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The five major world religions - John Bellaimey


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It's perfectly human to grapple with questions, like ‘Where do we come from?’ and ‘How do I live a life of meaning?’ These existential questions are central to the five major world religions -- and that’s not all that connects these faiths. John Bellaimey explains the intertwined histories and cultures of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

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HINDUISM Children in India are often given comic books describing the lives of the saints and gods. Take a look at one of these and think about the obstacle faced by the protagonist and what spiritual resources were required to overcome it.
ISLAM Much of the beauty of the Qur'an comes in its poetry. To appreciate Arabic poetry is difficult for the non-speaker. Investigate the meanings of the following expressions and tell what each one means, literally and symbolically:
"Seal of the Prophets"
"Sun" Letters and "Moon" Letters
Men are known as Abu (Father of) and women as Umm (Mother of)
Arabic words are all based on three (sometimes four) letter roots, so S-L-M is the root of Muslim, Salaam, Islam, and other words
What are the Greater Jihad and the Lesser Jihad and why might most non-Muslims be surprised to learn which is which?
CHRISTIANITY See if you can identify the symbols used in a stained glass window like the one shown here. Each symbol designates a person or religious idea in Christianity, and these symbols were long used to educate people who could not read. For example, the lion refers to St. Mark, the key refers to St. Peter, and a blue veil to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
BUDDHISM Find out what the eight spokes are in the Buddhist wheel symbol. Each stands for part of the eightfold path. Make a model or drawing of the wheel, and explain to the class in simple terms what kind of thing a person learns in practicing each of the eight things. Go on to imagine what the space in the center of the wheel symbolizes, and what the circle around the wheel symbolizes.
JUDAISM It has been said that Judaism is a civilization of people who seek to make everything in life sacred. "Sacred" does not JUST mean "holy" or "religious." It means "set apart," or "especially revered." Find some sacred objects in your school or classroom, and take pictures of them. Report back to the class about why the objects are "sacred." For example, the teacher's grade-book is very significant and symbolizes the judging power of a teacher to give good grades. The clock may be sacred, because everyone obeys it without question. A certain precious picture or work of art may be set apart in memory of someone who has died.
Religion is an integral part of our culture. But where did it come from, and what is its nature? History, anthropology, archaeology and a few other interesting branches of science have gathered enough evidence to help us gain an understanding into the evolution of this "phenomenon."
When Lesley Hazleton was writing a biography of Muhammad, she was struck by something: The night he received the revelation of the Koran, according to early accounts, his first reaction was doubt, awe, even fear. And yet this experience became the bedrock of his belief. Hazleton calls for a new appreciation of doubt and questioning as the foundation of faith — and an end to fundamentalism of all kinds.
Speaking at the most recent EG conference, author, philosopher, prankster and journalist A.J. Jacobs talks about the year he spent living biblically — following the rules in the Bible as literally as possible.

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