Sunday, May 6, 2018

Quick survey of world religions

(Originally Written March 26, 2007)

A Tapestry of Faiths
The Common Threads Between Christianity & World Religions
Winfried Corduan
Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 2002

Chapter 1: Asking the right Questions

Insofar as Christianity is the religion that expresses the preeminence of Christ, Christianity alone is true and worthwhile.

The relationship between Christianity and other religions have many dimensions of similarity.

1. The Soteriological Dimension

2. The Content Dimension

There are many beliefs that Christianity shares with other religions.

3. The Revelatory Dimension

Many religions claim truth is grounded in revelation.

4. The Apologetic Dimension

5. The Moral Dimension

Most religions include a moral system and many areas resemble each other.

6. The Communication Dimension

A Very Brief History of Religion 

Traditional/tribal religions in contrast to enscripturated religions:

Traditional religions are closely tied to their local culture.

Traditional religions tend to be animistic and ritualistic.

They recognize nature spirits and ancestor spirits. Frequently they recognize a high god in the sky.

Western Religions in contrast to Eastern Traditions

Western traditions are largely monotheistic like Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam and Baha'i.

Monotheistic Western Religions Normally have:
1. A strong monotheistic emphasis
2. A strong ethical emphasis
3. A positive approach to history. History is an unfolding of divine revelation and action.

Eastern religions are religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Shinto.

Buddhism and Jainism are direct offshoots of Hinduism.

Eastern religions are more divers in belief than Western Religions.

3. Beliefs in Contrast to Cultus:

Cultus is the rituals, altars, hymns, temples, offerings and modes of prayer.

The relationship between a belief system and its cultus can be extremely elastic.

I. Judaism

Origin: Moses, 15th Century B.C.

Essential Beliefs and Practices:
- Monotheism
- obedience to a divinely revealed law

- The Hebrew Scriptures
- Interpretations of the Scriptures (i.e. the Talmud)

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Orthodox
- Conservative
- Reform

II. Zoroastrianism

Origin: Zoroaster, 6th Century B.C.

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Monotheism
- Conflict between God (Ahura Mazda) and the evil Spirt (Angra Mainyu)
- Ethical purity
- Ritual cleanliness

Major Contemporary Division
- None

III. Christianity

Origin: Christ, 1st Century A.D.

Essential Beliefs and Practices:
- Trinitarian Monotheism
- Jesus as the Messiah

- The Bible (Old and New Testaments)

Major Contemporary Divisions:
- Eastern Orthodox
- Roman Catholic
- Protestant

IV. Islam

Origin: Muhammad, (A.D. 570 - 632)

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Monotheism
- Allah
- Judgment based on their obedience to God's requirement

- The Qu'ran
- Hadith

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Sunnite
- Shi'ites

V. Baha'i

Origin: Baha'ullah 19th Century

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Baha'ullah was the manifestation of God
- Unity of all religions
- New World Order

- The writings of Baha'ullah

Major Contemporary Divisions
- None

VI. Hinduism

Origin: 1500 B.C., religion of the Aryans who invaded the Indian subcontinent

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Extremely diverse
- Samsara (reincarnation)
- Karma

- The Vedas
- The Ramayana
- The Mahabharata
- Brahmans
- Sutras
- Puranas

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Monastic Groups
- Bhakti (personalistic)
- Vaishnavitas
- Shaivites
- Shaktites

VII. Buddhism

Origin: Gautama Buddha (600 B.C.)

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Salvation = deliverance from the reincarnation cycle
- Nirvana

- The Tripitaka
- The Lotus Sutra
- Other sutras

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Theravada (Hinayana)
- Mahayana
- Zen
- Pure Land
- Soka Gakkai
- Tibetan

VIII. Jainism

Origin: Mahavira (600 BC)

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Redemption by elimination of solid karma matter from one's soul
- Worship of the Tirthankaras

- The Agamas

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Digambaras
- Svetambaras

IX. Sikhism

Origin: Guru Nanak (16th Century A.D.)

