RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD
Man is a religious being. His religion has taken endless forms. His names for gods and goddesses are rituals though which he has sought protection or blessing very from the horrible to the sublime. But wherever and however he lived, from the time he became man, man has worshipped and has often shown a belief that he possesses in immortal soul.
While there are many religions in our present world, only six are very influential in the extent of their followings. These are Hinduism, Buddhism, the philosophies of the Chinese, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Hinduism is the ancient religion of India. The Supreme God is Brahma, the spirit of the universe. But there are many other gods, of whom the most important are Vishnu and Siva. It teaches that when men die, their souls man be born again to live in other bodies or in animals, the rebirth being called reincarnation. Hindus are organized into castes, or groups, which do not intermarry or eat together or mix in worship. These are based on differences of occupation, origin and social status. Hindus are united in their reverence for the cow, which they consider a sacred animal.
Hinduism, of course, has kept changing though the centuries as new leaders arose. In the 6th century B.C., Buddhism began in north India as a revolt against orthodox Hinduism. The new religion spread rapidly to all parts of India and beyond India, and became one of the world’s great religions.
Buddhism was founded by Gautama the Buddha (623-543 B.C.). Its main teachings are contained in the Four Noble Truths, including the Noble Eightfold Path, and the doctrine of Nirvana. It preaches a new way of living based on unselfishness, charity and good deeds. It insists on moral and spiritual discipline in order to attain Nirvana, a condition where Karmas have perished, the cycle of rebirth on earth has ceased, and supreme peace is attained.
Buddhism spread widely throughout Asia, developing many local variations of philosophy, form its native India, it may have as many as 500 million followers in the rest of Asia.
In China, from the 1st century A.D. onwards, Buddhism became mingled with the already established religions of Confucianism and Taoism, based on the teachings of Lao Tse in the 6th century B.C. taught a quietist religion of living in the way of nature. Confucius, probably the greatest of the Chinese sages taught a system of good conduct which has guided countless Chinese for over 2500 years.
Ancient, adj. of time long past,
Attain, v. to reach; to come to; to gain though effort.
blessing, n. something which makes one happy or comfortable or saves one from danger; anything that gives happiness or prevents misfortune.
Cease, v. to come or bring to an end; to stop.
Charity, n. kindness in giving help to those in need; brotherly love.
Establish, v. to set up; to found.
Extent, n. size; length; breadth; space; amount; degree; limit.
Horrible, adj. terrible; dreadful; frightful.
Influential, adj. having influence; powerful; effective.
Insist, v. to make a firm demand; to urge.
Mingle, v. to mix; to join.
Numerous, adj. very many; great in number.
Occupation, n. business; employment; vacation.
Orthodox, adj. being in accordance with the usual beliefs or established doctrines.
Perish, v. to be destroyed; to come to an end; to die.
Reincarnation, n. rebirth (of the soul) in another body.
Revolt, n. a rising up against the government, etc.; disagreement; refusal to accept authority.
Ritual, n. all the set forms connected with a ceremony.
Sage, n. a very wise man, (usually an old man).
Sublime, adj. noble; inspiring a felling of reverence or awe.
Vanish, v. to disappear, to come to an end.
Variation, n. change in form, condition, etc. from a former or usual state; a thing which is somewhat different from another of the same kind.
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD
To be sure, all religions of today have roots in the past. There is evidence of this on every side.
The Bible is a good record of the growth of a religion. It begins with the story of a nomadic tribe, influenced by the civilizations of the Middle East and later of the Nile Valley. It shows the people of that tribe clinging, though weary wandering, to their jealous tribal god, Jahweh. And it traces the growth of their religious belief as they roamed. It tells how they challenged and were sometimes attached to the gods of the lands they touched. Then, as they settled in Palestine, their idea of Jahweh grew until He became the majestic yet forgiving and world-encompassing one God of the prophets and of Jesus.
