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Things Nature of God

World Religions
Religion Origin of All Things Nature of God/Creator View of Human Nature View of Good and Evil View of “Salvation” View of After Life Practices and Rituals Celebrations and Festivals
Most indigenous peoples have creation stories where they believe the Creator or Great Father in the Sky made the earth, the animals and all humans. Many believe that they have lost touch or even forgotten about a Creator that their ancestors knew, but disobeyed. They believe the dark gods of the spirit world are the ones to be afraid of or to placate. Thus they believe that the Creator God, if there is one, is distant, removed and angry with them. Humans are often seen as lost or wandering from a true path that was lost to the ancestors long ago. Humans are seen as capable of good or bad and under the influence of curses, vows, incantations, or evil spirits. In this sense, they may be animistic. Many have a special shaman or witch doctor who is supposed to help them connect to the spirit world Good and evil are seen as forces that compete for dominance in a person and in the world. Sometimes there is an ethnocentric idea that ‘our’ group is the good one and all outsiders are ‘bad’. This idea can lead to wars and conflicts. The idea of the path or the way or a lifeway is their main idea of salvation. It is the path to the good. This idea is closely aligned with a responsibility for nature and this world. Oneness with nature is for some seen as a goal of life. Others see ‘salvation’ as surviving and not being defeated by the dark spirits, thus having a long life. Some groups have a notion of an afterlife, but others do not. For example, some Native American groups believe in a “Happy Hunting Ground’ or that one goes to be with the ancestors and/or the Great Spirit. Many indigenous peoples are terrified of death and use their rituals to ward it off. Varies by country or group. Some have animal sacrifices or smoke various substances in a ritualistic manner. Dance is often used to express stories and tales of the tribe or group or the gods. Body decoration, paint, garments and drums are often used in the ritual dances. To placate the spirits, they may also cut themselves or in some cases engage in cannibalism or headhunting. An example: the Sawi people of New Guinea make peace with an enemy by swapping infants between the tribes. As long as the children live there will be peace between the two tribes. One family per tribe agrees to take in the other child and give up their own. Varies by country or group. Some have celebrations tied to the seasons of the year. Others have celebrations of victory in war or at weddings. The birth of children is often a time of great celebration. Death is universally observed in various ways depending on the culture and local beliefs. The finding of good prey when hunting would be a cause for celebration as well. Communal meals are common. For example: the Native Americans shared food with the Pilgrims who came to America.
Week 1 Sources text text text…/indigenous-religion text text text
Week 2 Hinduism and Jainism Hinduism: With its cyclical notion of time, Hinduism teaches that the material world is created not once but repeatedly, time and again. Additionally, this universe is considered to be one of many, all enclosed “like innumerable bubbles floating in space.” Within this universe, there are three main regions: the heavenly planets, the earthly realm, and the lower worlds. Jainism: Jains believe that the universe we perceive really exists and is not an illusion. It contains two classes of being (living souls and non-living objects). They believe that nothing in the universe is ever destroyed or created, they simply change from one form to another. They believe the universe has always existed and will always exist. Hinduism: describe God as “sat-cid-ananda” (full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss). This corresponds to three main features of their Supreme Being: BRAHMAN – residing everywhere, ANTARYAMI – residing within, and BHAGAVAN – residing outside and beyond Jainism: Jains do not believe in God as a creator; however, they view him as a perfect being. When a person destroys all his karmas, he becomes a liberated soul. He resides in a perfect blissful state in Moksha. He possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss. This living being is a God of Jain religion. Hinduism: holds that human beings are simply microcosmic creatures. How they came into being is not as important as what they are and where they are going. Their central understanding of human nature and destiny is conditioned by the fundamental law of karma. Karma is the moral law in which the cycle of birth-death-rebirth (the eternal process of reincarnation) takes place, thereby giving endless opportunities to escape from the limitations of life and ultimately from death itself. Jainism: Jains believe that the soul is uncreated, eternal, and has infinite power and knowledge. It therefore has the inherent potential of divinity (that is, perfectly omnipotent, omniscient and free – not a God). By ridding oneself of the karma that obstructs the soul, Jains believe that one can achieve this liberation (moksa). They also believe that humans are the only beings afforded the opportunity to achieve liberation. Hinduism: believe that every action (good or evil) has consequences. Pain, suffering, and evil are not imposed by God, rather they are due to the actions of anyone else (it is the same for good) – things happen because the law of Karma. Reward and punishment for said actions does not always come in this life. They might come in a future rebirth (or they are happening now because of actions in a previous life). Jainism: the Jain view of God enables them to explain evil and suffering that exists in the world unlike