Religion information for online study; you can learn about religion and related subjects, self-study and e-Learning courses about religion.
Religion is the set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas and practices that define the relations between human being and sacred or divinity. A given religion is defined by specific elements of a community of believers: dogmas, sacred books, rites, worship, sacrament, moral prescription, interdicts, and organization. The majority of religions have developed starting from a revelation based on the exemplary history of a nation, of a prophet or a wise man who taught an ideal of life. A religion may be defined with its three great characteristics:
- Believes and religious practices
- The religious feeling i.e. faith
- Unity in a community of those who share the same faith: the Church. It is what differentiates religion from magic.
Three-quarters of U.S. adults say religion is at least “somewhat” important in their lives, with more than half (53%) saying it is “very” important. Approximately one-in-five say religion is “not too” (11%) or “not at all” important in their lives (11%). Although religion remains important to many Americans, its importance has slipped modestly in the last seven years. In 2007, Americans were more likely to say religion was very important (56%) or somewhat important (26%) to them than they are today. Only 16% of respondents in 2007 said religion was not too or not at all important to them. The decline in the share of Americans who say religion is very important in their lives is closely tied to the growth of the religiously unaffiliated, whose share of the population has risen from 16% to 23% over the past seven years. Compared with those who are religiously affiliated, religious “none” are far less likely to describe religion as a key part of their lives; just 13% say religion is very important to them. Furthermore, the share of the “none” who say religion is not an important part of their lives has grown considerably in recent years. Today, two-thirds of the unaffiliated (65%) say religion is not too or not at all important to them, up from 57% in 2007. For Americans who are religiously affiliated, the importance people attach to religion varies somewhat by religious tradition. Roughly eight-in-ten or more Jehovah’s Witnesses (90%), members of historically black Protestant churches (85%), Mormons (84%) and evangelical Protestants (79%) say religion is very important in their lives. These figures have stayed about the same in recent years.
Aspects of Religion
Emotions of hope, fear, reverence and humility are the products of religious rituals. The individual performs religious rituals and attached with emotions. These emotions have close contact with rituals and an individual avoid sins and bows before Almighty Allah. Emotions are the feelings to show the reality of God.
Ritual & Ceremonies
All religions have their own ritual and ceremonies. These are the emotional and ceremonial practices. In Islam, prayers to God, Ablution, fasting, recitation of the Holy Quran are the religious rituals.
It has its own sacred objects. For Hindus idols, temples, Cow, river of Ganga and Jamna are sacred. For Christians the cross, Church, and Bible are the sacred objects while for Muslims. The holy Quran, Mosque, Baithullah, Crescent are sacred objects.
Symbols are the signs used for sacred objects or situation. Symbols give meaning t human behavior. For example, when Muslims hear “Azan”, they show a typical behavior and keep quiet. The Baithullah and Mosque are the symbols, of god while prayer is the symbol of humility before God.
There are small groups within a religion called sects. Sects have their own religious followers. In Christianity, there are Catholics, and protestants while is Islam these sects are Shias, Sunnis, Ahle Hadith, Wahabies etc. Among them every one claims to be true but one of them is on the path of righteousness which is the true religion Islam.
Classification of Religion
These include Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. These are the faiths that claim applicability to all humans and that seeks to transmit their beliefs through missionary work and conversion. Membership in universalizing religions is open to anyone who chooses to make some sort of symbolic commitment, such as baptism in Christianity. No one is excluded because of nationality, ethnicity, or previous religious belief.
Ethnic religions have strong territorial and cultural group identification. One becomes a member of an ethnic religion by birth or by adoption or a complex life style and cultural identity, not by simple declaration of faith. These religions, usually, do not proselytize, and their members form distinctive closed communities identified with a particular ethnic group or political unit. An ethnic religion is an integral element of a specific culture. Judaism, Hinduism, and Japanese Shintoism are the examples of ethnic religions.
Tribal or Traditional Religions
Tribal or traditional religions are the special forms of ethnic religions distinguished by their small size, their unique identity with localized culture groups not yet fully absorbed into modern society, and their close ties to nature. The belief of tribal religion is also known as animism. The followers of animism believe that life exists in all objects, from rocks and trees to lakes and mountains. They also believe that the non-living objects like rocks, mountains, trees are the abodes of the dead, of spirits, of gods. Shamanism is a form of tribal religion that involves community acceptance of a Shaman, a religious leader, and healer, of worker of magic, who through, special powers, can intercede with and interpret the spirit world.
Islam is one of the largest religions in the world, with over 1 billion followers. It is a monotheistic faith based on revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Saudi Arabia. The Arabic word Islam means “submission,” reflecting the faith's central tenet of submitting to the will of God. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. The Prophet dedicated the remainder of his life to spreading a message of monotheism in a polytheistic world. In 622, he fled north to the city of Medina to escape growing persecution. This event marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Eight years later, Muhammad returned to Mecca with an army and conquered the city for Islam. By Muhammad's death, 50 years later, the entire Arabian Peninsula had come under Muslim control. According to Islamic tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet over the course of 20 years, revealing to him many messages from God. Muslims recognize some earlier Judeo-Christian prophets—including Moses and Jesus—as messengers of of the same true God. But in Islam, but Muhammad is the last and greatest of the prophets, whose revelations alone are pure and uncorrupted. Islam places great importance in the belief that the soul gives life to a human body. Likewise, in its absence, the human body dies and disintegrates. However, the soul is eternal and will be reunited with the body on the Day of Resurrection, when God will raise everyone to answer for their deeds on earth. Islam encourages the individual to focus on keeping the soul healthy, through the remembrance, obedience and worship of God. There should be a correct balance in strengthening the soul and not over-indulging with the pleasures of the body. Islam is a natural way of life that encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with God and His creation. Islam teaches that it is through the doing of good deeds and seeking the pleasure of God that souls find true happiness and peace. It is in this context that the word Islam derives from the root word “salaam,” or peace.
