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Religions of the World

 Shinto

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. 
  • The early Japanese people believed that kami—spirits— were present in their natural surroundings. These beliefs coalesced into the Shinto religion. 
  • People built shrines to honor kami, and Japanese emperors claimed to descend from the supreme Shinto deity, the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Hinduism

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Hinduism originated in India, but its creation cannot be linked to a specific time or person; it is a belief system that evolved over time. 
  • Hinduism actually refers to a wide variety of beliefs and practices that developed in South Asia. 
  • Hinduism is often described as not only a religion, but a way of life. 
  • At the most basic level, Hindus believe they have a dharma (roughly translated as duty) to perform in life. If all follow their dharma, the world works smoothly. 
  • Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that believes in Brahma, the creator god, and his various incarnations including Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi.

Buddhism

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama, who lived from approximately 563 B.C.E. to 483 B.C.E. He was raised as a prince in a small state near present-day Nepal.
  • The Buddha made a crucial decision that helped transform his ideas from the thoughts of one man into a world religion: he decided to teach what he had learned to others.
    The Buddha taught that there were four noble truths:
    1. All life is suffering.
    2. Suffering is caused by desire.
    3. There is a way out of suffering.
    4. The way out of suffering is to follow the Eightfold Path.

Daoism

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Daoists believe it is useless to try to build institutions to govern people, because institutions (or anything that rewards knowledge) are dangerous. Institutions lead to competition and, eventually, to fighting. 
  • The less government interference, the better; the ideal state is a small, self-sufficient town. The ultimate goal, according to Daoists, should be to cultivate the virtues of patience, selflessness, and concern for all.
  • In Chinese society, Daoism provided a counterpoint to the proper behavior of Confucianism; it encouraged people to relax and just let things happen. It allowed the Chinese, essentially, to be Confucian at work and Daoist while not at work. 
  • The Daoist attitude toward war was that it should be used only for defensive purposes. The Han Chinese followed this idea by stationing troops along the Great Wall to maintain the safety of trade routes.

Confucianism

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Confucius taught that order would be achieved when people knew their proper roles and relationships to others. Rulers would govern by moral example. People would learn to behave properly through the example of those superior to them. 
  • According to Confucius, there are five key relationships: ruler and ruled, father and son, husband and wife, older brother and younger brother, and friends.
  • Neo-Confucianism, a remodeled form of Confucianism, developed in the ninth century as a response to Buddhism and Daoism. It rejected mysticism in favor of a rationalist approach, emphasizing individual self-improvement and the goodness of humanity. 
  • Nevertheless, it also reworked some concepts and principles from Buddhism. Neo-Confucianism dominated Chinese philosophy from the late Tang Dynasty until the twentieth century, and it spread to Japan, Vietnam, and Korea.

Sikhism 

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • In the north of the Indian subcontinent, Guru Nanak (1469–1539) founded Sikhism around the turn of the sixteenth century. 
  • Born to Hindu parents of the merchant caste, he is reputed by Sikh tradition to have traveled extensively. Nanak’s declaration that “There is no Muslim, and there is no Hindu” captures the essence of Sikhism. 
  • An example of syncretism, it bridges Hinduism and Islam, incorporating beliefs from both while maintaining an anti-sectarian stance.
  • Sikhism would be led by a series of gurus, who would modify its practices. For example, priestesses would be allowed, divorce legalized, and both veils and sati banned. 
  • Initially a pacifistic faith, it would grow militant in response to violent prosecution under the Mughal Empire from the mid-sixteenth century onward, culminating in the founding of the Sikh Empire (1799–1849). However, Sikhism would maintain its focus on social justice.

Judaism

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Between 1200 and 1150 B.C.E., the civilizations bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea suffered a violent societal collapse known as the Late Bronze Age collapse. Nearly every city in the region was destroyed in quick succession. 
  • Due to this cataclysm, the Canaanite city-state system in the Levant (the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea) broke down. Neighboring groups incorporated the remnants of this system into their own cultures. One such group lived in the south Levant, in highland settlements neighboring those city-states: the Hebrews, speakers of the ancient Hebrew language.
  • The Hebrews trace their origin to the patriarch Abraham, whom they believe God called to found a new nation in Canaan. Although the Hebrews were sporadically conquered by neighboring empires such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans, they maintained their cultural identity through their religion, Judaism.

Christianity

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Christianity centers on the figure of Jesus, who was born to Jewish parents between 6 and 4 B.C.E. Teachings describe Jesus as being concerned with the growing cosmopolitan nature of Jewish society and as preaching a simple message of love and compassion. 
  • Christian tradition also attributes to Jesus the power to perform miracles, such as healing the sick and raising the dead. Jesus taught that all people were equal and that the faithful would experience eternal life in heaven with God. These ideas especially appealed to the lower classes, slaves, and women. 
  • Given that there was ongoing tension between Rome and its Jewish subjects, Jesus’s teachings alarmed Roman authorities; in order to quell a potential rebellion, they had Jesus executed by crucifixion around the year 30.

Islam

Religions of the World | General Knowledge for Young Learners - Class 1

  • Prior to the introduction of Islam, inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, or Bedouins, lived in nomadic tribes led by sheikhs. Settlements arose along trade routes, as Arabs transported products between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. 
  • Although patriarchy dominated Arabian social structures, women were allowed to inherit property, initiate divorce agreements, and participate in business dealings. Most Arabs practiced a polytheistic form of religion, which included a principal god, Allah, although idol worship of lesser deities was commonplace as Allah was viewed as a remote figure. This changed with the coming of Muhammad.
  • Born in 570 in Mecca, Muhammad later married a merchant widow named Khadija. Together, they traveled on caravans and met Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians. Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel revealed to Muhammad that he had been selected to be Allah’s messenger. 
  • Muhammad believed and preached that all people were to submit to one all-powerful, all-knowing God: Allah. All would face a final day of judgment; those who had submitted to Allah would go to a heavenly paradise, and those who had not would go to a fiery hell. He also taught that he was the last of a long line of prophets from the Jewish and Christian scriptures that included Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.
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