Christianity which has the problem of explaining the existence of both good and evil. This is because if there was truly a God, they believe that there should be no evil. Hinduism: Salvation for a Hindu is called Moksha. Moksha is reached when an enlightened human being is freed from the cycle of life & death and comes into a state of completeness. He then becomes one with God. Jainism: because of the infinite number of souls in the universe and the length of the cycle of birth in the Jain religion, it happens only rarely that a soul obtains human birth. Therefore, Jains believe that man should use every opportunity to pursue the way of salvation by acquiring the “Three Jewels”: (Right knowledge, Right faith, and Right conduct). Hinduism: The realms through which the soul travels after death, even the highest ones, are part of samsara, and as such, are just as impermanent as the earthly realm. Souls leave the lower realms when they have learned the lessons they need to learn, and they leave the higher realms when desire draws them back to the material world, where they generate new karma. This cyclical movement is ceaseless and is generated by a soul’s own belief in its separateness from the Absolute. Salvation comes through the cessation of grasping, desire and belief in this separation Jainism: Jains believe in cycling through birth and rebirth. They believe that not only can you be reincarnated in the earthly realm, you can also be reincarnated into their layers of heaven and hells. You are not permanently stuck in hell, and once you die there you may be reincarnated back into the earthly realm. Where you end up depends on your karma. Hinduism: Rituals are an important part of everyday life in the Hindu tradition. These rites and rituals are not rooted in blind faith or superstition; rather, they have a practical application and relevance to people’s everyday lives. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha followers live by the code of conduct established by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and by the guidance of the current guru. These practices stabilize the mind and purify its thoughts. They are the answer to maintaining one’s focus on God amidst one’s daily routine. For an introduction to these timeless Hindu rites and rituals including Darshan, Puja, Aarti and many others Jainism: Jains incorporate a number of rituals into their daily life. They spread grain for birds in the morning and boil water for the next few hours use are ritual acts of charity and non-violence. Jains also practice(meditation) and pratikramana (repentance of violence performed in the morning for violence committed during the night and in the evening for violence committed during the day. Jains also worship several idols. Hinduism: Major festivals likely to be observed by most Hindus are: Holi Holi (also called Holaka or Phagwa) is an annual festival celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It celebrates spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking. Holi is probably the least religious of Hindu holidays. Diwali Diwali, from the Sanskrit word Dīpãvali, meaning “row of lights” is a Hindu festival of lights lasting five days. For many Hindus, Diwali is also New Year’s Eve. Diwali is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar, a type of Hindu calendar followed by North Indians.Mahashivaratri (Shiva Ratri) Mahashivaratri (also called Shiva Ratri) is the Great Festival of Shiva. It is held on the 14th day of the dark half of the lunar month of Phalguna. Mahashivaratri is especially important to Saivites (devotees of Shiva), but it is celebrated by most Hindus. Jainism: Mahavira Jayanti. Occurs around March/April. A celebration of the birth of Mahavira (the founder of Jainism). Celebrations include community worship, processions, and other devotional and spiritual activities. Paryushana. Occurs in August/September. Considered by some to be the most important festival in Jainism. All Jains are required to fast and the spiritual preceptors read out and explain in detail the Kalpasutra (sacred scripture). The first seven days of the festival are days of attainment, and the eighth and finally day is one of fulfilment and achievement. Diwali: Occurs in October/November. The whole night of Diwali should be spent in the recitation of holy hymns and mediation. Svetambara Jains believe that on the night of the day of Diwali in 537 B.C.E., Mahavira achieved Nirvan, or deliverance and attained to a state of absolute bliss. The day after Diwali marks the beginning of the New Year in their calendar. Kartak Purnima. Occurs in October/November. Thousands of Jains go on pilgrimages on this day to sacred Jain sites. Mauna Agyaras. Occurs around November/December. This is the day on which Jains fast and observes total silence. It is a day for meditation
Week 2 Sources
Week 3 Buddhism Buddhism never claimed that the world, sun, moon, stars, wind, water, days and nights were created by a powerful god or by a Buddha. Buddhists believe that the world was not created once upon a time, but that the world has been created millions of times every second and will continue to do so by itself and will break away by itself. According to Buddhism, world systems always appear and disappear in the universe. There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly Judgment Day. Buddhist’s believe that a Buddha is not an incarnation of a god/God (as claimed by some Hindu followers). The relationship between a Buddha and his disciples and followers is that of a teacher and student. In Buddhism, the soul, or atman, is an eternally existing spiritual substance or being and the abiding self that moves from one body to the next at rebirth. The Buddha rejected this concept. He taught that everything is impermanent (anicca), and this includes everything that we associate with being human: sensations, feelings, thoughts and consciousness. This is the doctrine of anatta, “no-soul,” a central concept of Buddhism. Human existence, in the Buddha’s view, is nothing more than a composite of five aggregates (khandas): Physical form (rupa), feelings and sensations (vedana), ideations (sanna), mental formations/dispositions (sankhara) and consciousness (vinnana). These khandas come together at birth to form a human person. A person is a “self” in that he or she is a true subject of moral action and karmic accumulation, but not in the sense that he or she has an enduring or unchanging soul. The Buddhist understanding is that good and evil are innate, inseparable aspects of life. This view makes it impossible to label a particular individual or group as “good” or “evil.” Every single human being is capable of acts of the most noble good, or the basest evil. Moreover, good and evil in Buddhism are seen not as absolute but relative or “relational.” The good or evil of an act is understood in terms of its actual impact on our own lives and the lives of others, not on abstract rules of conduct. For a Buddhist salvation is reaching Nirvana. Nirvana is a transcendental, blissful, spiritual state of nothingness–you become a Buddha. To reach Nirvana you must follow the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is: 1. Right Understanding 2. Right Resolve 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Occupation 6. Right Effort 7. Right Contemplation 8. Right Meditation According to Buddhism, after death one is either reborn into another body (reincarnated) or enters nirvana. Only Buddhas – those who have attained enlightenment – will achieve the latter destination. Based on his no-soul (anatta) doctrine, the Buddha described reincarnation, or the taking on of a new body in the next life, in a different way than the traditional Indian understanding. He compared it to lighting successive candles using the flame of the preceding candle. Although each flame is causally connected to the one that came before it, is it not the same flame. Thus, in Buddhism, reincarnation is usually referred to as “transmigration.” the practice of meditation is central to nearly all forms of Buddhism, and it derives directly from the Buddha’s experiences and teachings. Meditation is is the central focus of Zen Buddhism and the only way to liberation in Theravada Buddhism. In addition to meditation, the Mahayana schools of Buddhism have developed a variety of other ritual and devotional practices, many of which were inspired or influenced by the existing religious cultures of India, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Tibet Buddhist New Year, Vesak (Buddha’s birthday celebrations), Magha Puja Day, Assalha Puja Day, Uposatha, Pavarna Day, Kathina Cerebony, Anapanasati Day, Abhidhamma Day, Songkran, Loy Krathong, The Ploughing Festival, The Elephant Festival, The Festival of the Tooth, Ulambana, and Avalokitesvara’s Birthday
Week 3 Sources
Week 4 Daoism and Confucianism Daoism: The basic unity behind the universe is a mysterious and undefinable force called the Tao. Tao produces all things and all things go back to their common origin and blend into one. Absolute truth and absolute good are unknowable. Confucianism: The interaction between the Yin and Yang is thought to be the cause for the creation of all that is. Tao, the Great Ultimate, is the cause of change and generates Yin and Yang. Therefore, we came from Tao, the Great Ultimate, the force that permeates the universe. Daoism: Since Daoism is primarily a Philosophy thus they don’t have a personal god. Their god maybe classified under Pantheism (“it literally means “God is All” and “All is God”.) and they believe that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. They regard Lao Zi as the founder and supreme god of Daoism Confucianism: There is no God, per se, in Confucianism. Confucius has never been considered a god by his adherents. Confucianism is a socio-philosophical movement aimed at bettering society. Confucius did believe, however, in the Great Ultimate (Tao), which manifests itself in the I, or change. Tao is the cause of I, and generates Yang (energy) and Yin (a passive form). Together, Yin and Yang are seen as complementary symbols of the energy and tension in a system of counter forces. Tao, or the Great Ultimate, is the first-cause of the universe, a force that flows through all life, but is not a personal being. Daoism: According to the earliest Taoist texts, when human nature is aligned with the rest of nature, order and harmony are the result. From this perspective, the purpose of self-cultivation is to return to a mode of existence that is natural, but has been obscured by social conditioning. Repeating certain actions, such as physical exercises, is a way of training the body so that it is free to react in a spontaneous, natural way. It is similar to the experience of practicing one’s shots in basketball and then making a clutch basket in the big game — the preparation through repetition makes it possible to act, at a certain moment, without thinking, in pure spontaneity (zi-ran). Confucianism: Confucian scholars have long debated essential human nature without reaching agreement as to its fundamental characteristics. Most agree, however, that the purpose of existence is to reach one’s highest potential as a human being. Through a rigorous process of self-cultivation that lasts a lifetime, one may eventually become a “perfected person” Daoism: While many Western religions emphasize a duality between good and evil, urging devotees to embrace the good and spurn the evil, Taoism saw these moral qualities as two extremes of a single spectrum. Virtue did not lie at one end or the other of this spectrum, but through carefully maintaining a balance between the two. This idea is often expressed through the terms Yin (rhymes with English mean) and Yang (rhymes with English long). The two words together mean the fundamental and opposite forces or principles in nature. Confucianism: The Confucian view of good and evil can be summed up with one of Confucius’ quotes, “Good and evil do not befall men without reason. Heaven sends them happiness or misery according to their conduct.” According to some interpretations of Confucianism, suffering and evil are inevitable in human life, and can promote learning and growth. A mistake is not a “sin,” but an opportunity to learn and do better next time. Empathy for the suffering of others also provides motivation to grow morally, but not all humans are capable of empathy. Daoism: Salvation for Taoism (absent the Buddhist influence) is a matter of participation in the eternal return of the natural world, a yielding to chaos followed by spontaneous creation, in a never-ending cycle. This is not a permanent transcendent state or redemption such as has been articulated in the Abrahamic traditions. For Taoism, salvation is not an escape from this world; rather, it is to become perfectly aligned with the natural world and with the cosmic forces that sustain it. Confucianism: Humans should live and behave in such a way as to promote ideal social relations, rather than to act based on the expectations of rewards or punishments after death. In Confucian terms, a meaningful life is one in which one develops one’s innate moral potential to the fullest while fulfilling all of one’s social obligations. At the same time, from a Confucian perspective, one cannot live fully in the present without being fully responsible to the past, both in terms of paying respect to one’s ancestors and making the best of what they have left behind. Daoism: Taoism contains beliefs about what happens after death, but the religion itself is focused almost exclusively on life and how to lead a good one — or just as importantly, a long one. Taoist beliefs about the afterlife reflect the religion’s approach to life, rather than death. Confucianism: Confucius was not interested in religious salvation and the afterlife. On the list of things “about which the master never spoke” were “weird things, physical exploits, disorders and spirits.” He had little patience for gods. “We do not yet know how to serve man,” he said, “how can we know about the spirits?…We don’t know yet about life, how can we know about death?” People’s problems, he argued, could not be solved by supernatural powers but by rather their own efforts and knowledge learned from the ancestor’s experience. Daoism: Taoism is the individual in nature rather than the individual in society. It holds that the goal of life for each individual is to find one’s own personal adjustment to the rhythm of the natural (and supernatural) world, to follow the Way (Dao) of the universe Taoists advocate a life of simplicity, and encourage their followers to perform good deeds not bad ones, and seek inner peace through the cultivation of optimism, passivity, and inner calm. “The simple, natural life is the ideal one, the wise person seeks to conform to the slow gentle rhythm of the universe.” Confucianism: It is primarily an ethical system to which rituals at important times during one’s lifetime have been added. Since the time of the Han dynasty (206 CE) four life passages have been recognized and regulated by Confucian tradition: birth, reaching maturity, marriage, death Daoism: The Lantern Festival (first full moon of the year), Tomb Sweeping Day (celebration to thwart abundance of overly extravagant ceremonies; only happens at the graves of ancestors and only one day a year), Dragon Boat Festival (festival in honor of Qu Yuan), Chinese New Year, Hungry Ghost Festival (festival celebrated to make offerings and prayers to the dead who have not had a proper funeral) Confucianism: Some holidays are Easter Monday. Ching Ming festival is celebrated 106 days after the winter solstice and families visit their ancestors or relatives’ graves. They also celebrate Confucius’ birthday on September 28. Confucians do not celebrate specific Holy Days for Confucianism and they practice days from other religions
Week 4 Sources
Week 5 Shinto Kami are known to have created the universe, this is told in the Kojiki. Kami means ‘god’s although they are not like the traditional concepts Gods as in many monotheistic religions. The Kojiki tells of the Kami beginning as the center of heaven, then giving birth and growth to all other Kami through the kami brother and sister. The Kami include, Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess), Tsuki-yomi (The Moon God), Leech-child and Susano-o (Storm God). They also gave birth to Japan’s Eight Great Islands. Shinto have a belief in in kami—sacred or divine beings, although also understood to be spiritual essences—is one of the foundations of Shinto. Shinto understands that the kami not only exist as spiritual beings, but also in nature; they are within mountains, trees, rivers, and even geographical regions. In this sense, the kami are not like the all-powerful divine beings found in Western religion, but the abstract creative forces in nature. Shinto does not accept that human beings are born bad or impure; in fact Shinto states that humans are born pure, and sharing in the divine soul. Badness, impurity or sin are things that come later in life, and that can usually be got rid of by simple cleansing or purifying rituals. Shinto teaches people to have a deep reverence for nature. Tied with this is the concept of purity, which is central to Shintoism. There is an emphasis on spiritual and physical purity and cleanliness. Many ceremonies are acts of purification. The Japanese tend to see the world in terms of clean and dirty rather than good and evil concept of salvation is based on the belief that all living things have an essence, soul or spirit known as “kami.” Rather than living