Values, Norms, and Beliefs of World Significant Religions

Introduction

This term is used in reference to any existing system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life. Therefore it is fair enough to include all the great monotheistic religions, Eastern religions, Neopagan religions, a wide range of other faiths, spiritual paths, and ethical systems and beliefs based on the existence of supernatural power. (Brown, 36).

Religion has been an integral part of human existence dating back to the existence of man. It is an integrative bond for society, which is a theme formulated by modern functionalists. Religion, due to its cohesive effects, has been seen to serve as a ‘social cement’ serving the purpose of uniting people who have some common shared values and beliefs for the purpose of celebrating harvest and life cycle events. Religions are of paramount importance as to the people’s lives they give special purpose which is crucial towards the individuals emotional and psychological support during adverse times as well as happy times.

The other important contribution of religion towards mankind is social control, reinforcement of the important social values, norms, and ethics, which is important to lifting the moral standards in the society. Religion in essence serves as a means of strengthening the resolution and identity of the group in a pluralistic and sometimes harsh society.

From every existing background, man is exposed to health, safety, and mortality problem and it is due to these challenges that religion exists. It is achieved explanation of things hardly understood to us through the context of the known physical world. Each religion is different from the other but they all serve the same purpose. All religions are oriented to the answering of questions such as why do I exist here and now? What next after my death? It is through religion that we transmit our values from one generation to another while at the same time influencing our interaction with our surroundings thus giving purpose and meaning in life.

Religion trespasses the boundaries of a belief in a deity to encompass philosophy and a way of life. It offers definitions to individuals and how the individual views the world and the interaction with the same world. Some religions are known to us, others seem strange while others are ever unheard of.

Values, Norms, and Beliefs of World Significant Religions

Indian and Chinese streams of eastern religion are the most widespread in the world today. These two movements consist of various faiths like Sikhism, Janism, Hinduism, as well as Taosism, Confucianism, and even Japanese stream – Shinto. On the other hand, Abrahamic monotheism serves as the bottom line of a western religious movement and compiles of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam- which is a rather surprising fact, since it was traditionally regarded as an integral part of eastern religion. Both eastern and western religious movements are investigated in this research, focusing on its statements and interpretations of such entities as the universe, nature of God, and various issues of supernatural events. The teachings of such great philosophers like Buddha, Guatama, and Siddharta serve as guidelines for representatives of Buddhism. (Huston, 120). According to the historical sources, 563-483 BC is the year of the life of Buddha, and his motherland is India. Buddha’s philosophy became popular in this country, later expanding to the vast region of Asia(Huston, 40). Its number of followers is impressive constituting more than 350 million people. (Huston, 80). One of the reasons why this philosophy has gained such popularity is the fact that Buddhism helps people find peace and joy in their lives. In contrast with Judaism, this movement promises neither salvation nor redemption to its followers.

One of the most common beliefs of Buddhists is Bodhi, the acceptance and understanding of divine wisdom. The point when one realizes Bodhi is the time when he or she breaks the circle of own suffering. (Huston, 100).

The followers of Buddhism believe that self-control is an extremely important quality of every Buddhist. The religion of Buddhism is different from other religious movements due to the lack of necessity to worship and show commitment to the great master. Supernatural beings are an integral part of Buddhism philosophy, and they are described as creatures in most cases invisible to people. It is believed that these beings lead a much more joyful way of long-lasting life( over millions of years). However, even these powerful creatures die, reincarnating afterward.

The supernatural beings also have no right to judge humans. They can affect global events on the same level as humans do. The supernatural beings are divided into groups or positions, which can be paralleled with the gods, but they are considered to have no role in creating the world or humans. According to Gautama Buddha has two classes: humans reincarnated as gods and gods, who came into this world already as humans. Also, God was given the role of the creator of this world, but it has no such power and is not considered to be a supreme creature or being. Our bodies and minds are considered to be ordinary tools for gaining enlightenment. When the highest level of enlightenment is reached one is becoming a Buddha (Huston, 30). Our thoughts are our tools for creating the world. The world around us appears to be created through the prism of our thoughts concentrated in our minds, so we are what we think.