Jewish people believe there’s only one God who’s established a covenant—or special agreement—with them. Their God communicates to believers through prophets and rewards good deeds while also punishing evil. Most Jews (with the exception of Messianic Jews and a few other groups) believe that their Messiah hasn’t come—but will one day. The Jewish people believe by definition that G-d is the single creator and animator of the world. He has no helpers, no children and no rivals’-d is everywhere and has no properties (for that matter-d granted humanity the gift of free choice neither is He really a “he.”) In Jewish belief, G-d is the invisible force behind everything that happens and knows everything, past present and future. G-d granted humanity the gift of free choice. These rewards can be in this world, as well as in the World to Come, which comes after death. Just as every individual works hard toward achieving personal perfection through following G-d’s ways, so is the entire world heading toward a time of eternal peace and plenty. This time is known as the era of Moshiach (or Messiah). During this time, Jews will return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (see below). A most amazing feature of this time is that death will cease, and the dead will be brought back to life. The story of the Jewish people begins with G-d creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh. Then, He chose Abraham and his children to become His special nation who would dwell in a special homeland (Israel).
Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the world, with more than 2 billion followers. The Christian faith centers on beliefs regarding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While it started with a small group of adherents, many historians regard the spread and adoption of Christianity throughout the world as one of the most successful spiritual missions in human history. Christianity is a religion based upon the teachings and miracles of Jesus. Jesus is the Christ. The word "christ" means anointed one. Christ is not Jesus' last name. Jesus is the anointed one from God the Father who came to this world, fulfilled the Old Testament laws and prophecies, died on the cross, and rose from the dead physically. He performed many miracles which were recorded in the Gospels by the eyewitnesses. He is divine in nature as well as human. Thus, He has two natures and is worthy of worship and prayer.God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden and gave them the freedom to choose between right and wrong. They chose to sin. Sin is doing that which is contrary to the nature and will of God. For example, God cannot lie; therefore, lying is sin. The sin of disobeying God that Adam and Eve committed resulted in them being expelled from the Garden of Eden as well as suffering the effects of death. Christianity further teaches that once a person is "born again" (becomes saved) that the Holy Spirit lives in that person and the person is changed: "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come," (2 Cor. 5:17). This means that God actually lives in the person and the Christian then experiences a true and living relationship with God.
There are two major differences between the two, but one is enough to understand them to be different. And that is creed, which is a set of dos and don’ts that a follower of a religion must abide by. If he does not, he will be thrown out of the religion. No such creed exists in dharma. You will not be thrown out. The other difference is the inerrancy of scriptures. But that is a more complex subject. Hinduism is a dharma, Buddhism is a dharma, Jainism is a dharma, and Sikhism is a dharma (not Khalistani Sikhism) .From founding fathers perspective all existing ways of life (or call religions) can be called dharma. Dharma means righteousness, so if any way of life (or religion) certainly has principles of righteousness. Since the word is from Sanskrit (or pali dhamma), it is dharma prescribed in way of life of Indian subcontinent.
Traditional African Religion
Traditional African religions are less of faith traditions and more of lived traditions. They are less concerned with doctrines and much more so with rituals, ceremonies, and lived practices. When addressing religion in Africa, scholars often speak of a “triple heritage,” that is the triple legacy of indigenous religion, Islam, and Christianity that are often found side by side in many African societies. While those who identify as practitioners of traditional African religions are often in the minority, many who identify as Muslims or Christians are involved in traditional religions to one degree or another. Though many Africans have converted to Islam and Christianity, these religions still inform the social, economic, and political life in African societies. Traditional African religions have gone global! The Trans-Atlantic slave trade led to the growth of African-inspired traditions in the Americas such as Candomblé in Brazil, Santería in Cuba, or Vodun in Haïti. Furthermore, many in places like the US and the UK have converted to various traditional African religions, and the importance of the diaspora for these religions is growing rapidly. African religions have also become a major attraction for those in the diaspora who travel to Africa on pilgrimages because of the global reach of these traditions.
The biggest critique of all faiths is HYPOCRISY. Human frailty and brokenness is the cause; fellow Christians know this is a theologically based concept, but it applies to all. Well-meant preaching, apologetics, and proselytizing become sanctimonious babble once we are seen to flout our own standards. Save for the most saintly among us, we inevitably will, so it is key to stress more mercy and compassion and less finger-wagging. We are in need of that mercy, ourselves! In my own Church the priestly molestation scandals (which did not all involve minors as reported in some media, so I’ll eschew the term “pedophilia”) traumatized countless souls and scarred the good names of the 98% of holy and innocent men who serve as our priests. No Catholic-hating yahoo or dismissive “religiophobe” could have done more damage. Piling on the hurt, additional purveyors of hypocrisy and consequent self-sabotage were the bishops who played a shell game with the few miscreant clergy by shuffling them around - thereby infecting new parishes. The institution has come a long way, but with a ways to go still. We believe she is guided by the Holy Spirit, but our human dignity also demands free will - even with grace we can screw up royally!