of one God but in the existence of beings which were more of spirits.
Most of these religions believe that human beings are temporary on earth. Buddhism is based on the understanding that human beings are temporary beings and that true spirituality is attained only by this acceptance (Burke 63). Christianity too believes in the power of death. Christians believe that when a person’s work is complete on earth, then it is their time to meet their maker.
In Shintonism, they believe in death just like in Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. However Shintonism was of the idea that when a person died they descended to the lower part of the universe, this was a grubby place which was referred to as ‘yomi’ (Bleaker et al 518). This can be compared to the Christianity belief of the existence of hell whereby the wicked and sinners go to after death.
Shontanism of Japan believed in the existence of spirits which would once in a while descend to the middle part of the universe to bless the people with enough rain and a bumper harvest,. On the other hand Christianity, Judaism and Islam were of the belief that all this were granted by God and denied to human beings if they sinned against God.
Christianity is widely known for the Ten Commandments which provide direction to the daily life of all Christians. Buddhism too had ten principles which Buddha gave to his disciples. More of them are quite similar with the Ten Commandments in terms of what they advocate. Some of the common commandments included not stealing, not committing adultery, not committing murder and avoidance of lies (Burke 70). The above four commandments also apply in Christianity and Judaism. Muslims too are normally guided by the Sharia Law which stipulates what a Muslim should and should not do. However unlike the other religions Muslim’s Sharia law provides for punishment on earth by the Muslim leaders. In Judaism the laws guiding the everyday activities of the Jewish people are included in the Torah, which is the book consisting all the written and oral law. However religions like Christianity are of the idea that once a person breaks the commandments, they are liable for punishment by God and not their fellow human beings.
The need to respect others especially our parents is one of the most important human needs that have been addressed by the various world religions. In the Holy Bible which is the Christian holy book, wives are urged to be submissive to their wives. This are the same teachings provided in the Muslim holy book of Quran. Children too are urged to be respectful to their elders, Buddhism also treasure the idea of respect for all (Brodd 86).
It is worth noting the similarities between Christianity in terms of salvation. While Christianity advocates for salvation through Jesus Christ, Buddhists believes that one can only be saved through having faith and full trust in Buddha (Burke 81). In addition Christianity holds that all will be saved including the wicked only if they repent. Buddhists too believe that all people including the wicked have a chance to be saved.
Finally Christianity, Buddhism and Islam can be referred to as universal religions based on their ideals to embrace all human beings. This is however in contrast to other religions such as Judaism and the religions of China and Japan which are concentrated within a particular people and are thus referred to as communal or ethnic religions (Burke 6).
Personal opinion on religion
As stated earlier religion is a very emotional and contentious issue especially in the 21st century. However unlike earlier years when human beings were extremely loyal to the teachings of their religion, modernization has come with a loosening of this loyalty.
Most ancient religions were based on the teachings of a particular person and then human beings paid a lot of attention to those teachings. However times have changed to the extent of people questioning the teachings of their priests in church.
Perhaps the only religion that still holds a good number of loyal followers is Islam. It has been said in the past of the world being of high Christianity concentration. Nonetheless the rate of immorality and other antisocial behaviors have led the world to question the doctrines taught by Christianity.
Nevertheless all religions are used as a tool to unite different people with the various beliefs that they hold. All the religions serve more or less the same purpose which is to provide some sort of fulfillment to the people as well as provide answers to their numerous questions on why things happen the way they do.
Most of these religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share the same ideologies of the existence of one God. Even those that did not advocate for the existence of one God offered an explanation as to why things are the way they are even if it was in the existence of supernatural beings such as spirits.
While Buddhism might be dismissed as a pessimistic religion in that it only concentrated on the suffering of human beings it was however very realistic in offering an explanation to the human suffering. Though some instances are accidental, most of the human sorrow is inherent. Even if it is not caused by themselves someone else who might be a stranger or a person close to them causes them to suffer. Though not preventable pain can be ignored if we set our minds to do so. This has contributed to the modern medicine whereby painkillers are given to sick people to reduce their pain. In real sense the painkillers are used to shut the mind from thinking that one is in pain.
Further religion has of late been used as a political weapon by human beings. This is especially so between Islam and Christianity. The world over right now is the war against terror. However this war has been taken as a religious war with all Christian states treating Muslims as terrorists. All the same Christians have also been known to fight against the other Christians. For example in Northern Ireland there has existed a prolonged hatred between Catholics and Protestants to the point of dividing their roads depending on these two factions.