Judaism is solely a Jewish religion. It also belongs to the oldest religions. Judaism had a huge impact on the creation of other Abrahamic religions. These religions consider Abraham as a part of their religious history. These religions include Christianity and Islam (Warren, 45). Judaism developed through the span of time and has about 4 thousand years of history. It absorbed the influence of such ancient cultures as Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic. Judaism is related to monotheist religions. These religions state that there is only one God, and this fact has to be believed in. This rule is followed according to Torah (Hebrews Bible) and Ten Commandments.

Jewish teachings say that God is responsible for the creation of this world and for everything that happens in it (Warren, 72). This is really important for Judaism believers and the whole concept of Judaism. According to a story from Genesis (the first book of the Torah) Chapters 1 and 2 the God created the universe and everything in it. Before the creation took place, this world was empty and had no shape and had the Spirit of God (“ruach” in Hebrew) hovering over it. It took God six days to create this world. The seventh day is considered to be the day when he took a rest. God (Hebrew Elohim) did not only used action but also words when creating the universe.

The first day was taken by God to create the light. The light separated the night and the day. The second day was taken by Him to create the sky. It separated the waters on those below and above it. The third day is considered to be when Elohim created the land, it was separated by waters, which were gathered or separated by the land. The same day was taken to create the vegetation. The fourth day is the day when the two main sources of light were created. For the day there was a sun and for the night there was a moon. Air and sea creatures were created on the fifth day. Land animals were created on the sixth day. This day is also important because God created us, humans, and made us according to His image.

After that, humans became dominant and took over the earth. The seventh day was the day when God took a rest. This day was blessed by God and this fact sanctified it.

Torah, the main book of Judaism is a set of laws followed by Judaism believers. It is also known as 613 Mitzrot, which are commandments of both what is allowed to do and what is forbidden. Judaists had a temple in Jerusalem, where they had priests and performed sacrifices as a way of worshipping God (Warren, 64). The main goal of Judaism is to worship God in the everyday life. When you are referring to Elohim continuously, then you have a chance to obtain a reward by getting to the Igan Eden (Garden of Eden) or Olam Haba, which is the world that is going to come in the future. Elohim is acknowledged to be the creator and the leader of anything that exists. He is the only one who is going to live forever. He is not to be compared to any living or non-living creature. He has no physical form. He is the only creature in the universe that deserves to be worshiped and adored. Moses is considered to be Jewish father and the father of Torah, because he took it from God and gave it to the people. Humans should take no attempt to change the Torah or alter it in any way because it is universal since it was created by God. In conclusion, He sees and judges our deeds. The universe is sooner or later will come to the end. That is the time when we will get our judgment.

World Religions

Many, long-established and major world religions exist today each with a substantial amount of followers. They include Christianity, which is further sub-grouped into Christian groups, denominations, and families. It is the world’s biggest faith, based on the teaching of Jesus Christ. Islam was revealed in its final form by the Prophet Muhammad. Hinduism a group of faiths rooted in the religious ideas of India. Judaism is based around the Jewish people’s covenant relationship with God. Buddhism a way of living based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama. They form the five largest religions. However other minor religions are also evident including; Bahai faith, which is one of the youngest of the world’s major religions, Confucianism, Jainism an ancient philosophy and ethical teaching that originated in India, Shinto, which is Japanese folk tradition and ritual with no founder or single sacred scripture, Sikhism the religion founded by Guru Nanak in India in the 15th century Common Era Period (CE), Taoism an ancient tradition of philosophy and belief rooted in Chinese worldview, Vodun (Voodoo), the Jewish, Mormons the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, Santerian Afro Caribbean syncretism religion originating in Cuba, Rastafarians a young religion based on Marcus Garvey’s philosophies, Atheism the ideas and story who do not believe in God, Candomble a religion based on Africans beliefs originating in Brazil, Jehovah’s Witness a Christian based evangelistic religious movement, Paganism a contemporary religion usually based on reverence for nature, Unitarianism an open-minded and individualistic approach to religion as well as Zoroastrianism one of the oldest monotheistic faiths, founded by the Prophet Zoroaster. There also exists another category the Neopagan religious faiths, which are a modern-day reconstruction of ancient Pagan religions from various diverse countries and eras. At some time they were rarely practiced in public because of safety reasons but currently, the situation is changing for the better. This group includes Asatru or Norse Paganism, Druidism, Goddess Worship, Wicca, and Witchcraft. It is worthwhile to note here that, many followers of Asatru are lesser Neopagans than Heathens. The term Neopagan, when used in the current context, is less ambiguous than the word Pagan, which has a variety of unrelated meanings. (Smith, 59).

There as well exist other smaller organized religions with a well-defined belief in a deity, humanity, and the rest of the universe. These smaller religions include; Caodaism, Damanhul Community, Druze, Eckankar, Elian Gonzalez religious movement, Gynosticism, Gypsies, Lukumi, HareKrishna-Iskcon, Macumba, Mowahhidoon, Native American Spiritually, Rom Roma Romani Rroma (aka Gypsies), Elian Gonzalez religious movements, Satanism; The Church of Satan, Scientology, Unitarian-Universalism, The Creativity Movement (formerly called World Church of the Creator, Zoroastrianism, Candomble, and many others.

Christianity – Values and Beliefs

Is Christianity a religion? A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a better understanding of Christianity than a religion. It has as well received various perceptions in different parts of the globe such as fellowship in Palestine (where it started); a philosophy in Palestine, an institution in Italy, a culture in Europe, and an enterprise in America.

Christianity implies any group in the society who has serious, prayerful, and devout affiliation to the doctrines of the Christian beliefs and includes Protestants, Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, United Church member’s up to the small minority of the Unitarian Universalities. (Smith, 94).

A set of beliefs, a way of life, and a community of people are what makeup Christianity. All the three are involved but always given different weights by different groups and they are all based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The origin of Jesus is Jewish and therefore Christianity was initially part of Judaism but later separated because of unacceptable to most Jews of the regard of Jesus as being a sense of God’s presence in human form. Furthermore, Judaism is ideally a covenant made between the Jewish people and God also a form of law, which Christians came to regard in a sense superseded by Jesus’ teachings. Jesus also implied and talked of a new covenant based on His death and resurrection on the night of His death. (Brown, 27). Christianity attributes more importance to proper belief as compared to other religions. The Christian community has beliefs (‘right beliefs’) otherwise known as ‘Orthodox’ signifying the importance of beliefs. The most controversial aspects of Christianity are beliefs, especially about Jesus. The written literature text of the Christians is the Bible, which is divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament represents the Old Covenant between Moses and God and it is the basis of Judaism. The New Testament represents the New Covenant of Jesus.

There are several branches of Christianity due to the level of variance in beliefs. However the belief of the ‘Apostle’s Creed’ is shared among all of them, which states that ‘I will believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth’ And in Jesus Christ, His Son, Jesus life, death, and resurrection, the Holy life, and the Christian Life.’ Christians have a strong belief in the creator of the universe, God, and that mankind is in the image of God. There is an overall based on the trinity as per the Creed, exhibited in the faith first on the Father, secondly on the Son, and lastly on the Holy Spirit. (Brown, 52). However, some Christian dispute this and totally differ from the trinity arguing that a trinity issue is a form of blasphemy since there is an impossibility of existing in three forms. The Son cannot be Father neither can the Holy Spirit be the Father. Jesus Christ is the first creation of God and therefore he is the Son of God. His capacity as a teacher, which in the first century did in an appropriate way similar to a Jewish teacher. Christians assume two separate concepts as relates to Jesus is the concept of Trinity and the concept of incarnation where Jesus has seen a way of relationship with God. (Smith, 43). The evidence of this shall be some two Bible quotations given below.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by a Son whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:1-3a).

