Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Islam in a nutshell

Although Islam is an interesting mix of various religions it has its origins in the teachings of Muhammad.

Muhammad was born in Mecca in around 570 A. D.

Not much is known about Muhammad’s early life.

At the age of 40 Muhammad had his first vision.

Initially Muhammad’s view met with opposition in Mecca so Muhammad and his followers withdrew to what we now know as Medina. It is this event that marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Muhammad is seen as the one prophet of God.

Islam teaches that there is a heaven and a hell.

Islam teaches that there are several holy books, the books of the law from Moses, the book of the Psalms from David, the Gospel from Jesus and the Qur’an from Muhammad.

Muhammad did not write the Qur’an – it was written by God and passed down to Muhammad.

The Five Pillars of Islam

Faith – The believe that there is only one God and his prophet is Muhammad

Prayer – Praying five time a day

The Fast – The month of Ramadan is a month of fasting during the hours of daylight.

Alms – there are strict laws about how much must be given to the poor.

Pilgrimage – Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Islam and Jesus

Although Islam takes many of its teaching from Christian books many of the fundamentals are completely different.

Islam does not believe in the divinity of Jesus.

Islam does not teach that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Islam teaches that Jesus is not the son of God.

Islam teaches that Jesus was a sinless prophet, but was not as great as Muhammad.

Why I’m not a Muslim

The God of Islam is a very impersonal God.

There seems to be an emphasis on judgement to the exclusion of love, motivating its followers by fear rather than by grace as in Christianity.

Islam claims that the Bible has been corrupted – there is no evidence (historical or otherwise) that this is true.

Muhammad initially believed that his visions were demonic in origin.

Reward is based on man’s effort and not on the love, grace and mercy of God.

I could not accept the Islamic attitude, found in the Qur’an, towards unbelievers.

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Daoism/Taoism in a nutshell

 

Taoism was founded by Lao-tzu. Almost nothing is known about him and many scholars believe he never existed.

There is some dispute as to whether Taoism is a religion or a philosophy.

Taoism is generally accepted to mean Way, Truth or Path.

The God of Taoism is an impersonal one.

It is the goal of a follower of Taoism to become one with the Tao – this is done through Wu Wei (meaning inaction)

The main book for Taoists is the Tao Te King.

Taoist believe that the Tao is the thing by which everything in the cosmos functions.

A harmonious life is achieved by becoming one with the Tao, going with the flow and leading an inactive life.

 

Why I’m not a Taoist

 

It has an underlying ethic of indifference and irresponsibility

Most scholars believe that it’s founder never existed and it’s origins are very vague.

It recognises no evil in the world.

The ultimate goal of a Taoist is not a higher place but just a protracted existence in this life. However, where is the evidence to suggest that any Taoist live longer?

It is a completely impersonal religion or philosophy and is ultimately unfulfilling.

Hinduism in a nutshell

 

Hinduism came into existence in India around 1500B.C.

 

Hinduism has over 800 million followers worldwide.

 

90% of Hindus live in India.

 

Hinduism comes from the Aryan peoples who conquered the Indus Valley in north west India around 1500B.C.

 

The oldest and most revered holy writings in Hinduism are the Vedas. These consist of four collections of writings including chants, hymns explanations etc.

 

Numerous other “Holy Books” have been added to the Vedas over the years.

 

Hindus worship numerous gods.

 

Temples and shrines are very important in Hinduism with most families having personal shrines in their own homes where they worship their own personal collection of gods.

 

Communal forms of worship are not the norm within Hinduism.

 

Each Hindu village will often have a place of worship within it, often a natural feature such as a tree, a hill, or a boulder.

 

The Gods

There are many thousands of gods in Hinduism. Here are some of the more important or well-known ones

  • Brahma – the creator.
  • Vishnu – the preserver who sustains life.
  • Shiva – the destroyer.
  • Agni – the god of fire.
  • Surya – the sun god.
  • Indra – the powerful god of thunder and lightning.
  • Ganesha – the elphant-headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati.
  • Nandi – the white bull on which Shiva rides.
  • Garuda – the white bird-man which Vishnu rides.
  • Hanuman – the monkey god who helped Rama rescue Sita.

The four main belief systems of Hinduism

Karma – Actions and their subsequent reactions

Caste – the place you have in society

Dharma – the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one’s life

Samsara – the continuing cycle of life, death and rebirth

 

Hindus believe that there are many ways to God – there is no one true religion.

 

Hinduism and Jesus

 

Hinduism does not refer to Jesus in its scriptures.

 

Some Hindu thinkers, however, include Jesus in their religion in one of two ways. Some believe Jesus was another incarnation of God. Others believe that Jesus spent the years between him being 12 and 30 (where nothing is recorded about him in the Bible) in India being instructed by Hindu teachers. It was then this teaching that he taught during his years of ministry.

