Hinduism a path of life or religion practiced all around the world, most notably in India and Nepal. It is a polymorphic monotheism which means the worshipped gods represent different aspects of a divine reality, all a part of one great universal spirit that exists within all things.
For example, there is a holy trinity of gods – Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. Brahma is the Creator of the Universe, Vishnu being the Nurturing and Preservation of the Universe, and Shiva being the Spirit of Chaos and destruction required to rebuild and recreate the Universe.
There are a vast amount of different levels within this hierarchy of creation. Each aspect is a part of the greater whole manifesting itself in an infinite amount of ways. One who practices Hinduism worships one or many gods, often both – depending on their family life, community, or personal choice.
Within this Faith, it is believed that we exist in a continual cycle of reincarnation lifetime after lifetime. Our fate is...
Jainism is an ascetic and gentle religion, the source of the Hindu concept of ahimsa, which means “nonviolence”. It is one of the 4 major religions that emerged out of India, along with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. There are somewhere between 4 and 6 million Jains in the world today, the majority of which live in India. It was a cornerstone of the political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.
Jainism comes from the word Jina, meaning “conqueror”, and emerged in India between the 7th to 5th century BCE in the Ganges basin of eastern India. It emerged near the same time, and in the same place as Buddhism, and presents an alternative version of the renunciate path. Jains believe they do not truly have a historical founder, however, commonly their image of their great historic founder is known as the Mahavira.
He, much like the Buddha, was the son of a chieftain of the Kshatriya, warrior class, and at the age of 30, he renounced his princely status to take up the...
Mahayana Buddhism encompasses not just a single group, but a collection of Buddhist traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. Mahayana means “The Great Vehicle” or “Greater Vehicle”, and is an amplified, more spiritualized Buddhist vision, adding devotionalism and complex metaphysics to the psychological pragmatism of the original teachings. The formation of this faith came as a path available to people of all walks of life, not just monks and ascetics. In fact, Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and can even be accomplished by a layperson. Today there are roughly 185 million followers.
It teaches that all people universally can achieve Nirvana, a place of perfect peace and happiness, much like the Christian concept like heaven, which is also often seen as a state of enlightenment. However, in Mahayana Buddhism, Nirvana is the lesser goal, with a higher goal being that of...
Buddhism, to those who follow it, is more than simply a religion, but rather is experienced as a philosophy or a way of life. It is considered a philosophy because the etymology of philosophy means “love of wisdom." The Buddhist path can be summarized as 3 key things: Leading a moral life, to be mindful and aware of our thoughts and actions, and to continually develop wisdom and understanding.
The Buddha was a renunciate holy man named Siddhartha Gotama, who was born into a royal family of Nepal in 563 BC. He stepped outside of the mainstream Indian religion and the wealth of his family to seek the keys to happiness.
After 6 years of study and meditation, he found what he called “The Middle Path”, and became enlightened. He then spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism, called the Dhamma, or truth, until he died at the age of 80. The purpose, as he described it, was Nirvana, or the end of human suffering.
Suffering, Buddha said, is the...
Mormonism is practiced within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 in Fayette, New York. Mormons believe that Smith received a series of divine visitations. He was given specific instructions and priesthood authority to restore the Christian Church from the Apostasy that it had become. Mormons are considered Christian, but not Catholic nor Protestant.
Central to these was the unearthing and translation of a holy book written on buried plates. It contained the story of God’s dealings with the ancient native people of the Americas, as compiled by the ancient prophet Mormon.
Mormons use this book alongside the King James Bible in religious teaching and study. Mormons believe in the continuation of prophecy: living prophets are chosen by God to act as a means through which revelation can be communicated. For Mormons, all people can receive inspiration from God, but in practice, God uses senior Church officials. For Mormons, Jesus...
Orthodox Judaism is not an organized movement, but a tendency among various groupings of Jewish people focused on resistance to the changes introduced by modernizing factions within the broader Jewish community.
It can be traced to mid-19th-century Germany. It characterizes Jews, who, countering Reform Judaism, emphasize the unchanging authority of the Torah, their Bible, Law, and Halacha, interpretations of legal rulings found in holy scripture, contained in the rabbinic texts of the Talmud and Midrash.
Orthodox Jews believe God is One and is independent of the world, but has given humankind the law, which reflects the cosmic order God has set in place. So that in following Jewish law and engaging with Halacha, Jews are participating in that order.
While more resistant to compromise than Reform and Conservative Jews, the Orthodox often acknowledges the need to engage with the modern world, although the core of Jewish law and tradition is taken to be unchanging.
Pentecostalism is a fairly modern branch of Christianity that can be traced back to the holiness-movement of the Methodist church. This faith is centered on the belief of spiritual gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit.
Pentecostalism takes its name from the Christian festival of Pentecost, which was the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Harvest, or Feast of Weeks. The Christian Pentecost then was a holiday taking place 50 days after Easter. This commemorates the episode after Jesus’ death and Resurrection. It is described in the bible that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit of God and spoke in tongues, strange utterances interpreted as divine language.
This phenomenon was recognized in the early Church as a sign of God’s presence, although later the Church came to view this event as ending when the first disciples died. Speaking in Tongues disappeared for a long time until the turn of the 20th century. This is when groups of North American Christians began to...
The Rastafarian movement, or Rasta for short, is more than just a religion, but a way of life, a social movement, as well as a mindset, without the structure that most religions are used to. The movement began in Jamaica in the 1930s among working-class people. It followed a prophecy made by Marcus Garvey, a black political leader, about the unification of black people with Africa, their land of origin. It began in part as a social stand against the oppression of white people and other middle-class people. At the heart of it, they believed that by being taken to the Caribbean by slave traders they had been robbed of their African heritage, which they sought to recapture, and celebrate.
The prophecy was rapidly followed by the crowning of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia. The Rastafarians saw this as a fulfillment of Garvey’s prophecy. Haile Selassie was regarded as the Messiah, Jah Rastafari, a figure of salvation who would redeem black people from white suppressors, and...
Reform Judaism, a major branch of Jewish religion, is characterized by a commitment to adapt Jewish tradition and identity to the changing norms of modern life. Jewish law is not seen as an unchanging truth, as in Orthodox Judaism, but as a tradition to be used as an adaptable resource. Reform Judaism sees the modern world not as a threat, but as an opportunity to explore more innovative ways of expressing Jewish identity.
It has its origins in the 18th century, among European Jews who sought to modernize Judaism in keeping with changing times. For some Reform Jews, an unquestioning belief in God comes second to maintaining Judaism as a cultural identity. Some reform Jews might even describe themselves essentially as agnostic, or perhaps willing to reduce Judaism to a kind of ethical monotheism.
This radical tendency has proved resilient in the United States, although its breakaway movement of Conservative Judaism – seeking to reconcile elements of traditional Judaism with...
The Roman Catholic Church has been the largest unified organization in the world – over half the world’s Christians are Catholics. The head of the church is the bishop of Rome, known as the Pope from the informal Greek term “Pappas” for “Father”, who claims unbroken succession from Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and designated leader of Jesus’ followers.
The Catholic church considers its primary purpose is to proclaim the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, namely that God had saved the world from its state of sin by becoming incarnate in the man Jesus of Nazareth.
For Catholics, the Church itself is the continuing presence on Earth of Jesus, ensuring that God’s work of salvation is maintained until Jesus’ prophesied return.
Sacraments are central to the Catholic Church’s work, understood as visible signs of God’s grace entrusted to the Church. The principal sacrament is the Eucharist, in which bread and...
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