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World Religions: Origins, Core Beliefs and Practices


Origins and Development

Judaism is a monotheistic religion that was founded by Abraham (who was the first to be commanded by God) and Moses (who was also guided by Him as he led the God’s Chosen People from Egypt) (Davis & Velaidium n.d.). As pointed out by Karkra (2012), the majority of major religions have originated in Asia, and Judaism is not an exception. There are variations of Judaism; also, it is the “parent” faith for other Abrahamic monotheistic religions: Christianity and Islam (Karkra 2012, p. 48; Van Voorst 2008, p. 8).

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Core Beliefs

The primary texts of Judaism are the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament, Tanakh), the Mishnah, and Talmud (Van Voorst 2008). They believe that their God (Yahweh) had created a perfect world and provided people with things they need, including freedom, but people proceeded to misuse this gift repeatedly, which led to punishments, although God keeps giving people new chances. The Fall of Adam and Eve is an example of abusing the freedom to try the Forbidden Fruit, which gave people an understanding of good and evil. It also led to the establishment of the idea that the woman is to be subservient to the man since it was Eve who convinced Adam to eat the fruit.

The Jewish consider themselves to be the “God’s Chosen People,” which defines the strong connection between religion and nationality (Davis & Velaidium n.d., p. 7). Their God is powerful and loving, and he has revealed himself on numerous occasions by helping the Jewish (for example, in Exodus). As a result, they have a “corresponding responsibility,” that is, God and the Jewish have a covenant. In order to fulfill their duties, humans are expected to follow the law, Torah, which is presented in Tanakh and summarized in the Ten Commandments. Naturally, this law does not prevent the Jewish from the development of secular law or from being subject to the law of the country they have chosen to live in (Karkra 2012).

The idea of Messiahs as people burdened with a glorious purpose was also developed in this religion (Davis & Velaidium n.d., p. 46). Jesus is an example of the Messiah and a key figure of another religion, Christianity.

Central Practices

The main festivals of Judaism include the weekly Sabbath (the Saturday that is reserved for resting as was done by the God after the creation of the world), and a number of annual festivities. For instance, the New Year is Judaism is called Rosh Hashanah, and it should be used for praying and repenting. Another example is Sukkot, a holiday in the name of the days that the Jewish had spent in the desert while walking towards the promised land (Robinson 2008, pp. 93-95, 101-102).

Apart from that, Judaism, like most religions, involves celebrations for the key milestones of a human’s life (birth, marriage, death). An important custom in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism sets a particular restriction on the nationality of the Jewish: only the people who are born to a Jewish mother are considered Jews. In Reform Judaism, being born to a Jewish father is sufficient (Karkra 2012).


Origins and Development

Christianity also originated in the Middle East, and it is similar to Judaism in being monotheistic and using the Tanakh, which is called the Old Testament in this religion. However, religions are still very distinct. Christianity is not exactly homogenous, and its three biggest branches include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Protestantism. The first two are similar in the power that is entrusted to the Church while Protestant Christianity refuses idolatry (like icons) and focuses on the faith of an individual (Davis & Velaidium n.d.).

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Core Beliefs

The central scripture of the religion is the Bible. It includes the Old and the New Testaments; the Ten Commandments and Gospel are the “divine revelations” (Karkra 2012).

The central figure of Christianity is Jesus Christ, who is believed to be both fully human (Jesus of Nazareth, who lived as a human, was incarnated) and fully divine (Jesus Christ, the savior of humans and the God the Son). He saved the humanity through the Atonement (his own death), which has allowed healing the separation of people from the God that happened as a result of our selfishness and the Original Sin (eating the forbidden fruit). Also, it is important that the God in Christianity is represented through the Trinity: the Father (the creator of the world), the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit (spiritual energy that “can motivate people to turn to Christ”) (Davis & Velaidium n.d., p. 59).

Central Practices

Just like Judaism, Christianity follows the key milestones in a person’s life. An example of a specific custom is baptism: it is concerned with accepting a new member into the Church. Among religious people, it is done with very young children, even though the New Testament does not mention infant baptism, and some of the Christians believe that one must realize being accepted to Christianity (Lopez 2010, p. 205). Apart from that, central practices of the religion include the worship of their God, which involves the Sunday gatherings in churches with specific rituals and praying.


Origins and Development

Confucianism is a religion and philosophy. It began with the teaching of Kung Fu-Tzu; this name can be translated as “Master Kund,” but the Western people changed it to Confucius. The man lived between 551-479 BC (Van Voorst 2008, p. 139). Confucianism was also developed by Mencius (Meng-Tzu) and, naturally, the religion has been changing and developing just like the previously mentioned ones (Gardner 2015).

Core Beliefs

Confucianism is different from the two relatively similar Abrahamic religions because it focuses on humans’ ability to do good rather than their aptitude to sin. There is a number of concepts in the religion that should be discussed. Ren (human kindness) can be interpreted as the belief that compassion and kindness make humans human. However, humanness needs to be nurtured, and one of the key ideas of Confucianism describes the necessity for self-development. As a result, the typical distinction between secular and sacred gets blurred in Confucianism since the cultivation of goodness is not reserved for the saint or the priests (Gardner 2015). Also, Confucianism upheld the ideal of education being accessible to all who are willing to learn (Van Voorst 2008, p. 142).

Apart from that, Confucianism is concerned with the ideas of yin-yang balance, Dao (the way), Zhi (the desire to learn), Yi (the proper, moral conduct), and some others. There is no Confucianism God in the traditional sense of the world, but the self-improvement is aimed at reaching the unity with Tian, which can be interpreted as the God (or the Universe) (Van Voorst 2008, pp. 13-14).

Central Practices

The practices of Confucianism include li that denotes ceremonies, which are meant to express ren. They are aimed at fostering the spiritual growth of humans rather than appeasing immortal beings, which is in line with the beliefs of Confucianism. Another important practice, which has been attracting the attention of medical professionals due to its potential of improving health (Mars & Abbey 2010), is meditation (Davis & Velaidium n.d.).

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This introduction to the three religions cannot encompass all of their specifics, but it allows a glimpse into their similarities and differences.

Reference List

Davis, PG & Velaidium, J n.d., World Religions.

Gardner, D 2015, Confucianism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Kakra, B 2012, The origin of religions, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN.

Lopez, K 2010, Christianity, Mercer University Press, Macon, Ga.

Mars, TS & Abbey, H 2010, Mindfulness meditation practice as a healthcare intervention: A systematic review’, International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 56-66.

Robinson, G 2008, Essential Judaism, Pocket Books, New York, NY.

Van Voorst, R 2008, Anthology of world scriptures, Thomson Wadsworth, Australia.

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