With the notion of modernization and civilization most of the religious teachings have lost their meaning. Proclaimed followers of certain religions are known to violate the very teachings of their religion. This has been a perennial problem especially with Christians. The looming debate over catholic priests’ celibacy is just but one example. While pretending to be holy in the seminaries, it has been alleged that these same priests are having children out of wedlock. Apart from sinning against the catholic principles, these priests are breaking the very commandments that they are supposed to teach to their flock.
Homosexuality in the church has also been another contentious issue in the religious domain. To add salt into injury these cases are taking place in the Christian domain. One stops to wonder where Christianity has gone wrong. Apparently with the disappearance of the most ancient religious teachings Christianity has taken the world by storm dominating all the other modern religions. However, unlike Islam, Christianity is not so stringent with its teachings. In the Muslim countries a person caught committing adultery is liable to punishment through death. It is because of this reason that Muslim world people are much disciplined for fear of being reprimanded.
Western religions and their roots in the primal and antique religions
The three western religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam can be considered to have had some roots in the primal religion and religion of antiquity. This can be deduced as so putting into consideration some of the beliefs and practices which have been carried forward to the western religions, though with some modifications.
Primal religion refers to the practices of the ancient people before the introduction of the western civilization. To conclude that the ancient people did not know any religion like it is denoted by some scholars would be misleading. Though not very comprehensive the ancient world too had some beings and objects in which they placed their full trust.
While the primal religions did not have a concrete being in which they believed to be their god, they nonetheless had god’s whom they believed controlled the happenings of the world. This is the same belief that Christianity, Judaism and Islam have. For example the primal religions and religions of antiquity believed that a bumper harvest was a result of the doing of one of their gods who was associated with this phenomenon. The western religions too hold theses beliefs. A long dry spell calls for prayers in the Christian world to request God to provide rain.
In addition the primal religions and religions of antique are famous for offering sacrifices to their god’s. This practice has been carried on to the western religions especially Christianity. Though Christianity does not offer burnt offerings and other sacrifices they none the less offer tithe which is considered a sacrifice and an offering to God to thank him for what he has provided so far. Judaism on the other hand still offers sacrifices like ancient times.
In addition the western religions believe in initiation as a rite of passage which is a teaching carried in their various books of teachings. The aborigines of Australia, which is one of the popular primal religions, also initiated their young boys as a rite of passage. While the aborigines removed the lower teeth of their young men, Christians, Muslims and Judaists circumcise their young men to signify this rite of passage.
Further the primal religions and the religions of antiquity had a set of taboos that described their day to day activities. This can be presumed to have been the foundations for the commandments, Torah and the Sharia law which clearly stipulates the relationship of all human beings towards each other and towards their surroundings as well.
Though with some notable differences, the western religions can be seen to be based partially on the teachings of the primal and religions of antiquity. Some of the contrasting ideologies include the fact that the western religions can be considered to be universal religions while the primal and antique religions were concentrated within particular regions. As matter of fact primal religions are referred to as tribal religions in that they varied from community to community.
In addition while the western religions follow written scriptures and teachings the primal religion did not have this. This may be attributed to the fact that the followers of the primal religion were illiterate and primitive.
Religious practices are as old as human beings. However some religious scholars denote that there existed no religion before the coming of the three western religions; Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Though some of the traditional religions did not follow any written teachings they were however very committed in following the oral teachings which were in the form of traditions.
Most of the practices of the western religion is based on these primal and antique religions only that it is done with some modernization or what can be referred to as civilization. While these traditional religions offered their sacrifices in terms of burnt sacrifices the western religions do these in terms of money.
Before the introduction of the western religions the world lived in harmony as each community observed its own doctrines and other communities had learnt to respect that. This is however so different with the current world in which religious followers are always highlighting the deficiency of the other religion thus assuming the position of the superior religion. Conversely people should learn to respect the other person’s religion and it is only this way that the world will be returned to the normalcy of peace.
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Brodd, Jefrey. World Religions: a voyage of discovery. Winona: St Mary’s press, 2003. Web.
Burke, Thomas. The Major Religions: an introduction with texts. New York: Wiley Blackwell Publishers, 2004. Web.
Caner, Mehmet, Ergun and Caner, Fethi, Emir. Unveiling Islam: an insider’s look at Muslim life and beliefs. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2010. Web.
Giles, Herbet. Religions of Ancient China. Massachusetts:Forgotten books, 2008. Web.