in a glorified Heaven, kami live among us. Some kami are more powerful than others. Some are even deified. But all kami must be honored. People who die violently, lead unhappy lives, or have no family to care for their kami become hungry ghosts, causing trouble for the living. Shinto beliefs in accordance with the afterlife believe that the human spirit is to remain forever as like the spirit of Kami. The spirits live in another world, this is mentioned in the Kojiki (Ancient Matters) and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan). It tells that the Kami si present in both worlds. The most known other world is named ‘the other world of Heaven’ in which the most respected and admired deities dwell. Contrasting this world is ‘the other world of Yomi’ which is believed to be connected to the burial of the dead, although there is no academic evidence to prove this matter. The third world is called ‘Tokyo’ which is believed to be located beyond the sea. Another world which is known through folk faith is ‘the other world in the mountains’ which connects to the way in which graves are located on a hill looking over the village. These other worlds are not seen as a utopia or as a hell. Instead it reflects the belief that the spirits of the dead can visit and connect with this present world and time if called on through a ritual or a festival. By holding these festivals it also fulfills the belief that Kami and ancestral spirits will protect their descendants. Shinto is not focused on life after death but life in this world. Shinto conduct ceremonies designed to appeal to the kami for benevolent treatment and protection and consist of abstinence (imi), offerings, prayers and purification (harae). Purification, by washing with water, symbolically removes the dust and impurities that cover one’s inner mind. Traditional Japanese homes have two family alters (one Shinto and the other Buddhist). There are no weekly religious service; however some families may go to shrines on the 1st and 15th of each month and on the occasions of rites or festivals. Matsuri take place at fixed times during the year. including the Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri or Toshigoi-no-Matsuri), Autumn or Harvest Festival (Aki Matsuri, or Niiname-sai), an Annual Festival (Rei-sai), and the Divine Procession (Shinko-sai). The Divine Procession usually takes place on the day of the Annual Festival, and miniature shrines (mikoshi) carried on the shoulders are transported through the parish.
Week 5 Sources
Week 6 Judaism The word of God brought everything into being: heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, and every living thing. In the beginning, God called into existence the heaven and earth. Within six days He shaped a world of order and beauty. To believe in the existence of the Creator, and this Creator is perfect in all manner of existence. He is the cause of all existence. He causes them to exist and they exist only because of Him. And if you could contemplate a case, such that He was not to exist…then all things would cease to exist and there would remain nothing. And if you were to contemplate a case, such that all things would cease to exist aside from the Creator, His existence would not cease. And He would lose nothing; and oneness and kingship is His alone. The rabbis attributed a dual nature to human beings and placed them between earthly and heavenly creatures in the hierarchy of being. They are unlike heavenly creatures whose bodies and souls are both divine, and they are also unlike earthly creatures whose bodies and souls come from the earth. Instead, human beings are the only creatures whose souls are from heaven and whose bodies are from earth. Subsequently, if Jews obey God’s commandments, then they act as heavenly creatures, and if not, they act like the creatures below them. Judaism does not see it as there being a conflict between good and evil. Jews believe that God created both good and evil for a purpose. They believe that evil is simply not fulfilling God’s will. God created the universe because God wanted to do good. So there had to be people to receive that good. But God does not want to just give away good as a present. God wants people to appreciate it. Something you get for free you do not appreciate. So God decided that people would have to work for it, and receive the ultimate goodness as a reward for work. God created the Evil Inclination, the angel called Satan, whose job it is to tempt us to do evil. If we ignore the Evil Inclination, then we get closer to G-d, and become more holy. By doing so, we merit the reward of the ultimate goodness. Judaism believes that in the same way that the Lord saved the children of Israel in the past as a nation, he also promises to restore Israel as a nation, meaning collectively, not individually. According to various Jewish intellectual sources and folk traditions up through the medieval period, there is a gradual transition from physical death to an afterlife in which the body and spirit remain connected to one another in some way either through resurrection or immortality of the soul. According to early rabbinic folklore, the transition from death to life actually begins three days after death when the soul is believed to hover over the grave hoping to be restored to the body. Yet some rabbinic sources claim that twelve months after death, the soul maintains a temporary relationship with body in a type of purgatory leading either to paradise, Gan Eden, or hell, Gehinnom. In Judaism, rituals and religious observances are grounded in Jewish law (halakhah, lit. “the path one walks.” An elaborate framework of divine mitzvot, or commandments, combined with rabbinic laws and traditions, this law is central to Judaism. (Also see Jewish beliefs) Halakhah governs not just religious life, but daily life, from how to dress to what to eat to how to help the poor. Observance of halakhah shows gratitude to God, provides a sense of Jewish identity and brings the sacred into everyday life. – See more at: The most important Jewish holy days are the Sabbath, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot) and the two High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). It is forbidden to work on any of these days. Jewish holidays are as follows: Jewish calendar, Days of Awe, Hanukkah, Passover, Purim, Jewish New Year, Shabbat, Festival of Booths, 15th of Shevat, and The Day of Atonement,