 

Why I’m not a Hindu

 

For most Hinduism is a hope-less religion. Unless your good outweighs your bad (and most Hindus accept that they are more bad than good) you are onto a downward spiral. Take life one, if the bad you do outweighs your good you do then, not only do you move down a caste, but start the next live with negative karma, making it almost impossible to move up again!!

 

Hinduism has no end or beginning. Hinduism gives no coherent answer to where we came from or where we are going. There is the possibility of getting out of the caste system and circle of constant reincarnation but it is not know how or where you go to. There are many answers but no cohesion.

 

Hinduism has a real sense of vagueness about it. Most things are permissible and you only do wrong against yourself – not against god. One web-site I found estimated that although Hindus claim to recognise only one god there are 300 million gods worshipped.

 

Hinduism is a religion that has been added to here and there and tries to encompass all things into the religion.

 

Hinduism is a religion of works and not of grace and mercy.

 

There are major questions that I would need to have answered.

 

If everyone is reincarnated where did the first people come from?

 

If everyone is reincarnated why is the world population growing and not shrinking?

 

If the idea is for people to purify their lives over these different reincarnations why is the world not becoming a better place over time?

 

If you base your thinking on Karma (i.e. if you do good things good things will happen to you), why are so many of the countries where Hinduism is most prevalent the countries that have experienced a great deal of misery and suffering?

 

A friend has asked me if I could tackle the whole issue of other religions – so here goes. This blog is going to be just an introduction and then over the following weeks I will look at specific religions and what I, as a Christian, believe about them.

So, let’s start at the very beginning with two definitions so that we will all, hopefully, understand what I’m talking about..

Religionthe belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power , especially a personal God or gods

Culta relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members

Definitions, can of course, be helpful but let’s not hold onto them too tightly. What one person will call a religion another may call a cult. I, for example, don’t like to think of Christianity as a religion or myself as religious. For me, Christianity is far more about relationship than religion and I feel for more spiritual than religious. For me the words religion and religious have negative connotations. For me, all the side of Christianity that has been created by man and the appalling things that have been done in the name of Christianity belong to the religious side of the faith. Christianity for me is more about a movement of people; it’s about the person of Jesus; it’s about our relationship with God. When I think about religion in connection with Christianity I think of things such as Church buildings; bells; candles, robes; guilt; control; darkness and man’s traditions. For me these things are in no way central to Christianity and some have no place whatsoever within it. So definitions can be helpful but please don’t get hung up on them or offended by my use of them.

Within Christianity there are many opinions about other religions. Ask three Christians what they believe about other faiths and you’ll get 5 opinions!! In general Christians fall into one of three camps, though the lines between these camps are a little blurred. Christians will tend to believe in either Pluralsim, Exclusivism or Inclusivism even if they don’t know it!!

Pluralism is the view that there are many, equally valid paths to God. Christianity is only one of these, and is no more superior than the others.

 

Exclusivism is the polar opposite of pluralism, holding that salvation is only through explicit faith in Christ.

 

Inclusivism holds that while Christ is the only way to salvation, people of other faiths may be saved.

 

So, where do I sit? Having said that Christians fall into one of three camps I would have to say that, if I had to choose, I would be in the Exclusivism camp. However, there is part of me that wonders about certain passages in the Bible that suggest that Inclusivism may have some weight.

 

All that is to explain that this series will be written mainly from the point of view of an Exclusivist but with some bending allowed!!

 

If Christianity and more importantly the teachings of the Bible are true then Christianity is true at the expense of other religions being not true. Jesus claims in the book of John that

 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me”

 

If this statement is to be understood correctly then it makes Christianity pretty exclusive. Equally in Deuteronomy we read that

 

the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.”

 

These aren’t wishy washy ideas but statements that are meant to be taken as fact! To me the Bible is pretty clear that the God of the Bible is the only God and any other god (note the small g) is a man-made creation. I believe that either the Bible is true and there is one one God – the one portrayed in the Bible or the Bible is not true. I cannot see how you can believe that the teaching of the Bible allows the possibility of other Gods (note capital G) existing. This is not always a popular view in today’s society as the concept of ultimate truth has been thrown out the window and has been replaced with relativism where I can believe one thing my friend can believe the opposite and we can both be right. For me this holds no weight!! When looking at religion either Christianity is true and other religions false, another religion true and all the rest false or all religions false. Two plus two can’t equal four, six, 9.5 and seventy three. Some things can seem opposing and yet both be true, but not in the case of Christianity. Just as when it comes to either He exists or he doesn’t exist – both cannot be true God cannot exist and not exist!

 

Next week we’ll start to look at some major religions and I’ll try and give a Christian view of it’s beliefs.