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Comparative Religions

Comparative Religions

Week 4    June 9th –   15th

Buddhism

get-answers

1. Differences and similarities between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism

Theravada and Mahayana are the two main branches of Buddhism. They are similar in several aspects such as both accept Sakyamuni as their teacher. The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Dependent Origination in both schools are identical. Both forms accept the Annica, Dukka, Panna, Anntta and Sila but reject the idea of a supreme being who is thought to have created and also governed the world.

The two main divisions of Budhism differ in several ways. The differences are based certain aspects which can also be highlighted. The understanding of Buddha, Theravada accepts only the historical Gautama named Sakyamuni and past buddhas while Mahayana accept other contemporary buddhas like Medicine Buddha and the Amitabha. On the organization of the Buddhism scripture, Theravada has the Pali Canon with three baskets which are Vinaya, Sutta Pitaka and Abidhamma. In contrast, Mahayana has 12 divisions of various topics such as Cause, Conditions and Verses. About the Trikaya concept, the Theravada emphasis on the three Buddha bodies but on nirmana and dharma-kaya whiles it is highly emphasized in Mahayana.

The transmission route of the two types of Buddhism occurred differently. Theravada is a southern transmission, that is, through Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia.  For Mahayana, had a northern transmission which was through, Tibet, china, Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia and other parts of southern Asia. Theravada uses Pali in teaching Tipitaka while Dharma is taught in Pali supplemented with local language, while in Mahayana the Buddhist canon is in available local translations with the exception of five untranslatables. In Theravada, the sakyamuni Buddha’s disciples are basically historical disciples regardless of whether they are arahats or commoners. In contrast, the disciples in Mahayana involve the introduction of many bodhisattvas by Sakyamuni Buddha.  A majority of these are not historical bodhisattvas.

Considering rituals and liturgy, a few are present but less emphasized in Theravada than in Mahayana where, because of influences by the local culture, the rituals are highly emphasized which may include rituals for the feeding of Petas and those of the deceased. The two regard dying and death aspects distinctively. In Theravada, there is minimal research on dying and death processes but it is noted that when a person is dying, meditation for impermanence, emptiness and suffering are encouraged. In contrast, there is a lot of research on dying and death processes is meticulously done by the Vijrayana School on Mahayana. The researchers suggest many signs manifested before the death of a person and that there is much stress experienced by the dying person as a result of the heavy task of transferring the person’s merit practices a few weeks before the death of the person to assist him in the next rebirth after the person’s death. Concerning worship in the temple, Sakyumuni Buddha is the central point of worship in Theravada in a simple layout of the temple while that of Mahayana is quite elaborate hall to accommodate Sakyamuni Buddha and two other of his disciples (Comparing Similarities and Differences, n.d).

 

 

2. Explain some of the key concepts in Buddhism such as: dharma, dukkha, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, anicca, kamma, nirvana, sunyata, bodhisattvas, and the sangha.

The Concept of Dharma is made up of seven meanings which comprise of the transcendent reality, quality or property, the order or law of the universe, right behavior and religious practice, a truly real event, Buddha’s teaching and objective data of the mind. Dharma focuses on the ‘teaching” of Buddha and it is based on the good conduct of people in their general life but a specific requirement is to put into practice what Buddha’s teachings teaches about good conduct and having the ability to constitute Buddha’s path. It also encourages a realization of ‘truth” which arises from these practices of Buddhist path. The concept of dharma also refers to the fundamental mental or physical “thing” or “state’ which as described in plurality, for instance, in the scriptures of Abhidhamma, tends to be conceived as a “reality’ of the world in some sense. Whatever nature or quality anything posses may also be associated with dharma.

The Concept of dukkha is one of the three doctrines which form the ‘three marks” of existence which is translated, it means unsatisfactoriness. Its recognition of these essential characteristics together with two others by observing all things related to it is synonymous for the true nature of reality to penetrate.   

The Concept of Four Noble Truths

The first Noble Truth is described as “suffering” which a literal translation of dukka in the Pali. In its Buddhist context, the term implies “unsatisfatoriness”. It also asserts that all things, from the trivial ones to the most sophisticated one are impermanent hence are passing away anytime and this includes all human beings as well. This means that there is no soul

The Concept of Eightfold Path

The Concept of anicca (pali) is one of three doctrines of constituting the ‘three marks” of existence. It also denotes the physical realm which refers to the constant changing of everything in nature as a result of the inevitable cause and effect operation. Therefore, the constant change characteristic of the sentient beings is responsible for the term annata. By following the eight fold path, one is able to overcome personal desires and hence eliminate suffering.

This path leads to attaining nirvana which is defined by several achievements. The path begins with having the right belief which enables one to ensure that the Four Noble Truths are recognized and understood. Next is having the right intention, a requirement that a disciple pursues a goal with single-mind set and this becomes the major aim. The right to speech requires one to choose one’s words with an aim of avoiding lying, uncharitable talk, gossip and idle chatter. A right action also forms part of the path which entails avoiding what is wrong according to the society of one origin and ability is to be motivated by leading a selfless life and works of charity.

The Noble Eight-fold Path is also about the right livelihood which is a strict instruction barring start of occupations which will be a source of harm to other people. It also follows that a right effort is vital to prevent and do away with evil desires and an effort to foster good impulses. In addition, a right mindfulness is fundamental for everyone since it requires a steady focus to one’s thoughts, feelings and most importantly actions (The noble eightfold path (2nd ed.), 1994).

 

The Concept of kamma

The concept of nirvana,

The concept is about a state of bliss which is a condition which puts someone to attain limits beyond what the mind can perceive or even feel. It arises from following the eight-fold path. Nirvana is the highest degree of deep meditation that that enables one to achieve God consciousness. The person who has reached nirvana is said to have broken free of samasra which is the reincarnation cycle as well as free of suffering which characterizes all forms of life on Earth. The individual’s life is no longer under the bondage of obsession and the biggest problem of man of earthly concerns. In addition to attaining elevated levels of compassion and wisdom, the person enjoys perfect peace state in the whole of his life.  This is what is historically described as Buddha’s enlightenment hence for Buddhists; it takes a very long time to reach this highest state (Goonewardene, 1994).

4. Write about the importance of monasticism or meditation in Buddhist tradition.

Meditation is a mind transforming practice among the Buddhists which consists of techniques that are important in encouraging and enabling an individual to develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity and staying calm so as to experience the true nature of the environment. The aim of the different practices is to learn one‘s patterns and possible habits of the mind, in addition to cultivating and nurturing new but positive ways of being. It is a taxing practice since regular work and patience are needed form. They are focused states of the sand which might deepen,   eventually producing a profoundly into peaceful and energized states. The experience of the ordained can have transformative effect which is the main objective is to lead the meditating person to a new but better understanding.

In Thailand, meditation practice plays an important social role which greatly influences the psychological benefits which have been experienced by people and others they can possibly find as they practice meditation. Meditation is expected to create a new perception, one that is agreeable to the ethical principles of a Buddhist. The technique assists the mediator to interact with the internal as well as external sensory phenomena in different specific ways. Meditation is a vital practice in Buddhism although statistics show that it has developed different variations between different traditions existing among the Buddhist communities (Gross and Muck, 2003).

The entire daily schedule, the bureaucratic organization, spatial layout and social interaction characteristic of the monastery are centered on meditation.  Regarded as life’s central act, meditation becomes an important means by which one gets to know more about oneself. Hence, it is very important to meditate at all. It is expected that the mindfulness be cultivated through practicing meditation as a formal activity which then should develop into a continuous state of mind such as waking and sleeping. Meditation is so powerful that it is able to avoid being attached to the world and worldly things.

There are two types of meditation. Tranquility meditation (samatha) helps those who are meditating to have a still mind so that it can concentrate. This is to enable the mind to achieve its goal of progressing through the stages dhyanas. The stages are, first, lack of involvement in the external world so as to have joy and tranquility. Second stage, this meditation enables the Buddhists to concentrate in meditation by suppression any reasoning and investigation which can contribute to better decisions. Third stage is loss of joy but tranquility remains. Fourth and last, tranquility passes away which results in pure possession. The other type of meditation is Insight Meditation (Vipassana) which helps the one meditating to experience the truths of suffering, impermanence and the concept of “no-self”.

Monastic promote a way of life committed to wisdom and to show compassion notwithstanding the world full of suffering, materialism, choking with anger and war. The monastic life, according to Buddha, gives a meaningful way of living which is difficult for countless men and women to achieve. By shunning worldly responsibilities, people are able to grow quickly in their spiritual life since the spiritual path will have minimum distractions. The success of the monastic life is partly attributed to the vows they solemnly to remain celibate and at the same time maintain a high level of simplicity. Monasticism is also important since many monastic most often participate in voluntary social work, Drama, teaching and basic skills if they are found in poor communities (Thomas, et al, 2000).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Comparing Similarities and Differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism – Buddha Station – A Buddhism Tube Site (n.d.). Buddha Station – A Buddhism Tube Site – Explore Buddhism by video, tube and articles. Buddha Station.. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.buddhastation.com/buddhism-articles/comparing-similarities-and-differences-between-theravada-and-mahayana-buddhism/

Goonewardene, A. (1994). Buddhist scriptures. Oxford: Heinemann

Gross, R. M., & Muck, T. C. (2003). Christians talk about Buddhist meditation, Buddhists talk about Christian prayer. New York: Continuum.

The noble eightfold path: way to the end of suffering (2nd ed.). (1994). Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Thomas, J. P., Hero, A. C., & Constable, G. (2000). Byzantine monastic foundation documents: a complete translation of the surviving founders’ typika and testaments. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 5

1. Compare and contrast elements of Taoism with Confucianism. Be sure to include some of the following key concepts: yin & yang, chi, de (te), wu wei, harmony, relationships, filial piety, jen (ren), shu, li, hsueh.

Similarities

Taoism and Confucianism are both schools of philosophy that originate from the Chinese culture; both schools are influenced by the environment and nature, aristocrats were taught on how to live and work together with nature. Taoist and Confucians believe that a morally up right person should be self-cultivated, have humane virtues, respect the cultural rituals and adhere to the societal values that have been laid down back from the days of the ancient sage kings. A good person according to the two schools was also not supposed to cause chaos or disrupt peace among other people.

Both schools believed in several spirits that represented different forces of nature. For instance they believed in Yang who they referred to as the sunny side of mountain and Yin his couple who represented darkness. There was also Li who required people to behave in good manners in all situations and to the king. The spirit also required people to adhere to the king and respect the traditional rituals. Another cult was the Shu it was the expectations of one to do good to others the same way he or she would expect them to do to him or her. There was also Wu Wei that meant being quiet and avoid causing conflicts and that people should turn away from actions that were not natural, they also believed in Te that expected believer to live a simple spiritual life. Both believed that people should get closer to nature rather than civilization. Toa and Confucius were not creators. Both Confucianism and Taoism never taught about gods, their major concerns were nature and good relationships between people (Jones, 2011).

Differences

Taoism was introduced by Lao Tzu who was conceived by a wise mother who was a librarian at Zho dynasty while gazing at shooting stars on the other hand Confucianism, was founded by Confucius (Kngfu Zi). He was born in the time of political danger and fragmentation where he escaped death narrowly thus this boosted his spiritual life. Confucianism believed in education for organizing and shaping the society while Taoism did not rely much on education but on nature. Another difference between the two was that Taoism was engaged more on cosmic nature that is things like mountains, lakes, plants and others while Confucianism believed much in human nature.

The Taoist literature is brilliant, poetic, imaginary, full of paradox and contradicting while Confucianism’s literature was industrious and literal. Confucianism believes that each thing in nature is joined in line to the preceding thing hence people can change positively at any point within the chain while Taoism argue that everything is what it is in connection to another one. Taoism believes that a person should live in harmony with nature and be solitude; they do not rely much on relationships. They argue that people should do thing their own way to avoid conflicts and chaos, they expected people to dream in what existed in nature and realities. In contrary Confucianism anticipated that people should live in good relationships with others, they stressed on five major relationships that is father to son relationship, elder brother – brother relationship, husband – wife relationship, elder friend – younger relation and finally ruler – subject relation (Ruokanen & Huang, 2010).

6. Discuss Jainism along with its ideologies, scriptures and practices. Compare it to the Hindu culture from which it evolves. How is Jainism similar and dissimilar to Buddhism?

Ideologies

Jainism is an ancient traditional religion of the Jinas. It began in the 16th century in India and it was introduced by Mahavira. Its main ideology is the jiva which means, (The liberation of the self). They believe that the planet contains layers of heavens and hells and for one to pass through these strata he or she has to believe and adhere to the Jainism religion that emphasizes a disciplined and peaceful way of life. This people also believe in the ideology that a person must make boundaries between what is good and what is wrong, between self and non – self, between truth and falsehood, proper reasoning and nonsense and between surface and depth.

In Jainism ideologies are meant to establish good conduct among people. Ideologies also have to adhere to the societies cultural believes. Some of ideologies are; every living thing has a soul, every soul is eternally inherent though distinctively unrealized, every soul is the designer of its own life, now or after life, another ideology is that after a soul is freed from accumulated past actions, it is set free and cult-conscious. There is no mighty being, no celestial creator, owner, protector or wrecker, the earth is self-controlled and every soul has the power to reach the state of god-consciousness through self-efforts, one has to limit ownerships and live a pure life that is of use to one’s self and others; ownership does not mean possessing an object but if attached to it is what is known as possessiveness. (Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism, n.d)

Scriptures

Jainism scriptures involved the Agamas which were based on Mahavira’s teachings which were compiled by the word of mouth by the followers into different texts (Sutras0. These Sutras were all together known as Jain canonicals or Agamic literature. The Agamas contains forty five texts written in various languages including; Pakrit, Sanscrit, umaswati, Tamil, Hindustani, Kannada and Gujarati.

 Practices

 Jains practiced alongside other cultural practices. Monks and nuns had to abide by the following vows; no violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), no stealing (asteya), abstention (brahmachamnga) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Other practices include no eating in darkness or in front of a novice, monks are expected to be homeless, they are served on their hands to symbolize detachment from material possession. They worship in public places such as temples and wooden shrines. There meditation involved chanting of mantras which represent a sector of Jain worship and ritual.

Comparison between Jainism and Hinduism   

 Both religions believed in Karma where Jainism terms it as an invisible power while Hinduism believed that Karma sticks to the soul. They both believed that there will be liberation of the soul where Jainism accepted that there will be eternal life in heaven or the soul will join Brahman while Hinduism liberation in the loka(universe) hence both agree that there will be life after death. Both religions believe in the doctrine of Ahimsa (non-violence) and also they do not agree to the concept of a creator. (On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism, n.d).

Similarities between Jainism and Buddhism

            Both religions are branches of Shramana tradition that exists up to date; they both share many aspects and terminologies. These two are composed of four sectors in their organization. Both the Gautam of Buddha and Mahavira of Jain belong to princely families, they also don’t accept the existence of God and also reject the rule of Vedas and engagement in sacrifices and rituals. All of them are in agree with the theories of Karma, rebirth and Moksha, they both taught in Prakrit which was a common language and not in the Sanskrit which was a language of the priests. They all denied animal sacrifices and used followers from both sexes

Buddhism became divided into Mahayana and Hinayana while Jainism was divided into Svetambara and Digambara. Each one of them had three main sects (Tripataka), that is, Vinaypitak, Suttapitaka and Abidhamma pitak for Buddha and Anga, Upanga and Mulgrajitha for Jain (Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism, n.d.).

Differences

        Buddhism argued that a person can attains Moksha while living on earth so long as the person adjourns desires while Jain believed that Monksha was freedom from all sorts of problems and only gotten after one dies. Although they both stress the principle of Ahimsa, it is more emphasized in Jainism. Another contradiction is that Buddhism does not account in the existence of souls but Jainism believes that there is a soul in every living being. Jainism is depicted to be closer to Hinduism whereas Buddhism inherited the policy of keeping away from it. The Buddhists were royally supported and back up by the kings but the Jainism was never got any support or endorsement from the kings. Another contradiction is that Buddhism flourished to other countries across Asia while Jainism never spread out of India (On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism? n.d.).

8. Trace the evolution of the revival of Shinto in the modern period (19th and 20th centuries).

The Evolution of the Shinto in the Modern Period

Shinto is the Japanese indigenous way of worship it means, Kam-no-Michi(the way of Gods). It is a collection of beliefs and traditional practices. The traditions have been affected by the arrival of the Buddhism. They belief that nature is identical with divinity, gods of varying might. Shinto contains myths of the origin of Japan and its people together with there traditional practices and rituals.

Political leaders in Japan recognized the Shinto religion rating it to be the origin of the people’s good morals. They declared it to be a national religion while they abandoned Buddhism. Kam-no-Michi priests were awarded official posts as Buddhists were advised to turn into the ‘right kind of life,’ there temples and images were destroyed. Later Kyobusho was established thus led to both Shinto and Buddhists priests to be treated equally. The Shinto revival fall and Buddhism remained silent until Christianity accelerated it into a rejuvenated activity.