Week 6 Sources
Week 7 Christianity Genesis 1:1 of The Bible says “In the beginning God Created the heavens and the earth. Christians believe God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. Christianity teaches that the universe was created through love by an intelligent power, namely the God of the Bible. Creation was purposeful, not arbitrary, and therefore the universe is not morally neutral, but fundamentally good. In this purposeful creation, everything and everyone is intrinsically valuable. Christians believe that there is but one God, yet the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are all God and all three of these entities/persons are equally divine and all three are omnipotent, all knowing, all loving, all forgiving, and ever present. God created human beings in the divine image, enabling humans to have some understanding of God and of God’s vast and complex design. The purpose of life is to love and serve God in order to help bring about God’s glorious plan for creation. Reason is a unique gift bestowed by God on humans and enables them to reflect on their own nature and conscience, and from that derive knowledge of God’s will for creation. But a complete understanding is beyond human reach. To fulfill the goal of wholeness in an existence perfected by both justice and love, something more is needed. Humans are not expected to accomplish the divine plan alone. Christians belive that God created man in his image, and as such, humans were created inherently evil; however, God also gave people free will (the ability to choose between right and wrong). God has shown people how they should live but it is up to them to decide whether or not to follow God’s instruction. The story of humanitiy’s battle with good and evil is told in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam chose to disobey God by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and consequently each human is now born with a tendency toward evil. In Christianity, salvation is made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion 2,000 years ago. The word atonement, one of the few theological words of English origin, is used to describe this concept. The verb “atone” derives from the adverb “at one,” and therefore means “to reconcile.” Christianity teaches that once an individual “accepts jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior”, then they are henceforth blessed with salvation. In Christianity, beliefs about the afterlife vary slightly between Christian denominations and individual believers, but the vast majority of Christians believe heaven is a place where believers go upon dying in order to enjoy the presence of God as well as other believers. In heaven, people are also freed from sin and all its various manifestation, like suffering and pain. Many Christians also believe that the Bible teaches the existence of hell as a place of judgment and punishment (e.g. 2 Pet. 2:4). In several New Testament passages, the description of hell includes fire (e.g. Mark 9:43, James 3:6). Many rituals and religious practices in the Christian religion vary between denominations, yet other practices are common to virtually all forms of Christianity. Most Christians attend worship services at church on Sundays, which generally include singing, prayer and a sermon. Most 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. Many Christians will have been baptized, and regularly participate in communion. Baptism and communion are considered sacraments – sacred rituals instituted by Christ himself. The Catholic Church recognizes five additional sacraments, as well as many other distinctive practices that are known as “sacramentals” or “devotions” and include praying the rosary and going on pilgrimages. There are many celebrations and festivals in Christianity. Among them are Advent, All Saints’ Day, Ash Wednesday, Assumption Day, Boxing Day, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Good Friday, Lent, Mardi Gras, Palm Sunday, Reformation Day, St Andrew’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Sunday, Thanksgiving, Twelfth Night, and St Valentine’s Day.
Week 7 Sources
Week 8 Islam Muslims believe that Allah is the all-powerful Creator of a perfect, ordered universe. He is transcendent and not a part of his creation, and is most often referred to in terms and with names that emphasize his majesty and superiority. Among the 99 Beautiful Names of God (Asma al-Husna) in the Quran are: the Creator, the Fashioner, the Life-Giver, the Provider, the Opener, the Bestower, the Prevailer, the Reckoner, and the Recorder Although the God of Islam has revealed his will through the prophets, his actual nature remains ultimately unknowable. According to one Islamic scholar, Allah’s will “is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Quran. But Islam does not equate the Quran with the nature or essence of God. It is the Word of God, the Commandment of God, the Will of God. But God does not reveal Himself to anyone.” {2} In the words of another writer, “only adjectival descriptions are attributed to the divine being, and these merely as they bear on the revelation of God’s will for man. The rest remains mysterious.” Despite Allah’s transcendence and ultimate unknowability, however, the Quran does not teach that Allah does not