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Part 2 of 3:

Introduction to the religions of the world:

Introductory thoughts (Cont'd).
Animated map showing religions over time.
Other inclusive religious web sites.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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Introductory thoughts (Continued):

bullet About Christianity:

bullet There are many  definitions for this term as well. Again, we use an inclusive definition:
"We accept as Christian any individual or group who devoutly, sincerely, thoughtfully, seriously, and prayerfully regards themselves to be Christian. That is, they honestly believe that they follow Yeshua of Nazareth's (a.k.a. Jesus Christ's) teachings as they understand them to be."
This generates a lot of angry Emails from some visitors to this site who are insistent on excluding groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons or LDS church), and some other denominations as sub-Christian, quasi-Christian, non-Christian, or anti-Christian. 
 
bullet We treat Christianity in much greater detail than other religions, simply because about 70% of North Americans identify themselves with that religion. Christians outnumber the next largest organized religions, Judaism and Islam, by about 75 to 1 in the U.S. and Canada. We are not in any way implying that Christianity is superior or inferior to other religions. It is simply much more popular in our primary catchment area. However, the percentage of adults who identify themselves as Christians is dropping about 1 percentage points per year; 10 points per decade. The percentage of NOTAs (those NOT Affiliated with any organized religion), is growing , largely due to youths and young adults abandoning the church in which they grew up.
 

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More introductory thoughts (Continued):

bullet Destructive, doomsday cults are fortunately few in number, and are listed elsewhere.

bullet

Finally, we have what some people regard as America's real religion. They sum it up in two behaviors: ignore thy neighbor and worship the dollar. Alton C. Thompson has written an essay on this topic, in which he views the United States as a third-world country.

bullet

What doesn't make sense about religion: Religions and the sciences differ greatly in their teachings. There are certain topics where science and religion overlap. Examples are the origin of the universe, cosmology, how animal species came to exist, the age of the earth, many topics associated with human sexuality, etc.

Sciences are largely based on observations, facts. and data. Religions are largely based on the beliefs of the founder(s) as later recorded by the authors of various holy books and still later interpreted by theologians. Thus scientists tend to converge on a consensus, while many religions continue to diverge in their teachings; their beliefs often fragment so that individual traditions, sects or denominations within a religion will follow different beliefs.

And so, for example, the vast majority of paleontologists, geologists and biologists accept the theory of evolution, whereas many religions in the world have their own creation stories. Another example is that much of the religiously-based violence in the Middle East is not among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Rather, it is between the Sunni and Shi'ite branches of Islam -- two groups that separated shortly after the death of Muhammad because they could not agree on how to select his successor.

Religions of the world -- and individual denominations or traditions within these religions -- teach very different beliefs about the existence of God, Gods, the Goddess, Goddesses, pantheons of Gods and Goddesses, etc. They have very different views on the nature of deity, humanity, and the rest of the universe.

But almost all their members share one belief: that they, alone, have the fullness of truth, and that every other religion in the world is wrong. Even within a single religion, many denominations, traditions and faith groups teach mutually exclusive beliefs, including the belief that they are right and all of the other faith groups within their religion are wrong -- at least to some degree.

These beliefs were expressed very clearly in the "Pardon My Planet" comic strip for 2013-APR-26 where a woman on a park bench said to a friend:

"I can honestly say that I have finally found solace in the fact that many of the world's faiths and religions can at least agree on one thing -- and its that one thing I am attracted to -- that what I believe is right and everyone else is wrong."

Susan Humphreys has donated an essay that touches on this attitude. It is called: "About hubris: extreme pride or arrogance -- particularly as it applies to religious belief."

The stakes are high. Ultimately, if humans cannot learn how to coexist in peace with people from other religions, and from other faith groups within their religion, religiously-based wars will be inevitable in our future. With the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, World War III would likely be the last world war, because it is probable that no humans would be still alive to fight World War IV. On a positive note, cockroaches can survive very high levels of radiation; given two billion years or so, they would probably survive and evolve into an intelligent species resembling today's humans.

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A superb animated religious map by Business Insider:

It shows the spread of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism over time:

  1

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Other Inclusive religious web sites:

There are probably tens of millions of religious web sites on the Internet. During 2015-DEC, a Google search for "God" returned almost 1.5 billion hits! Most describe and promote only a single tradition or faith group within a single religion.

However, there are a handfull of web sites that, like this one, cover a broad range of faith groups. Consider:

  • Adherents.com publishes a wealth of information about topics as varied as lists of famous Christians, the religious affiliations of the U.S. founding fathers,

  • A BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) TV religious series called "Around the world in 80 faiths" can be viewed on You Tube. Peter Jones, an Anglican priest from Suffolk in the UK travels to six continents and experiences the widest possible range of religious beliefs and practices. See: http://www.youtube.com/

  • Beliefnet.com discusses topics from all religions re: inspiration, spirituality, faith, news etc.

  • Christian.com is a free social network dedicated to the entire Christian world.

  • Patheos.com provides balanced views of religion and spirituality.

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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Site navigation:

Home page World Religions > here

or Home page > Religious information > Basic data >  here

Video used:

  1. "Animated map shows how religion spread around the world," Business Insider, 2015-JUL-14, at: https://www.youtube.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2015-DEC-11
Hyperlinks last checked: 2015-NOV-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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