Three forms of the Shinto existed during the nineteenth century that is, domestic Shinto where households build a shelf for offerings to recall the spirits of ancestors and more so local spirits. The second Kam-no-Michi was the sectarian Shinto and as time went by, mountain climbing emerged where they climbed mountains to give tribute to the spirit of the mountain Shinto were purification and healing. Around 1930 the Japanese government saw the need for religions to be registered and 13 Shinto sectarians recognized. In the 19th and the 20th century, the Emperor announced control over traditional cloisters hence led to the emergence of the Shito. Although Shinto was declared a religion, some Buddhism believers did not agree with the idea so they formed a movement known as “Imperial Way Buddhism. This movement argued that Buddhism was superior to all other religions and identified it with the nation and the nation with emperor hence worshiping the monarch was the same as honoring the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha the Buddhism gods.

In 1938 an association recognized as Gohonzon as the Japanese king but the Shinto opposed by stimulating Article one of Japan’s constitution which stated that the emperor of Japan was not superior he was to be governed by a series of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal and article three which stated that the king was sacred and deserved respect, they were the teachers of law in Japan. The emperor used the religion to vanquish the military regime; the government fully supported the religion by the construction of sacred places for worshiping in 1920s. The religion was pronounced to be a national religion and the main aim was to unite the Japanese people and promote the faith of the divine monarch. The State Shinto stressed on the differences and the special afterlife of Japan and its occupants, it also stressed on the divine origin of he imperial unity together with the duty of every Japanese dovotionto the monarch.

The Kam-no-Michi succeeded as a national faith up to 1945 when Japan was concurred in the Second World War and the monarch’s denial of his divinity declined the state Shinto. Although after the war most Shinto believers worshiped Shinto in their homes and not in shrines like before, most government sponsored shrines were collectively joined into the Association of Shinto Shrines after 1946. Up to date sect Shinto has more than eight private religious sectarians which undertake their services worship houses or lecture halls and not in traditional sacred places (State Shinto. n.d.)

References

Jones, M. (2011). History of Criminal Justice (5th ed.). Burlington: Elsevier Science.

On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism?. (n.d.). On Jainism. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://jainism.blogspot.com/2004/09/how-does-jainism-fit-in-hinduism.html. On Jainism. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://jainism.blogspot.com/2004/09/how-does-jainism-fit-in-hinduism.html

Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism . (n.d.). Astrology | Indian Astrology | Horoscopes | Horoscope | Zodiac Signs. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.mywebastrologer.com/Jainism_Ideologies.asp

Ruokanen, M., & Huang, P. Z. (2010). Christianity and Chinese culture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

State Shinto. (n.d.). globalsecurity. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from www.balsecurity.org/military/world/japan/shinto-3.htmhttp://

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6 June 23rd    –   29th

1.  At what point can Jewish myths from the scriptural tradition be separated from Jewish history?

The Jewish history was written in the bible although it was formerly known to be a book of commandments hence shaped the past of the Jewish people and their past. Throughout ninetieth the history of the Jews could be told and retold with nobody doubting that the stories were not legends or myths. However, there was a small click of radical thinkers who questioned the reliability of the biblical stories in general.  It was difficult to believe in the theophany if one had not accepted the reliability of the story of the exodus from Egypt.

Voltaire (1694-1778) was the first person to publish a universal history that challenged the chronology of the Bible and instead thought of Egypt and China to be more important than the history of the Jews. Wellhausen led in the biblical criticism in the nineteenth century, a time when heresy was widespread. For instance, he argues that the sources discovered in Mesopotamia which indicated that the Babylonian culture mainly practiced pagan polytheistic culture and that the Jews perceived it to be an abomination was merely a Mesopotamian cosmogonic myth. Another writer, Schorr, of the ninetieth century claimed that some parts of the book of Genesis are based on myths. The celebration of the Christmas as the date Jesus Christ was born and the celebration of Easter were also identified to be myths in the ninetieth century (Shavit & Eran, 2007).

The history of the birth of Jesus is begins right from Genesis. In the Old Testament, there are several prophesies about the birth of Jesus. The Israelites had been waiting anxiously for the coming Messiah and it is possible they made several predictions of the date he was to be born. However, none of the prophecies identified the actual date in which Jesus was to be born. After his birth, life, death and ascension, many years passed until 354 AD when the Roman Emperor Aurerian, who was a pagan established December 25, to be the festival in celebration of the birth of the invisible sun. Philocalus wrote a Christian myrtyrology in 354 AD in which he dated the birth of Jesus Christ to be on December 25. This tells us that the celebration of Christmas was has been in place from as early as AD 335. There is a possibility that the setting up of Christmas on the December 25 was either done to supplant the Roman pagan or rather than a mere coincidence. There is no evidence to show that the world celebrated Christmas at any day, before AD 350, not even the December 25.

The celebration of Easter

Hippolytus and Tertullian came up with a formula to identifying the date of Easter and for that matter picked March 25. It seems that March 25 was considered to be date of Jesus Christ was conceived hence December 25 was then determined from March 25 (Origin of Jewish/Christian holy days, n.d).

Why is the scriptural tradition so important and why do you think it has been so enduring

The sculptural tradition is found in all religions although the Catholic Church seems to undervalue the sacred scriptures hence have been through history been thought to endeavor to reduce the credit accorded or worthy the Holy Scriptures.  The Catholic Church The scriptural tradition refers to the manner of use and attitude accorded to the scriptures. The Catholic Church is very conservative with her style of using the scriptures and it is claimed that there is no one or no religion can reverence and have greater respect for the scriptures than the Catholics. Many of devout ones are said to have a profound veneration of for it to an extent of kneeling down when kneeling down. For this reason, the Catholics tend to remain intact for it easily keeps its doctrines. In contrast, the Protestants handle the scriptures casually and therefore unable to adequately live by what it teaches (Errata to the Protestant Bible, n.d.).

The Islamic scripture contains a wide range of concepts which portray a great sense of unit. The basic scripture of Islam is the Qur’an. All the texts are regarded to be authoritative. These concepts include knowledge, values, world view and mode of behavior in the proximity of the scriptures and the Spirit of those particular scriptures. The Islamic scriptures occur in a range and vary in degrees of authority. The scriptures of Islam, just as any other scripture since it teaches on respect for heritage as well as respecting cultural heritage.

6. What are some of the most important factors concerning the ancient origin of Zoroastrianism?

Zoroastrianism religion was founded by Prophet Zoroaster in the ancient Persia. The religion is defined by doctrines preached by the prophet which also constitute the sacred scripture referred to as the Avestra. These have been preserved his own psalms better known as the metrical Gathas. It was a monotheistic worship of Ahura Mazda although the Ahura Mazda had two emanations.

The Zoroastrianism can be traced back to the 6th century BC when the Iranian prophet Zarathustra is believed to have lived and taught. His name has now come to be known by a Greek name as Zoroaster. The teaching of Zoroaster is believed to be a replacement of the several ahuras which are the gods worshipped by the traditional Indo-Iranian rligion with only one ahura Ahura Mazda, who is the “Wise Lord” or supreme God . The religion of Zoroastrianism was founded by Ahura Mazda from his own discourses referred to as Gathas which which form the opening parts of the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the Avestra. Ahura Mazda created two sons who were twin spirits whereby one known as Spenta Mainyu chose to pursue good under the concepts of life, truth and light. He is assisted by six entities, Good Mind, Truth, Health, Life, Power, and Devotion. The emanations of the Supreme Lord are Angra Mainyu whose assisting entities are deceit, darkness and death.

The freedom given to the two spiritual sons or emanations of Ahura Mazda seems to be reflected in other common religions which challenge that human beings have the freedom to choose good or evil. The teachings focus on a person’s destiny after death when everyone‘s soul will appear before the Bridge of Discrimination to be judged. Now, those who would have followed the emanation of Truth will be allowed to cross over and enter into paradise but those who would have chosen Lie will go to hell. This is the significance of the two “sons” of Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism, n.d.).

The development of religion continued well until when its founder, Spenta Mainyu dies and the father takes over from him to start a plan of thwarting Angra Mainyu. The struggle between this two forces are still reflected upon all through the history of the Zoroastrian belief and until now the Zoroaster keeps only one of the two previously performed sacrifices which sacrifice by fire. The struggle mainly involved good and evil truth and deceit and light and darkness. The Indo-Iranian sacrifice by fire became the symbol of truth. The religion eventually spread through Iran in a way that is barely understood that it characterized the Achaemenid dynasty.

The Magi, which was a priestly sect later combined with the Zorastrians leading to adjustments that transformed the Iranian religion. The Persian Magi, which came to visit Jesus, when Persia was ruled by the Parthians, were Zoroastrians. Their religion had survived the Greece domination in their land since the Greek were tolerant to other religions. The rise of Sassanians after Parthians under the founding leadership of Ardashir saw the formation of strong links between the dynasty and the Zoroastrianism. Aldashir takes the throne of Achaemeneds and restores the cult of AhuraMazda to be the state religion. Currently, there is a ritual hierarchy across this dynasty with each of the major districts being assigned a chief priest and the whole empire with a under the power of the supreme priest (History of Zoroastrianism, n.d.).

7. Discuss some of the Zoroastrian influences upon Judaism and Christianity.

Zoroastrian is very closely related to Judaism and Christianity which implies a connection between them. It is evident that Zoroastrian influences the two religions in many a number of ways although the details are a bit difficult to document especially at the early stages of Judaism development. The manner of influence focused on here is based on circumstantial hence may not necessarily appeal to a rigorous scholarly judgment but since there is sufficient evidence, it worthy for consideration. The only danger lies on the failure to prove them either as true or false.

The first contact of the between the Zoroastrian and Judaism was after the exile in Babylon when Persia conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to go back to their homeland. There deemed to be a much prolonged contact between the two so that led the Jews to copy a lot of ways from the Zoroastrians. In order to identify some of these ways, it is important to identify some of the common elements that characterized the Zoroastrian tradition. It was the main religion of the Persian Empire which was based on the Zoroastrian scriptures such as the Gathas which made the founding text of the Zoroastrian faith and the Yashts which was hymns of praise. The people who practiced Zoroastrianism based their faith on oral tradition meaning that the faith was only taught and transmitted through the word of mouth and not at all on written scriptures. The Zoroastrian symbolism of fire, stories and scriptures describing the Prophet Zarathushtra intermediate spiritual beings or yazatas as well as light and darkness formed the elements of the (Zoroastrian, Judaism and Christianity, n.d.).

The idea of Heaven, Hell and life after (afterlife) emerged after the exile and it thought by a number of scholars to have originated from the interaction between the Jews and the Zoroastrians of Persia. After the death of a person, his soul went to “Sheol” which is a dull place similar to hades. That is what the Jews believed before they went to exile. In their new believe, the good people get heavenly rewards while the evil people get a hellish punishment. Most Christians believe in a moralized afterlife where there will be eternal life for those that will have repented their sins and lived righteous when Jesus will come back to the Earth. Related in meaning to heaven is the term Paradise which originates from the ancient Iranian “pairi-daeza” words which means “enclosed garden” which are few Persian words in the Bible. The meaning of Therefore, the idea of two destinies of man, heaven or hell depending on how they live on earth originated from the Zoroastrian religion.

Both Jews and Christians believe in the coming Messiah and this idea is thought to have originated from the Zoroastrian messianic teachings. This is depicted in the book of Second Isaiah in which the Jews are promised a Savior who would rescue the people according to the word of the Lord through his prophet. The savior in the context and the interpretation of the Jewish people refers to anyone who would cause a better life for Jews. Also, in the Second Maccabees, a book not found among the Jews but only in the Catholic Church, contains an account of the Zoroastrian contact with the Jews. It shows the restoration of Jewish altar fire. The writers of the 2 Macabees were informed of the reverence fire.

References

Full text of “Errata to the Protestant Bible (n.d.). Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://archive.org/stream/erratatotheprote00warduoft/erratatotheprote00warduoft_djvu.txt

History of Zoroastrianism (n.d.). HistoryWorld – History and Timelines. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab71

Shavit, J., & Eran, M. (2007). The Hebrew Bible reborn from Holy Scripture to the Book of Books : a history of biblical culture and the battles over the Bible in modern Judaism. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity. (n.d.). Pyracantha Studios. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.pyracantha.com/Z/zjc3.html

Zoroastrianism. (n.d.). Queensborough Community College. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialSciences/ppecorino/PHIL_of_RELIGION_TEXT/CHAPTER_2_RELIGIONS/Zoroastrianism.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 7    June 30th    – July 6th

1. What can we know factually about the historical Jesus?

It is difficult to historically paint a global picture of Jesus since different societies have varied interpretations of who he was and the role he played in the world. According to Christians, Jesus fulfills prophesy about the Messiah who was for a long time according to the Old Testament prophesies expected to be a historical but not a mythical world savior sent from God. Jesus was a kind, sinless man who came from God. He is said to be a son of God since God referred to him as the son of God. He came to earth to do the will of God his father to fight evil and death and the victory of this was illustrated by his own victory over his death culminating to resurrection. The resurrection was to be a fundamental phenomenon upon which God was to build a church. The kind of energy emanating from God to Jesus and later the man was that which is needed to begin a world religion.

Stories of the ancient world present Jesus as a Hero regardless of the doctrine from which they got to know about him. He was perceived in so many ways by both his followers as well as his haters. For instance, some thought of him as a prophet, a great teacher, a politician, a physician, the son of God or a messiah.

Some historians both in the church and atheists think of Jesus as a real man born in the small town of Bethlehem to Joseph the carpenter among other siblings. The historians cannot find any eye witnesses or their accounts about Jesus lifetime so all the information they need about Jesus is derived from the Gospel books which were also written several years after Jesus was born (Gregory Riley: Jesus the Hellenistic Hero, n.d.).

 

What are the limitations placed upon our knowledge?

Most of the critics of who Jesus was or rather his biography normally provide very scanty information which they fill large volumes of books. The limited biographical information has not been sufficient for many to base their faith in. Primitive Christianity has done many things or has been tempted to expand the little knowledge through adoption of various myths. The major source of the limitations is mainly on the nature of sources that provide information about Jesus (Becker, 1998).

How can historical and critical study aid us in a more complete understanding of the Jesus tradition?

First, we must not blame it on ourselves of missing the historical sources to give us adequate biographical information. To better understand Jesus tradition, we need to critically study the New Testament and reflect it upon the Old Testament. We have to distinguish the meanings of Jesus as a figure presented historically and Christ of faith and how to combine the two personalities into one person. Whether the setting of Jesus tradition is in history or on faith, the basis of approaching Jesus is still by faith as the foundation which is mysteriously confirmed by historical accounts (Houlden, 2005).

 Do you think it is possible that Christ was not a real person?

It is not possible because of a number of reasons. The Old Testament prophecies especially that of Isaiah chapter 50-55, narrates how Jesus was to be born of a virgin. There are many illustrations that prove that a savior in Israel was to come to deliver the Israel from their enemies. The history of the killing of the male children by the Romans is the history books far a different line of study altogether. After his birth, the wise men come to visit him from the East. It is recorded in history of the tolerance to other religions of the Magi from Persia and Greeks which dominated them.

 If there are things about his life that are not historically true is the Jesus narrative that has been handed down to us enough?

The Jesus narrative will be enough. It is difficult to find any source of information which does not have critics who either present the story as being incorrect and then this is passed down the generation. What are needed are a few facts or true history to work with for this is better than a whole lot of lies. Even I have only one fact about Jesus that quite unique to the contemporary world, I would hang on that. The ascension story is criticized by many but his bones cannot be traced. I believe if historical records prove such rare claims, I would not mind if all other stories are not historically.

2. Address the diversity within the Jewish community of the 1st century.

The birth of Jesus and the consequent birth of Christianity took place at a time when the Jews had lost the unity that had characterized the chosen nation for several centuries or even millennia. In this first century the Jews had become fragmented and beleaguered in this country currently known as Palestine. A diversity of views within the Jewish community is emphasized very much by all the histories of the captured in the Palestinian Jewry of the first century. The reason for diversity is mainly due to key issues that are separated the Jews along the teachings of Jesus.

Paul was one of the Diaspora Jew was one of the few Jews that were attracted to Jesus teachings. He had a role of inviting and attracting non-Jews to the new movement of Christianity, an issue that vexed the Jews greatly and thus causing divisions whether these gentiles should be allowed to share the teaching of Jesus with the Jews. There soon emerged a gentile Christianity which obviously became inconsistent with the biblical Israel. The main issues that cause fragmentation s among the Jewish community are found in the gospels. The Jews knew the kind of Christianity they expected from the Gospels but had become witnesses of later modifications that was done on the Christian thinking to make a new influential version of Christianity (Chazan, 2004).

 Write something about the social, religious and political groups

Zealots are among the “revolutionary” groups that had mounted resistance to the occupation of the Romans in the land of Israel during the first century. They comprised of any Jew who were zealous to keep Go’s law and hence the zealots were not a specific organized group. They were identified as a nationalistic revolutionary party just before and after the Jews waged war against the Romans. Simon Peter, one of Jesus disciple was known as “Simon the Zealot”

Essenes were a small sect that led a communal “monastic” lifestyle near the Dead Sea at a place known as Qumram from the beginning of 2nd century BCE to all through the 1st century. They were originally thought to be a group of priests established by a “teacher of righteousness” but later rejected the validity of the temple worship. They therefore neither attended the festivals nor supported the temple services. There hope was that God was going to send a mighty prophet accompanied by two Messiahs, one of which was to be a king and a priest.