“…His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creations, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:14-16, 19).

The last aspect of the Apostle’s Creed is the Holy Spirit, which is the bond uniting mankind with God. The Holy Spirit is a personal presence rather than an active force. The Apostle’s Creed refers to the church as holy and Catholic, Catholic being used to mean to be ‘universal’ and therefore the church is one, holy and human.

Islam – Values and Beliefs

According to Western ideologies, Islam (the religious faith of the Muslims) is usually considered an Arab religion. However this is untrue since most Muslims across the globe are non-Arabs for example, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population numbering above 180 million. Other non-Arab countries with a large Muslim population include China whose number goes beyond 18 million, Malaysia numbering above 12 million, India numbering above 120 million, and Kazakhstan numbering above 7 million. The worldwide population of Muslims is above 1.2 billion people facilitating Islamic religion to qualify as the second-largest monotheistic religion in membership from Christianity. (Combs-Schilling, 61).

Muhammad, an Arab political and religious proponent was the founder of this religion. Religion is characterized by being submissive to God as the word, Islam implies, which means ‘submission’ or the total surrender of individuals self to God who in the Arabic language is Allah. It is the second-largest monotheistic religion after Christianity. Its adherents are named Muslims.

The Quran, which was revealed by Allah to the Prophet Muhammad, and the words and deeds of the prophet, otherwise known as Sunnah are the two basic fundamentals of this religion. The Muslims hold that Muhammad came to restore the original monotheistic faith of earlier prophets in the line of Abraham through Moses and other prophets to Jesus. The Islamic faith is based on some five pillars, which are the duties that unite Muslims into one community. (Combs-Schilling, 95).

A Muslim is subjected to submission and acceptance of God through worship and following commands and avoiding polytheism. Islam is in some other instances connected to din a translation of religion.

Beliefs and Practices

Muslims must believe in God (Allah) the revelations of Allah, the prophets, angels, and messengers, and in the day of Kiama (judgment). There are two sects in Islam, the Shia, and the Sunni, with differing beliefs such as the concept of predestination, which is Sunni concept is called divine decree while the same is referred to as divine justice in the Shia version. The Shias also have the doctrine of Imamah, which implies some sort of spiritual and political leader called Imams.

The Quran is considered to be the literal word of God and it is the central religious text. Allah revealed the text through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. These revelations were spread over a time span between 610 AD until his death in 632 AD on several occasions. A Quran has 114 Surahs (Chapters) with a total of 6000 ayas.

Comparison of Christianity & Islam

Almost all of the theories of creation tend to agree that, human beings are largely religious and since ancient times, humankind has always worshipped a supernatural being in one form or another. Religion has always formed an integral part of life for human beings. This is not to say that every single human being is religious. On the contrary, there are some people who do not believe in religious authority. However, it is rare to find whole communities or societies, which do not worship a supernatural being in one way or the other.

This paper discusses the relationship between Christianity and Islam religions and particularly traces the developments of the two religions with an aim to demonstrate common characteristics in the two religions and specifically the reason as to why the two religions have become so popular.

Christianity as a religion has subdivisions in which different sects and denominations have different ways of interpreting the Bible. However the holy book for Christians, the bible has prevailed in powerfully handing down the legacy of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ. A lot of the success the Christian religion has achieved over the centuries can be attributed to the inspired word the Christians believe the bible to be. This has seen the Christians especially in the early centuries endure persecution and the worst forms of brutality for the sake of the gospel (Brown, 200). However, all ascribe to the mighty and presence of a super being called God. Christians believe in the final judgment as well as life after death.

According to Christians, life after death is largely determined by how one leads their life on earth. For those who lead a sinful life by disobeying God, the Creator of humanity, punishment by fire in hell awaits them. The promise the Christian religion gives to its adherents has played a very important role in the rapid expansion of the religion.