know people, nor that he remains aloof in some distant heaven. Quite the contrary: He is present everywhere {4} and “as close to a man as the vein in his neck.” {5} The one thing that is made abundantly clear, however, is that Allah is One. He is unique and indivisible. In the religion of Islam, according to the Quran, Allah “created man from a clot of blood” at the same time he created the jinn from fire. {1} Humans are the greatest of all creatures, created with free will for the purpose of obeying and serving Allah. The Qur’an includes a version of the biblical story of the fall of Adam (Surah 7), but it does not conclude from it the doctrine of original sin as some Christian theologians have. In the Quranic version of the story, Adam and Eve begged God’s forgiveness (7:23) and he punished them with a mortal life on earth but added, “from it [earth] you will be taken out at last” (7:25). In Islam, God created good things and bad things and made them known to man through successive revelations, but He left it for human free will to use its power of choice to make its way between the two paths, and be responsible for the choice. In fact, Muslims understand the nature of what is “good” and what is “bad ” only in the light of their constitution which was revealed to them in the noble Quran, in addition to what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught them. These two sources are what we call “Shariah”, which means “legal system” in contemporary terminology. The recognition of “good” and “bad” should not remain theoretical or purely cognitive, but should be interpreted in terms of practical actions. People should follow what they have known to be “good” and renounce what they have known to be “bad”. This positive attitude is considered to be the gauge by which their faith is measured. In other words, people’s faith is only manifested in their good or bad deeds. In the religion of Islam, the purpose 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. The Quran, the most important text in Islam, also suggests a doctrine of divine predestination. {1} The Muslim doctrine of salvation is that unbelievers (kuffar, literally “those who are ungrateful”) and sinners will be condemned, but genuine repentance results in Allah’s forgiveness and entrance into Paradise upon death. Paradise (firdaws), also called “The Garden” (Janna), is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure, with lofty mansions (39:20, 29:58-59), delicious food and drink (52:22, 52:19, 38:51), and virgin companions called houris (56:17-19, 52:24-25, 76:19, 56:35-38, 37:48-49, 38:52-54, 44:51-56, 52:20-21). Hell, or Jahannam (Greek gehenna), is mentioned frequently in the Quran and the Sunnah using a variety of imagery. 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. Muslims believe in the continued existence of the soul and a transformed physical existence after death. Islam teaches that there will be a day of judgment when all humans will be divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise and Hell. A central doctrine of the Quran, and one of the most important teachings of Muhammad, is the Last Day, on which the world will be destroyed and Allah will raise all people and jinn from the dead to be judged. The Last Day is also called the Day of Standing Up, Day of Separation, Day of Reckoning, Day of Awakening, Day of Judgment, The Encompassing Day or The Hour. Until the Day of Judgment, deceased souls remain in their graves awaiting the resurrection. However, they begin to feel immediately a taste of their destiny to come. Those bound for hell will suffer in their graves, while those bound for heaven will be in peace until that time. Some rituals are practiced daily, like prayer; others are practiced annually, like those aligned with specific Islamic holidays. The religious practices and rituals of Islam are relatively few in number, but great in importance. The Five Pillars of Islam are five practices regarded by all sects of the Islamic religion as essential to the Muslim faith. The Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic arkan ud-Din, “pillars of the faith”) are the five religious duties expected of every Muslim. The five pillars are mentioned individually throughout the Qur’an and Muhammad listed them together in the Hadith when he was asked to define Islam. Those practices include: Confession of Faith (shahada), Ritual Prayer (salat), Alms tax (zakat), fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm), and the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) Traditionally, Muslims celebrate two major festivals – ‘Id Al-Fitr and ‘Id Al-Adha. They celebrate one month of daytime fasting (Ramadan), and they also observe a day of voluntary fasting – ‘Ashura, which is also an important Shiite festival. The Islamic calendar is lunar, like the Jewish calendar, but it has no corrective system to align it with the solar calendar so Islamic holidays do not always fall in the same season.Al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year, is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, the month in which Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE (the Hijra). Ramadan is not a holy day to Muslims but a holy month. It is the ninth month of the Muslim year, in which “the Quran was sent down as a guidance for the people” ‘Id Al-Fitr or Eid al-Fitr (Arabic for “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast”) is one of Islam’s two major festivals. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and is celebrated during the first three days of the month of Shawwal. ‘Id Al-Adha or Eid al-Adha (Arabic عيد الأضحى, “Festival of the Sacrifice”) is a major Islamic festival that takes place at the end of the Hajj. Ashura (also spelled Aashurah, ‘Ashurah or Aashoorah), is an Islamic holiday observed on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.
