jesus

Focusing on Christianity

Christianity is one of the religions in the world today; it is actually the largest religion present today with over 2.4 billion adherents who are rightfully referred to as Christians. They strongly believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of the Almighty God and also the savior of all humanity. They also believe that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming was prophesied by a prophet of God, Isaiah, in the Old Testament. Christian theology is usually expressed in the ecumenical creeds that state that Jesus Christ suffered, was crucified, entombed and then resurrected on the third day. His resurrection is seen as a sign that he will grant life to all the people that believe and trust in him.

History of Christianity
Christianity started as a sect, a Jewish one to be particular, in the Middle East’s Levant during the mid-1st Century. Early Christianity got influences from Gnosticism and Zoroastriniasm. John Bowker claims that Christian ideas of angels, the world coming to an end, judgment, heaven, hell and resurrection got their substance and form from Zoroastrian beliefs. Early developments took place during the time and able leadership of the twelve apostles and in particular Saint Peter. His work was also followed by Paul the Apostle and then the early bishops. These early bishops are considered by Christians as the successors of the twelve apostles.

Early Christians were subjected to persecution by several Roman and Jewish religious authorities that disagreed with what the apostle’s were teaching. The punishments meted on them were varied and included death like in the case of Stephen and James of Zebedee. The state persecution was ceased in the 4th Century under Emperor Constantine (313 AD) when he issued the edict of toleration. Later in 380, Emperor Theodosius I enacted the law that established Nicene Christianity as the state church of the whole Roman Empire. From the 4th Century, this religion played an important role in shaping the Western civilization.

Common Misconceptions
Christianity has faced a number of misconceptions ever since it was founded back in the Apostolic age. The New Testament created a lot of friction between the Pharisees and the people who followed Jesus. Presently, it is attacked by Muslim and Jewish theologians who criticize the doctrine of the Trinity believed by many Christians. They argue that this doctrine seeks to state that there are three gods which goes against the tenet of Monotheism.

Different Branches
There are three major primary divisions of Christianity: Protestants, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. These groups are referred to as denominations and they have diverse practices and doctrines. There is also a distinction drawn between the Eastern Christianity and the Western Christianity which has origins in the Great Schism of the 11th Century. There are other branches of reformation like the Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal, Adventist, Methodist and other various Protestant confessions that have emerged later on.

Christian Practices
The Christian religion, just like the other religions has adherents who have different beliefs and also their bibl interpretations are different. It regards the bible as its religious book through its Old and New Testament. There are various creeds in the Christian faith but the Apostle’s Creed is the most popular. Jesus Christ is the central tenet of Christianity and Christians believe that he is the messiah, who was anointed by God himself to save humanity. Christians also believe that the cornerstone of their faith is the death and resurrection of Christ. This event is very important and it is where much of Christian doctrines and theologies are based on. They also believe in salvation and the holy trinity that encompasses God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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buddhism

Buddhism

Buddhism is among the major religions in the world. It has a complex system of beliefs and history. Historians aver that the founder of the religion, Siddhartha Gautama, lived between 566 BC and 480 BC. He was the son to a famed Indian warrior-king, and, due to the privileges that came with his lofty social caste, Gautama led an expensive, extravagant life.

However, after reveling in all the pleasures as much as he could, he got bored of the royal life and sought adventure into the world to search for understanding.

He came across different people: a corpse, an ascetic, an ill man, and an old man, all who were languishing in some kind of suffering. That exposure solidly convinced him that suffering lay somewhere at the end of all existence. He decided to renounce his royal title to become a monk, stripping himself of material possessions so that he may attain comprehension of the truth in the world.

The most important event in his search for truth was while he was meditating under a tree, when he suddenly, and finally, discovered how he could be free from any suffering, and, how he could, ultimately, attain salvation. This realization, or epiphany, made him to be called the Buddha, which means the ‘Awakened One’. After this the Buddha spent the rest of his life traversing India enlightening other people based on what had been revealed to him.

buddha

The religion continued to grow and, today, there are about 300 million people across the globe who subscribe to Buddhism. One of the reasons it has grown so immensely is the fact that it somehow transcends religious barriers. Buddhism, to many, goes beyond religion and it is more of a ‘way of life’. Understood this way, the practice is easier to accept and apply.

There are various types of Buddhism. The differences are as a result of different cultures and customs. However, the teaching does not vary. They all subscribe to Dharma- or the truth.

