I have never understood what religion is and why it is so important to so many people. Well, when I say ‘never’, what I probably mean is ‘ever since I began to think for myself’ round about the time I went to university.
Religion is different for different people and cultures. Religion attempts to give answers and explanations in human terms to the mysteries of life; how and why the world was created, why there is life and death, what happens when people die and why there is so much suffering. Religion is a way of explaining a supreme power that created the world and all living beings. Religion describes a dimension beyond the physical world: the spiritual world.
Religions have codes of behaviour on how to lead a good life on Earth and in an afterlife, contained in sacred documents or passed down through oral tradition. Religions have ways of worshiping the creator that has power over the world and people’s lives. Religions show their disciples how to pay respect and draw inspiration from spiritual leaders. Worship includes prayers of thanks, hopes, or supplication for help. Worship involves sacred objects and images.
World religions can be divided into two groups – Eastern and Western faiths. The Eastern traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism began in India. Christianity, Judaism and Islam began in the Middle East. Other faiths were spin-offs from these main religions. As of 2014, there were an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world that can be categorized into several main religions. These include Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, although Roman Catholicism is often categorized under Christianity. There are many smaller yet still prevalent religions such as the Baha’i faith.
Christians believe that Christ is the literal Son of God and that he rose from the tomb three days after being crucified. Christians believe that all can have eternal life. Like Christians, Jews believe in one God. The prophet, Abraham, was the first leader, but many other prophets followed. Islam also began in the Middle East and Muslims too believe in only one God, Allah.
Buddhism, which originated in India in the 6th century BC, teaches that we suffer because of our desires. Once humans reach a point where they no longer desire things, they are free from suffering and enter a state of peace. Originating in India in 1750 BC, Hinduism follows no specific set of scriptures. Hindus believe in many gods, and also believe that when people die, their souls are reborn in a new body.
So there you have it folks, a delectable spread of religious delicacies to choose from. And if you don’t like the choice you make, you can always move on to the next one, unless of course your first choice religion decides to excommunicate you, punish you or even execute you for denying your original religion which, considering all that love and charity floating around, seems a bit unfair, but considering again all the wars and mayhem religion has caused through the centuries, might after all seem reasonable.