Monday, 13 September 2010
CASE 081 - Religion
Religion is the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or a set of beliefs concerning the origin and purpose of the universe. It is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories associated with their deity or deities, that are intended to give meaning to life. Many have been infiltratedand taken over by various elitist groups in order to control people further. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but it is more than private belief and has a public aspect. Most religions have organised behaviors, congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places and scriptures.
Academics studying the subject have defined religion into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths, indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific religious groups, and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths.
The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions place greater emphasis on belief, some on practice. Some emphasise the subjective experience of the religious individual, some the activities of the community. Some religions are said to be universalistic, intending their claims to be binding on everyone, in contrast to ethnic religions, intended only for one group. Religion often makes use of meditation, music and art. In many places it has been associated with public institutions such as education and the family and with government and political power.
One of the more influential theories of religion today is social constructionism, which says that religion is a modern concept that developed from Christianity and was then applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures.
Abrahamic religions are monotheistic religions which believe they descend from the Jewish patriarch Abraham.
Judaism is the oldest Abrahamic religion, originating in the people of ancient Israel and Judea. Judaism is based primarily on the Torah, a text which Jews believe was handed down to the people of Israel through the prophet Moses in 1,400 BCE. This along with the rest of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud are the central texts of Judaism. The Jewish people were scattered after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. Judaism today is practiced by about 13 million people, with about 40 per cent living in Israel and 40 per cent in the United States.
Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (1st century) as presented in the New Testament. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and as Savior and Lord. Almost all Christians believe in the Trinity, which teaches the unity of Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. Most Christians can describe their faith with the Nicene Creed. As the religion of Byzantine Empire in the first millennium and of Western Europe during the time of colonization, Christianity has been propagated throughout the world. The main divisions of Christianity are, according to the number of adherents:
Catholic Church, leaded by the Pope in Rome, is a communion of the Western church and 22 Eastern Catholic churches.
Protestantism, separated from the Catholic Church in the 16th-century Reformation and split in many denominations,
Eastern Christianity which include Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Church of the East.
Muslims praying around Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam
Islam refers to the religion taught by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a major political and religious figure of the 7th century CE. Islam is the dominant religion of northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. As with Christianity, there is no single orthodoxy in Islam but a multitude of traditions which are generally categorized as Sunni and Shia, although there are other minor groups as well. Wahhabi is the dominant Muslim sect in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are also several Islamic republics, including Iran, which is run by a Shia Supreme Leader.
The Bahá'í Faith was founded in the 19th century in Iran and since then has spread worldwide. It teaches unity of all religious philosophies and accepts all of the prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as additional prophets including its founder Bahá'u'lláh.
American religions are often derived from Christian tradition. They include the Latter Day Saint movement, Jehovah's Witnesses among hundreds of smaller groups.
Smaller Abrahamic groups that are not heterodox versions of the four major groupings include Samaritanism, the Druze, and the Rastafari movement.
Hindu statue of Rama in Kalaram Temple (India)
Indian religions are practiced or were founded in the Indian subcontinent. Concepts most of them share in common include dharma, karma, reincarnation, mantras, yantras, and darśana.
Hinduism is a synecdoche describing the similar philosophies of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and related groups practiced or were founded in the Indian subcontinent. Concepts most of them share in common include karma, caste, reincarnation, mantras, yantras, and darśana. Hinduism is not a monolithic religion in the Romanic sense but a religious category containing dozens of separate philosophies amalgamated as Sanātana Dharma.
Jainism, taught primarily by Parsva (9th century BCE) and Mahavira (6th century BCE), is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world. Jains are found mostly in India.
Buddhism was founded by Siddhattha Gotama in the 6th century BCE. Buddhists generally agree that Gotama aimed to help sentient beings end their suffering by understanding the true nature of phenomena, thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth (saṃsāra), that is, achieving Nirvana.
Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced mainly in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia alongside folk religion, shares some characteristics of Indian religions. It is based in a large collection of texts called the Pali Canon.
Under the heading of Mahayana (the "Great Vehicle") fall a multitude of doctrines which began their development in China and are still relevant in Vietnam, in Korea, in Japan, and to a lesser extent in Europe and the United States. Mahayana Buddhism includes such disparate teachings as Zen, Pure Land, and Soka Gakkai.
Vajrayana Buddhism, sometimes considered a form of Mahayana, was developed in Tibet and is still most prominent there and in surrounding regions.
Two notable new Buddhist sects are Hòa Hảo and the Dalit Buddhist movement, which were developed separately in the 20th century.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh Gurus in 15th century Punjab. Sikhs are found mostly in India.
There are dozens of new religious movements within Indian religions and Hindu reform movements, such as Ayyavazhi and Swaminarayan Faith.
Zoroastrian Fire Temple
Iranian religions are ancient religions which roots predate the Islamization of the Greater Iran. Nowadays these religions are practiced only by minorities.
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century BC. The Zoroastrians worship the Creator Ahura Mazda. In Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil trying to destroy the creation of Mazda, and good trying to sustain it.
Mandaeism is a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Mandaeans are sometime labeled as the "Last Gnostics".
Kurdish religions include the traditional beliefs of the Yazidi, Alevi, and Ahl-e Haqq. Sometimes these are labeled Yazdânism.
Incense burner in China
Folk religion is a term applied loosely and vaguely to less-organized local practices. It is also called paganism, shamanism, animism, ancestor worship, and totemism, although not all of these elements are necessarily present in local belief systems. The category of "folk religion" can generally include anything that is not part of an organization. The modern neopagan movement draws on folk religion for inspiration.
African traditional religion is a category including any type of religion practiced in Africa before the arrival of Islam and Christianity, such as Yoruba religion or San religion. There are many varieties of religions developed by Africans in the Americas derived from African beliefs, including Santería, Candomblé, Umbanda, Vodou, and Oyotunji.
Folk religions of the Americas include Aztec religion, Inca religion, Maya religion, and modern Catholic beliefs such as the Virgin of Guadalupe. Native American religion is practiced across the continent of North America.
Australian Aboriginal culture contains a mythology and sacred practices characteristic of folk religion.
Chinese folk religion, practiced by Chinese people around the world, is a primarily social practice including popular elements of Confucianism and Taoism, with some remnants of Mahayana Buddhism. Most Chinese do not identify as religious due to the strong Maoist influence on the country in recent history, but adherence to religious ceremonies remains common. New religious movements include Falun Gong and I-Kuan Tao.
Traditional Korean religion was a syncretic mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and Korean shamanism. Unlike Japanese Shinto, Korean shamanism was never codified and Buddhism was never made a social necessity. In some areas these traditions remain prevalent, but Korean-influenced Christianity is far more influential in society and politics.
Traditional Japanese religion is a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and ancient indigenous practices which were codified as Shinto in the 19th century. Japanese people retain nominal attachment to both Buddhism and Shinto through social ceremonies, but irreligion is common.
A modern style Unitarian sanctuary
A variety of new religious movements still practiced today have been founded in many other countries besides Japan and the United States, including:
Shinshūkyō is a general category for a wide variety of religious movements founded in Japan since the 19th century. These movements share almost nothing in common except the place of their founding. The largest religious movements centered in Japan include Soka Gakkai, Tenrikyo, and Seicho-No-Ie among hundreds of smaller groups.
Cao Đài is a syncretistic, monotheistic religion, established in Vietnam in 1926.
Unitarian Universalism is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning."
Sociological classifications of religious movements suggest that within any given religious group, a community can resemble various types of structures, including "churches", "denominations", "sects", "cults", and "institutions".
The Hindu population of South Asia comprises about 2,000 castes. According to some Hindu literature, there are 330 million (including local and regional) Hindu deities.
Mysticism and esotericism