There are Four Noble Truths that make up the essence of Buddha’s teachings. These are the truth of the cause of suffering, truth of suffering, truth of the end of suffering, and, lastly, the truth of the way that leads towards the end of suffering. That can be summarized in the assertion that suffering exists; has a cause; has an end, and there is a path that one can follow to bring suffering to an end.

Buddhists believe in Karma. Karma is the good or bad deeds one person does during their lifetime. Karma teaches that good deeds bring about happiness in the long run, and bad deeds yield unhappiness in the long run.

Karma also influences the Buddhism cycle of rebirth. According to their teachings, there are six different planes into which any living creature can be reborn. There are three unfortunate realms, as well as three fortunate realms. The fortunate realm comprises of the realm of gods, the realm of demigods, and the realm of men. And the unfortunate realm comprises of the realm of animals, ghosts and hell. Where a person will be born into is determined by their Karma: those with a favorable karma are born into the realm of the fortunate while those with unfavorable karma are born into the unfortunate realm.

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islam

All about Islam

The word Islam literally means submission to the will of the Almighty. It has more than one billion followers, and is one of the most famous religions in the world. The followers of this religion are termed as Muslims and according to them, there is only one God, known as Allah. The followers of Islam are extremely religious and they take their religion very seriously. They pray five times every day, and a pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca is must in their life.

ORIGIN: There are many different theories regarding the origin of Islam. According to history, the origin of Islam can be traced back to Saudi Arabia in the 7th Century. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad was the first person to introduce Islam to the world in the year 610, making it one of the youngest religions. He was the man behind the holy book of Quran, which according to the Muslims contain all the teachings of Allah. However, many people believe that Islam existed long before Prophet Muhammad was born. According to them, the holy book of Quran was written by Allah himself. It was given to Prophet Muhammad by Allah himself, through an angel named Gabriel. After that, the Prophet spread this religion throughout the globe.

CUSTOMS AND RELIGIONS:
1. THANKING ALLAH BEFORE EATING: This is a very common practice and is found in other religions as well. The main reason is to thank Allah for the supply of food and helping them to live. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad very strictly followed this custom.
2. USING ONLY THE RIGHT HAND FOR EATING: After thanking God before having food, Muslims only use their right hand while eating or drinking. According to them, left hand is considered to be dirty and they always prefer their right hand. Even while receiving any thing from any other person, they always use the right hand. Using the left hand is considered rude.
3. PRONOUNCING THE WORD ‘ ADHAAN’ IN THE EARS OF A NEW BORN: In Islam, Adhaan means the call to the prayers. It is considered to be one of the most holy words in Islam. Whenever a baby is born, this word is pronounced to his ears by his parents. They believe that, this word is the summary of all the teachings of Allah. It makes the child pure and helps him to have a better life.

CONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISLAM:
1. JESUS AND ALLAH: Many people believe that there is a conflict between Allah and Jesus. But in reality, Jesus is mentioned in many paragraphs of the Quran as an example of a good messenger and a good character.
2. RIGHTS OF WOMEN: It is widely believed that a Muslim women is not allowed any privileges. Although in some countries, they follow some strict laws for women, but it is not the teachings of Islam. As per the holy book of Quran, a woman has the same rights as a man. She has the right to get educated and also the right to marry.
3. VIOLENT RELIGION: This is one of the most common misunderstandings. Most people believe that Islam encourages violence and most terrorists belong to this religion. The terrorist groups doesn’t follow any teachings of Quran. They just use the name of Islam to gather more followers. Quran teaches us to oppose violence. As per Quran, we should fight only in self defense.

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hindu

Things you may not know about Hinduism

Hinduism is the religion of most people in Nepal and India. It exists among a significant population outside the subcontinent and has more than 900 million adherents all over the world. In a few ways, Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world and a few elements within it stretch back to thousands of years back. Unlike most religions, Hinduism does not have a single founder, no commonly agreed set of teachings and no single scripture.
Over its extensive history, Hinduism has had many key figures teaching about different philosophies and writing several holy books. It is for this reason that writers refer to it as ‘family religions’ or a ‘way of life’ and not a single religion. The word ‘Hindu’ was derived from the river complex of the western north, the Sindhu. It is a Sanskrit word that is used by the inhabitants in the region. The origin of the word Hindu is therefore political, geographical and cultural. Now the term is accepted widely. Hinduism has also become the world’s third largest religion after Islam and Christianity.
Hindu Beliefs

Hindu embraces several beliefs, a fact that can be confused by Westerners accustomed to confessions, creeds and worded statements. There are some beliefs common to most forms of Hindu which can be identified. Some of these basic beliefs are regarded as boundaries outside non-Hindu religion and heresy. They include; the authority of the Vedas, the ancient Indian sacred texts, the law of karma which influences one’s destiny in both lives and the existence of a soul that moves from one body to another after death, better known as reincarnation. Most Hindus are devoted to their principal gods Vishnu, Shakti or Shiva.

