Religion is one of the oldest concepts of human life on earth but when and how it started varies from religion to religion. The most common answer is Judaism starting in 2000 BC: Time of Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, followed by leaders such Moses, Buddha and Jesus. We can say this event happened at this place and this event happened over there at that place but do we really know? We can’t rely on any one source to believe a certain way when there are so many different ideas as who God is, is there more than one God, or is there a God at all; all of these beliefs fall into one religion or another but there is always mystery behind each of them and behind religion itself.
Today the world is made up of various belief systems, more than there is to count, but as a general statistic, the world consists of 2.4% atheists, 6.8% non-religious, .2% Jews, 5.9% Buddhists, 6.3% Chinese universists, 13.3% Hindus, 20.1% Muslims, and 33% Christians. (Kurtz 2007:42) Each of these religions has distinct differences from leader to place of worship to daily life style; let’s get a brief description of each to better understand the difference.
Atheism is a more modern concept following the enlightenment period when people get their own ideas about life questions based on scientific development; they believe there isn’t a god that exists. Non –religious people don’t have a grasp on a belief yet because they don’t declare there is a God but they don’t claim there isn’t one either. Again this is more modern as science progresses and society relies on answers from that instead of spiritually. As one of the oldest religions that still survive today, Judaism is a monotheistic belief originating from the Hebrew Bible with Moses and Abraham as spiritual leaders. These leaders are prophets, teaching the word of God to the people of their country. (Smart 2008: 225) As you go more East, you run in to Chinese Universists that vary among country but consists of believing in whatever protects them in the past becomes or became their God; as you ascend to heaven, there is a political system that reflects their laws and culture of today. On the other hand, Hinduism centers on the Indian subcontinent, and is one of its original religions. It includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions and is a mixture of distinct philosophical points of view, rather than a strict common set of beliefs. Buddhism originates from a man named Buddha that had a 6 year discovery journey who eventually had an epiphany at the end; what he learned spread across Asia through his teachings. Muslims believe in their form of the bible called the Qur’an in which they believe that it is God’s word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. There were also other prophets such as Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. Similar to the Islamic religion, Christianity believes in one God but base their beliefs on the Bible and believe Jesus was the son of God who died on the cross and was resurrected rather than just a prophet, referring to him as Christ or Messiah.
Though there are so many differences in these religions, all of them have common bases. “Each religious tradition has a set of interdependent beliefs that are woven together in such a way that the integrity of the entire fabric is dependent on each strand.” (Kurtz 2007: 21) Religion sets a tone for people’s way of life which creates their character and moral standards. Some similar beliefs and questions bring each religion together to create a central theme of many things. One question is; why was the world created and the explanation of suffering death. For example, in Christianity many people ask, if there is such a loving God why are so many people suffering and why don’t people live long and healthy lives? Along with similar questions, each religion has certain aspects and objects that are either profane or sacred. Muslims believe it’s profane to show anything other than their face, and Jews hold David’s star to be sacred. Other common systems include rituals or ceremonies; it’s religion in action. (Haviland, Prins, McBride, Walrath 2008: 324) Monks of both Christian and Buddhism meditate and have specific, places, and ways in which to meditate or pray to their gods. There are so many common ground factors of religion that it’s interesting to find how different each of them really is.
On Planet Middle Earth, we have a polytheistic belief that there are multiple gods and goddesses that provide for our culture such as the ancient Greek gods. Moral values that we hold consist of equality; as we are an egalitarian society, as well as the importance of family and building those relationships. Some things that reflect and legitimize our socio-political order are; we all live together and are connected to each other and we are agriculturalists which reflect our views on multiple gods to provide for us. We also have the taboo of having sex before marriage which sets a moral tone for our culture. Similar to Christianity, Planet Middle Earth prays to the gods in hopes of gaining more fruitful crops along with thanking them for what they have already provided us with. Each crop season there is a ritual that consists of dancing, singing, and an offering for the produce of that season. When someone dies, there is a ceremony and traditional song sung followed by a burial of that person. Spiritually, we believe; based on your works on the planet, you are either good for the soil and produce many crops for that year or you are a contributor to a bad season. When a member of the community is ill, grief is common and expected but after, they pray to the gods for that person to get healthy or that they will be good for the crop season.
Kurtz, Lester R. Gods in the Global Village: The World’s Religions in Sociological Perspective. Thousand Oaks Calif.: Pine Forge, 1995. Print.
Smart, Ninian. World Philosophies. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Haviland, William A., and William A. Haviland. Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2008. Print.