Our group will create a flavorful research pie by studying the commonalities of the major religions; Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism. We will then look for similarities between these major religions and the minor religions; Zoroastrianism, Taoism, and the polytheistic religions of the Greeks and Romans. We will place the major religions in their historical context. Then, discuss why we believe religions and belief systems developed the way they have. We will also explore the necessity of studying religion to better understand the development of civilization.
Mixing all of this research together, we hope to obtain a historical understanding of beliefs that may differ from our own. Religions, and belief systems, through out history, are about as numerous as there are types of apples. All of which give a subtly different flavor, still, there remains areas of commonalities between them. As a group we decided to look for these common threads and went further, to discover the importance of studying religions in history and why they seem to develop the way they do.
Amazingly, much like pieces of apple can make a pie, the various religions and belief systems come together to make a civilized world. With this in mind, let us see what kind of pie the pieces of our research can make. Timeline The first ingredient for our research pie is where in history do all the major religions fall. All religions have a beginning at some point in time. There are those who would argue that “religion invented, evolved, or discovered by man”. (Brow, n. d. )Brow also goes on with his opinion and says that, “from the day of his creation man knew the one Creator-God who made him”.
Brow, n. d. )Whether you own to this belief, or not, History is able to place a date on when the practices of various religions began. One of the earliest major religions is Judaism, one of the Abrahamic religions that began around 2000 BC (allaboutreligion. org) The next major religion in our historical timeline would be Hinduism. Their holy texts, the Vedas were compiled between the years of 1100-500 BC by the Aryans. (allaboutreligion. org) Buddha, the founder of the major belief system Buddhism, lived and began his teachings between 563-483 BC. (allaboutreligion. rg)
About the same time, 551-479 BC, the founder of the major belief system Confucianism, K’ung Fu Tzu was alive and beginning his teachings. (Robinson, 2009) Then, 32 AD was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the Messiah. (allaboutreligion. org)His followers took Judaism, one of the major religions, to the next level to form the major religion of Christianity. The New Testament of the Holy Bible was written by Christ’s followers, based on his teachings, between the years of 40-90 AD. (allaboutreligion. org) Finally, the newest major religion is Islam.
The life of Muhammad, who records Islam’s sacred text the Qur’an, is from 570-632 AD. (allaboutreligion. org) This is where the major religions of today have their origins dictated by history’s guidelines, based on the lives of their leaders and their ancient writings. We found that, knowing when a religion had been established created the crust of our research pie. Commonalities Our next ingredient is very important, indeed. Just what are some of the commonalities in the major religions and belief system; Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.
Also, could they share similarities with histories minor religions and belief systems; Zoroastrianism, Taoism, and the polytheistic religions of the Greeks and Romans? Kimball tells us that all religions: form foundations for moral conduct, are the driving force for most peoples conduct, can hold sway over the actions of nations, and can impact the “public and private lives of citizens through religiously based acts of governance”. (Kimball, n. d. ) This has proved to be true for all religions through out history, and today.
We, as a group, believe that this will continue to be true in the future, as well. In the major religions; Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism we can see how “how religions address the same core issues in parallel and different ways”. (Kimball, n. d. ) All of these religions cover key components in commonality; “creation myths and sacred stories, concepts of the divine, lifecycle and calendar based rituals, various types of sacred: people, text, objects, sources, and religions ultimate goals- the reasons it’s adherents give them such importance”.
These are very generalized common threads for all the religions, major and minor. Breaking it down even further we see the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all major, monotheistic religions that are based on faith in the one God. (allaboutreligion. org) They are all considered Abrahamic religions because they all base their origin from the time of Abraham. (Upshur, 2007) They all believe in Moses, prophets, and the Ten Commandments. (allaboutreligion. com)These three major religions have a lot in common with the minor religion of Zoroastrianism.
Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, “removed the magical elements from religion” (Upshur, 2007, p. 38)) He, also, devised the notion of “last judgment, taught that men and women were expected to avoid sin, and abide by divine laws”. (Upshur, 2007, p. 38) All of these beliefs are shared with the three major monotheistic religions; Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The polytheistic major religion would be Hinduism. It shares common threads with the minor Greek and Roman polytheistic religions.