Religious Beliefs of Hinduism
The religious lives of most Hindus is focused on devotion to either Brahman, Vishnu, Shakti or Shiva. This devotion takes the form of practices and rituals with images and sculptures of different gods in home shrines. Most philosophically-minded Hindus tend to ignore gods altogether and seek some kind of realization of one’s self through meditation. Others focus on fulfilling moral and social duties appropriate to the positions they hold in life. These different approaches are often regarded as equally valid and are formally recognized as three paths; the path to liberation (margas), the path of devotion (bhaktimarga), the path of action and works (karmamarga) and the path of philosophy or knowledge (jnanamarga).

Hindu Branches, Schools and Sects

The modern Hindu religion is divided into four devotional sects; Shaivism, Smartism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism. Shaivasm and Vaishnavism are often referred to as monotheistic sects; each of which believes in a supreme God known as Shiva and Vishnu. Vaishnavism is the biggest while the rest are the most prevalent Hindu sects. The devotional ones do not regard the rest as rivals since each sect can freely borrow practices and beliefs from the other. There are six schools of Vedantic philosophy in Hinduism. They emphasize the Ultimate Reality as Brahman who is the great ‘Self’ that must be realized to get liberation. The six schools of philosophy are Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Purva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa annd Yoga. Of the six, three are influential in Hinduism to date; Yoga, Vedanta and Purva Mimamsa.

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Judaism

Judaism is a religion of the Jewish people and one of the oldest religions in the world. It forms the basis of most Abrahamic beliefs existing today including Islam and Christianity. To become a member, one must be born to a Jewish mother or be converted through one of the recognized Judaic religions.

HISTORY/ ORIGIN
Judaism came into existence approximately 4000 years ago when God gave the Jews Ten Commandments that govern the religion to date. The Jews trace their history back to Abraham, who made a covenant with God around 1900 BC when he was told to leave his ancestral land to Canaan, which is present Israel to occupy the land which God had promised his descendants. This, together with the laws given to Moses at Mount Horeb, forms the foundation of Judaism. Under God’s guidance, the Jews occupied Canaan and became powerful with kings such as David and Solomon who introduced temple worship. Around 920 BC the Jewish kingdom fell apart and the people split into groups and by 600 BC the temple was destroyed and Jewish leadership killed or sent into exile. Today they are scattered all over the world.

BELIEFS
Members of Judaism share a few beliefs with other faiths such as Christianity and Islam, but some aspects of their religion are totally unique. They believe that God chose them to set an example of ethical behavior and holiness to the world. They only trust in only one living, all-powerful God whose name in Hebrew is YHWH, which means “I am”. Their central literature is the Torah or Pentateuch, which comprises of the first five books of the Bible. The Torah governs their daily lives, and they also believe that God still affects everything that happens in the world.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
One major misconception about Judaism is that the members follow only the 10 commandments. However the Torah contains over 613 commandments listed in the first five books of the bible. Most non-Jews presuppose that the only difference between Judaism and Christianity is the fact that Jews reject Jesus. What they do not understand is that in Judaism there is no devil, no heaven or hell and no concept of salvation. Some say that the Jews killed Jesus while it’s actually the Romans. Despite their history, not all Jews fast or celebrate major Jewish holidays and not all of them observe the Sabbath.

BRANCHES OF THE RELIGION
There are four basic branches of Judaism. Their difference comes from how they understand and interpret the Torah. In Orthodox Judaism, members believe in the entire Torah and carry out all the beliefs and customs recorded in the Old Testament. Hasidic Judaism is a movement that emphasizes communion with God through love and humility while Conservative Judaism seeks to conserve traditional elements of Judaism while allowing for less modernization. Reform Judaism is the most liberal as it allows for extreme modernization of all Jewish customs.

CUSTOMS/ PRACTICES
Most Judaic customs revolve around the home. Every male child is circumcised on the eight day after he is born. Every week, members observe the Sabbath which starts at night fall on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday as commanded in the Torah. They also observe the rituals written in the Halakhah, which outlines how they lead their daily life from dressing, diet and charity. Worship is carried out in the synagogue where sacrifices, teachings and prayer take place. The Kosher diet is observed as a sign of obedience to God.

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