Friday, August 10, 2012

World Religions, A Brief Summary

Christian Symbol

Islam Symbol

Judaism Symbol
Buddhism Symbol
Hinduism Symbol


The history of religion is best described as a horror story. If you harbor doubts, just review this brief outline of various religions’, and the gore such beliefs have brought to bear during the last 1,000 years or so:

The First of the Christian Crusades were launched back in 1095 by a proclamation from Pope Urban II with the battle cry “Deus Vult” which is Latin for “God wills it”; it was a mandate to destroy alleged infidels in the Holy Land. Gathering crusaders in Germany first fell upon “the infidel among us,” who were Jews in the Rhine valley of, you guessed it, Germany, where thousands were pulled from their homes or hiding places and hacked to death, burned alive, or both.

Following this act of barbarism, the religious legions plundered their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem, where they killed virtually every inhabitant they stumbled upon, thus “purifying” the symbolic city. Such actions were but a small part of a total of 7or 9, (depending upon how the count is made) eventual “Crusades”, which lasted 177 years. By the way, the term “crusade” is a deviation of a French term which means to take up the cross; the symbol for Christianity.

Furthermore, in the name of religion, human sacrifice blossomed in the Mayan theocracy of Central America between the 11th and 16th centuries to pacify a feathered-serpent god; young maidens were drowned in sacred wells and other victims either had their hearts cut out, decapitated or shot with arrows. In other places, sacrifice was a bit more erratic. A few examples include: Pre-Inca tribes in Peru killed children in temples called “houses of the moon.” In Tibet, Bon shamans performed ritual killings. On the island of Borneo near Southeast Asia, builders of stilt / pile houses drove the first stilt through the body of a young maiden to appease the earth goddess. In southern India, Dravidian peoples offered innocent lives to several village goddesses, and followers of Kali, a Hindu goddess, sacrificed a male child every Friday evening.

It is often said that only Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, constitute the so called “Bloody” Religions but as recently as 1980 a pig resulted in a ridiculous episode: When the animal walked through a Muslim holy ground at Moradabad, near New Delhi, India; Muslims, who think pigs are the personification of Satan, blamed Hindus for the “defilement”. They went on a murder rampage, stabbing and clubbing Hindus, who retaliated in kind. The pig riot spread to a dozen cities in India and left more than 200 dead.

This swinish episode tells a universal tale. It typifies religious behavior that has been recurring for centuries and as I’ve documented above is not limited to a specific religious group.

Left leaning Religious groups frequently tout that Ronald Reagan often called religion the world’s mightiest force for good, “the bedrock of moral order” as he put it, but then while in Portsmouth, Ohio in September of 2004, President George W Bush said “the short-term objective of this country (USA) is to find an enemy and bring them to justice before they strike us”; unfortunately, this view is held by millions, and not just Americans.

As a matter of fact, records of human experience show that where religion is strong, cruelty is too often the consequences. In short, passionate beliefs invariably produce intense hostility. Admittedly the more recent comment by President Bush was most likely an attempt at restating the old adage “the best defense is a good offense”, nevertheless after reviewing the misguided direction of religions past, one can’t help but wonder about the legitimacy of religion as described by President Reagan.  

There are enumerable religious groups or organizations that are active in the world today, but for the purpose of simplification or a general grouping effort, I have reduced them to only 5. These include:

Judaism was founded by Abraham and or Moses in Egypt and Israel in 586 BC. Generally called Jews, they have one God (Yahweh) who has no spiritual adversary. Their place of worship is called a Synagogue; estimates place believers at 13,000,000 worldwide. Redemption requires prayer and study, and upon death you advance to Eden or Gehenna (a fiery place where the wicked are punished). Will folks of the Jewish faith Kill for Yahweh? YES!

Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ in Roman held Israel in 32 AD. Typically called Christians; they have one God (Jehovah) whose spiritual adversary is Satan. Their place of worship is called a Church; believers total 1,955,000,000.  Redemption requires confession & repentance, and the dead go to Heaven or Hell, dependent upon ones actions while among the living.  Will folks of this faith kill for Jehovah? YES.

Islam was founded by Mohamed in Arabia in 622 AD. These believers are generally called Muslims; they total 1,126,000,000 (83% Sunni; 16% Shiite). The place of worship is called a Mosque; redemption includes faith, works, and prayer 5 times a day. Muslims too have only one God (Allah) whose adversary is Iblis or Shaitan; your afterlife as a Muslim also involves Heaven or Hell.  Are true believers permitted to kill for Allah?  YES!

Buddhism, claims no god although man’s adversary is said to be a demon called Mara. Afterlife might be describes as a state of mind called Nirvana or the indefinable and ultimate being in which one has attained disinterested wisdom and compassion.  Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha was a spiritual teacher from the subcontinent of India, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded in 500 BC.  Today there is an estimated 325,000,000 believers who worship in Temples. Redemption or to insure the state of Nirvana, only requires enlightenment &the elimination of passions.  Will believers kill other humans in the name of the faith? NO!

Hinduism, has many founders and several Gods (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), whose adversary is in contrast to Christianity and Islam, and Buddhism in that Hinduism does not recognize any central evil force or entity such as the Devil opposing God or man-kind.  The religion originated in India in about 1500 BC and is thus the oldest surviving religion on earth. Believers total 793,000,000 who worship in Temples. Redemption is left up to ones karma or acts while among the living with an emphasis on eliminating passions; ones afterlife is likely to include reincarnation.  Will Hindus kill in the name of their Gods? NO! 

The conduct of each of us is a critical part of human interaction, so perhaps the best  action for insuring or maintaining the existence of man-kind remains in my opinion at least, a rather simple approach: “treat others as you would like to be treated” as opposed to “mistreat others before they mistreat you”, as some have argued, President Bush meant to say in 2004.


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