Viewport width =
world religion
March 25, 2013 | by  | in Features |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

The Salient Compendium of World Religions

GETTING THE LOWDOWN SO YOU CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH THE MAN UP HIGH.

You’ve got to be safe out there in the dangerous world of ideas. Your beliefs have the terrifying power to shape you and who you become. What’s peculiar about that special category of belief we call religion is that, even though there are so many options open to us, most of our own beliefs are inherited from our friends or family. But we here at Salient believe that you are an immensely intelligent rational being capable of discerning the truth all by yourself. So for that reason, we proudly present to you the definitive Salient guide to the major religions of the world. Godspeed.

Note: there are way more than four religions in the world. the religions presented here were chosen on the basis of popularity.

 

Christianity

Founded:
1st Century CE, somewhere around Palestine.

Popularity:
Followers globally:
○ 2.2 billion (33% of world population).
Followers in NZ:
○ 2 million (53% of NZ population).

Number of gods:
One.

Advice:
1. Believe.
2. Be good—so that you can go to heaven, and because it’s only fair considering the man who made you sent his one and only son down to Earth to be  murdered on your behalf. The Ten Commandments will guide you n this task.
3. Worship God. You can do this at Church or at home.

But how do we know?

A series of two books known as the Bible—the latter of which is the more popular sequel to the original Jewish version—is considered to be the Word of God, although Christians argue as to how literally we should interpret it.

Flavours:
Catholicism, Protestantism (includes Pentecostalism, Methodism, Anglicanism, Anabaptism and more), Orthodox.

Core beliefs:
There is an all-loving, all-seeing and all-powerful God, who exists everywhere and in everything. He created the universe and everything in it over a period of seven days— although it’s unclear as to whether we’re meant to take that “day” part literally. God’s favourite creations are human beings—that’s us! Us humans are special in that we have souls. These are special parts of ourselves that allow us to make our own decisions, are separate from the laws of the physical universe, and are eternal. unfortunately, the freedom that God gave us turned out to be a problem. Quite quickly, we figured could use it to sin—that is, to do bad things, in common parlance—and it turns out that bad things are something we love to do.

The first person to sin was Eve, the world’s first lady. Eve ate a delicious-looking apple against the wishes of God at the request of a talking snake in a garden called Eden. This was Very Bad. Since then, all of humankind has been condemned to a life of sin. Sinning is a problem not only because it tends to harm others, but because it has bad consequences for ourselves—and I mean really bad. It turns out that, in addition to this world we live in, there exists a place called hell, which is far worse than Palmerston North. And if you sin too much, you go there for ever and ever and ever. Luckily, there’s a flip-side called heaven, which is Very Good. To help us get there, God devised a benevolent plan. Around 2000 years ago, he sent down to Earth his one and only Son—a Jewish man named Jesus—to die for our sins. Jesus was a great dude, but the Romans crucified him, and so those of us who are faithful were absolved of our sins. Whoo!

 

IslaM

Founded:
622 CE, Saudi Arabia.

Popularity:
Followers globally:
○ 1.5 billion (22%).
Followers in NZ:
○ 36,000 (1%).

Number of gods:
One.

Advice:
1. Believe.
2. Pray several times daily (perhaps in a mosque), fast during Ramadan, do acts of charity and make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once.

But how to we know?:
The Qur’an. This is the literal word of God. A quasi-sequel called the Hadith is also useful. The Hadith chronicles the life and sayings of Muhammad.

Flavours:
Sunni, Shi’ite.

Core beliefs:
Islam starts where Christianity left off. The abundant paradise of heaven and the eternal agony of hell both exist, and so too does the God that the Jews and Christians are on about—except he’s actually called Allah, and the Jews and Christians keep misunderstanding him. So there’s the odd kernel of truth in the holy cob of the Bible, but, quite importantly, Jesus was not actually the son of Allah.

The most important guy is a camel-driver turned prophet called Muhammad. One day, an angel called Gabriel came down to Earth and reveal to Muhammad while he was loitering in a cave the true and literal word of Allah. This contained a few twists—in contrast to the Judeo-Christian view of original sin, humans are actually born Good, but just tend to turn out imperfect. The purpose of our lives then is submission to the will of God through a rigid regime of prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. After this revelation, Muhammad devoted his life to telling the world—often through military might.

 

HINDUISM

Founded:
It’s unclear, but it’s older than the others, and from somewhere in the Indus Valley, India.

Popularity:
Followers globally:
○ 1 billion (14%).
Followers in NZ:
○ 64,000 (1.7%).

Number of gods:
Kind of one, but kind of many.

Advice:
1. Get ascetic and detach yourself from the material world so as to gaze upon the reflections of Brahmanic perfection in your Atman.
2. Live according to Dharma. This is the universal power of morality which upholds the universe. Remember though, Fharma demands different things from everyone. Slaughtering enemies in battle might be righteous if you’re a warrior, but not if you’re an infant. It’s this idea that allows the caste system to flourish.

But how do we know?
The Vedas are your starting point. ‘Veda’ literally means ‘knowledge’, so you can’t really go wrong there. For further tips, look to texts like the Upanishads or the Gita.

Flavours:
Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, Smartism.

Core beliefs:
To start with, imagine life, the universe, and everything. Then imagine something more, which upholds and supports absolutely everything: it’s a transcendent power; it’s The Force; it’s Brahman. Brahman is not a god like the one in the Bible; it’s more like the special secret magic stuff that makes things tick. Brahman is the supreme reality, which obviously suggests that the day-to-day hustle and bustle called ‘life’ is an illusion. And it’s an illusion we’re terribly attached to. This is because of our egos, which desire things, become attached to things, and see themselves as separate from everything else. Luckily, we can get in touch with Brahman if only we get in touch with the true nature of ourselves, and—more precisely—with a thing called our Ātman.