Pharisees,

The Pharisees comprised of very influential Jews whose teachings advocated the strict observance of the Sabbath rest, rituals tithing, purity, and a lot of eating and restrictions on food. They observed the laws so strictly. They were the political opponents of the Sadducees who sought to influence rulers and people. Some were priests, scribes or rabbis and sometimes laymen. They were always seeking faults of Jesus to as to accuse him of various issues they believed were against the laws of GOD.

Sadducees were also a prominent group in Palestine whose life and activity is recorded between 2nd century BCE and 1st century CE. Although a smaller group compared to the Pharisees, they were more influential. They were the main political and religious rivals of the Pharisees and the Herodias and this was boosted by a wealthy class of people who were rulers at the time. They were respectful of the Jerusalrm temple and the ruling council. They are also portrayed as enemies of Jesus by the Gospels.

Herodians are given the name probably supported the Herodian family’s policies and therefore government. They are known to have conspired with Pharisees to kill Jesus at his infancy and later they wanted to trap Jesus with questions of tax.

Scribes were trained in writing that had the responsibilities of interpreting and teaching law and hence could be lawyers by extension. They were also used as the agents of rulers.  They never formed any organization but they were supporters of other readily formed organizations or parties. They were enemies of Jesus and sought to have him put to death. In addition, they sought to seek the lives of the early Christian church. Some of the scribes were however good and were praised by Jesus.

Priests were men chosen from the house of Levi. They took full charge of the temple activities such as sacrifices. They were both religious and social leaders among the Jewish people. Their role was mainly to conduct various cultic/ ritual practices of the temple which included ofrring sacrifices. The High priest was appointed annually although reappointments of members of the Annas and Caiphas families were observed in the first century. The chief priests were opposed to Jesus since they were members of the ruling authorities which were challenged by his teachings.

John the Baptist’s Group are the disciples of John the Baptist became Christians. They ended up forming an effective ministry that worked had to preach and spread the gospel so that those who believed were baptized for the remission of their sins. These disciples who were present during his lifetime persisted even after his death (Jewish Groups in New Testament Times, n.d.).

3. Why do you think scholars have often suggested that St. Paul does more to influence the direction and theology of Christianity than Christ himself?

Paul went among all forks to spread the gospel of Jesus. His conversion was an incredible story in Paul’s life as well as all the Jews and gentiles who had witnessed his persecution of Christians. For better or for worse and undaunted, Paul did the most to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the first person, even before Jesus Christ, to cross the borders to reach out to the gentiles hence becoming a great Christian missionary to this group of discriminated people with regards to the plan of salvation. He travelled wider in different cities than Jesus did without fear of death. Jesus had to seek refuge from the indignation of those who sought to kill him before his time to die for the sins of man kind before he completed his earthly ministry. Paul was also filled with the Holy Spirit which urged him to all the places he went. The suffering that Paul was subjected to was incomparable (Tracing the Steps of the Apostle Paul – Truth in History, n.d.).

 Who is Paul’s ministry aimed at?

The main target of Paul’s ministry is the gentiles, a group that had not been mentioned from the plan of salvation launched by God to his chosen race, the Israelites or the Jews. He was also referred to as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul was perceived as the most brilliant preacher and personality to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to other lands such as the Cyprus, Asia Minor (the contemporary Turkey), Mainland Greece, Crete and Rome. His main task was also to send a message to the Jews that torah was not necessary for their salvation (St Paul Biography,n.d).

 

How and why did he write these Epistles?

There are thirteen epistles which can be accredited to Paul in the New Testament. The church was expanding very fast through so many ministries which were being opened as a result of Paul‘s preaching. Soon it became difficult for Paul to continue preaching to other new places and at the same time respond to the main challenges which were emerging in the already opened churches. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was able to write several letters, otherwise known as epistles to this church. Some of the epistles were meant to encourage the Christians to continue fellowshipping together in faith.

What were the early communities that Paul addressed in his letters like?

Some of letters, especially the letters to the churches in Corinth, Antioch,  Laodicea, Corinth, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians among others have a message specific to each of them according to their needs. The message to these groups was an elaborate explanation of the gospel they ere expected to hold firm to and how to resolve some of the disputes that arose among the believers.

How does Paul’s Roman citizenship aid in his spread of the faith?

Being a roman citizen, he showed a great understanding of the Greco-Roman rhetoric as well as literature. For example, Paul is able to refer to some of the Gentile poems and plays in many occasions such as in Aeropagus in Acts 17 and in verse 28 Paul quoted the poem Cretica. This is some of the tactics he used to create a good relationship with the crowd and pass and emphasize his message to the masses in the language they understood best. He was however careful to uphold his Jewish foundation and therefore he never allowed the culture and influences of the Roman culture interfere or dilute the message which he wanted to pass (Paul: A Citizen of Two Cities | Reading Acts, n.d.).

References

Chazan, R. (2004) Fashioning Jewish Identity in Medieval Western Christendom: New York. Cambridge University Press

Becker, J. (1998). Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Gregory Riley: Jesus the Hellenistic Hero. (n.d.). Early Christian Writings: New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/jesus/gregoryriley.html

Houlden, J. L. (2005). Jesus: the complete guide. London: Continuum

Jewish Groups in New Testament Times. (n.d.). Catholic Resources – Felix Just, S.J.. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Jewish_Groups.htm

Paul: A Citizen of Two Cities | Reading Acts. (n.d.). Reading Acts | Some Thoughts on the Book of Acts and Pauline Theology. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://readingacts.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/paul-a-citizen-of-two-cities/

St Paul Biography – Saint Paul Profile, St Paul Childhood, Life & Timeline. (n.d.). Famous People – Famous People in History, Famous People List & Biography. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/st-paul-91.php

Tracing the Steps of the Apostle Paul – Truth in History. (n.d.). Home – Truth in History. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://truthinhistory.org/tracing-the-steps-of-the-apostle-paul.html

 

W eek 8

6. Write an essay about Sufism (you might need to do some additional outside research).

Sufism

      Tasawwwuf (Sufism) is the inner psycho-spiritual view of Islam although nowadays most of them believe that it is not within their faith. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a senior muslim scholar agues that Sufism is just a name for the inner dimension of Islam. Traditional Sufi scholars identify Sufism as a science whose objectives is the reimbursement of the human heart and make it to adore only God and nothing else while Ahmad ibn Ajida, a Sufi teacher terms it as science through which people can understand how to move closer to God and change their traits. The Sufis consider themselves as the original true believers of the Islam faith but they are opposed by the Wahhabi and Salafist Muslims.

Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century described Sufism as a dedication to serve Allah with all your heart without hindrance from worldly materials and wealth. Sufis stress that Islamic teachings should not only be learnt from books but people should also be taught by teachers, they believe that it will be better since students will emulate their teachers. The Sufis have greatly influenced the Muslims history through years, for instance Rumi, Omar and Al-Ghazali who are Sufi teachers have some of their ideas quoted by western philosophers, writers and theologians. The Sufis have played an essential role in spreading the Islamic religion to various parts of the world such as Africa, India and the Far East. Sufis understand their intention in life from the Qur’an (51:56) which states, ‘I created the Jinns and humankind only that they may worship me.’ From the verse it is argued that the Sufis belong to Tariqas or commands that were set not many centuries after the pass away of the prophet and it is known to Sufis that these orders are to be taught by a master.

Despite the long history of the Tariqas, Muslims doubt them saying that they were unfamiliar to the prophet himself hence there is no need for them to abide by them. The Sufis then convincingly use the Qur’an and Sunna to protect them although they themselves agree that the Tariqas were not established by the prophet, they tell that they were established by the prophet’s companions and their direct successors. Sufis are known as stanch Muslims who pray five times a day, giving support to the unable as charity, practice fasting among other practices. They are also known to also rigorously hold on to the outward observance of Islam but they are idiosyncratic in fostering theirs and others’ spiritual facet. They practice Dhikr by chanting Allah’s divine names, verses from the Qua’ran or the sayings of the prophet in honoring Allah. Dhikr is considered as a basis of serenity for Sufis. ‘They believe that devotion to the Sharia manifests in the limbs and Dhikr manifest in the heart with the result that the outward is sober, the inner is drunk on divine love.’ They use this saying to tell the status in which Dhikr leaves them (Sufism, n.d.)

7. You could also write an essay about Islam religious architecture

Islam religious architecture

Islamic architecture comprise of a number of religious arts of different styles and shapes. The Tahleel the most recognized mughal architecture that was known as akbar fort. Its main and popular architecture types include the mosque, the tomb, the palace and the fort. The most recognized Islamic structural style came soon after Muhammad’s time. It was known as The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) found in Jerusalem and it’s one of the most recognized Muslim structures. This mosque is renowned for its circular dome and the use of decorated arabesque patterns. There was also the desert palace in Jordan and Syria which served caliphs as living quarters, reception halls, and baths and the Germanic Visigoths found in Spain.

The ‘Arab plan’ was developed when modern concepts and styles were put into practice; they introduced a court and hypostyle prayer hall when they build the Great Mosque of Damascus which was constructed on top of the ancient temple of Jupiter and in place of the basilica of St. John the Baptist. There are some buildings that still date back to the period of Prophet Muhammad for example the Juatha mosque that is found in Saudi Arabia (Islamic Architecture, n.d.).

Some of the styles used in Islamic architecture

Persian style

Most of the Islamic architecture was adopted from Persia. This was the time when there was competition for governance among the Tahirids, Samanids, Ghaznavids and Ghurids where the main element was art. Great cities were constructed including the construction of the Great Mosque of Isfahan thus this greatly cultivated architecture. Some of the Mosques that were built in the Persian style are; the Shah Mosque constructed in 1629 in Isfahan Iraq, Friday Mosque in Afghanistan and the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Afghanistan. These Mosques are characterized by their tapered bricks, large arcades and arches supported by a number of pillars.

Azerbaijani architecture

Nakchivan and Shirvan-Absheron schools of architecture were based in Azerbaijani and this was infuluenced by the conquest of Persia. Examples of this architecture are the mausoleum of Yusuf which was constructed in 1162, the Bibi-Heybat in Buku and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. These architectures are characterized by the use of stones instead of bricks for building, stone carvings and were not symmetrical.

Turkistan architecture

It was introduced by Timur and reinforced by his successor and it led to emergence of Mughal School of art after the decline of IIkhanid, Indian school of art. The style is characterized by its axial symmetry and double domes of different shapes. Examples are; the Shah-e Zendahin Samarkand and mosque of Gowhar Shad in Mashhad.

Ottoman architecture

It was inspired by the Hagia Sophia. Most of these mosques are found in Turkey. They are characterized very large interior spaces and massive domes. Examples include the Blue mosque in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in India among others.

Other styles include; the Indo-Islamic architecture in south Asia, Sino-Islamic style of China, Indonesian-Malay style in Indonesia and Somali-Islamic architecture in Somali. Some of the elements used to identify the Islamic architecture are; towers, four-iwan plan which contains three subsidiary halls and one main hall, prayer recess on an inside wall, domes and cupolas, Pishtaq which is the official entrance to the iwan, the use of mocarabe and muqarnas and central fountains used for ablutions (Period, n.d.).

 

 

 

8. Trace the history and philosophy of the Sikh faith.

History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith

        The Sikh religion started in 1469 and for that reason it is the youngest religion in the world but most organized in fact it is ranked number five in the world. Its name ‘Sikh’ means disciple in the Punjabi language. The religion was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev of Talwandi village in Pakistan. They call their God ‘Wahe-guru’ which means God is great.

Guru Nanak’s urge to adventure the challenges of life made him to leave his home when he was thirty year old. The Sikhs believe that he submerged when he was bathing in a stream in his native home. The man came three days later claiming that there is no Hindu or Muslim faith and this is when he introduced and started to spread Sikhism religion. The faith emerged due to constant conflict and misunderstandings between the Hindus and Muslims. These conflicts gave path to the emergence of a movement of people from both the Hindu and Muslim faiths whose main agenda was to unite the two by making them to understand that God is one and the only difference is His name. Nanak took two people one from the Hindu faith and another from the Muslim faith and conducted various trips confessing that he belonged to non of the two religions, he preached out that he was a ‘Truth’ follower hence the name Sikh. He continued with his mission criticizing Hindus for their unreal rituals and the Muslims for their maltreatment of the Hindus and their cunning ways of convincing people to their religion. Guru Nanak was able to gain followers and therefore he became the first leader of the Sikh faith.

After his death, Guru had ten successors namely Guru Angad who was born in 1504, Guru Amar Das, born in 1479, Guru Ram Das born in 1534, Guru Arjan Dev, 1563, Guru Har Gobind, 1595, Guru Har Rai, 1630, Guru Har Kishan, 1656, Guru Tegh Bahadur, 1621, Guru Gobind Singh, 1666 and Guru Granth Sahib. In the modern days the Sikh formed a committee known as the Shiromani Grdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The committee held a meeting in 12th December 1920 to form a constitution for the Sikhs

The Sikhs’ philosophy is that there is only one God but with different names in every faith. They also believe in monotheism, they also understand that God has no shape; he is timeless and cannot be seen by the eyes. They also teach that god is everywhere (omnipresent) and has power over everything. Their believe about creation is that in the beginning there was only God and his will (hukam) which he used to create the whole universe, Nanak believed that God should be seen from inner ‘eye’ or ‘heart’ of a human being. Nanak stressed that it is through meditation that one gets revelation, through meditation Sikhs believe that one is able to converse with God spiritually. The Sikh faith does not teach about a final destination of heaven or hell but believe that salvation will be a spiritual union with God and his people. Their believe is that being born is unfortunate and therefore people have to make good use of this chance, they believe that people should lead a life where they can move everywhere without restrictions (Chakar Vati).

Hey teach that people deviate from salvation due to material attraction which only gives worldly satisfaction. They teach that ego, anger, greed, lust and material attachment are the five evils that widen the gap between god and his people. Gurus Nanak taught that a Sikh should balance work, devotion and aid and should always as much as possible defend the rights of all that God created and chiefly fellow beings. Finally the Sikhs believe that race; sex or religion will not separate people from God since all are equal in the eyes of God (“History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith N.p., n.d).

Reference

“History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith – Google Search.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2013. <http://www.google.co.ke/search?printsec=frontcover&dq=History+and+Philosophy+of+the+Sikh+Faith&hl=en&redir_esc=y&q=History%20and%20Philosophy%20of%20the%20Sikh%20Faith&sa=N&tab=pw

Period, T. (n.d.). The Nature of Islamic Art | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Home. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/orna/hd_orna.htm

Sufism. (n.d.). www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sufism_1.shtm

Islamic Architecture. (n.d.). google. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from https://www.google.com/search?q=Islam+religious+architecture&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-beta

 

 

 

 

 

Week 9 July 14th    –    July 20th

2.  Outline the growth and development of Christianity in any one area outside Western Europe or North America (Japan, China, Africa, Russia, Mexico, South America, Caribbean, etc.).

Growth of Christianity in Africa

In Africa Christianity started in the middle of the first century and by the end of the second century it had spread to the region around Carthage. Some of the people who played vital role in the early growth of Christianity in Africa include Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo. The introduction and spread of Islam in the Northern part of Africa limited Christianity both in number and congregations.

Colonial rule in Africa stimulated the growth of Christianity since the colonial administrator and Christian missionaries both had a common world view. The administrators also protected the missionaries through maintenance of law and order hence it was secure for the missionaries to move around and spread Christianity. The emergence of proper means of communication also aided the spread of Christianity. Christian missionaries were able to develop Christianity in Africa through education which gave Africans a more enlightened view over Christianity. Through education Africans were able to read, understand and translate the Bible into their native languages thus appreciated Christianity. King Ezana of the Aksum kingdom in Ethiopia declared Christianity a national religion during the early period of the 4th century. This led to the introduction of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church (The Explosion of Christianity in Africa).

The conquest of Northern Africa by the Arabs affected the spread of Christianity in the region due to the introduction the Islamic religion. The Muslim regimes in Tunis ordered Christians there to convert into Islam. The church lacked the power of monastic tradition and that negatively influenced its development in the region up to date. However present reports say that the Roman Catholic Church remained strong in western Libya and Morocco until the end of the Arab conquest. The monastic tradition also persisted in Coptic Egypt and this encouraged the Coptic Church to remain strong with majority of worshipers in the country. Some Berber Christians in Tunis resisted to convert into Islam, hence extended Christianity to the south of Tunisia. The conquest of Algeria and Tunis by the French revived the growth and development of Catholicism in the region.

In the modern days Christianity has shown a vast growth in Africa. This growth has been facilitated by the African Evangelism which has replaced the European missionaries. In the year 2000 reports indicated that there were 380million in Africa compared to only 9million in the 1900 (A History of African Christianity 1950-1975 – Adrian Hastings – Google Books, n.d).

3.  Write an essay about Eastern Orthodoxy including aspects that you have found interesting and essential to a balanced discussion.

The Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodoxy is a Christianity tradition that traces its origin back to the 5th and 6th centuries. The church emerged due to the existence of ongoing misunderstandings between Rome and West churches and this led to division and loss of fellowship in the sacrament. It is believed that Eastern Orthodoxy was introduced by Jesus’ companions who were referred to as apostles. Jesus taught the apostles about faith and practices which the apostles passed on to the disciples and their churches thus these practices have been passed on from generation to another.