It is this religion of the Jews, the descendants of the ancient Hebrews, that is called Judaism. It is a revealed religion, whose teachings were made known by God to mankind though a succession of prophets and teachers. It dated back to Moses in the 13th century B.C. who received from God on Mount Sinai the Law that is still the accepted code of orthodox Jewry everywhere. These words, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” which were first spoken to the Jewish people by Moses as the spokesman of God, created a new idea of God, the monotheistic belief that there is but one god of the Universe. Not only Judaism but Christianity and Islam rest on this idea of strict monotheism.
After its clash with Imperial Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and 135, the Jews were expelled from the Holy Land, and a Jewish state was not again established in Palestine until 1948 almost 200 years later although the majority of adherents of Judaism remain scattered throughout the world.
It was this Jewish tradition, as well all know, which gave birth to Christianity. The young teacher, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us from our wrong-doing and show us that God is love. Christians worship Him together on Sunday and other days, pray to Him and read the Bible.
And there is a third great religion of the nomadic Semitic peoples, It is Islam which was founded by Muhammad in the 6th century A.D. Islam teaches: “ there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet.” It does not believe in idol worship, but preaches the worship of one God by prayer five times a day and fasting at fixed times. A member of this religion is called a Muslim. The place of worship is called a mosque. The holy book of Muhammad’s teaching is called the Koran or, more correctly, Quran. The religion was established in the Near East, North Africa, Pakistan and some parts of India.
Such are the six faiths which are called the World’s Great Religions. The similarities between some of them are many; the difference are also many --- in some instances they are fundamental. But all six obviously have supplied answers to some of the great questions raised in every human mind by the mystery of life. Every great religion has noble teachings and lofty moral goals. All of them help men hear their sorrows. They all tell men how to live, and give assurance in the presence of death. The six have done these thing with varying effectiveness. But all have brought answers to men’s needs. Otherwise they would not be living religions. They all deserve our study and our respectful understanding.
Adherent, n. a follower.
Assurance, n. sureness; confidence; certainty; firmness of mind.
Challenge, v. to call or invite to fight.
Clash, n. disagreement; conflict.
Cling, v. to hold fast to; to be faithful to.
Create, v. to bring into being; to make; to produce; to give rise to.
Descendant, n. a person who is an offspring of a certain ancestor, family, group, etc.
Deserve, v. to have a right to; to be worthy of.
Encompass, v. to shut in all around; to surround; to encircle; to contain; to include.
Evidence, n. anything that makes clear, shows or proves.
Expel, v. to drive out by force; to send away.
Fast, v. to eat very little or nothing.
Foundation, n. that on which an idea or belief rests; an underlying principle; basis.
Fundamental, adj. of or forming a foundation; of very great importance.
Goal, n. an object or and of effort; aim.
Idol, n. an image of a god.
Inherit, v. to receive by birth; to receive from one’s ancestors.
Instance, n. an example; case.
Jealous, adj. envious; feeling ill-will because of others’ being richer, happier, etc.; demanding exclusive loyalty whole-hearted worship and service.
Lofty, adj. very high; noble; sublime; grand.
Majestic, adj. having dignity and nobility; noble; stately; like a king.
Majority, n. the greater part or larger number.
Monotheism, n. the doctrine or belief that there is only one God.
Mystery, n. something unexplained, unknown, or kept secret.
Nomadic, adj. wandering from place to place.
Obvious, adj. easy to see or understand; plain and clear.
Prophet, n. a person who speaks fro God or a god, or as though under his guidance; a religious teacher or leader regarded as, or claiming to be, divinely inspired; a person who foretells events.
Roam, n. to travel without purpose, direction, or plan; to go aimlessly; to wander.
Salvation, n. freedom from suffering.
Similarity, n. likeness; a point, feature, or instance in which things are similar.
Stately, adj. dignified; majestic.
Succession, n. a number of persons or things coming one after another in time or space; series.
Trace, v. to follow the development, process, or history of, especially by proceeding from the latest to the earliest evidence, etc.; to find or determine by this means.
Tribe, n. a group of families living as a community under one or more chiefs.
Weary, adj. tired; tiring; causing tiredness; tiresome; showing tiredness.