World religions are religions that are not only widely known but are also contrived by millions of worshipers. The six most popular world religions; Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are practiced by at least four billion people alone, almost three-fourths of the world’s population. These religions have many similarities among them, involving their practices, beliefs and structure.
Hinduism is the oldest world religion, which originated in the Indus River Valley over 4,000 years ago. Hinduism does not follow any kind of sacred text, nor does it worship a supreme ruler. Instead, Hindus believe in. and practice, the principles of dharma and karma. Dharma is the moral force in the universe that gives everyone responsibilities and karma is the belief that, through reincarnation, the individual is reborn into a life that reflects the moral qualities of the last. Both of these principles help the Hindu to reach moksa or the state of spiritual perfection in which the soul can no longer be reborn. Also, the Hindus practice many public rituals, like the Kumbu Mela, which, every twelve years, brings millions to the sacred Ganges River to bathe, while others hold private devotions at home.
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Confucianism began around 200 BC and is centred on the teachings of one man, Confucius. He was deeply concerned about people’s suffering and created a code of moral conduct to prevent it. The central Confucius concept is jen, or humanness, in which one must always set their moral principles above self-interest. For example, the individual must be loyal and considerate to the family and likewise, the family must be aware of their duties to the larger community. Like Hinduism, Confucianism does not have sacred writing to follow and has a goal of worldly social harmony.
The religion of Buddhism mirrors both Hinduism and Confucianism. As in Confucianism, Buddhists are concerned with suffering, but of the individual, not society as a whole. Also, they follow the experiences of one man, Siddhartha Gauama, or Buddha, who invented his own rules for conduct known as the Eight Fold Path. Like the Hindus, Buddhists share in the practice of dharma and the goal of spiritual perfection or enlightenment. The Buddhist idea of suffering originated from Buddha’s travels in a society rampant with poverty. He concluded that wealth is not a solution to this problem. Instead, through mediation, one can transcend their desires and self- concerns in order to reach nirvana, the state of enlightenment. This leaves no room for a supreme god, although some Buddhists refer to or pray to Buddha for aid in their troubles.
The fourth world religion is Islam. This religion follows the word of God as revealed to the prophet Muhammad and has a sacred book known as the Koran, which is God’s word according to the prophet. Muslims practice a daily ritual of five prayers to Allah, “God” in Arabic. The Five Pillars of Islam are central teachings of this religion. They include recognizing Allah as the one, true God, and Muhammad as God’s messenger; ritual prayer; giving alms to the poor; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage once in a lifetime to the Sacred House of Allah in Mecca.
Islam hold the individual accountable, under Allah, for their deeds and those who are obedient will go to heaven, while evildoers will suffer in eternal damnation. Muslims also regard western cultures and beliefs as morally wrong, while westerners believe the same of the Muslims. For example, Westerners believe that Muslim women are highly oppressed because they lack the personal freedoms enjoyed by men. Most of these women know of nothing else and prefer the security of living in a system that guides the behaviours of both men and women. Also, this religion allows men to have up to four wives, but only if having more than one will not cause him to treat any woman unjustly, which is another Muslim practice looked down upon by westerners.
The fifth world religion is Judaism. Judaism’s main belief is that the people of all religions are children of God, and therefore equal before God. Also, Judaism does not require that a person converts to this religion in order to achieve salvation. Instead one can reach salvation by just being ethical. Judaism insists on the belief and worship of one God and do not believe in an evil force equal to the abilities of God, i.e. the Devil. Jewish people don’t have a set group of beliefs about the nature of God, therefore there is considerable, and approved, debate within Judaism about God. To the Jews, Christianity’s Jesus is considered as just a man and not the son of God. Judaism considers all people to be children of God and not just one man. Also in Jewish eyes, the messiah is a human being who will usher in an era of peace.
The Messiah should be someone that God selects and would serve Israel or to teach the people of the university of justice, brotherhood, and love. There are many different ideas of paradise as well, such as that paradise is the place where we finally understand the true concept of God. Therefore, Judaism doesn’t have a clear sense of Heaven and Hell. They understand it is possible that there is no separate Heaven and Hell, only lesser or greater distance from God after death. Therefore, punishment might be self-determined on the basis of suffering in the kind of suffering the person brought about. Rather, the idea is that God uses the afterlife to provide ultimate justice and for the wicked to seek some sort of final redemption.
Lastly, Christianity resembles Judaism in that both religions worship the same God and read the same Bible. However, Christians also revere Jesus Christ, a prophet, as the son of God and a medium worthy of prayer. Christians follow the teachings of both the New and the Old Testaments of the Bible. The New Testament encompasses both the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that faith and love could triumph over sin and death. According to the Bible, his death was a sacrifice for the world’s sins, allowing all Christians to go to Heaven without consequence.
Then three days after his death, it was written that he rose from the dead, proving to the world that he was truly the son of God. His apostles, his closest followers, spread his word throughout the Mediterranean region, despite persecution by the Romans, and over the centuries, became the world’s most widespread religion.
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