The term ‘Orthodox’ means ‘correct belief and correct practice’ therefore the Orthodox churches believe that they are following a correct path to salvation. Eastern Orthodoxy sternly believes that the Bible is their main source of holy traditions though it is not wholly by itself the source of their faith.  The Bible did also not led to the spread of this new faith as people had already turned to it since they had heard about it in preaching services. They also believe that the sermons and the traditions were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They claim to be the only holy catholic and apostolic church that was established by Jesus who gave the apostles the authority to take care of it (BBC – Religions, n.d).

During the Middle Ages Christianity grew gradually into the rural areas. During this time most Christians were found in the East (Greek areas) but the church slowly took roots into the West (Latin region). Situations forced Rome Bishops and Popes to change and fit into the new orders that were introduced by the ruling Emperors, they had to talk and agree on some issues that forced them to adjust so as to bring balance between the church and the rulers. Constantinople joined the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and this led to the introduction of the Eastern Orthodox Church into Egypt which was dominated by Islam for seven centuries. The Greek Orthodox Church gained much power during the Ottoman rule hence its growth. The Eastern Orthodox was separated from the west in 1453 due to the fall of Constantinople and the conquest of the Byzantine Empire over the Ottoman Empire. This forced the church to be under the hostile Islam religion thus limiting its growth. However there was the Russian Orthodox which was not under the Ottoman Empire therefore it was not affected by the Byzantine Empire.

The renaissance of the Roman Empire in 1375 to 1520 revived the development of the Orthodoxy. The pope became a much respected person among leaders thus made it easier for the expansion of the church. The ruling lords aided in the reconstruction of churches and building of new ones. St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed on the site of the early known Constantinian basilica. There was also improved culture interchange between the Greeks and Italians as a result of philosophy. They exchanged good ideas that encouraged humanity and influenced the growth of the church.

Today the Orthodox Church is ranked as the second largest Christian church on earth with approximately 225 to 300 followers. Majority of the followers are found in Eastern and Southern parts of Europe and in the Middle East. Some of the countries that this religion has flourished include; Belarus, Cyprus, Montenegro, Romania, Jordan, Israel, Syria among others. The church’s leadership is divided into various church bodies that differ geographically sometimes nationally but they are similar in theology and worship. Important aspects are such as believe in trinity, believe in salvation, resurrection of Christ and them ague to be the true believers.

6. Choose one non-Christian contemporary movement and trace its history, philosophy and practices

Paganism

Paganism is an earthly religion where people do not believe in the existence of God. Early people believed that everything had a spirit. They worshiped many different gods; they had gods concerning every aspect of nature. Pagans do not believe in the existence of heaven or hell but they believe in recreation. They believe that when the body dies, it is reborn as another different creature. The ancient paganism religions were the Roman faith and the ancient Greek faith.

The ancient Roman religion worshiped the earth, sky, sun, sea and many other natural things. They had a cathedral of gods that were led by Jupiter; father of the gods, mars; god of war, Diana; moon goddess; juno; goddess of woman and childbirth and many others. The Greek’s also believed in many gods and their god was led by god Zeus.

The spread of paganism was limited since it had no missionary and the spread of Christianity and Muslim affected its expansion. However the empire times facilitated the growth of paganism to other regions beyond Greek and Rome. International trade also facilitated the spread of this religion. Roman conquest in Britain also led to introduction of paganism into the region. Paganism was revived between 1930s and 1950s where a variety of scholars explored the early spirituality of the British Isles by collecting and recording traditional folktales. Also Sir James Frazer wrote an article attacking Christianity saying that it traces its roots from paganism. There was also the introduction and growth of Wicca and the church of Aphrodite in New York that was founded by Gleb Botkin. Other authors who facilitated the renaissance of paganism were: Susan Weed, Diane Stein, Z.Budapest, Carol J. Adams, and Carolyn Merchant.

In their philosophy, they believe that nature is sacred and humans have to show respect to it. They also don’t believe in the existence of one God as Christians do. Pagans also believe that there is no heaven or hell and that after death one is reborn into another thing and they also adore that every living thing has a soul. They consider suffering as being a real experience and it is not in any way related to evil; to them evil is just a metaphysical concept. They also believe that humanity is also part of nature hence they are just alike.

Pagans perform a number of rituals as a form of honoring nature for instance the Wicca perform rituals during the new and full moon so as to pay tribute to the goddess of the moon. They also have eight holidays in their calendar which they refer to as ‘the wheel of the year.’ Most pagans also believe in magic which is divided into two that is, thaumaturgy meaning work of wonders and theurgy (the divine work) (Modern Age, n.d)

References

A History of African Christianity 1950-1975 – Adrian Hastings – Google Books. (n.d.). Google Books. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=ZEI5AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Growth+of+Christianity+in+Africa&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6

Modern Age. (n.d.). Patheos | Hosting the Conversation on Faith. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.patheos.com/Library/Pagan/Historical-Development/Modern-Age.html

The Explosion of Christianity in Africa – 2001-Now Church History Timeline. (n.d.). Christianity – Faith in God, Jesus Christ – Christian Living, Trivia. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/2001-now/the-explosion-of-christianity-in-africa-11630859.html

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 10   July 21st –   27th

4. Do some research on Interfaith and Ecumenical movements in America?

Ecumenical movement is formed with an intention of uniting the whole world in one religious order. This would include the sharing of faith and other common understanding of issues contemporary affecting the contemporary world such as poverty eradication, social-economic development, environmental protection and conservation and political stability among others. Denominations and interconfessional are the two common terms that would best define ecumenical movements. Ecumenical organizations most often are characterized by the most extensive structures and services, since they draw their supported from a large number of Christian churches. These different denominations have doctrines and beliefs which differ radically but for various reasons as suggested above they put the differences aside to form a unit.

For many of the organizations, their interfaith relationships focus so much on including the   Jews, if at all, as a result of the historic presence of these groups in these communities and also due to early attempts observed within the ecumenical movements. The main objective of these efforts is to understand and develop relationships which are appreciative by the Jews and the rest of the world. The interfaith activities of ecumenical organizations are also limited by their bylaws, which indicate that they are to work primarily with fellow Christians, for Christian unity and service. The ecumenism movements target grassroots interfaith gatherings which have been developing harmonious relationships.

 

 

6.  Write an essay about ecology and religion. Try to include the perspectives of at least three different groups

The relationship of religion and ecology has only been created recently. The relationship does not discriminate on the two disciplines of religion but ecology of religion tends to compare a range of disciplines and cultures which also varies with different locations of the world. Ecology of religion describes the how human beings relate to their environment by either conforming or trying to improve the environment. The improvement is possibly done by altering, developing and shaping it with the hope of eventually perfecting it. The concepts of “world religion” are related environmental themes. There are religious-ecological innovation have been set-up to explore environmental issues which enable religion to gain relevance.

Religion has relevance to environmental issues such as moral and spiritual nature and the religion’s ability to react through spiritually and morally engaging modernity which are countercultural and prophetic. As a result, the moral and religious culture has been involved in finding solutions of challenges brought about by environmental issues. Thus, provide environmental issues play a role in revitalizing religion and provides an arena in which religion expresses itself both in the

Ecology of religion presents religion as occurring in specific contexts. There are sacred places which have been identified in some geographic sites which are used as the spaces for holding ritual celebrations. Such places function as reference points of convergence and presence to create an environment of practical significance. A good example is Jerusalem that was established on Mt. oria where Abraham wanted to sacrifice Isaac, Solomon came to build his Temple in the same place and finally it became the honored place for Muslims since it is where the prophet Mohamed sought for protection in July 16, 622. The point where the Shinto sanctuary of the Ise, is erected is very significant in Japan’s religious culture. This is the spot believed to be where Amaterasu, the goddess of Japan landed on the Earth.

The concerns of the environment together with the religious action and reaction which results from them sometimes become challenging concepts of social and personal identity necessitating reassessment and change. The action may involve encouraging, comparing, using, stimulating and combines religious traditions of various backgrounds which is necessary for comprehending and re-interpreting the environment and the role man plays within and to it. The combination makes it easier to challenge destructive views concerning the environment and proposing the constructive ones. Based on this, religion is partly responsible for dynamic development in the contemporary world.

Besides the positive contributions observed in the combination of religion and ecology (environment), there have been discontents which connected with this combination. This is not limited to economic and technological advancements, but also affects moral spiritual and social issues. For instance, it has led to a socially constructed disenchanted or rather disacralised way by which the world is looked upon. As a result of exploitation of ecological resources to create wealth and to expand, religion has been disempowered and in various ways declined. This could be due to the deleterious impact of the modern technology environment to continuously evoke ethical responses   from those people whom modernity has segregated from the moral resources necessary to ensure the effects are completely addressed (Watling, n.d).    

      

7.  Write an essay about violence and religion. Try to include the perspectives of at least three different groups

 

Religious violence is the type of violence that is commanded or recommended by God and therefore someone or a certain group of people believe that they have been divinely ordained to punish or inflict any form of physical harm on another person or organization.  Religious violence has existed for quite a long time which cannot easily be determined and therefore it is not new. It can also not be associated to one particular faith and country, not limited only to people who are evil and it cannot be a justification for getting rid of a religion. Nothing is seemingly capable of calming the hatred, brutality and passions observed in the name of religion. Advance in science and technology has provided new ways by which the religious extremists attack, kill and destroy their targets in a more effective way.

Religious violence may be manifested through terrorist activities, war, regressions and revolutions. For instance, the thoughts we have about our religion and the prejudiced misconceptions of the relationship of one religion to the other which are passed on across all generations can be a source of good information to answer the question why there could be religious violence and the nature of its manifestations. This is one of the causes of revolutions such as that of Martin Luther that led to religious reformations.

Consider how the past and sometimes in today’s world fervent believers in practicing their religious faith have destroyed great structures of property and killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. These are terrorism activities witnessed in all parts of the world especially where the dominant religion is Islam and Christians are fewer. There are militia groups almost every part of the world, of different levels of organization, amassing support from different levels and forms of formal or informal institutions and with different objectives to be met to think of themselves successful. The militant groups normally arise from various communities with a given dominant religions and therefore, the exercise of their violence always have a target. The groups are always organized to form networks within a small community in a country, in a country or it may cross the borders to become an international menace. The main goal of such networks is to destroy all the people, organizations or authorities which are opposed to their religious goals.

In America, there is a growing trend of forming movements that are opposed to some religious organizations are advocating for some religious rights. Some of these are namely, white supremacist, militant anti-abortion groups neo-Nazi groups.  It was claimed that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma Federal Building bomber had associations with some these groups. The Christian faith and teaching prohibits retaliations since God says in the bible that “vengeance is mine” and this could be the reasons why there is less retaliatory moves by the Christians against some types of Islamic militants who frequently attack them. Similarly, many of the extreme American fundamentalist Christian groups regard the mainline Christian denominations not to be  truly Christian, a claim that has  triggered, necessitated and justified  some of the world’s worst violent confrontations all taking place in the name of God and the main objective is to protect true and faithful Christianity according to the Christian extremists.

The main question, however, is whether religion’s unique understanding of morality in a way that transcends many of the other structures in the society compromises the justification of violence if not fully participating in it. Religion has the ability to provide life with meaning, security and order as well as sacralization of the activities of humans. This is what seems to make the faithful to engage in what is commonly referred to as “holy terror” in order to protect religious truth and defend God (Bromley & Melton, 2002).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

BBC – Religions – Christianity: Eastern Orthodox Church. (n.d.). BBC – Homepage. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/easternorthodox_1.shtml

Bromley, D. G., & Melton, J. G. (2002). Cults, religion, and violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

FitzGerald, T. E. (2004). The ecumenical movement an introductory history. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Conn.

Watling, T. (n.d.). The Field of Religion and Ecology: Addressing the Environmental Crisis and Challenging Faiths | Tony Watling – Academia.edu. Academia.edu – Share research. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://academia.edu/427942/The_Field_of_Religion_and_Ecology_Addressi

Comparative Religions

Name of Student

Name of Institution

 

 

 

Comparative Religions

Week 4    June 9th –   15th

Buddhism

1. Differences and similarities between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism

Theravada and Mahayana are the two main branches of Buddhism. They are similar in several aspects such as both accept Sakyamuni as their teacher. The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Dependent Origination in both schools are identical. Both forms accept the Annica, Dukka, Panna, Anntta and Sila but reject the idea of a supreme being who is thought to have created and also governed the world.

The two main divisions of Budhism differ in several ways. The differences are based certain aspects which can also be highlighted. The understanding of Buddha, Theravada accepts only the historical Gautama named Sakyamuni and past buddhas while Mahayana accept other contemporary buddhas like Medicine Buddha and the Amitabha. On the organization of the Buddhism scripture, Theravada has the Pali Canon with three baskets which are Vinaya, Sutta Pitaka and Abidhamma. In contrast, Mahayana has 12 divisions of various topics such as Cause, Conditions and Verses. About the Trikaya concept, the Theravada emphasis on the three Buddha bodies but on nirmana and dharma-kaya whiles it is highly emphasized in Mahayana.

The transmission route of the two types of Buddhism occurred differently. Theravada is a southern transmission, that is, through Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia.  For Mahayana, had a northern transmission which was through, Tibet, china, Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia and other parts of southern Asia. Theravada uses Pali in teaching Tipitaka while Dharma is taught in Pali supplemented with local language, while in Mahayana the Buddhist canon is in available local translations with the exception of five untranslatables. In Theravada, the sakyamuni Buddha’s disciples are basically historical disciples regardless of whether they are arahats or commoners. In contrast, the disciples in Mahayana involve the introduction of many bodhisattvas by Sakyamuni Buddha.  A majority of these are not historical bodhisattvas.

Considering rituals and liturgy, a few are present but less emphasized in Theravada than in Mahayana where, because of influences by the local culture, the rituals are highly emphasized which may include rituals for the feeding of Petas and those of the deceased. The two regard dying and death aspects distinctively. In Theravada, there is minimal research on dying and death processes but it is noted that when a person is dying, meditation for impermanence, emptiness and suffering are encouraged. In contrast, there is a lot of research on dying and death processes is meticulously done by the Vijrayana School on Mahayana. The researchers suggest many signs manifested before the death of a person and that there is much stress experienced by the dying person as a result of the heavy task of transferring the person’s merit practices a few weeks before the death of the person to assist him in the next rebirth after the person’s death. Concerning worship in the temple, Sakyumuni Buddha is the central point of worship in Theravada in a simple layout of the temple while that of Mahayana is quite elaborate hall to accommodate Sakyamuni Buddha and two other of his disciples (Comparing Similarities and Differences, n.d).

 

 

2. Explain some of the key concepts in Buddhism such as: dharma, dukkha, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, anicca, kamma, nirvana, sunyata, bodhisattvas, and the sangha.

The Concept of Dharma is made up of seven meanings which comprise of the transcendent reality, quality or property, the order or law of the universe, right behavior and religious practice, a truly real event, Buddha’s teaching and objective data of the mind. Dharma focuses on the ‘teaching” of Buddha and it is based on the good conduct of people in their general life but a specific requirement is to put into practice what Buddha’s teachings teaches about good conduct and having the ability to constitute Buddha’s path. It also encourages a realization of ‘truth” which arises from these practices of Buddhist path. The concept of dharma also refers to the fundamental mental or physical “thing” or “state’ which as described in plurality, for instance, in the scriptures of Abhidhamma, tends to be conceived as a “reality’ of the world in some sense. Whatever nature or quality anything posses may also be associated with dharma.

The Concept of dukkha is one of the three doctrines which form the ‘three marks” of existence which is translated, it means unsatisfactoriness. Its recognition of these essential characteristics together with two others by observing all things related to it is synonymous for the true nature of reality to penetrate.   

The Concept of Four Noble Truths

The first Noble Truth is described as “suffering” which a literal translation of dukka in the Pali. In its Buddhist context, the term implies “unsatisfatoriness”. It also asserts that all things, from the trivial ones to the most sophisticated one are impermanent hence are passing away anytime and this includes all human beings as well. This means that there is no soul

The Concept of Eightfold Path

The Concept of anicca (pali) is one of three doctrines of constituting the ‘three marks” of existence. It also denotes the physical realm which refers to the constant changing of everything in nature as a result of the inevitable cause and effect operation. Therefore, the constant change characteristic of the sentient beings is responsible for the term annata. By following the eight fold path, one is able to overcome personal desires and hence eliminate suffering.

This path leads to attaining nirvana which is defined by several achievements. The path begins with having the right belief which enables one to ensure that the Four Noble Truths are recognized and understood. Next is having the right intention, a requirement that a disciple pursues a goal with single-mind set and this becomes the major aim. The right to speech requires one to choose one’s words with an aim of avoiding lying, uncharitable talk, gossip and idle chatter. A right action also forms part of the path which entails avoiding what is wrong according to the society of one origin and ability is to be motivated by leading a selfless life and works of charity.

The Noble Eight-fold Path is also about the right livelihood which is a strict instruction barring start of occupations which will be a source of harm to other people. It also follows that a right effort is vital to prevent and do away with evil desires and an effort to foster good impulses. In addition, a right mindfulness is fundamental for everyone since it requires a steady focus to one’s thoughts, feelings and most importantly actions (The noble eightfold path (2nd ed.), 1994).