Week 8 Sources
Week 9 Sikhism Sikhism teaches that Kartar created the universe in one command and cares for it. His command set the world into being, and his orders run it. Humans are believed to be the apex of created beings—with intellect, emotion, and mastery of their senses—but are troubled by the same sense of self that makes them unique. God is the creator of the universe, which is HIS creation. The universe is in time and space, and is changing and becoming. God is not identical with the universe. The creator is different from the creation which is limited and conditioned. God is uncreated, free, and unlimited and thus different from His creation. God is not hte material cause of the universe. He creates everything. Sikhs perceive human life as an opportunity to merge with the divine will. However, the core problem is that human judgment is occluded by a false sense of self. Guru Nanak (1469-1539) called this false sense of self haumai (“the I-me”). Those who follow this sense of self, and thus the workings of their own deluded mind, are the manmukhs (“self-facing”); the pious Sikhs who follow the Guru’s ways are called gurmukhs (“Guru-facing”). When following his or her own mind, and the false sense of self-importance that comes with it, the individual is susceptible to lust, anger, greed, clinging, and pride. These states of mind entrap and preclude individuals from walking the path of the pious. Sikhism teaches that the sense of “self” is the primary cause of suffering. When the individual puts the self at the center of everything, he or she loses reality; the Sikh truth is that each person is part of a much larger whole, a universe in which Kartar is the Master. However, Guru Angad (1504-1552) (the second Guru) taught that self-agency is also where the cure to suffering lies, by directing the self to selfless acts. By attuning the self to the Shabad (the divine word), the Sikh believes that he or she is ready to receive the divine grace that will inspire righteous living and lead to the path of liberation. Ethics, not belief, rule the Sikh agenda. Internal spiritual practice and external daily actions must go hand-in-hand. How one dies can also bring one closer to the divine court. Sikh tradition holds that dying with the divine on one’s mind is salvific, as is dying for a just cause. Bhai Gurdas wrote that suffering at the hands of manmukhs would lead to redemption, liberation, and a place in the divine court. Guru Nanak taught that the brave one who died for a good cause would be hailed as a warrior in the hereafter (GG 579-80). The Sikh tradition emphasizes a life free of worry about the afterlife, but focused on one’s ethical actions and piety in this life. “Liberation” (mukti) is the metaphor for the best result possible in the afterlife, and Sikhs envision that as finding unification with the creator at his court. Doing well in the cycle of birth and death (“coming and going,” or reincarnation) have brought about the specific human life that must now use the opportunity to reach the divine court. That is to say, the Sikh belief system combines the idea of “reincarnation” (which brings a human life) with the idea of an afterlife in a paradise-like court of God. Therefore, because life provides such an opportunity, death need not be feared. When a child is born, his or her name is based on the first letter from the first full hymn on the page to which the holy book is opened.Although the Sikhs have no fixed “confirmation” rites, or initiation ceremonies at the advancement from youth to adulthood, Sikhs can choose to undertake ritual initiation with the baptism of the straight-sword (Khande Di Pahul). The Sikh wedding ceremony, or Anand Karaj (“rites of bliss”), is similarly centered around the Guru Granth Sahib. Bride and groom meet at the Gurdwara with their wedding parties, and respected members of the community conduct the ceremony. At death, Sikhs favor cremation, prayer, and the simple pouring of remains into flowing water. Sangrand, Hola Mohalla, Maghi, Vaisakhi, Bandi Cchor Divasi, Gurpurbs, Akhand Path, Amrit Sanskar, and nam Karan are all celebrations and festivals celebrated/observed by Sikhs.
Week 9 Sources…/CONCEPT%20OF%20GOD%20IN%20SI
Week 10 Modern Religions (Jehovah’s Witnesses) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God created everything. However, they do not believe in creationism because the believe that creationist ideas conflict with The Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not anti-science. They believe that true science and The Bible are compatible. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in one God, the Creator of the universe and the God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. They stress the fact that God has revealed his personal name to humanity, which is Jehovah. Jehovah has a spirit body and lives in heaven, but sees all things. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity Human nature is universally sinful, because all humans inherit the original sin of Adam and Eve. That sin was disobedience to God. Jesus’ sacrificial death redeems all those who believe, and saves them from death. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Satan is the source of all evil, and is spiritually present among humans, seducing them with such evils as pornography and violence. We can protect ourselves through prayer, Bible study, and associating with good people. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the purpose of life is to earn the right to participate in God’s future Kingdom on earth, and to help others to do so. Witnesses therefore focus on living a moral, acceptable life before God and witnessing about their faith to others. Witnesses believe that salvation was made possible through Christ’s death, who made up for the sin of Adam. {8} But eternal life comes not simply from faith in Jesus but from “learning about Jehovah and obeying his requirements,” proving oneself to be God’s loyal subject, and listening to the Kingdom message and acting on it. Witnesses teach that the dead are completely unconscious, but that the great majority of the dead will be resurrected to live in an earthly paradise. A handful of others, 144,000 in total, are anointed to rule with God in heaven. Practicing Witnesses attend five meetings per week, including home Bible study and Watchtower study. They also commit to a minimum of ten hours per month to house-to-house proselytizing. Jehovah’s Witnesses have two principle ceremonies. Baptism is restricted to adults and is performed by total immersion. The Lord’s Evening Meal, or Memorial, is an annual event commemorating Jesus’ “Last Supper.” The Memorial is open to the public.
Week 10 Sources…/CONCEPT%20OF%20GOD%20IN%20SI


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