For those who are faithful to the teachings of Christianity on earth, eternal life is the reward after the final judgment in which God will judge all mankind according to their actions while alive. Therefore, the Christian religion’s core teachings are; belief in a supernatural and the final judgment day which will lead to either eternity or to eternal punishment in hell.

According to Combs-Schilling, (1989), Islam as a religion has been in existence since the 7th century and the formation of the religion can be attributed to Prophet Muhammad who was a messenger of Allah. The prophet sought to spread the word of Allah to the world by coming up with the Islam’s holy book, Qur’an that was dictated to the prophet by Mohammad. Islam is similar to Christianity in many ways including the fact that it is a monotheistic religion that owes its origin in Muhammad and it commands a wide following of over 1.3 billion people making it the second biggest to Christianity in terms of popularity and size of adherents (Combs-Schilling, 98).

The monotheistic nature of Islam has made the religion to expand very rapidly as adherents are usually focused unlike polytheistic religions whose adherents are never quite focused and therefore their commitment is usually diverted to the many objects of worship. Islam is also similar to Christianity in that all the religions have dogma in terms of scriptural teachings formally known as holy teachings. The holy teachings have kept a tight grip on the adherents making it a much-disciplined religion, which fanatically adheres to its teachings.

Just like Christianity, Islam promises its faithful life after death and this is an explanation of why it has attracted so many followers. Like Christianity, Islam has subdivisions and denominations such as Sufism, Shiites, and Sunnis, but these has not derailed the rapid spread of the religion which has been taking place since its foundation (Combs-Schilling, 19).

While the majority of the religions do not have a single basis for their beliefs but a conglomeration of beliefs of both Islam and Christianity have a monotheistic kind of faith, which unites all the adherents of the respective faiths into a common focus. For Muslims, there is the undisputable commitment of Allah and reverence of Mohammed, every Muslim is highly encouraged to recognize the two and therefore there is no room for followers to divert. For Christians, Jesus Christ is viewed as the one of God and the savior of the Christians.

Although Christianity has split into different sects such as Protestantism and Catholicism with more subgroups coming up every, Christianity is still strong as a religion something which can be attributed to its monotheistic nature. For some native religions such as the Americans, religious beliefs were determined by lifestyle and the felt needs of specific tribes in the region.

Conclusion

It is to our awareness that the world tends towards globalization making it very possible that in one part of an individuals lifetime there may occur a chance of meeting people from any corner of the planet. It is in recognition of this that the understanding of diverse religious beliefs of people is one of the several achievements, which mankind should strive towards for the purpose of enhancing a prosperous interaction and in order to someday enhance peaceful co-existence. All religions and cults have something very good and that is why people are attracted to them. However, there is an existence of an equally great problem in that many have also errors or heresies with the good thing.

Through religious clergy important leadership among the affiliate, groups have been offered in addition to spiritual guidance. The clergy acts as rallying forces to enhance community cohesiveness as well as their people. Unfortunately, all religious leaders have not exhibited this role. Whereas religion is seen to serve as a social cement, to strengthen the resolve of identity and develop economic as well as social interaction patterns, some people consider religion as being a social control mechanism that has been tailored in a manner to protect the interests of the people in power. The dominant religion of any society represents the ruling economic and political class according to this argument. It legitimates the existing social structure, blunting peoples’ frustrations, anger, and pain with the promise of an after-life reward. In this respect therefore religion is in a position to be a divisive factor resulting in breeding dissension as well as violence. The real reasons behind such upheavals are economic and political. A struggle for power and control is being disguised as a religious matter in this context. Even the participants may never notice the reality of the situation caught up as they are in the religious justification given for the conflict.

References

Brown, D. ed. 2000. Christianity in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Crossroads.

Combs-Schilling, M. 1989. Sacred Performances: Islam, Sexuality, and Sacrifice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Genesis 2. 1978. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids. Michigan. Zondervan.

Huston, Smith. 1991. World Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. Harper San Francisco; Rev Rep edition.

Mircea, Eliade. 1987. Encyclopaedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan.

Warren, Matthews. 2006. World Religions. Wadsworth Pub. Co.