Western religion


Western religion

Western religion includes Abrahamic religions that have their roots in the ancient Middle-East including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and its offsprings (such as gnosticism and Bahai'i faiths), as well as Greek and Roman religions. While "Western religion" encompasses more than Abrahamic religions, it is often used in a way that excluded non-Abrahamic religions. It also often particularly refers to Christianity, as it is the religion most commonly associated with western nations.

Judaism

Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish people. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. For all of these reasons, Judaism has been a major force in shaping the world.

Judaism does not easily fit into common western categories, such as religion, race, ethnicity, or culture. This is because Jews understand Judaism in terms of its 4,000-year history. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic self-government, theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment (see Haskalah) and the rise of nationalism. Thus, Daniel Boyarin has argued that "Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension."

According to both traditional Jews and critical historical scholars, a number of qualities distinguish Judaism from the other religions that existed when it first emerged. The first characteristic is monotheism. This notion is derived directly from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) where God makes it part of the Ten Commandments: "...I am the Lord your God. Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship". [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Exodus_20.2FDeuteronomy_5]

The Jewish understanding of this is that:
#"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." The belief in the existence of God, that God exists for all time, that God is the sole creator of all that exists, that God determines the course of events in this world. This is the foundation of Judaism. To turn from these beliefs is to deny God and the essence of Judaism.
#"You shall have no other gods besides Me...Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..." One is required to believe in God and God alone. This prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities, gods, spirits or incarnations. To deny the uniqueness of God, is to deny all that is written in the Torah. It is also a prohibition against making or possessing objects that one or other may bow down to or serve such as crucifixes, and any forms of paintings or artistic representations of God. One must not bow down to or serve any being or object but God. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Jewish_interpretation]

The significance of this idea lies in that Judaism holds that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humankind as recorded in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation according to Genesis starting with the very first verse of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." While in polytheistic religions, the gods are limited by the preoccupation of personal desires irrelevant to humankind, by limited powers, and by the interference of other powers, in Judaism, God is unlimited and fully available to care for Creation.

Second, the Torah (i.e., The Hebrew Bible) specifies a number of laws, known as the 613 mitzvot, to be followed by the Children of Israel. Other religions at the time were characterized by temples in which priests would worship their gods through sacrifice. The Children of Israel similarly had a Temple in Jerusalem, a caste of priests, and made sacrifices — but these were not the sole means of worshiping God.

As a matter of practical worship (in comparison to other religions) Judaism seeks to elevate everyday life to the level of the ancient Temples' worship by worshipping God through the spectrum of daily activities and actions. It has traditionally maintained that this is how the individual would merit rewards in the afterlife, called "gan eden" (Hebrew: "Garden of Eden") or "olam haba" ("World to Come").

Christianity

Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament writings of his early followers. It is the world's largest religion, with an estimated 2.1 billion followers, or about one-third of the world's population.

It shares with Judaism the books of the Hebrew Bible (all of which are incorporated in the Old Testament), and for this reason is sometimes called an Abrahamic religion.

Christianity encompasses numerous religious traditions that widely vary by culture, as well as many diverse beliefs and sects. It is usually represented as having divided into three main branches, over the past two millennia:

#Roman Catholicism (the largest coherent group, representing over one billion baptized members),
#Eastern Christianity (including Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy),
#Anglicanism (the third largest single group)
#Protestantism (Many denominations and schools of thought, including Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism)

These three broad divisions do not represent equally uniform branches. On the contrary, in some cases they disguise vast disagreements, and in other cases minimize sympathies that exist. But this is the convenient standard overview of distinctions, especially as Christianity has been viewed in the Western world.

A more comprehensive overview would categorize Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East as branches distinct from the Chalecedonian Christianity of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism, and Restorationism as a tradition separate from Protestantism, with which it has often been included.

Islam

Islam (Arabic: Audio|ar-al_islam.ogg|الإسلام; "al-'islām") is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The word "Islam" means "submission", or the total surrender of oneself to God (Arabic: _ar. الله, Allāh). [ [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/notislam/misconceptions.html#HEADING1 USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts ] ] An adherent of Islam is known as a Muslim, meaning "one who submits (to God)".cite encyclopedia | title=Islam | encyclopedia=Encyclopaedia of Islam Online | author=L. Gardet | coauthors=J. Jomier | accessdate=2007-05-02] cite web|url=http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume4/00000137.pdf|title=Lane's lexicon |accessdate=2007-07-03|format=PDF] There are between 1.1 billion and 1.8 billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity. [cite web |url=http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html#Islam |title=Major Religions of the World—Ranked by Number of Adherents |accessdate=2007-07-03 |format=HTML |work= ]

References


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