Hinduism

The world's oldest polytheistic religion

Historical Background

In many ways, Hinduism is the world's oldest religion that is still practiced today. Although being founded over 4,000 years ago, a lot has changed in Hinduism. Hinduism's ability to survive for 4,000 years comes from this ability to change to meet the needs of it's followers, called Hindus. Most historians agree that Hinduism began when the Aryans from the Caucus Mountains blended their culture with the people who were living in the Indus River Valley. It is hard to put a definite start date on Hinduism, because Hinduism has no single founder. Hinduism is the collection of many different religious ideas.


Central Beliefs

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history, there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books. For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as 'a way of life' or 'a family of religions' rather than a single religion.


Hindus believe in a term called karma. Karma is your good and bad actions having a good or bad result to your life. Karma becomes important when tied together with reincarnation, a continuous cycle in which the soul is reborn over and over again according to the law of action and reaction. At death, many Hindus believe the soul is carried into a new physical body which is usually human. If you lived a good life, then in your next life you will be rewarded by being born into a rich or powerful family. If you lived a bad life, then in your next life you will be born into a poor family or family with a bad job. Hindus believe in following this cycle until they live the best life possible.


Polytheism

Hinduism is one of the last great polytheistic religions remaining. Though the Hindu faith places emphasis on multiple gods they are all variations or forms that can be traced back to the one central spirit called Brahman. Brahman is responsible for the creation of the world. There are three main versions of the Hindu spirit or god. There is the creator god, Brahma. The second god is Vishnu, the preserver. Vishnu keeps balance in the world. When the time comes for the world to end, the god will be called Shiva.

Spread of Hinduism

Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with over 900 million followers. Hinduism is almost exclusively found in India. While Hinduism has survived for over 4,000 years, it has not spread to many parts of the world. One of the reasons that Hinduism has stayed so popular in India is that Hinduism often accepts new gods or goddesses into their faith. It is not uncommon to see Jesus or Muhammad or the Buddha worshiped as just another god in Hinduism.