 

The Concept of kamma

The concept of nirvana,

The concept is about a state of bliss which is a condition which puts someone to attain limits beyond what the mind can perceive or even feel. It arises from following the eight-fold path. Nirvana is the highest degree of deep meditation that that enables one to achieve God consciousness. The person who has reached nirvana is said to have broken free of samasra which is the reincarnation cycle as well as free of suffering which characterizes all forms of life on Earth. The individual’s life is no longer under the bondage of obsession and the biggest problem of man of earthly concerns. In addition to attaining elevated levels of compassion and wisdom, the person enjoys perfect peace state in the whole of his life.  This is what is historically described as Buddha’s enlightenment hence for Buddhists; it takes a very long time to reach this highest state (Goonewardene, 1994).

4. Write about the importance of monasticism or meditation in Buddhist tradition.

Meditation is a mind transforming practice among the Buddhists which consists of techniques that are important in encouraging and enabling an individual to develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity and staying calm so as to experience the true nature of the environment. The aim of the different practices is to learn one‘s patterns and possible habits of the mind, in addition to cultivating and nurturing new but positive ways of being. It is a taxing practice since regular work and patience are needed form. They are focused states of the sand which might deepen,   eventually producing a profoundly into peaceful and energized states. The experience of the ordained can have transformative effect which is the main objective is to lead the meditating person to a new but better understanding.

In Thailand, meditation practice plays an important social role which greatly influences the psychological benefits which have been experienced by people and others they can possibly find as they practice meditation. Meditation is expected to create a new perception, one that is agreeable to the ethical principles of a Buddhist. The technique assists the mediator to interact with the internal as well as external sensory phenomena in different specific ways. Meditation is a vital practice in Buddhism although statistics show that it has developed different variations between different traditions existing among the Buddhist communities (Gross and Muck, 2003).

The entire daily schedule, the bureaucratic organization, spatial layout and social interaction characteristic of the monastery are centered on meditation.  Regarded as life’s central act, meditation becomes an important means by which one gets to know more about oneself. Hence, it is very important to meditate at all. It is expected that the mindfulness be cultivated through practicing meditation as a formal activity which then should develop into a continuous state of mind such as waking and sleeping. Meditation is so powerful that it is able to avoid being attached to the world and worldly things.

There are two types of meditation. Tranquility meditation (samatha) helps those who are meditating to have a still mind so that it can concentrate. This is to enable the mind to achieve its goal of progressing through the stages dhyanas. The stages are, first, lack of involvement in the external world so as to have joy and tranquility. Second stage, this meditation enables the Buddhists to concentrate in meditation by suppression any reasoning and investigation which can contribute to better decisions. Third stage is loss of joy but tranquility remains. Fourth and last, tranquility passes away which results in pure possession. The other type of meditation is Insight Meditation (Vipassana) which helps the one meditating to experience the truths of suffering, impermanence and the concept of “no-self”.

Monastic promote a way of life committed to wisdom and to show compassion notwithstanding the world full of suffering, materialism, choking with anger and war. The monastic life, according to Buddha, gives a meaningful way of living which is difficult for countless men and women to achieve. By shunning worldly responsibilities, people are able to grow quickly in their spiritual life since the spiritual path will have minimum distractions. The success of the monastic life is partly attributed to the vows they solemnly to remain celibate and at the same time maintain a high level of simplicity. Monasticism is also important since many monastic most often participate in voluntary social work, Drama, teaching and basic skills if they are found in poor communities (Thomas, et al, 2000).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Comparing Similarities and Differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism – Buddha Station – A Buddhism Tube Site (n.d.). Buddha Station – A Buddhism Tube Site – Explore Buddhism by video, tube and articles. Buddha Station.. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.buddhastation.com/buddhism-articles/comparing-similarities-and-differences-between-theravada-and-mahayana-buddhism/

Goonewardene, A. (1994). Buddhist scriptures. Oxford: Heinemann

Gross, R. M., & Muck, T. C. (2003). Christians talk about Buddhist meditation, Buddhists talk about Christian prayer. New York: Continuum.

The noble eightfold path: way to the end of suffering (2nd ed.). (1994). Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Thomas, J. P., Hero, A. C., & Constable, G. (2000). Byzantine monastic foundation documents: a complete translation of the surviving founders’ typika and testaments. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 5

1. Compare and contrast elements of Taoism with Confucianism. Be sure to include some of the following key concepts: yin & yang, chi, de (te), wu wei, harmony, relationships, filial piety, jen (ren), shu, li, hsueh.

Similarities

Taoism and Confucianism are both schools of philosophy that originate from the Chinese culture; both schools are influenced by the environment and nature, aristocrats were taught on how to live and work together with nature. Taoist and Confucians believe that a morally up right person should be self-cultivated, have humane virtues, respect the cultural rituals and adhere to the societal values that have been laid down back from the days of the ancient sage kings. A good person according to the two schools was also not supposed to cause chaos or disrupt peace among other people.

Both schools believed in several spirits that represented different forces of nature. For instance they believed in Yang who they referred to as the sunny side of mountain and Yin his couple who represented darkness. There was also Li who required people to behave in good manners in all situations and to the king. The spirit also required people to adhere to the king and respect the traditional rituals. Another cult was the Shu it was the expectations of one to do good to others the same way he or she would expect them to do to him or her. There was also Wu Wei that meant being quiet and avoid causing conflicts and that people should turn away from actions that were not natural, they also believed in Te that expected believer to live a simple spiritual life. Both believed that people should get closer to nature rather than civilization. Toa and Confucius were not creators. Both Confucianism and Taoism never taught about gods, their major concerns were nature and good relationships between people (Jones, 2011).

Differences

Taoism was introduced by Lao Tzu who was conceived by a wise mother who was a librarian at Zho dynasty while gazing at shooting stars on the other hand Confucianism, was founded by Confucius (Kngfu Zi). He was born in the time of political danger and fragmentation where he escaped death narrowly thus this boosted his spiritual life. Confucianism believed in education for organizing and shaping the society while Taoism did not rely much on education but on nature. Another difference between the two was that Taoism was engaged more on cosmic nature that is things like mountains, lakes, plants and others while Confucianism believed much in human nature.

The Taoist literature is brilliant, poetic, imaginary, full of paradox and contradicting while Confucianism’s literature was industrious and literal. Confucianism believes that each thing in nature is joined in line to the preceding thing hence people can change positively at any point within the chain while Taoism argue that everything is what it is in connection to another one. Taoism believes that a person should live in harmony with nature and be solitude; they do not rely much on relationships. They argue that people should do thing their own way to avoid conflicts and chaos, they expected people to dream in what existed in nature and realities. In contrary Confucianism anticipated that people should live in good relationships with others, they stressed on five major relationships that is father to son relationship, elder brother – brother relationship, husband – wife relationship, elder friend – younger relation and finally ruler – subject relation (Ruokanen & Huang, 2010).

6. Discuss Jainism along with its ideologies, scriptures and practices. Compare it to the Hindu culture from which it evolves. How is Jainism similar and dissimilar to Buddhism?

Ideologies

Jainism is an ancient traditional religion of the Jinas. It began in the 16th century in India and it was introduced by Mahavira. Its main ideology is the jiva which means, (The liberation of the self). They believe that the planet contains layers of heavens and hells and for one to pass through these strata he or she has to believe and adhere to the Jainism religion that emphasizes a disciplined and peaceful way of life. This people also believe in the ideology that a person must make boundaries between what is good and what is wrong, between self and non – self, between truth and falsehood, proper reasoning and nonsense and between surface and depth.

In Jainism ideologies are meant to establish good conduct among people. Ideologies also have to adhere to the societies cultural believes. Some of ideologies are; every living thing has a soul, every soul is eternally inherent though distinctively unrealized, every soul is the designer of its own life, now or after life, another ideology is that after a soul is freed from accumulated past actions, it is set free and cult-conscious. There is no mighty being, no celestial creator, owner, protector or wrecker, the earth is self-controlled and every soul has the power to reach the state of god-consciousness through self-efforts, one has to limit ownerships and live a pure life that is of use to one’s self and others; ownership does not mean possessing an object but if attached to it is what is known as possessiveness. (Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism, n.d)

Scriptures

Jainism scriptures involved the Agamas which were based on Mahavira’s teachings which were compiled by the word of mouth by the followers into different texts (Sutras0. These Sutras were all together known as Jain canonicals or Agamic literature. The Agamas contains forty five texts written in various languages including; Pakrit, Sanscrit, umaswati, Tamil, Hindustani, Kannada and Gujarati.

 Practices

 Jains practiced alongside other cultural practices. Monks and nuns had to abide by the following vows; no violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), no stealing (asteya), abstention (brahmachamnga) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Other practices include no eating in darkness or in front of a novice, monks are expected to be homeless, they are served on their hands to symbolize detachment from material possession. They worship in public places such as temples and wooden shrines. There meditation involved chanting of mantras which represent a sector of Jain worship and ritual.

Comparison between Jainism and Hinduism   

 Both religions believed in Karma where Jainism terms it as an invisible power while Hinduism believed that Karma sticks to the soul. They both believed that there will be liberation of the soul where Jainism accepted that there will be eternal life in heaven or the soul will join Brahman while Hinduism liberation in the loka(universe) hence both agree that there will be life after death. Both religions believe in the doctrine of Ahimsa (non-violence) and also they do not agree to the concept of a creator. (On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism, n.d).

Similarities between Jainism and Buddhism

            Both religions are branches of Shramana tradition that exists up to date; they both share many aspects and terminologies. These two are composed of four sectors in their organization. Both the Gautam of Buddha and Mahavira of Jain belong to princely families, they also don’t accept the existence of God and also reject the rule of Vedas and engagement in sacrifices and rituals. All of them are in agree with the theories of Karma, rebirth and Moksha, they both taught in Prakrit which was a common language and not in the Sanskrit which was a language of the priests. They all denied animal sacrifices and used followers from both sexes

Buddhism became divided into Mahayana and Hinayana while Jainism was divided into Svetambara and Digambara. Each one of them had three main sects (Tripataka), that is, Vinaypitak, Suttapitaka and Abidhamma pitak for Buddha and Anga, Upanga and Mulgrajitha for Jain (Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism, n.d.).

Differences

        Buddhism argued that a person can attains Moksha while living on earth so long as the person adjourns desires while Jain believed that Monksha was freedom from all sorts of problems and only gotten after one dies. Although they both stress the principle of Ahimsa, it is more emphasized in Jainism. Another contradiction is that Buddhism does not account in the existence of souls but Jainism believes that there is a soul in every living being. Jainism is depicted to be closer to Hinduism whereas Buddhism inherited the policy of keeping away from it. The Buddhists were royally supported and back up by the kings but the Jainism was never got any support or endorsement from the kings. Another contradiction is that Buddhism flourished to other countries across Asia while Jainism never spread out of India (On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism? n.d.).

8. Trace the evolution of the revival of Shinto in the modern period (19th and 20th centuries).

The Evolution of the Shinto in the Modern Period

Shinto is the Japanese indigenous way of worship it means, Kam-no-Michi(the way of Gods). It is a collection of beliefs and traditional practices. The traditions have been affected by the arrival of the Buddhism. They belief that nature is identical with divinity, gods of varying might. Shinto contains myths of the origin of Japan and its people together with there traditional practices and rituals.

Political leaders in Japan recognized the Shinto religion rating it to be the origin of the people’s good morals. They declared it to be a national religion while they abandoned Buddhism. Kam-no-Michi priests were awarded official posts as Buddhists were advised to turn into the ‘right kind of life,’ there temples and images were destroyed. Later Kyobusho was established thus led to both Shinto and Buddhists priests to be treated equally. The Shinto revival fall and Buddhism remained silent until Christianity accelerated it into a rejuvenated activity.

Three forms of the Shinto existed during the nineteenth century that is, domestic Shinto where households build a shelf for offerings to recall the spirits of ancestors and more so local spirits. The second Kam-no-Michi was the sectarian Shinto and as time went by, mountain climbing emerged where they climbed mountains to give tribute to the spirit of the mountain Shinto were purification and healing. Around 1930 the Japanese government saw the need for religions to be registered and 13 Shinto sectarians recognized. In the 19th and the 20th century, the Emperor announced control over traditional cloisters hence led to the emergence of the Shito. Although Shinto was declared a religion, some Buddhism believers did not agree with the idea so they formed a movement known as “Imperial Way Buddhism. This movement argued that Buddhism was superior to all other religions and identified it with the nation and the nation with emperor hence worshiping the monarch was the same as honoring the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha the Buddhism gods.

In 1938 an association recognized as Gohonzon as the Japanese king but the Shinto opposed by stimulating Article one of Japan’s constitution which stated that the emperor of Japan was not superior he was to be governed by a series of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal and article three which stated that the king was sacred and deserved respect, they were the teachers of law in Japan. The emperor used the religion to vanquish the military regime; the government fully supported the religion by the construction of sacred places for worshiping in 1920s. The religion was pronounced to be a national religion and the main aim was to unite the Japanese people and promote the faith of the divine monarch. The State Shinto stressed on the differences and the special afterlife of Japan and its occupants, it also stressed on the divine origin of he imperial unity together with the duty of every Japanese dovotionto the monarch.

The Kam-no-Michi succeeded as a national faith up to 1945 when Japan was concurred in the Second World War and the monarch’s denial of his divinity declined the state Shinto. Although after the war most Shinto believers worshiped Shinto in their homes and not in shrines like before, most government sponsored shrines were collectively joined into the Association of Shinto Shrines after 1946. Up to date sect Shinto has more than eight private religious sectarians which undertake their services worship houses or lecture halls and not in traditional sacred places (State Shinto. n.d.)

References

Jones, M. (2011). History of Criminal Justice (5th ed.). Burlington: Elsevier Science.

On Jainism: How does Jainism fit in Hinduism?. (n.d.). On Jainism. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://jainism.blogspot.com/2004/09/how-does-jainism-fit-in-hinduism.html. On Jainism. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://jainism.blogspot.com/2004/09/how-does-jainism-fit-in-hinduism.html

Religion of India-Jainism- Ideologies of Jainism . (n.d.). Astrology | Indian Astrology | Horoscopes | Horoscope | Zodiac Signs. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.mywebastrologer.com/Jainism_Ideologies.asp

Ruokanen, M., & Huang, P. Z. (2010). Christianity and Chinese culture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

State Shinto. (n.d.). globalsecurity. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from www.balsecurity.org/military/world/japan/shinto-3.htmhttp://

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6 June 23rd    –   29th

1.  At what point can Jewish myths from the scriptural tradition be separated from Jewish history?

The Jewish history was written in the bible although it was formerly known to be a book of commandments hence shaped the past of the Jewish people and their past. Throughout ninetieth the history of the Jews could be told and retold with nobody doubting that the stories were not legends or myths. However, there was a small click of radical thinkers who questioned the reliability of the biblical stories in general.  It was difficult to believe in the theophany if one had not accepted the reliability of the story of the exodus from Egypt.

Voltaire (1694-1778) was the first person to publish a universal history that challenged the chronology of the Bible and instead thought of Egypt and China to be more important than the history of the Jews. Wellhausen led in the biblical criticism in the nineteenth century, a time when heresy was widespread. For instance, he argues that the sources discovered in Mesopotamia which indicated that the Babylonian culture mainly practiced pagan polytheistic culture and that the Jews perceived it to be an abomination was merely a Mesopotamian cosmogonic myth. Another writer, Schorr, of the ninetieth century claimed that some parts of the book of Genesis are based on myths. The celebration of the Christmas as the date Jesus Christ was born and the celebration of Easter were also identified to be myths in the ninetieth century (Shavit & Eran, 2007).

The history of the birth of Jesus is begins right from Genesis. In the Old Testament, there are several prophesies about the birth of Jesus. The Israelites had been waiting anxiously for the coming Messiah and it is possible they made several predictions of the date he was to be born. However, none of the prophecies identified the actual date in which Jesus was to be born. After his birth, life, death and ascension, many years passed until 354 AD when the Roman Emperor Aurerian, who was a pagan established December 25, to be the festival in celebration of the birth of the invisible sun. Philocalus wrote a Christian myrtyrology in 354 AD in which he dated the birth of Jesus Christ to be on December 25. This tells us that the celebration of Christmas was has been in place from as early as AD 335. There is a possibility that the setting up of Christmas on the December 25 was either done to supplant the Roman pagan or rather than a mere coincidence. There is no evidence to show that the world celebrated Christmas at any day, before AD 350, not even the December 25.

The celebration of Easter

Hippolytus and Tertullian came up with a formula to identifying the date of Easter and for that matter picked March 25. It seems that March 25 was considered to be date of Jesus Christ was conceived hence December 25 was then determined from March 25 (Origin of Jewish/Christian holy days, n.d).

Why is the scriptural tradition so important and why do you think it has been so enduring

The sculptural tradition is found in all religions although the Catholic Church seems to undervalue the sacred scriptures hence have been through history been thought to endeavor to reduce the credit accorded or worthy the Holy Scriptures.  The Catholic Church The scriptural tradition refers to the manner of use and attitude accorded to the scriptures. The Catholic Church is very conservative with her style of using the scriptures and it is claimed that there is no one or no religion can reverence and have greater respect for the scriptures than the Catholics. Many of devout ones are said to have a profound veneration of for it to an extent of kneeling down when kneeling down. For this reason, the Catholics tend to remain intact for it easily keeps its doctrines. In contrast, the Protestants handle the scriptures casually and therefore unable to adequately live by what it teaches (Errata to the Protestant Bible, n.d.).