They all believed in many gods that controlled natural events and there were sacrifices made to these Gods for atonement and appeasement. (allaboputreligion. org) Brow tells us that, ” it is often pointed out that the most ancient literature of the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, Hindus and the traditions of many races agree that the first men brought animals to represent them in their worship of God” in the form of animal sacrifice. (Brow, n. d. ) Eventually the Greek philosophers, Buddha, and Confucius all reacted against a corrupt priesthood and their animal sacrifices. Brow, n. d. )Even some of the monotheistic religions had animal sacrifice in their origins. Another interesting common thread is with the major religions of Christianity and Buddhism.
The Eight Fold Path of Buddhism directly reflects some of the teachings in the Christian New Testament. The comparison would be as follows; Right Understanding – Ephesians 5:17, Right Intention – Proverbs 17:20, Right Speech – James 1: 19, 27, Right Action – James 2:17, Right Livelihood – Matthew 5:48, Right Effort – 1 Corinthians 4:18, and Right Concentration – Colossians 3:2. (allaboutreligion. rg) Buddhism and Confucianism are the two religions that are not really religions, but belief systems. They are both based on the philosophical teachings of their founders and do not necessarily base their faith on a God or Gods. These religions and their philosophical beliefs can co-exist in harmony. (Upshur, 2007)
“In China, and some other areas in Asia, the social ethics and moral teachings of Confucius are blended with the Taoist communion with nature and Buddhist concepts of the afterlife, to form a set of complimentary, peaceful co-existent and ecumenical religions. (Robinson, 2009) Confucianism and the minor belief system of Taoism both teach of a way of life and philosophy of government, and they agreed that a sage should rule. Yet, they did not agree on how a sage should rule. (Upshur, 2007, p. 108) All of the religions also show a common thread of a way to commune with their God, Gods, Ancestors, nature, or higher power. This is generally accomplished through prayer or meditation. (allaboutreliugions. org) It truly is amazing, all the commonalities our group has found in the varying religions.
This research is definitely the fruit in our pie. Studying Religions This next ingredient will definitely add some flavor. As a group, we thought about why it is important to understand a society’s religion. We believe that by studying religions and belief systems we get a sense of why civilization has developed the way it has, based on fears and hopes. Basically religions and belief systems give motive to the action of individuals and societies. This remains steadfast and true.
For example if you look at the philosophies of life in Confucianism’s code of conduct, you will see it’s great impact on “Chinese government, education, and attitudes on correct personal behavior” and see why it’s society is the way it is. (Dominguez, 2006) We also study religions because it gives one the perspective of where one came from and why certain societies act toward one another the way they do. We, as a group, believe that an awareness of the world’s beliefs is necessary for understanding and unity in today’s chaotic world.
This understanding just has to be the spice for our research pie. Development Now, we come to the final ingredient, why do religions and belief systems develop like they do. Just from looking at the historical development of civilization and the corresponding belief systems we have discussed in class, there does appear to be a correlation between societies and religions becoming more civilized in mainly equal proportion. Of course there are always exceptions to everything, so, we will keep this as a generalization.
Beginning with the somewhat less sophisticated ideas in the polytheism of the Mesopotamians, Aryans, and Greeks, whose deities controlled the functions of the natural world. This was prompted by man’s less educated need to explain natural occurrences. (allaboutreligion. org) “Many early polytheistic religions practiced animal sacrifice to appease their gods, used divination for communication with those gods, and ascribed magic to explain many natural occurrences. ” (allaboutreligion. org) It is our groups belief that as man became more educated his societies and belief systems actually became more sophisticated.
Moving from the need to have natural occurrences explained to looking at questions of a deeper spiritual matter. This evolution in thinking changed religions from being mainly polytheistic, to the ones today that are mainly monotheistic, or ethical systems of belief. It is our group’s belief that religions and societies will always keep evolving because people are always looking for answers and they look to religion to show them the way. The why of religious development sure makes a great glazed filler to hold our research pie together. Conclusion
Let us look back and reflect on all of the ingredients for our wonderful religion research pie. We have made our crust from the finest origins of religions in history. We have filled our pie with the flavorful fruit of commonality. Then we spiced things up with a dash of developmental understanding. Finally, we held it all firmly together with the glaze of the possibilities of why religions develop the way they do. So, now that our religion research pie is complete, maybe we could all sit down and share a flavorful slice of knowledgeable religious tolerance and enjoy the peace while we eat.