This article is intended to give information about some world religions with a view to give better understanding about their origins and doctrines.
Every programme or activity in this world must have a set goal and religion is no exception.
According to the “Encyclopaedia Britannica” religion simply defined is man’s relation to that which he regards holy. This relation to the holy may be conceived in a variety of farms: Worship is the most basic of these but moral conduct, right belief and participation in religious institutions are generally also constituent elements of the religious life”.
There are hundreds of religions in the world. All of these have been established in an attempt to answer certain questions about the origin of man, his present existence while on earth and after death itself. This has led to various forms of religions – all in the name of having a relationship with God (or in some cases “gods”).
The method of approach to God, the doctrines, expectations, precepts and practices vary widely according to the type of religion. But let us look at the possible questions that might have led to the origin of religions:
- Where has everything come from?
- Did someone make the world and begin it all?
- Or did it just happen, just like that, out of nowhere and out of nothing?
- What is the purpose of everything?
- Do things just come and go and live and die without any reason?
- When I die, is that the end of me? Or will I keep on living in some way after my body dies?
These are very serious questions which the various religions attempted to answer. They provide a means by which people find out which direction they should follow.
Religious science believes that: “ultimate reality is considered to be one universal mind, and the universe is its material manifestation. Man and nature are, therefore, like the God who is their true being.”
In other who is, in fact, the universal mind: Many religions believe that God is the creator of all things and that he is self-existent, omnipotent, and omniscient.
Because of the diversity of world religions, I will attempt to present (perhaps superficially) five world religious namely: The Religion of the Jews, Christianity, Islam and Mohamed (Muhammad), Hinduism and Buddha’s enlightenment.
- THE RELIGION OF THE JEWS (JUDAISM)
The Jews (Hebrews) were God’s chosen people and God made a covenant with them as follows; “I will agree to care especially for them, said God if they will love me and obey my laws, “I will be the God of the Jewish people if they will be my people”, said God.
The covenant was made after 430 years of bondage under the Egyptians
God also gave the Jewish people a law which contained commandments as follows (paraphrased).
- You must love God with all they heart, mind and soul
- You must honour thy father and mother to obtain length of days
- You must not commit murder
- You must not have sexual relationships with another man or woman unless you are married to that person
- You must not steal
- You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, his dependant and anything that belongs to him
- You must spend one holy day each week, thinking about God and praying to him. God’s law also contained rules about what to eat and drink such as,
- You must not eat meat with blood in it
- You must not eat pork
- You must not drink milk after eating meat
All what God told Moses was written down and formed the first part of the book known as the OLD TESTAMENT. All the teaching and commandment revealed by God to the Jewish people are called the TORAH (the Hebrew word for teaching and instruction).
- The Jewish people believe that if they love God and obey his commandments they will be able to live with him in the next life after they die.
The Jewish people also believe that at some future time a special messenger who is called the ‘Messiah will come from God. He will make all quarrels and stop wars and people will then live peacefully together. This will be the “Kingdom of God” when God will ruler over the whole world.
- THE CHRISTIAN WORLD
Christianity is the religion of Christians. It was started by Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. He lived in a country which was called Israel and he was a Jew. His followers were also Jews and Christianity grew up within the religion of the Jews.
During his ministry Jesus combined preaching the Gospel of salvation with unprecedented miracles of diverse healings including raising of the dead to life.
Jesus lived for only thirty – three (33) years and he was killed by the rulers of his country because he said he was the Son of God. Christians believe, according to scriptures (the Bible), that God came into the world in special way (the incarnation) and gave a special message to the people, not just through what Jesus said and did but through the way he lived.
Christians also believe that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ and that the Holy Bible which contains both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the word of God.
Jesus said that God loves each one of us. He created the world and everything in it out of pure love. We must love God with all our heart, soul and mind.
Jesus said that we must love other people in the same way as God loves us. He even went on to say we must love our enemies, feed them when they are hungry and give them drink when they are thirsty. Also we must not harm other people,
Or treat them badly
Or be cruel to them
Or tell lies about them
Or kill them
We must want only good things to happen to them. We must want them to be happy.
The Christian Church
Jesus formed a special group of twelve people, the disciples, who were later called the ‘Apostles;
He told them to carry on his work and to be like him.
After his death, all the followers of Jesus came together in community which they called a church.
The Christian church is first of all the community of those who follow Jesus’ teaching and example. A church is also a building in which Christians meet and hold their special ceremonies or services. Those who pass on the message of Jesus and help people follow his example are called ‘priests’ or ‘ministers’. Some of these may be called bishops’ and archbishops.