The Islamic scripture contains a wide range of concepts which portray a great sense of unit. The basic scripture of Islam is the Qur’an. All the texts are regarded to be authoritative. These concepts include knowledge, values, world view and mode of behavior in the proximity of the scriptures and the Spirit of those particular scriptures. The Islamic scriptures occur in a range and vary in degrees of authority. The scriptures of Islam, just as any other scripture since it teaches on respect for heritage as well as respecting cultural heritage.

6. What are some of the most important factors concerning the ancient origin of Zoroastrianism?

Zoroastrianism religion was founded by Prophet Zoroaster in the ancient Persia. The religion is defined by doctrines preached by the prophet which also constitute the sacred scripture referred to as the Avestra. These have been preserved his own psalms better known as the metrical Gathas. It was a monotheistic worship of Ahura Mazda although the Ahura Mazda had two emanations.

The Zoroastrianism can be traced back to the 6th century BC when the Iranian prophet Zarathustra is believed to have lived and taught. His name has now come to be known by a Greek name as Zoroaster. The teaching of Zoroaster is believed to be a replacement of the several ahuras which are the gods worshipped by the traditional Indo-Iranian rligion with only one ahura Ahura Mazda, who is the “Wise Lord” or supreme God . The religion of Zoroastrianism was founded by Ahura Mazda from his own discourses referred to as Gathas which which form the opening parts of the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the Avestra. Ahura Mazda created two sons who were twin spirits whereby one known as Spenta Mainyu chose to pursue good under the concepts of life, truth and light. He is assisted by six entities, Good Mind, Truth, Health, Life, Power, and Devotion. The emanations of the Supreme Lord are Angra Mainyu whose assisting entities are deceit, darkness and death.

The freedom given to the two spiritual sons or emanations of Ahura Mazda seems to be reflected in other common religions which challenge that human beings have the freedom to choose good or evil. The teachings focus on a person’s destiny after death when everyone‘s soul will appear before the Bridge of Discrimination to be judged. Now, those who would have followed the emanation of Truth will be allowed to cross over and enter into paradise but those who would have chosen Lie will go to hell. This is the significance of the two “sons” of Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism, n.d.).

The development of religion continued well until when its founder, Spenta Mainyu dies and the father takes over from him to start a plan of thwarting Angra Mainyu. The struggle between this two forces are still reflected upon all through the history of the Zoroastrian belief and until now the Zoroaster keeps only one of the two previously performed sacrifices which sacrifice by fire. The struggle mainly involved good and evil truth and deceit and light and darkness. The Indo-Iranian sacrifice by fire became the symbol of truth. The religion eventually spread through Iran in a way that is barely understood that it characterized the Achaemenid dynasty.

The Magi, which was a priestly sect later combined with the Zorastrians leading to adjustments that transformed the Iranian religion. The Persian Magi, which came to visit Jesus, when Persia was ruled by the Parthians, were Zoroastrians. Their religion had survived the Greece domination in their land since the Greek were tolerant to other religions. The rise of Sassanians after Parthians under the founding leadership of Ardashir saw the formation of strong links between the dynasty and the Zoroastrianism. Aldashir takes the throne of Achaemeneds and restores the cult of AhuraMazda to be the state religion. Currently, there is a ritual hierarchy across this dynasty with each of the major districts being assigned a chief priest and the whole empire with a under the power of the supreme priest (History of Zoroastrianism, n.d.).

7. Discuss some of the Zoroastrian influences upon Judaism and Christianity.

Zoroastrian is very closely related to Judaism and Christianity which implies a connection between them. It is evident that Zoroastrian influences the two religions in many a number of ways although the details are a bit difficult to document especially at the early stages of Judaism development. The manner of influence focused on here is based on circumstantial hence may not necessarily appeal to a rigorous scholarly judgment but since there is sufficient evidence, it worthy for consideration. The only danger lies on the failure to prove them either as true or false.

The first contact of the between the Zoroastrian and Judaism was after the exile in Babylon when Persia conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to go back to their homeland. There deemed to be a much prolonged contact between the two so that led the Jews to copy a lot of ways from the Zoroastrians. In order to identify some of these ways, it is important to identify some of the common elements that characterized the Zoroastrian tradition. It was the main religion of the Persian Empire which was based on the Zoroastrian scriptures such as the Gathas which made the founding text of the Zoroastrian faith and the Yashts which was hymns of praise. The people who practiced Zoroastrianism based their faith on oral tradition meaning that the faith was only taught and transmitted through the word of mouth and not at all on written scriptures. The Zoroastrian symbolism of fire, stories and scriptures describing the Prophet Zarathushtra intermediate spiritual beings or yazatas as well as light and darkness formed the elements of the (Zoroastrian, Judaism and Christianity, n.d.).

The idea of Heaven, Hell and life after (afterlife) emerged after the exile and it thought by a number of scholars to have originated from the interaction between the Jews and the Zoroastrians of Persia. After the death of a person, his soul went to “Sheol” which is a dull place similar to hades. That is what the Jews believed before they went to exile. In their new believe, the good people get heavenly rewards while the evil people get a hellish punishment. Most Christians believe in a moralized afterlife where there will be eternal life for those that will have repented their sins and lived righteous when Jesus will come back to the Earth. Related in meaning to heaven is the term Paradise which originates from the ancient Iranian “pairi-daeza” words which means “enclosed garden” which are few Persian words in the Bible. The meaning of Therefore, the idea of two destinies of man, heaven or hell depending on how they live on earth originated from the Zoroastrian religion.

Both Jews and Christians believe in the coming Messiah and this idea is thought to have originated from the Zoroastrian messianic teachings. This is depicted in the book of Second Isaiah in which the Jews are promised a Savior who would rescue the people according to the word of the Lord through his prophet. The savior in the context and the interpretation of the Jewish people refers to anyone who would cause a better life for Jews. Also, in the Second Maccabees, a book not found among the Jews but only in the Catholic Church, contains an account of the Zoroastrian contact with the Jews. It shows the restoration of Jewish altar fire. The writers of the 2 Macabees were informed of the reverence fire.

References

Full text of “Errata to the Protestant Bible (n.d.). Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://archive.org/stream/erratatotheprote00warduoft/erratatotheprote00warduoft_djvu.txt

History of Zoroastrianism (n.d.). HistoryWorld – History and Timelines. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab71

Shavit, J., & Eran, M. (2007). The Hebrew Bible reborn from Holy Scripture to the Book of Books : a history of biblical culture and the battles over the Bible in modern Judaism. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity. (n.d.). Pyracantha Studios. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.pyracantha.com/Z/zjc3.html

Zoroastrianism. (n.d.). Queensborough Community College. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialSciences/ppecorino/PHIL_of_RELIGION_TEXT/CHAPTER_2_RELIGIONS/Zoroastrianism.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 7    June 30th    – July 6th

1. What can we know factually about the historical Jesus?

It is difficult to historically paint a global picture of Jesus since different societies have varied interpretations of who he was and the role he played in the world. According to Christians, Jesus fulfills prophesy about the Messiah who was for a long time according to the Old Testament prophesies expected to be a historical but not a mythical world savior sent from God. Jesus was a kind, sinless man who came from God. He is said to be a son of God since God referred to him as the son of God. He came to earth to do the will of God his father to fight evil and death and the victory of this was illustrated by his own victory over his death culminating to resurrection. The resurrection was to be a fundamental phenomenon upon which God was to build a church. The kind of energy emanating from God to Jesus and later the man was that which is needed to begin a world religion.

Stories of the ancient world present Jesus as a Hero regardless of the doctrine from which they got to know about him. He was perceived in so many ways by both his followers as well as his haters. For instance, some thought of him as a prophet, a great teacher, a politician, a physician, the son of God or a messiah.

Some historians both in the church and atheists think of Jesus as a real man born in the small town of Bethlehem to Joseph the carpenter among other siblings. The historians cannot find any eye witnesses or their accounts about Jesus lifetime so all the information they need about Jesus is derived from the Gospel books which were also written several years after Jesus was born (Gregory Riley: Jesus the Hellenistic Hero, n.d.).

 

What are the limitations placed upon our knowledge?

Most of the critics of who Jesus was or rather his biography normally provide very scanty information which they fill large volumes of books. The limited biographical information has not been sufficient for many to base their faith in. Primitive Christianity has done many things or has been tempted to expand the little knowledge through adoption of various myths. The major source of the limitations is mainly on the nature of sources that provide information about Jesus (Becker, 1998).

How can historical and critical study aid us in a more complete understanding of the Jesus tradition?

First, we must not blame it on ourselves of missing the historical sources to give us adequate biographical information. To better understand Jesus tradition, we need to critically study the New Testament and reflect it upon the Old Testament. We have to distinguish the meanings of Jesus as a figure presented historically and Christ of faith and how to combine the two personalities into one person. Whether the setting of Jesus tradition is in history or on faith, the basis of approaching Jesus is still by faith as the foundation which is mysteriously confirmed by historical accounts (Houlden, 2005).

 Do you think it is possible that Christ was not a real person?

It is not possible because of a number of reasons. The Old Testament prophecies especially that of Isaiah chapter 50-55, narrates how Jesus was to be born of a virgin. There are many illustrations that prove that a savior in Israel was to come to deliver the Israel from their enemies. The history of the killing of the male children by the Romans is the history books far a different line of study altogether. After his birth, the wise men come to visit him from the East. It is recorded in history of the tolerance to other religions of the Magi from Persia and Greeks which dominated them.

 If there are things about his life that are not historically true is the Jesus narrative that has been handed down to us enough?

The Jesus narrative will be enough. It is difficult to find any source of information which does not have critics who either present the story as being incorrect and then this is passed down the generation. What are needed are a few facts or true history to work with for this is better than a whole lot of lies. Even I have only one fact about Jesus that quite unique to the contemporary world, I would hang on that. The ascension story is criticized by many but his bones cannot be traced. I believe if historical records prove such rare claims, I would not mind if all other stories are not historically.

2. Address the diversity within the Jewish community of the 1st century.

The birth of Jesus and the consequent birth of Christianity took place at a time when the Jews had lost the unity that had characterized the chosen nation for several centuries or even millennia. In this first century the Jews had become fragmented and beleaguered in this country currently known as Palestine. A diversity of views within the Jewish community is emphasized very much by all the histories of the captured in the Palestinian Jewry of the first century. The reason for diversity is mainly due to key issues that are separated the Jews along the teachings of Jesus.

Paul was one of the Diaspora Jew was one of the few Jews that were attracted to Jesus teachings. He had a role of inviting and attracting non-Jews to the new movement of Christianity, an issue that vexed the Jews greatly and thus causing divisions whether these gentiles should be allowed to share the teaching of Jesus with the Jews. There soon emerged a gentile Christianity which obviously became inconsistent with the biblical Israel. The main issues that cause fragmentation s among the Jewish community are found in the gospels. The Jews knew the kind of Christianity they expected from the Gospels but had become witnesses of later modifications that was done on the Christian thinking to make a new influential version of Christianity (Chazan, 2004).

 Write something about the social, religious and political groups

Zealots are among the “revolutionary” groups that had mounted resistance to the occupation of the Romans in the land of Israel during the first century. They comprised of any Jew who were zealous to keep Go’s law and hence the zealots were not a specific organized group. They were identified as a nationalistic revolutionary party just before and after the Jews waged war against the Romans. Simon Peter, one of Jesus disciple was known as “Simon the Zealot”

Essenes were a small sect that led a communal “monastic” lifestyle near the Dead Sea at a place known as Qumram from the beginning of 2nd century BCE to all through the 1st century. They were originally thought to be a group of priests established by a “teacher of righteousness” but later rejected the validity of the temple worship. They therefore neither attended the festivals nor supported the temple services. There hope was that God was going to send a mighty prophet accompanied by two Messiahs, one of which was to be a king and a priest.

Pharisees,

The Pharisees comprised of very influential Jews whose teachings advocated the strict observance of the Sabbath rest, rituals tithing, purity, and a lot of eating and restrictions on food. They observed the laws so strictly. They were the political opponents of the Sadducees who sought to influence rulers and people. Some were priests, scribes or rabbis and sometimes laymen. They were always seeking faults of Jesus to as to accuse him of various issues they believed were against the laws of GOD.

Sadducees were also a prominent group in Palestine whose life and activity is recorded between 2nd century BCE and 1st century CE. Although a smaller group compared to the Pharisees, they were more influential. They were the main political and religious rivals of the Pharisees and the Herodias and this was boosted by a wealthy class of people who were rulers at the time. They were respectful of the Jerusalrm temple and the ruling council. They are also portrayed as enemies of Jesus by the Gospels.

Herodians are given the name probably supported the Herodian family’s policies and therefore government. They are known to have conspired with Pharisees to kill Jesus at his infancy and later they wanted to trap Jesus with questions of tax.

Scribes were trained in writing that had the responsibilities of interpreting and teaching law and hence could be lawyers by extension. They were also used as the agents of rulers.  They never formed any organization but they were supporters of other readily formed organizations or parties. They were enemies of Jesus and sought to have him put to death. In addition, they sought to seek the lives of the early Christian church. Some of the scribes were however good and were praised by Jesus.

Priests were men chosen from the house of Levi. They took full charge of the temple activities such as sacrifices. They were both religious and social leaders among the Jewish people. Their role was mainly to conduct various cultic/ ritual practices of the temple which included ofrring sacrifices. The High priest was appointed annually although reappointments of members of the Annas and Caiphas families were observed in the first century. The chief priests were opposed to Jesus since they were members of the ruling authorities which were challenged by his teachings.

John the Baptist’s Group are the disciples of John the Baptist became Christians. They ended up forming an effective ministry that worked had to preach and spread the gospel so that those who believed were baptized for the remission of their sins. These disciples who were present during his lifetime persisted even after his death (Jewish Groups in New Testament Times, n.d.).

3. Why do you think scholars have often suggested that St. Paul does more to influence the direction and theology of Christianity than Christ himself?

Paul went among all forks to spread the gospel of Jesus. His conversion was an incredible story in Paul’s life as well as all the Jews and gentiles who had witnessed his persecution of Christians. For better or for worse and undaunted, Paul did the most to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the first person, even before Jesus Christ, to cross the borders to reach out to the gentiles hence becoming a great Christian missionary to this group of discriminated people with regards to the plan of salvation. He travelled wider in different cities than Jesus did without fear of death. Jesus had to seek refuge from the indignation of those who sought to kill him before his time to die for the sins of man kind before he completed his earthly ministry. Paul was also filled with the Holy Spirit which urged him to all the places he went. The suffering that Paul was subjected to was incomparable (Tracing the Steps of the Apostle Paul – Truth in History, n.d.).

 Who is Paul’s ministry aimed at?

The main target of Paul’s ministry is the gentiles, a group that had not been mentioned from the plan of salvation launched by God to his chosen race, the Israelites or the Jews. He was also referred to as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul was perceived as the most brilliant preacher and personality to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to other lands such as the Cyprus, Asia Minor (the contemporary Turkey), Mainland Greece, Crete and Rome. His main task was also to send a message to the Jews that torah was not necessary for their salvation (St Paul Biography,n.d).

 

How and why did he write these Epistles?

There are thirteen epistles which can be accredited to Paul in the New Testament. The church was expanding very fast through so many ministries which were being opened as a result of Paul‘s preaching. Soon it became difficult for Paul to continue preaching to other new places and at the same time respond to the main challenges which were emerging in the already opened churches. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was able to write several letters, otherwise known as epistles to this church. Some of the epistles were meant to encourage the Christians to continue fellowshipping together in faith.

What were the early communities that Paul addressed in his letters like?

Some of letters, especially the letters to the churches in Corinth, Antioch,  Laodicea, Corinth, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians among others have a message specific to each of them according to their needs. The message to these groups was an elaborate explanation of the gospel they ere expected to hold firm to and how to resolve some of the disputes that arose among the believers.

How does Paul’s Roman citizenship aid in his spread of the faith?

Being a roman citizen, he showed a great understanding of the Greco-Roman rhetoric as well as literature. For example, Paul is able to refer to some of the Gentile poems and plays in many occasions such as in Aeropagus in Acts 17 and in verse 28 Paul quoted the poem Cretica. This is some of the tactics he used to create a good relationship with the crowd and pass and emphasize his message to the masses in the language they understood best. He was however careful to uphold his Jewish foundation and therefore he never allowed the culture and influences of the Roman culture interfere or dilute the message which he wanted to pass (Paul: A Citizen of Two Cities | Reading Acts, n.d.).

References

Chazan, R. (2004) Fashioning Jewish Identity in Medieval Western Christendom: New York. Cambridge University Press

Becker, J. (1998). Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Gregory Riley: Jesus the Hellenistic Hero. (n.d.). Early Christian Writings: New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/jesus/gregoryriley.html

Houlden, J. L. (2005). Jesus: the complete guide. London: Continuum

Jewish Groups in New Testament Times. (n.d.). Catholic Resources – Felix Just, S.J.. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Jewish_Groups.htm

Paul: A Citizen of Two Cities | Reading Acts. (n.d.). Reading Acts | Some Thoughts on the Book of Acts and Pauline Theology. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://readingacts.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/paul-a-citizen-of-two-cities/

St Paul Biography – Saint Paul Profile, St Paul Childhood, Life & Timeline. (n.d.). Famous People – Famous People in History, Famous People List & Biography. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/st-paul-91.php

Tracing the Steps of the Apostle Paul – Truth in History. (n.d.). Home – Truth in History. Retrieved July 6, 2013, from http://truthinhistory.org/tracing-the-steps-of-the-apostle-paul.html

 

W eek 8

6. Write an essay about Sufism (you might need to do some additional outside research).

Sufism

      Tasawwwuf (Sufism) is the inner psycho-spiritual view of Islam although nowadays most of them believe that it is not within their faith. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a senior muslim scholar agues that Sufism is just a name for the inner dimension of Islam. Traditional Sufi scholars identify Sufism as a science whose objectives is the reimbursement of the human heart and make it to adore only God and nothing else while Ahmad ibn Ajida, a Sufi teacher terms it as science through which people can understand how to move closer to God and change their traits. The Sufis consider themselves as the original true believers of the Islam faith but they are opposed by the Wahhabi and Salafist Muslims.

Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century described Sufism as a dedication to serve Allah with all your heart without hindrance from worldly materials and wealth. Sufis stress that Islamic teachings should not only be learnt from books but people should also be taught by teachers, they believe that it will be better since students will emulate their teachers. The Sufis have greatly influenced the Muslims history through years, for instance Rumi, Omar and Al-Ghazali who are Sufi teachers have some of their ideas quoted by western philosophers, writers and theologians. The Sufis have played an essential role in spreading the Islamic religion to various parts of the world such as Africa, India and the Far East. Sufis understand their intention in life from the Qur’an (51:56) which states, ‘I created the Jinns and humankind only that they may worship me.’ From the verse it is argued that the Sufis belong to Tariqas or commands that were set not many centuries after the pass away of the prophet and it is known to Sufis that these orders are to be taught by a master.

Despite the long history of the Tariqas, Muslims doubt them saying that they were unfamiliar to the prophet himself hence there is no need for them to abide by them. The Sufis then convincingly use the Qur’an and Sunna to protect them although they themselves agree that the Tariqas were not established by the prophet, they tell that they were established by the prophet’s companions and their direct successors. Sufis are known as stanch Muslims who pray five times a day, giving support to the unable as charity, practice fasting among other practices. They are also known to also rigorously hold on to the outward observance of Islam but they are idiosyncratic in fostering theirs and others’ spiritual facet. They practice Dhikr by chanting Allah’s divine names, verses from the Qua’ran or the sayings of the prophet in honoring Allah. Dhikr is considered as a basis of serenity for Sufis. ‘They believe that devotion to the Sharia manifests in the limbs and Dhikr manifest in the heart with the result that the outward is sober, the inner is drunk on divine love.’ They use this saying to tell the status in which Dhikr leaves them (Sufism, n.d.)

7. You could also write an essay about Islam religious architecture

Islam religious architecture

Islamic architecture comprise of a number of religious arts of different styles and shapes. The Tahleel the most recognized mughal architecture that was known as akbar fort. Its main and popular architecture types include the mosque, the tomb, the palace and the fort. The most recognized Islamic structural style came soon after Muhammad’s time. It was known as The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) found in Jerusalem and it’s one of the most recognized Muslim structures. This mosque is renowned for its circular dome and the use of decorated arabesque patterns. There was also the desert palace in Jordan and Syria which served caliphs as living quarters, reception halls, and baths and the Germanic Visigoths found in Spain.

The ‘Arab plan’ was developed when modern concepts and styles were put into practice; they introduced a court and hypostyle prayer hall when they build the Great Mosque of Damascus which was constructed on top of the ancient temple of Jupiter and in place of the basilica of St. John the Baptist. There are some buildings that still date back to the period of Prophet Muhammad for example the Juatha mosque that is found in Saudi Arabia (Islamic Architecture, n.d.).

Some of the styles used in Islamic architecture

Persian style

Most of the Islamic architecture was adopted from Persia. This was the time when there was competition for governance among the Tahirids, Samanids, Ghaznavids and Ghurids where the main element was art. Great cities were constructed including the construction of the Great Mosque of Isfahan thus this greatly cultivated architecture. Some of the Mosques that were built in the Persian style are; the Shah Mosque constructed in 1629 in Isfahan Iraq, Friday Mosque in Afghanistan and the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Afghanistan. These Mosques are characterized by their tapered bricks, large arcades and arches supported by a number of pillars.

Azerbaijani architecture

Nakchivan and Shirvan-Absheron schools of architecture were based in Azerbaijani and this was infuluenced by the conquest of Persia. Examples of this architecture are the mausoleum of Yusuf which was constructed in 1162, the Bibi-Heybat in Buku and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. These architectures are characterized by the use of stones instead of bricks for building, stone carvings and were not symmetrical.

Turkistan architecture

It was introduced by Timur and reinforced by his successor and it led to emergence of Mughal School of art after the decline of IIkhanid, Indian school of art. The style is characterized by its axial symmetry and double domes of different shapes. Examples are; the Shah-e Zendahin Samarkand and mosque of Gowhar Shad in Mashhad.

Ottoman architecture

It was inspired by the Hagia Sophia. Most of these mosques are found in Turkey. They are characterized very large interior spaces and massive domes. Examples include the Blue mosque in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in India among others.

Other styles include; the Indo-Islamic architecture in south Asia, Sino-Islamic style of China, Indonesian-Malay style in Indonesia and Somali-Islamic architecture in Somali. Some of the elements used to identify the Islamic architecture are; towers, four-iwan plan which contains three subsidiary halls and one main hall, prayer recess on an inside wall, domes and cupolas, Pishtaq which is the official entrance to the iwan, the use of mocarabe and muqarnas and central fountains used for ablutions (Period, n.d.).

 

 

 

8. Trace the history and philosophy of the Sikh faith.

History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith

        The Sikh religion started in 1469 and for that reason it is the youngest religion in the world but most organized in fact it is ranked number five in the world. Its name ‘Sikh’ means disciple in the Punjabi language. The religion was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev of Talwandi village in Pakistan. They call their God ‘Wahe-guru’ which means God is great.

Guru Nanak’s urge to adventure the challenges of life made him to leave his home when he was thirty year old. The Sikhs believe that he submerged when he was bathing in a stream in his native home. The man came three days later claiming that there is no Hindu or Muslim faith and this is when he introduced and started to spread Sikhism religion. The faith emerged due to constant conflict and misunderstandings between the Hindus and Muslims. These conflicts gave path to the emergence of a movement of people from both the Hindu and Muslim faiths whose main agenda was to unite the two by making them to understand that God is one and the only difference is His name. Nanak took two people one from the Hindu faith and another from the Muslim faith and conducted various trips confessing that he belonged to non of the two religions, he preached out that he was a ‘Truth’ follower hence the name Sikh. He continued with his mission criticizing Hindus for their unreal rituals and the Muslims for their maltreatment of the Hindus and their cunning ways of convincing people to their religion. Guru Nanak was able to gain followers and therefore he became the first leader of the Sikh faith.

After his death, Guru had ten successors namely Guru Angad who was born in 1504, Guru Amar Das, born in 1479, Guru Ram Das born in 1534, Guru Arjan Dev, 1563, Guru Har Gobind, 1595, Guru Har Rai, 1630, Guru Har Kishan, 1656, Guru Tegh Bahadur, 1621, Guru Gobind Singh, 1666 and Guru Granth Sahib. In the modern days the Sikh formed a committee known as the Shiromani Grdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The committee held a meeting in 12th December 1920 to form a constitution for the Sikhs

The Sikhs’ philosophy is that there is only one God but with different names in every faith. They also believe in monotheism, they also understand that God has no shape; he is timeless and cannot be seen by the eyes. They also teach that god is everywhere (omnipresent) and has power over everything. Their believe about creation is that in the beginning there was only God and his will (hukam) which he used to create the whole universe, Nanak believed that God should be seen from inner ‘eye’ or ‘heart’ of a human being. Nanak stressed that it is through meditation that one gets revelation, through meditation Sikhs believe that one is able to converse with God spiritually. The Sikh faith does not teach about a final destination of heaven or hell but believe that salvation will be a spiritual union with God and his people. Their believe is that being born is unfortunate and therefore people have to make good use of this chance, they believe that people should lead a life where they can move everywhere without restrictions (Chakar Vati).

Hey teach that people deviate from salvation due to material attraction which only gives worldly satisfaction. They teach that ego, anger, greed, lust and material attachment are the five evils that widen the gap between god and his people. Gurus Nanak taught that a Sikh should balance work, devotion and aid and should always as much as possible defend the rights of all that God created and chiefly fellow beings. Finally the Sikhs believe that race; sex or religion will not separate people from God since all are equal in the eyes of God (“History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith N.p., n.d).

Reference

“History and Philosophy of the Sikh Faith – Google Search.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2013. <http://www.google.co.ke/search?printsec=frontcover&dq=History+and+Philosophy+of+the+Sikh+Faith&hl=en&redir_esc=y&q=History%20and%20Philosophy%20of%20the%20Sikh%20Faith&sa=N&tab=pw

Period, T. (n.d.). The Nature of Islamic Art | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Home. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/orna/hd_orna.htm

Sufism. (n.d.). www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sufism_1.shtm

Islamic Architecture. (n.d.). google. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from https://www.google.com/search?q=Islam+religious+architecture&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-beta

 

 

 

 

 

Week 9 July 14th    –    July 20th

2.  Outline the growth and development of Christianity in any one area outside Western Europe or North America (Japan, China, Africa, Russia, Mexico, South America, Caribbean, etc.).

Growth of Christianity in Africa

In Africa Christianity started in the middle of the first century and by the end of the second century it had spread to the region around Carthage. Some of the people who played vital role in the early growth of Christianity in Africa include Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo. The introduction and spread of Islam in the Northern part of Africa limited Christianity both in number and congregations.

Colonial rule in Africa stimulated the growth of Christianity since the colonial administrator and Christian missionaries both had a common world view. The administrators also protected the missionaries through maintenance of law and order hence it was secure for the missionaries to move around and spread Christianity. The emergence of proper means of communication also aided the spread of Christianity. Christian missionaries were able to develop Christianity in Africa through education which gave Africans a more enlightened view over Christianity. Through education Africans were able to read, understand and translate the Bible into their native languages thus appreciated Christianity. King Ezana of the Aksum kingdom in Ethiopia declared Christianity a national religion during the early period of the 4th century. This led to the introduction of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church (The Explosion of Christianity in Africa).

The conquest of Northern Africa by the Arabs affected the spread of Christianity in the region due to the introduction the Islamic religion. The Muslim regimes in Tunis ordered Christians there to convert into Islam. The church lacked the power of monastic tradition and that negatively influenced its development in the region up to date. However present reports say that the Roman Catholic Church remained strong in western Libya and Morocco until the end of the Arab conquest. The monastic tradition also persisted in Coptic Egypt and this encouraged the Coptic Church to remain strong with majority of worshipers in the country. Some Berber Christians in Tunis resisted to convert into Islam, hence extended Christianity to the south of Tunisia. The conquest of Algeria and Tunis by the French revived the growth and development of Catholicism in the region.

In the modern days Christianity has shown a vast growth in Africa. This growth has been facilitated by the African Evangelism which has replaced the European missionaries. In the year 2000 reports indicated that there were 380million in Africa compared to only 9million in the 1900 (A History of African Christianity 1950-1975 – Adrian Hastings – Google Books, n.d).

3.  Write an essay about Eastern Orthodoxy including aspects that you have found interesting and essential to a balanced discussion.

The Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodoxy is a Christianity tradition that traces its origin back to the 5th and 6th centuries. The church emerged due to the existence of ongoing misunderstandings between Rome and West churches and this led to division and loss of fellowship in the sacrament. It is believed that Eastern Orthodoxy was introduced by Jesus’ companions who were referred to as apostles. Jesus taught the apostles about faith and practices which the apostles passed on to the disciples and their churches thus these practices have been passed on from generation to another.

The term ‘Orthodox’ means ‘correct belief and correct practice’ therefore the Orthodox churches believe that they are following a correct path to salvation. Eastern Orthodoxy sternly believes that the Bible is their main source of holy traditions though it is not wholly by itself the source of their faith.  The Bible did also not led to the spread of this new faith as people had already turned to it since they had heard about it in preaching services. They also believe that the sermons and the traditions were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They claim to be the only holy catholic and apostolic church that was established by Jesus who gave the apostles the authority to take care of it (BBC – Religions, n.d).

During the Middle Ages Christianity grew gradually into the rural areas. During this time most Christians were found in the East (Greek areas) but the church slowly took roots into the West (Latin region). Situations forced Rome Bishops and Popes to change and fit into the new orders that were introduced by the ruling Emperors, they had to talk and agree on some issues that forced them to adjust so as to bring balance between the church and the rulers. Constantinople joined the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and this led to the introduction of the Eastern Orthodox Church into Egypt which was dominated by Islam for seven centuries. The Greek Orthodox Church gained much power during the Ottoman rule hence its growth. The Eastern Orthodox was separated from the west in 1453 due to the fall of Constantinople and the conquest of the Byzantine Empire over the Ottoman Empire. This forced the church to be under the hostile Islam religion thus limiting its growth. However there was the Russian Orthodox which was not under the Ottoman Empire therefore it was not affected by the Byzantine Empire.

The renaissance of the Roman Empire in 1375 to 1520 revived the development of the Orthodoxy. The pope became a much respected person among leaders thus made it easier for the expansion of the church. The ruling lords aided in the reconstruction of churches and building of new ones. St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed on the site of the early known Constantinian basilica. There was also improved culture interchange between the Greeks and Italians as a result of philosophy. They exchanged good ideas that encouraged humanity and influenced the growth of the church.

Today the Orthodox Church is ranked as the second largest Christian church on earth with approximately 225 to 300 followers. Majority of the followers are found in Eastern and Southern parts of Europe and in the Middle East. Some of the countries that this religion has flourished include; Belarus, Cyprus, Montenegro, Romania, Jordan, Israel, Syria among others. The church’s leadership is divided into various church bodies that differ geographically sometimes nationally but they are similar in theology and worship. Important aspects are such as believe in trinity, believe in salvation, resurrection of Christ and them ague to be the true believers.

6. Choose one non-Christian contemporary movement and trace its history, philosophy and practices

Paganism

Paganism is an earthly religion where people do not believe in the existence of God. Early people believed that everything had a spirit. They worshiped many different gods; they had gods concerning every aspect of nature. Pagans do not believe in the existence of heaven or hell but they believe in recreation. They believe that when the body dies, it is reborn as another different creature. The ancient paganism religions were the Roman faith and the ancient Greek faith.

The ancient Roman religion worshiped the earth, sky, sun, sea and many other natural things. They had a cathedral of gods that were led by Jupiter; father of the gods, mars; god of war, Diana; moon goddess; juno; goddess of woman and childbirth and many others. The Greek’s also believed in many gods and their god was led by god Zeus.

The spread of paganism was limited since it had no missionary and the spread of Christianity and Muslim affected its expansion. However the empire times facilitated the growth of paganism to other regions beyond Greek and Rome. International trade also facilitated the spread of this religion. Roman conquest in Britain also led to introduction of paganism into the region. Paganism was revived between 1930s and 1950s where a variety of scholars explored the early spirituality of the British Isles by collecting and recording traditional folktales. Also Sir James Frazer wrote an article attacking Christianity saying that it traces its roots from paganism. There was also the introduction and growth of Wicca and the church of Aphrodite in New York that was founded by Gleb Botkin. Other authors who facilitated the renaissance of paganism were: Susan Weed, Diane Stein, Z.Budapest, Carol J. Adams, and Carolyn Merchant.

In their philosophy, they believe that nature is sacred and humans have to show respect to it. They also don’t believe in the existence of one God as Christians do. Pagans also believe that there is no heaven or hell and that after death one is reborn into another thing and they also adore that every living thing has a soul. They consider suffering as being a real experience and it is not in any way related to evil; to them evil is just a metaphysical concept. They also believe that humanity is also part of nature hence they are just alike.

Pagans perform a number of rituals as a form of honoring nature for instance the Wicca perform rituals during the new and full moon so as to pay tribute to the goddess of the moon. They also have eight holidays in their calendar which they refer to as ‘the wheel of the year.’ Most pagans also believe in magic which is divided into two that is, thaumaturgy meaning work of wonders and theurgy (the divine work) (Modern Age, n.d)

References

A History of African Christianity 1950-1975 – Adrian Hastings – Google Books. (n.d.). Google Books. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=ZEI5AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Growth+of+Christianity+in+Africa&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6

Modern Age. (n.d.). Patheos | Hosting the Conversation on Faith. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://www.patheos.com/Library/Pagan/Historical-Development/Modern-Age.html

The Explosion of Christianity in Africa – 2001-Now Church History Timeline. (n.d.). Christianity – Faith in God, Jesus Christ – Christian Living, Trivia. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/2001-now/the-explosion-of-christianity-in-africa-11630859.html

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 10   July 21st –   27th

4. Do some research on Interfaith and Ecumenical movements in America?

Ecumenical movement is formed with an intention of uniting the whole world in one religious order. This would include the sharing of faith and other common understanding of issues contemporary affecting the contemporary world such as poverty eradication, social-economic development, environmental protection and conservation and political stability among others. Denominations and interconfessional are the two common terms that would best define ecumenical movements. Ecumenical organizations most often are characterized by the most extensive structures and services, since they draw their supported from a large number of Christian churches. These different denominations have doctrines and beliefs which differ radically but for various reasons as suggested above they put the differences aside to form a unit.

