World Religion Project

By: Michael Cho

1. Christianianity

Christianity is the world's largest religion, with approximately 2.2 billion adherents, known as Christians.

Most Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, fully divine and fully human, and the savior of humanity prophesied in the Old Testament. Consequentially, Christians refer to Jesus as Christ or Messiah.


Most Christians attend worship services at church on Sundays, which generally include singing, prayer and a sermon. Most Christian churches have a special ritual for ordination, or designating a person fit for a leadership position in the church. At home, most practicing Christians pray regularly and many read the Bible. Nearly all Christians will have been baptized, either as an infant or as an adult, and regularly participate in communion (also called the Lord's Supper and the Eucharist). Baptism and communion are considered sacraments - sacred rituals instituted by Christ himself.



Christianity developed out of Judaism in the 1st century C.E. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow him are called "Christians." Christianity has many different branches and forms with accompanying variety in beliefs and practices. The three major branches of Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism, with numerous subcategories within each of these branches.

Christianity is monotheistic religion, believes in only one god. They believe in Jesus Christ. Holy book of the Christianity is bible. The major holidays are Christmas, known as the day Jesus Christ was born. Sunday, the day of the week devoted to rest and worship is Sunday, or the "Lord's Day."


Highly practiced rituals: Worship on Sundays, and prayers.

Basic Christian Beliefs

2. Judaism

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism has no official creed or universal doctrinal requirements for membership. In general, a person can be considered "Jewish" whether he adheres to a complete system of beliefs about God and the afterlife, holds only a few simple beliefs that give meaning to ritual, or even (at least in liberal Judaism) does not believe in God at all.


Judaism ritual and practice is observed by the Jews. They are, of course, too numerous to even briefly describe. The Torah has 613 commands, and in addition there are details and customs. A few examples of Judaism rituals and practices are: Sabbath, Kosher food laws, prayers, Torah-reading, learning the Torah and Talmud, charity, avoiding slander or violence, the Holy Days and festivals, etc.




Judaism began about 3,500 years ago. Abraham, the first Jew, was a respectable 99 years old at the time. It is believed that God made a covenant with Abraham that Abraham's descendents would reach the "Promised Land" in exchange for their worship and obedience. Abraham believed in one God rather than many idols. Judaism became a major world religion. It is at the heart of both Christianity and Islam. Abraham lived in present-day Iraq in 1800 B.C. His son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob, also became patriarchs of Judaism. Jacob's twelve sons became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. Their complicated story fills the Hebrew Bible, which is the Old Testament to Christians. Even Disney has made movies about Bible stories! The story goes that the Hebrews went to Egypt because of a famine and later became Pharaoh's slaves. By 1200 B.C., the Pharaoh worried that the Hebrew people might rebel. He ordered his thugs to throw all Hebrew boys into the Nile! One boy's mother saved him by placing him in a covered basket in the river. Pharaoh's daughter rescued the baby, and she named him "Moses." This name means "one who was drawn out," and the story of Moses is a well-known Bible story. Moses rejected his royal family when he grew up. Pharaoh was Moses' adopted grandfather so this must have taken great courage. Moses asked the Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh said no, so God sent ten nasty plagues to the Egyptians. The Nile turned to blood, hoards of frogs hopped over the land, billions of bugs bothered the Egyptians, and then all the people got boils. With the death of all firstborn sons, including his own, the Pharaoh finally let his slaves go, but soon changed his mind and sent his soldiers after the Israelites. According to the Bible, the Red Sea split into walls of water. The Israelites escaped to Canaan, but the Pharaoh's soldiers never were able to "catch a wave" and died in the attempt. This exodus was only one of many that Jews had to make at different times in their history.





Judaism is monothestic. They believe in only one god, and believes that only he has created the world. Judaism was the first organized faith to be monothestic.


In Judaism, ultimate reality is a single, all-powerful God. It is this belief that made the Jews unique among other ancient Semitic peoples and that became the legacy Judaism has passed on to the entire Western world.


The holiest book in Judaism is the Torah which is the first five books of the Hebrew bible. The Torah contains the five books that were revealed to Moses by God on Mount Sinai and it is stored inside the Ark. Nobody is allowed to touch the Torah, so a special pointer called a yad is used to follow words when reading.


Major holidays of Islam are, Shabbat; The Shabbat, or “repose” that follows six days of workday activity, parallels the account in the book of Genesis of God’s rest after the Creation. Rosh Hashanah; This is the Jewish New Year, a holiday that takes place on the first and second days of the Hebrew month Tishrei, roughly the middle of September to the middle of October. Chanukah (Hanukkah); The beneficiary, perhaps, of undue media attention because of its (coincidental) placement near the Christian observance of the birth of Christ, Chanukah is often presented as a “Jewish alternative” to Christmas.



Highly practiced rituals:

Birth

The baby boy is at the center of the brit milah (covenant of circumcision), the ritual removal of the foreskin enacted in accordance with Genesis 17:10. This ceremony takes place on the eighth day of the baby boy’s life. A parallel naming ceremony for infant girls is known as the brit hayyim (covenant of life) or brit bat (covenant of the daughter). This, too, occurs on the eighth day of life.


Adulthood

At the age of 13, a Jewish male marks his entry into the community as an adult during his bar mitzvah (son of the commandment). The female counterpart is known as a bat mitzvah (daughter of the commandment), and can be held for females as young as 12. The bat mitzvah was first celebrated in the twentieth century.


Marriage

The Jewish marriage ceremony is known as the kiddushin (sanctification). It takes place under a wedding canopy known as a huppah, and incorporates the ritual breaking of a glass underfoot, an act that commemorates a sad event in Jewish history, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.


Death


Funeral observances in the Jewish tradition follow distinct guidelines that may vary depending on the branch of Judaism in question. (Reform Jews, for instance, permit cremation, while Jews of most other traditions observe injunctions against the practice.)


Judaism Core Beliefs and Practices

3. Hinduism

Most Hindus believe in an immense unifying force that governs all existence and cannot be completely known by humanity. Individual gods and goddesses are personifications of this cosmic force. In practice, each Hindu worships those few deities that he or she believes directly influence his or her life. By selecting one or more of these deities to worship, and by conducting the rituals designed to facilitate contact with them, a Hindu devotee is striving to experience his or her unity with that cosmic force.


Rituals of Hinduism are; brahmacharga, which takes place during the school years, is focused on acquiring knowledge and developing character;

grastha, the middle years, is focused on worldly pursuits and pleasures such as marriage, family and career, vanaprastha, when one's children reach adulthood, is a time of increased focus on spiritual things, and sanngasu, in the last years of life, one may abandon the world entirely for a life of contemplation.


Hinduism was formed in C. 2000 B.C.E. Originally formed in India. It is Polytheistic religion.




Gods of Hinduism are;

Shiva (the Creator and Destroyer), who destroys the old while creating the new. His consorts include the loving Parvati and the ferocious Durga, who represent the feminine aspects of his complex nature.


Vishnu (the Preserver) and his two most popular incarnations, Krishna and Rama.


Devi (the Protecting Mother), sometimes known simply as the Goddess, who appears in some form in every region of India. She is often identified as the creative energy of the universe, and is considered by her followers the equal of Vishnu and Shiva.


Holy books of Hinduism are; sacred texts- Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Epics.



Major holidays: 1. Holi - festival of colors and spring (February-March)

2. Mahashivaratri (Shiva Ratri) - night sacred to Shiva (February-March)

3. Rama Navami - birthday of Lord Rama (April)

4. Krishna Jayanti - birthday of Lord Krishna (July-August)

5. Raksābandhana - renewing bonds between brothers and sisters (July-August)

6. Kumbh Mela - pilgrimage every 12 years to four cities in India (July-August; last one 2003)

7. Ganesha-Chaturthi (Ganesha Utsava) - festival of Ganesh (August-September)

8. Dassera - victory of Rama over demon king Ravana (September-October)

9. Navaratri - festival of Shakti (in Bengal) or Rama's victory over Ravana (South India) (September-October)

10. Diwali - festival of lights and Laksmi (September-October)


Highly practiced ritual is, Aarti


Aarti, Arti, arathi, or Arati is a Hindu ritual in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. It may be said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung in the ritual of the same name.



The Quest for God - Hinduism - Their Beliefs, Prayers, and Rituals

4. Buddhism

One fundamental belief of Buddhism is often referred to as reincarnation -- the concept that people are reborn after dying. In fact, most individuals go through many cycles of birth, living, death and rebirth. A practicing Buddhist differentiates between the concepts of rebirth and reincarnation. In reincarnation, the individual may recur repeatedly. In rebirth, a person does not necessarily return to Earth as the same entity ever again. He compares it to a leaf growing on a tree. When the withering leaf falls off, a new leaf will eventually replace it. It is similar to the old leaf, but it is not identical to the original leaf. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.


Rituals of Buddhism are; Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct, and Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.



About 2500 years ago, a prince named Siddhartha Gautama began to question his sheltered, luxurious life in the palace. He left the palace and saw four sights: a sick man, an old man, a dead man and a monk. These sights are said to have shown him that even a prince cannot escape illness, suffering and death. The sight of the monk told Siddhartha to leave his life as a prince and become a wandering holy man, seeking the answers to questions like "Why must people suffer?" "What is the cause of suffering?" Siddartha spent many years doing many religious practices such as praying, meditating, and fasting until he finally understood the basic truths of life. This realization occurred after sitting under a Poplar-figtree in Bodh Gaya, India for many days, in deep meditation. He gained enlightenment, or nirvana, and was given the title of Buddha, which means Enlightened One.



As a religion, Buddhism is neither monotheistic nor polytheistic. There is no personal god or monotheistic creator God in Buddhism, as there is in Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Buddhism is a spiritual path based on the teachings of the Buddha, an ordinary man who attained “nirvana,” enlightenment or awakening, around the sixth century B.C. In Buddhism, each individual is responsible for his or her own spiritual awakening, which is achieved through meditation, moral and ethical living, and attainment of wisdom. Buddhism is not based on, or concerned with the human-divine relationship, therefore it is misleading to call it atheistic, monotheistic or polytheistic .



Buddhism itself, for the most part, doesn't address god. Some sects do, but basic Buddhism as taught by the Buddha does not. Technically one can be Christian and practice the philosophy of Buddhism; there is nothing in Buddhism that is contrary to the practice of Christianity. However Christianity would get in the way of one being a Buddhist, following it as a religion rather than a philosophy.



holy book: The sacred book of Buddhism is called the Tipitaka. It is written in an ancient Indian language called Pali which is very close to the language that the Buddha himself spoke. The Tripitaka is a very large book. The English translation of it takes up nearly forty volumes.


Major holidays of Buddhism are; Buddhist New Year, Vesak (Buddha Day), Sangha Day (Magha Puja Day or Fourfold Assembly Day), Dhamma Day (Asalha Puja Day), and Kathina Ceremony (Robe Offering Ceremony)



Highly practiced ritual of Buddhism is "Meditation".




What Is Buddhism?

5. Islam

Muslim Beliefs about the Prophets


Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is revered as "the Seal of the Prophets" - the last and greatest of the messengers of God. He is not divine in any way, for the strict monotheism that characterizes Islam (as well as Judaism) does not allow for such an interpretation. Other prophets are important in Islam as well, all of which are shared with the Jews or the Christians.


Muslim Beliefs about Human Nature


According to the Qur'an, Allah "created man from a clot of blood" at the same time he created the jinn from fire. Humans are the greatest of all creatures, created with free will for the purpose of obeying and serving God.


Muslim Beliefs about Life and Salvation


For a Muslim, the object of life is to live in a way that is pleasing to Allah so that one may gain Paradise. It is believed that at puberty, an account of each person's deeds is opened, and this will be used at the Day of Judgment to determine his eternal fate.


Muslim Beliefs about the Afterlife


Like Christianity, Islam teaches the continued existence of the soul and a transformed physical existence after death. There will be a day of judgment and humanity will be divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise and Hell.


Muslim Views of Other Religions


The Qur'an is clear that there must be "no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Yet Islam is not indifferent to conversion either - Muslims consider their religion to the be the one true religion, and invite people of all races, nationalities and religions to be part of it.



rituals: The religious rituals of Islam are relatively few in number, but great in importance. The Five Pillars of Islam are five practices regarded by all sects as essential to the Muslim faith. Other notable Islamic practices include the mystical rituals of Sufism and various distinctive Shi'ite practices.

The Five Pillars of Islam are:

Daily confession of faith (shahada)

Daily ritual prayer (salat)

Paying the alms tax (zakat)

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm)

Pilgrimmage to Mecca (hajj)


Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E. Islam, which literally means "surrender" or "submission," was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, the creator and sustainer of the world. It was originated from Arabian peninsula.


The single most important belief in Islam, and arguably the central theme of Islam, is that there is only one God. The name of God is Allah, which is simply Arabic for "the (al) God (Ilah)." The term is related to Elohim, the Hebrew word for God.


The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet that were revealed to him from Allah.


Major holidays of Islam are; Muharram(the islamic new year), Mawlid al-Nabi(Prophet Muhammad's birthday), Eid al-Fitr(the celebration concluding Ramadan), and Eid al-Adha(the celebration concluding the Haji).



What is Islam All About? - Mufti Menk