The New Testament
After the death and ascension of Jesus his life and work were written in four (4) books called the ‘Gospels’ and other books called the Epistles (Letters). These were collectively called the ‘New Testament.
- Christians believe that Jesus is the incarnated son of God
- Total obedience to the word of God will enable any one to attain eternal life in heaven
- Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and no man gets to heaven without him
- Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins through his bloodshed on the cross
- The sacrificial shedding of his (Jesus) blood on the cross served as the final redemption of man from sin
- Jesus Christ will come again and receive both the righteous dead and the righteous living into the air through a process called the rapture.
- A period of Tribulation will take place lasting for seven (7) years during which those who were not raptured will face the tribulation. In this period those who don’t receive the 666 mark of the beast will face all kinds of torture and will not even be allowed to buy or sell
- After the tribulation, Christ will come and Satan will be bound and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand (1,000) years. Christ will then reign on earth with the saints for a thousand years
- There will also be a final judgment by Christ where the wicked will be cast into hell and the righteous into heaven
MUHAMMAD AND ISLAM
Muhammad (Mohamed) was an Arab born about 570 A.D. in the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Muhammad knew about the religion of Judaism and the Christian Religion, but when he was forty years old he believed that God spoke to him directly and asked him to be prophet or messenger.
Allah and the Prophet
God said to Muhammad “you must make known to everyone that there is only one God that his name is Allah. You must tell people to stop worshipping idols and many different gods and to obey only Allah”.
Muhammad believed that we owe all that we have as life and everything else – belongs to God alone. That is why Muhammad was so much against the worship of idols (worshipping things or people or spirits as if they were as important as God). He was also against the worship of many gods (polytheism) since he believed that there could really be only one God (Monotheism).
The religion of Allah was called Islam which means submitting to God and obeying him. The followers of Islam were called MUSLIMS. Muslims believe that Islam is the most perfect religion and the best way of following God.
God also told Muhammad how people must live if they were to be his true followers. Muhammad got someone to write all that the Quran” or Koran.” Muslims believe that the book contains the very words of Allah himself and the Qu’ran is very precious to them.
Muslim children are taught to learn the Quran off by heart. (Qu’ran means recitation’ – the recitation of God’s word).
Muslims believe that although Muhammad was God’s messenger or prophet he was an ordinary man and not in any way a god. In the Qu’ran it is said that the great Jewish leader, Moses and also Jesus Christ, were God’s prophets or messengers, but that Muhammad was God’s and most perfect messenger.
When Muslims are called to say their prayers the caller or MUEZZIN, sings;
“God is most great, God is most great. I tell you that there is no God except the one God. I tell you that Muhammad is the messenger of God, come to prayer.”
Muslims pray prayers five times each day: at daybreak, at noon, in the middle of the afternoon, after sunset and in early part of the night.
They like to say their prayers together in a building called a MOSQUE. Everyone kneels on the ground behind the prayer leader who is called the IMAM and all face the direction of Mecca to show that they are united with all the other Muslims in the world.
THE PILLARS OF FAITH
As well as praying Muslims must do a number of other things:
- They must declare their faith by saying: “ There is no God except the one God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
- They must give money and help poor people.
- They must fast for a whole month every year (the feast of RAMADAN) by not eating or drinking during the day.
- They must try, at least once during their lives, to go on a pilgrimage to the sacred mosque in Mecca.
These obligations are called the pillars of Allah.
In addition to these duties Muslims must not drink wine, they must not eat pork, they must not gamble. For Muslims there are in fact rules about almost everything eating, drinking, dressing, bathing, table manners, relationships between men and women and so on. All these rules make up the sacred ‘Law of Islam called “sharia”
Muhammad died in A.D. 632 and about 200 years later his followers broke into together into two groups:
- The Sunni Muslims: who see the imams just as prayer leaders and
- The shi’ite Muslims: Who see all their Imams almost as prophets taking the place of Muhammad
The Sufis Muslims
Another group formed later was the Sufis who believe that they can come to God directly and even be one with God.
However, whatever their differences, all Muslims believe in ISLAM and they obey Allah’s commands set out in the Qu,ran and Sharia’ the Islamic sacred law.
Muslims believe that those who obey the commandments of God, as set out in Islam, will enter paradise (heaven) after death.
BUDDHA’S WAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT
In about 560 B.C a man named Siddhartha was born in Northern India in a village near the Himalayas. His family name was Gautama and his parents were rich.
Siddhartha was brought up as a Hindu, but when he was twenty – nine years old he suddenly became aware that none of the things we love can last for very long. “So people grow old, they get sick, they die.
People who are strong may become weak.
Those who are beautiful may become ugly.
If we love someone, then the one we love may live us or die.
If we have lots of money we may very easily lose it all.
Because nothing lasts for very long and because everything may easily change, so Siddhartha thought, we can never really be happy and content in this world.
No matter how many friends we may have,
No matter how intelligent we may be
No matter how beautiful we may be,
No matter how successful we may be,
No matter how much money we may have,
I myself can change in all kinds of ways so that I become a very different person.
When Siddhartha became aware of all these things, he was so upset that he left his wife and child and his own family, gave up all his possessions, and set out on a journey through Northern India in search of some way of escaping from his life of suffering and unhappiness. But he was not able to find anyone who could help him so he had to find the way for himself.
The Buddha’s Enlightenment
When he was thirty – five, after long searching he finally discovered the way and he became enlightened’ Budda’ means “the enlightened one” and Siddhartha was called the Budda (sometimes called ‘Gautama Buddha) from this time on the Budda wanted to teach others about his ways, so he gathered a group of followers about him.
The Buddha said to them: you must stop yourself from wanting or desiring things that give you pleasure.
“You must not be concerned about yourself
“You must train your mind to take no interest in the things of this world.
“You must be detached from all things in the world
“You must even be detached from your own self
The Budda said that when you are detached from the world and from your own self, you can no longer be affected by the world and yourself and made to suffer. When you are enlightened from all the things that attach or bind you to the world and which make you unhappy and when you are truly free or liberated, then you are truly happy (though you do not want to be happy).
For the Buddha
Enlightenment= Liberation = Happiness.
The wheel of Rebirth
Because the Buddha was brought up as a Hindu when he was young he believed that when you die, your soul or spirits enters another body, where it was reborn. You might be reborn as a pig in your next life. If you had lived a good life you might become a better person in your next rebirth.
The Budda said that if you are truly enlightened, you will escape the wheel of rebirth and that there is no life after this for the enlightened.
The Buddhist Life
To become enlightened, you must live in the following way; you must not hurt other people or animals.
You must always tell the truth.
You must also be honest
You must live as simply as you can
The strictest followers of Buddha live in communities: They are called the Sangha;
The Buddhist monks do not get married. They give up all their belongings. They beg every day for their food. They study the teaching of the Buddha with a master. They meditate for hours each day, and train their minds to be detached. They wear a simple orange robe
They believe that when you are enlightened you will escape the wheel of rebirth and there will be no life after death.
- HINDUISM (THE HINDU RELIGIONS)
Hinduism is not just one single religion but a collection of different forms of India religion. Hinduism began about 2,000 years before the time of Jesus Christ but it did not have a founder like Jesus Christ in the Christian religion or Mohammad in Islam. Neither did it have a sacred book like the Christian Holy Bible nor the Muslims Qu’ran. Instead Hinduism has a large member of different writings which are believed to be of special religious importance.
The earliest Hindu teachings were contained in a series of religions writings called the Vedas. One part of the Vedas was called the Upanishads, which are very important in Hinduism. Another important sacred writing of the Hindus was the Bhagavad Gita (The song of the Lord) which was written much later.
The Hindu Gods
For Hindus there is one main God called Braman but this God shows itself in many different forms.
The various forms of Brahyman are also called gods, but they are really aspects or reflections or expressions of the one supreme God Brahman. In fact, they believe that everything and in the world is a reflection of Braman.
The Rig Veda, one of the Hindu sacred writing says;
The Supreme being (Braman is one but the poets say that this being is many” in Hinduism there are so many gods which are believed to be reflections of Brahman. For example, India, the god of war, Mura, the sun god, Varuna, the god who upholds the whole world, and Shiva, the destroyer god.
The Hindus believe that you have lived before in another life bad, that when you die you are born again in another form – perhaps as another person, as an animal or as an insect.
If you lived a good life you will be born again in a higher more perfect form.
If you be lived a bad life then you will be born again in a lower less perfect form.
If you are a very good and holy person, you can finally escape the series of rebirths and come to be at one with Brahaman, This is called ‘Liberation (or Molesha)
You can come to know and love God in various ways. They are called Yogas.
One way of coming to know God is by doing good works without expecting any reward. This is called Yoga of action (Karma Yoya)
Another way is to come to God through one of his reflections.
Many Hindus, for example, love the god Krishna and pay devotion to him by saying prayers and making offering to his image.
The Ultimate Goal believe
The ultimate goal of Hindus is to live a good and holy life so that they can escape the cycle of rebirths and come to be at one with Brahman.