For many of the organizations, their interfaith relationships focus so much on including the   Jews, if at all, as a result of the historic presence of these groups in these communities and also due to early attempts observed within the ecumenical movements. The main objective of these efforts is to understand and develop relationships which are appreciative by the Jews and the rest of the world. The interfaith activities of ecumenical organizations are also limited by their bylaws, which indicate that they are to work primarily with fellow Christians, for Christian unity and service. The ecumenism movements target grassroots interfaith gatherings which have been developing harmonious relationships.

 

 

6.  Write an essay about ecology and religion. Try to include the perspectives of at least three different groups

The relationship of religion and ecology has only been created recently. The relationship does not discriminate on the two disciplines of religion but ecology of religion tends to compare a range of disciplines and cultures which also varies with different locations of the world. Ecology of religion describes the how human beings relate to their environment by either conforming or trying to improve the environment. The improvement is possibly done by altering, developing and shaping it with the hope of eventually perfecting it. The concepts of “world religion” are related environmental themes. There are religious-ecological innovation have been set-up to explore environmental issues which enable religion to gain relevance.

Religion has relevance to environmental issues such as moral and spiritual nature and the religion’s ability to react through spiritually and morally engaging modernity which are countercultural and prophetic. As a result, the moral and religious culture has been involved in finding solutions of challenges brought about by environmental issues. Thus, provide environmental issues play a role in revitalizing religion and provides an arena in which religion expresses itself both in the

Ecology of religion presents religion as occurring in specific contexts. There are sacred places which have been identified in some geographic sites which are used as the spaces for holding ritual celebrations. Such places function as reference points of convergence and presence to create an environment of practical significance. A good example is Jerusalem that was established on Mt. oria where Abraham wanted to sacrifice Isaac, Solomon came to build his Temple in the same place and finally it became the honored place for Muslims since it is where the prophet Mohamed sought for protection in July 16, 622. The point where the Shinto sanctuary of the Ise, is erected is very significant in Japan’s religious culture. This is the spot believed to be where Amaterasu, the goddess of Japan landed on the Earth.

The concerns of the environment together with the religious action and reaction which results from them sometimes become challenging concepts of social and personal identity necessitating reassessment and change. The action may involve encouraging, comparing, using, stimulating and combines religious traditions of various backgrounds which is necessary for comprehending and re-interpreting the environment and the role man plays within and to it. The combination makes it easier to challenge destructive views concerning the environment and proposing the constructive ones. Based on this, religion is partly responsible for dynamic development in the contemporary world.

Besides the positive contributions observed in the combination of religion and ecology (environment), there have been discontents which connected with this combination. This is not limited to economic and technological advancements, but also affects moral spiritual and social issues. For instance, it has led to a socially constructed disenchanted or rather disacralised way by which the world is looked upon. As a result of exploitation of ecological resources to create wealth and to expand, religion has been disempowered and in various ways declined. This could be due to the deleterious impact of the modern technology environment to continuously evoke ethical responses   from those people whom modernity has segregated from the moral resources necessary to ensure the effects are completely addressed (Watling, n.d).    

      

7.  Write an essay about violence and religion. Try to include the perspectives of at least three different groups

 

Religious violence is the type of violence that is commanded or recommended by God and therefore someone or a certain group of people believe that they have been divinely ordained to punish or inflict any form of physical harm on another person or organization.  Religious violence has existed for quite a long time which cannot easily be determined and therefore it is not new. It can also not be associated to one particular faith and country, not limited only to people who are evil and it cannot be a justification for getting rid of a religion. Nothing is seemingly capable of calming the hatred, brutality and passions observed in the name of religion. Advance in science and technology has provided new ways by which the religious extremists attack, kill and destroy their targets in a more effective way.

Religious violence may be manifested through terrorist activities, war, regressions and revolutions. For instance, the thoughts we have about our religion and the prejudiced misconceptions of the relationship of one religion to the other which are passed on across all generations can be a source of good information to answer the question why there could be religious violence and the nature of its manifestations. This is one of the causes of revolutions such as that of Martin Luther that led to religious reformations.

Consider how the past and sometimes in today’s world fervent believers in practicing their religious faith have destroyed great structures of property and killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. These are terrorism activities witnessed in all parts of the world especially where the dominant religion is Islam and Christians are fewer. There are militia groups almost every part of the world, of different levels of organization, amassing support from different levels and forms of formal or informal institutions and with different objectives to be met to think of themselves successful. The militant groups normally arise from various communities with a given dominant religions and therefore, the exercise of their violence always have a target. The groups are always organized to form networks within a small community in a country, in a country or it may cross the borders to become an international menace. The main goal of such networks is to destroy all the people, organizations or authorities which are opposed to their religious goals.

In America, there is a growing trend of forming movements that are opposed to some religious organizations are advocating for some religious rights. Some of these are namely, white supremacist, militant anti-abortion groups neo-Nazi groups.  It was claimed that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma Federal Building bomber had associations with some these groups. The Christian faith and teaching prohibits retaliations since God says in the bible that “vengeance is mine” and this could be the reasons why there is less retaliatory moves by the Christians against some types of Islamic militants who frequently attack them. Similarly, many of the extreme American fundamentalist Christian groups regard the mainline Christian denominations not to be  truly Christian, a claim that has  triggered, necessitated and justified  some of the world’s worst violent confrontations all taking place in the name of God and the main objective is to protect true and faithful Christianity according to the Christian extremists.

The main question, however, is whether religion’s unique understanding of morality in a way that transcends many of the other structures in the society compromises the justification of violence if not fully participating in it. Religion has the ability to provide life with meaning, security and order as well as sacralization of the activities of humans. This is what seems to make the faithful to engage in what is commonly referred to as “holy terror” in order to protect religious truth and defend God (Bromley & Melton, 2002).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

BBC – Religions – Christianity: Eastern Orthodox Church. (n.d.). BBC – Homepage. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/easternorthodox_1.shtml

Bromley, D. G., & Melton, J. G. (2002). Cults, religion, and violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

FitzGerald, T. E. (2004). The ecumenical movement an introductory history. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Conn.

Watling, T. (n.d.). The Field of Religion and Ecology: Addressing the Environmental Crisis and Challenging Faiths | Tony Watling – Academia.edu. Academia.edu – Share research. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://academia.edu/427942/The_Field_of_Religion_and_Ecology_Addressi

Speech Assignment

The Gettysburg Address is actually a renowned speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln who was then the U.S. and it’s amongst the most cited speeches in the U.S. history. The address was conveyed at the devotion of the country’s soldiers’ memorial park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the Civil War which saw the Confederacy armies by those of the Union at the significant fight of Gettysburg. Lincoln employed several stylistic devices in his speech so as to ensure that it deeply sank into people’s minds forever and the first one is the speech’s organizational pattern which is really chronological. This signified an allegory of organic growth outline similar to that of a particular human life. For instance, the first segment reminds the public on the birth/origin of the nation which forms the past event, while the second covers the present issues testing the nation through civil wars and sacrifices given by the young men and women who fought to defend the young nation. The final part puts forward the duty of the American people plus the future to ensure that the young nation pulls out of battlefields and grow to full maturity through the constitution, civil rights and economic development.

The opening of the address, “Four score and seven” is quite noble, elegant and above all poetic as he makes use of the bible with reference to 87 years previously when the nation had attained independence from colonial masters and he reminds the Americans on the foundation of the country which is equality and liberty. He notes that “all men are created equal” and therefore references the both the document of Declaration of Independence and the Bible and consequently gestures that since the people trusted both documents, then they ought to belief in his words too. He applied this lesson so as to persuade Americans to trust his arguments since they were anchored on personal beliefs and principles.

Lincoln goes on to use triple or sometimes called triads “…we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow…” as well as parallelism “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” These two stylistic devices are quite influential speaking techniques which add power, vividness, clarity, and rhythm to the spoken words and as a result make them absolutely memorable. Once they are said out loud, one is able to perceive the powerful intonation and rhythm.

Furthermore, he deploys contrast in his speech, for instance, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Whereby the words remember definitely contrasts forget while say compares did. Also, he says; “… for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live” whereby the demise of American soldiers contrasts with the living of the country. Sarcastically, Lincoln was erroneous in his point of noting that his speech will not be remembers as up-to-date his words are vividly remembered and actually will go on to be memorized in the future. Hence, these phrases act as unforgettable sound bites and give the speech an unlimited life. The usages of antithesis in the phrase “add or detract” “…little note nor long remember…” basically adds emphasis on the contrasting ideas and makes them long memorable.

The two excerpts might be similar or rather produce similar meanings but the first one completely lacks any stylistic structure. The first extract is quite plain and therefore no catchy phrases to make it memorable and thus easy to forget. Moreover, it doesn’t provoke the listener’s mind into thinking out ideas and trying to figure out the hidden meaning or even the deeper sense. The second excerpt contains numerous stylistic devices like repetition, contrast, and parallelism and therefore sends the listener’s mind rolling and thinking beyond the words. This makes it catchy and memorable. For this reason, both passages show the significance of stylistic language in speech making.

Source: Online Homework Help

 

Cultural Awareness of Taiwan

Name of student

Name of tutor

Course code

Date of submission

Cultural Awareness of Taiwan

Outline

  1. Characteristics of culture
  • It is dynamic, cumulative and diverse.
  • Patterned, integrated, and symbolic
  • It is compulsory and adaptive

2. Relationship linking Culture and Language Learning

  • Comparing domestic and foreign culture helps in building cultural awareness and competencies.

3. Material selection

  • Authentic materials such as picture books should be used in teaching cultural awareness.

4. Technology use in cultural awareness

  • It encourages students to carry out online search on information concerning other peoples’ culture.

5. Training methods for the teachers used in Taiwan are based on

  • Recruiting teachers from the minority communities
  • Use of autobiographical narratives
  • Community-based immersion and diversity in field in field experience
  • Reflection journals
  • Relevant cultural pedagogy
  • Self-critical and systematic inquiry

Cultural Awareness of Taiwan

Introduction

Culture refers to the characteristics of a specific collection of people described by everything starting from religion, social habits, art, and music to language. Culture can be shared and learned. It is integrated, patterned, symbolic, and adaptive and other cases it is compulsory. Culture is also believed to be diverse, dynamic and cumulative. The Taiwanese culture is usually an amalgam of Japanese, Chinese, American, European, local, global and Taiwanese aborigines’ customs that are in most cases are alleged as both contemporary and traditional understandings. It is actually believed that the political and social experience in Taiwan slowly developed into a strong sense of both cultural awareness and cultural identity in Taiwan. This has actually brought a lot of controversy that revolves around Taiwan political status.  Politics in Taiwan have played a crucial role in the growth and outset of their cultural identity. The idea of multiculturalism in Taiwan has brought about an alternative political view that has encouraged the insertion of minority groups and the mainlanders in the redefinition of their culture (Woodman, p.28).

Relationship linking Culture and Language Learning

Many students in Taiwan have been interested in the in the incorporation of cultural awareness and international understanding into their current curriculum because it has helped them to know a lot of facts regarding many countries.  The international classes in Taiwan are aimed at ensuring that they elementary students in the schools become multilingual citizens. (Ministry of Education, 2001, 2005).Learning language extends to include knowing how to write, read and speak it and also its phonics, spelling and grammar. Culture and language learning are unavoidably related and students in most cases are expected to evaluate languages and cultures. In order to implement cultural awareness, students will be required to build up knowledge of the intended culture and capture its skills.

Material Selection

In order to tutor on cultural awareness in Taiwan picture books should be used. It will be noticed that authentic materials should be employed to initiate cultural contents in most of the language classrooms in Taiwan. Picture books truly promote a cross cultural contrast and also helps in necessitating effective learning. Teachers should clearly discuss the characters in the story books so as to identify the cultural differences that exist between them and those mentioned in the book.

Cultural Awareness and Technology

Most of the students in Taiwan used technology to carry out online searches to learn on information regarding different countries. The younger generation in the country is growing up being knowledgeable on the use of technology which enables them to rest of the world into a classroom environment. In general, technology use should be incorporated in the prevailing curriculum so as to stimulate the cultural awareness of the students.

Advancement in technology and constant shifts in demographics usually enhance interactions among people from dissimilar cultures to become a reality. It will be realized that students in Taiwan essentially have greater opportunities that enable them to interact with many people from different cultures as compared to some decades ago because currently English has become an international language. The training programs of most English teachers in Taiwan are geared at ensuring that the students are able to operate productively in the global village where there are diverse nationalities and cultures. Several methods have been employed to ensure that cultural awareness is effectively spread to the students. These methods are mainly teacher preparation programs that are meant to prepare the students to be diverse and be able to suite in many cultural grounds. The methods therefore extend to include the following:

  1. Recruiting teachers from the minority communities.

This kind of recruitment involves inclusion of teachers from the minority communities who have a good command in multicultural education and are willing to learn the newest theories and discoveries on cultural diversity. Generally, the teachers should be in a position to bring knowledge experiences and characters that can facilitate them to tutor more effectively on schools that are culturally diverse (Sikula, et al., pp.747-760).

  1. Use of Autobiographical Narratives

It is widely accepted that in order to become a multicultural teacher one should fully examine his / her ideology (Banks, 1994 pp.86.) Writing and reading most of the autobiographical narratives essentially help teachers to gradually become multicultural. Studies also reveal that that through sharing and reading stories, teachers are able to build up clear understanding of the complication of identities that actually subsist between them and the students. Narratives truly act as powerful mechanisms that help in understanding multiculturalism, literacy and one another particularly in the diverse societies.

  1. Community-based immersion and diversity in field in field experience.

It is evident that diversity in field experiences in reality help teachers in encouraging cultural awareness within the society (Finney  & Orr , pp. 327-333) Field experience activities are aimed at providing teachers with various opportunities that enable them to interact with students from different cultural backgrounds.  This in turn helps in ensuring that there are good relationships that exist between the teachers and students both in classrooms and the entire school setting in Taiwan. Experiences from the communities help teachers to be more skillful in situating, recognizing and using the resources within the community. In general, community based experiences help the teachers to be modest in ensuring that they instill cultural awareness within the society.

  1. Reflection journals

Filed experiences that are actually accompanied by use of refection journals help the teachers to process information regarding the learning and teaching of the children that can suite in diverse cultural settings.  The more reflective teachers are the more they are able to welcome growth opportunities to the society through their experience. It will also be realized that disparities in how many teachers reflect jointly is usually dictated by their culture (Buckley, pp. 143-147).

  1. Relevant cultural pedagogy

Students are able to acquire language more quickly if more cultural assorted teaching strategies are adopted. This helps in increasing the interaction that exist within the students while in class and outside the class. (Robinson, 1985 P.15) The use of language interaction patterns that actually approximates the home cultural outlines of most of the students successfully help in improving their academic performance. It will be recognized that to match the community culture with the school culture, teachers should incorporate the students’ cultural setting aspects within the teaching and organization of the classroom.

 

  1. Self-critical and systematic inquiry

For cultural awareness to prevail in Taiwan, the teachers should unswervingly deal with their own beliefs and values day by day. Teachers should also keep on using reflection journals and writing narratives because they enable them to build up diversity consciousness within and outside the classroom setting.  The main objective of integrating cultural awareness into the preparation programs of the teachers is to help the students to be able to formulate thoughtful decisions on individual and communal issues and take the necessary actions. This in turn enables the students to scrutinize issues, events and ideas from an assorted cultural and ethnic point of view.

Conclusion

Authentic materials should be used when carrying out cultural awareness in Taiwan which only entails the use of picture books. The activation curriculum should consider using technology in order to connect the students with the rest of the world thereby encouraging a successful cultural awareness because they can easily access the required information through online searches. Cultural awareness should be the key area of concentration for the teachers’ beliefs and their self image as they teach culture to the students. In general multiculturalism should be geared at training the public on how to converse and subsist with the other people from other different cultures.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Banks, James A.. Teaching strategies for ethnic studies. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1994. Print.

Buckley, A.. “Multicultural Reflection.”Journal of Teacher Education 51.2 (2000): 143-148. Print.

Elementary and Junior High School, (2001). Taipei, Taiwan: Ministry of Education.

Elementary and Junior High School, (2005). Taipei, Taiwan: Ministry of Education

Finney, S., and J. Orr. “”I’ve Really Learned A Lot, But…”: Cross-Cultural Understanding And Teacher Education In A Racist Society.” Journal of Teacher Education 46.5 (1995): 327-333. Print.

Ministry of Education. Guidelines on English Teaching Activity Designs and Assessments in

Ministry of Education. Guidelines on English Teaching Activity Designs and Assessments in

Robinson, Gail L. Nemetz. Crosscultural understanding: processes and approaches for foreign language, English as a second language and bilingual educators. New York: Pergamon Institute of English, 1985. Print.

Sikula, John P., Thomas J. Buttery, and Edith Guyton. Handbook of research on teacher education: a project of the Association of Teacher Educators. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan Library Reference, USA, 1996. Print.

Woodman, Georg. Cultural shock-taiwan: cow mentality, rubber slipper fashion in binlang country.. S.l.: Xlibris Corp, 2010. Print.

 

Clarity index

1. Counts

A. Words: 1376

B. Paragraphs: 12

C. Sentences: 80

2. Averages

A. Sentences per paragraph: 6.7

B. Words per sentence: 17

 

3. Readability

A. Passive Sentences: 0%

B. Flesch Reading Ease: 50.4

C. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 10.9

 

 

 

 

 

Mind Mapping