Like the Judeo-Christian idea of a soul, an Ātman is eternal, separate from the material universe, and absolutely essential. Some see Atman as servants of Brahman. others see Ātman as actually being Brahman. Because they’re eternal, they tend to reincarnate, popping in and out of the material world in various forms, over and over again—just like in Buddhism. Remember the karma stuff from Buddhism? Well that’s true too; in fact, the Hindus thought of it first. And it’s this that determines our future. If you’re looking for proper gods, then don’t worry: Hinduism has plenty. The key deities are Brahma, who creates the world, Vishnu, who preserves it, and Shiva, who destroys it—the bastard. Fortunately though, when Shiva does destroy the world, Brahma will bring it back again.

The thing with Hinduism though, is that there’s no agreed set of teachings and no single scripture, so it’s really a collection of different belief systems. The benefit of this is that, aside from the key aspects, you can kind of make it up as you go along.

BUDDHISM

Founded:
Around 400 BCE in present-day Nepal.

Popularity:
Followers globally:
○ 500 million (8%).
Followers in NZ:
○ 52,000 (1.4%).

Number of gods:
0.

Advice:
1. Meditate.
2. Do good deeds—build a golden pagoda if you have to.

But how do we know?
Buddha told everyone about it when he was alive. Oral tradition tells us so. You can find out yourself because Nirvana is attainable in this lifetime.

Flavours:
Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana.

Core beliefs:
Life is suffering. Just think about it. All the time we want things, and no matter what we do, we keep wanting more. Wanting things has its merits, but the problem is that even if we get the thing we desire, any satisfaction we feel fades quickly, and a new desire arises in place of the old one. We’re always living in the future and thus never able to appreciate the present. Because of this, our lives are ultimately empty and unsatisfying. This is all made worse by the cycle of cause and effect which governs our lives—and our lives after this one. Yes, that’s right: not only is this life a real drag, but so are other lives which we’ve lived and will live after this one. And this is all because of a little thing called karma.

Karma means that what goes around comes around, or, more precisely, that all our actions have moral consequences. It’s like the law of physical  causation, except it’s about morality, not physics. Like all things non-physical, it is a little bit iffy. If we’re bad, bad things happen. But what about all those kind people that are stricken with poverty and disease? And why are so many exceedingly rich people so cruel? This is all a result of their actions in past lives—so don’t worry, it’s just. To be fair though, because of the overwhelming desires that govern our lives, it’s likely that we’re not particularly saintly ourselves, so will probably be reborn next time as something less glamorous than a human—like a goat, an ant or an aardvark. We’re screwed. Or so we think…

Fortunately, there’s a way out of this pickle—it’s called Nirvana. It turns out that in our ordinary lives when we go about suffering, we are actually caught in an illusion. The true nature of reality—real life—is not in the future or the past, but in the present moment. Right. Now. Nirvana is when we fully realise this truth, thereby freeing ourselves from the cycle of birth and rebirth, attaining a state of pure bliss. We know all this because of a prince who realised The Truth and so gave up material opulence to spread the word. He became known as the Buddha. It is by emulating him that we too can attain Nirvana.

 

Atheism/Agnoticism

Founded:
N/A

Popularity:
Followers globally:
○ 7%.
Followers in NZ:
○ 1.3 million (34%) .

Number of gods:

0.

But how do we know?
There is a lack of compelling evidence for the existence of a God and a non-material soul.

Advice:
It’s up to you, really. Although being nice is probably still a good idea.

Flavours:
Intellectual, Dickhead, Melancholic.

Core beliefs:
Atheists believe that there is no God, and that when they die, nothing of their consciousness survives. Religion developed as a means of helping humans explain and understand the world around them, but thanks to Science, this is no longer necessary. While there are many Big Questions that science can’t answer, the existence of a God still seems pretty implausible. Believing in God might be comforting, but it is a myth, and comfort is a shoddy reason for believing in anything.

Agnostics, in comparison, believe that they don’t really know what to believe and that it’s probably best not to make up your mind about the whole thing. Some do this so that they can ‘keep their options open’, although— let’s face it—if you’re trying to deceive an almighty creator into thinking you actually believed in him all along, then you’re hard outta luck. Others are agnostic because they are intellectually honest.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Comments (1)

Trackback URL / Comments RSS Feed

  1. Greg says:

    Wow, you really didn’t waste much time researching this did you? Sure, it reads kinda funny, but sacrificing the facts of a piece so you can get the tone you want is a strange way to “do journalism”.
    I have a working knowledge of most religions so stopped reading this once I realised you hadn’t even bothered to find out there are 66 books in the bible, not 2. Also, being good so you can go to heaven has precisely nothing to do with what christians believe.
    I’ll let others pull the rest apart, I assume you’ve got the remainder of the article just as wrong as well.

Recent posts

  1. Issue 20, Vol 81: CW: Tits & Bits
  2. Food Sex
  3. A (Selective and By No-Means all-Encompassing) Look at Neo-Soul
  4. A Love Song
  5. Doing It
  6. Top 5 Sexiest TV Shows I I Was Too Young to be Watching But I Did Anyway
  7. My Dad Wrote A Porno
  8. NT: Te Ara Tauira
  9. Sexing up the Hub: Condoms, Clits & Suzy Cato
  10. The Lifts Are Always One Step Ahead
Website-Cover-Photo7

Editor's Pick

This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

: Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided