Christianity began in the mid 1st century, splitting from the Jewish religion and growing under the direction of the Twelve Apostles. Early Christians were subject to persecution that was often violent, bloody, deadly, and horrific. The religion persisted though, spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe to become one of the most dominant religions on the planet.
The Catholic church was the most dominant form of early Christian religion and for years it ruled European, often with an iron fist and spilling a great deal of blood in the name of Christ. The history of all religions is filled with strife but like so many others, this religion is a beautiful thing capable of giving people great comfort and of showing them the way to salvation. Christian’s believe that an afterlife awaits them in Heaven (and sometimes Hell) and that if they’re good here on Earth life will be great after they die.
In 1952 L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology, a religion he official named the Church of Scientology, which began in New Jersey. Scientology is not recognized as an actual religion in many countries around the world, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. They point to their status as a tax exempt religion in the United States as proof that they are a real religion but there is constant disbelief, likely due to the fact that the church’s practices are shrouded in secrecy.
If you closely examine the core of Scientology it seems very much like a self help group, which wouldn’t be surprising since that’s what it was based on (Dianetics was a self help system written by L. Ron Hubbard). In short, the Scientology approach is to help you work through past traumas in hopes of freeing you of the effects they have on your ability to excel as a human being. It’s simple, elegant, and works for a great many people so there is no reason to criticize.
Religion in ancient Rome was of great importance and the citizens often attributed their great success around the known world to their faithfulness. The priests of Rome were men of great importance as they were seen as being able to communicate with the gods and therefore help Rome maintain its glory.
The Romans worshipped a number of gods, offering prayers and sacrifices and services to them. Great ceremonies and feasts were held to curry favor with the gods and battles were dedicated to them. Of great importance was the Roman policy of merely welcoming new deities into their religious practices as they conquered the world. It went a long way towards convincing their new territories to accept Roman rule rather than rebel against it. As the republic fell and the empire of one ruler rose the religious beliefs changed and perhaps that was part of what ultimately led to the downfall of Rome
Mormonism is a form of Christianity that was founded in the 1820s by Joseph Smith Jr. The faith began as Smith was translating what would become the Book of Mormon. He said the translation was a gift from God given only to him and while the translation was ongoing followers were baptized and the religion began. Smith was seen as a prophet by his followers and as a lunatic by others.
The primary difference between Mormonism and other Christian religions at the time of its founding was that Smith told his followers that God and Jesus Christ were two different beings instead of one in the same. From the very beginning the Mormons were persecuted and moved over and over as they were expelled from various territories, battles were fought, and more. Eventually Joseph Smith was killed by the Illinois militia and Brigham Young took over the church and moved the followers to Utah.
Taoism is a religion but also a philosophy or way of being. It’s not a religion in the traditional Western sense, like Christianity is. Taoists don’t worship a god, although they do spend time practicing spirituality. The word Tao means path, way, or principle and the religion is a practice of trying to live in harmony with the Tao. To make it really simple, you’re essentially trying to be peaceful, meditative, happy, and at one with yourself and the world around you. The Tao Te Ching is one of the most important texts in the religion and its origin dates back to 4th or 5th century BC. Taoism is appealing for its offering of peace through simple acts and Zen principles are based on the religion. Like Buddhism it’s beautiful in that if you follow the religion you will achieve peace, harmony, and happiness, guaranteed.
Unlike most religions, Hindu has no original founder. Instead it evolved from religions and belief systems thousands of years old into it’s current form. It’s largely practiced in India where nearly every citizen is a Hindu. Also interesting is that Hinduism doesn’t have a book to refer to or a central collection of beliefs upon which it’s based. Instead it’s a collection of many belief systems all tied to the same basic ideas.
It’s that very fact that makes Hinduism such an interesting and tolerant religion in many ways. If the religion itself allows for so many different traditions and styles of worship then it also suggests tolerance in other areas, something its followers practice (although not in every way). Hinduism is not easily explained because of these qualities but when experienced it’s hard not to come away feeling like you just went though something remarkable and beautiful.
Judaism is the oldest surviving religion in the world. Others came before it but they faded away as people developed and the old systems simply didn’t make sense anymore or societies died out. Judaism is a monotheistic religion (one god) and there are currently more than 13 million Jews in the world, making them but a tiny fraction of the larger religions.
Throughout history the Jews have suffered persecution and if you were to tally everything up you might find that they come out on top in terms of how badly they’ve been abused and accused over the years. The persecution continues to this day as many Muslim extremists consider Jews to be interlopers living in the holy land of Jerusalem. The Jewish religion, like all the others, really, is a beautiful thing that if used properly promotes goodness, peacefulness, and happiness in its practitioners.
Holy wars and religious wars are basically as old as religion itself but the Crusades are perhaps the best known in the wide culture. They took place in the 11th, 12th, and 13 centuries (just think about how long a span of time that is and how that is in some ways utterly insane) and were aimed at reclaiming the holy sites around Jerusalem and the city itself for Christians after they had been taken over by Muslims.
The soldiers of the Crusades were given permission to commit heinous acts in the name of the Pope and so they felt entitled to murder the Muslims for their trampling on the sacred Christian ground. Surely the Muslims felt the same way in their defense and so it can be agreed that both sides were committing horrible acts in the name of faith, good or bad. Ultimately the Crusades proved unsuccessful and succeeded more in weakening the Christian countries that bordered the Muslim states.
The Qur’an is the word of God in the Islamic faith and members of the religion must follow it in that belief. The purpose of a Muslim’s existence, as dictated by the Qur’an, is to love God and to serve him. In Islamic faith the leaders and notable figures of other religions are considered to be prophets but ultimately their religions are untrue and Islam is the one true religion to be followed by all and only believers will be rewarded.
Islam gets a bad rap because terrorists are largely Muslims and they use certain parts of the Qur’an to justify their violent acts. The truth is that’s just a teeny tiny part of the members of the religion and there isn’t a religion in the world that doesn’t have zealots just like that. Islam is the only religion that has inspired such murderous and violent acts in modern times. Islam is a religion of great peace and most practitioners are wonderful, peaceful people.
The Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) lived and taught in India sometime between 2500 and 2700 years ago. The Buddhist religion we know today is based on his teachings and he is a revered being, although he is not a god. The basic tenets of Buddhim stress the elimination of hatred, desire, and ignorance and through those practices you can count on finding happiness in your life and helping others to find happiness.
Some Buddhist teachings are remarkably strict (and a little annoying, to be honest) but the building blocks of the religion are fascinating and fabulous because they absolutely guarantee happiness if you can manage to embrace them. The Buddha taught that desire (or craving, if you prefer) is the root of unhappiness and he’s right. If you desire nothing then you can’t be disappointed when you don’t get it or unhappy that you don’t have it. Of course, it’s impossible to desire nothing but the practice of Buddhism can help you find peace in a beautiful way.