Essential beliefs and Practices:
- There is one God who is represented on earth by the Holy Book the Adi Granth.
- Escape from the reincarnation cycle

- Adi Granth

Major Contemporary Divisions
- None

X. Daoism

Origins - Lao Zi (Lao-Tzu)

Essential beliefs and practices
- Yin & Yang

- Daodejing

Major Contemporary Divisions
- Daoism is interconnected with other religions, especially Buddhism and Confucianism

XI. Confucianism

Origins: Confucius (6th Century B.C.)

Essential Beliefs and Practices
- Ethical System

- Analects

Major Contemporary Divisions
- None

XII. Shinto

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sin in various religions

(Originally written March 22, 2007)

Effects of the Breach of the Rules

Western Religions - disrupts the relationship between God and man. Therefore, the need to restore the relationship.

Eastern religions: caught up in the endless cycle of karma-samsara (reincarnation). Therefore, the need to escape the cycle


- Fallenness (Original Sin, Total Depravity)
- We are not sinful because we are finite
- Sin is not tied to finitude or creation
- Fallenness effects our spirit, mind and will
- Need for forgiveness

Judaism & Islam
- No fallenness/original sin
- sin constitutes damage
- need for greater effort

- The problems are engendered by the very fact that one exists as an entity in the universe
- The Hindu conception of sin:
PAAPA or ENAS > "sin" against the gods or against the rules of Dharma
- But, sin (PAAPA or ENAS) is not the central issue of Hinduism
- Karma is the central focus
- Karma originally meant "motion", then "duties", then "duties of your caste"
- Karma has consequences. What you do influences what you will be in your next life.
- Samsara (reincarnation) is a very negative and oppressive concept in the east.

Entrapment by karma (personal)
- Evil people must be reincarnated
- "I hurl these monsters, cruel... people into the never-ending cycle of rebirths (Bhagavad Gita)
- Good people can continue in heaven, but then must be reincarnated (Bhagavad Gita 9:20-21)
- People who do nothing must be reincarnated
- One does not attain freedom from the bondage of Karma by merely abstain from work (Bhagavad Gita 3:4).

Cosmic entrapment by Karma

- The same multitude of beings comes into existence again and again at the arrival of the creative cycle and is annihilated, inevitably, at the arrival of the destructive cycle (Bhagavad Gita 8:19).


- There is some similarity among the religions as to the basic values of life, marriage, truth and property.
- These values are embedded in different contexts
- The values are expressed in rules that play different roles in the religions
- The effects of breaking the rules are very different from religion to religion

Functions of Rules in Various Religions

(Originally written March 17, 2007)

Class Notes

Moral purity vs. Ceremonial Purity

Ritual defilement can:
1) Occur if something is so evil that it may not be touched
2) Occur if something is so holy that it may not be touched

Defilement results in either
1) of one's self
2) of the holy object

Taboo - ultimate form of ritual defilement

Functions of the Rules in Various Religions

Western Religions:
- God as Lawgiver
- People are accountable to God
- Includes interpersonal dimension

Eastern Religions
- Rules are intrinsic to the universe

Lutheran Conception of Law
- 1st use of the Law: makes possible a livable society
- 2nd use of the Law: "Schoolmaster" - display our sinfulness to drive us to the Grace in Christ
- 3rd use of the law: evidence of regeneration

Judaism conception of Law
- The law demonstrates the righteousness that is characteristic for the people of God.
- makes the world a better place
- limited demands on Gentiles
- not tied to heaven or hell in a strict sense

Islamic conception of Law
- Rules as a test to qualify for paradise

5 Pillars of Islam:
1) Confession
2) Prayer
3) Fasting
4) Almsgiving
5) Pilgrimage

Indic Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism
- Rules are intrinsic to the universe
- divinity revealed the law
- binding on all beings, including gods

Confucianism's conception of rules
- rules bring about harmony among people
- harmony among people brings harmony in the universe

10 Commandments vs. 10 Precepts

(Originally written March 15, 2007)

The 10 Commandments

1. I am YHWH, you shall have no other Gods
2. You shall not bow down before graven images
3. Don't take the Lord's name in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
5. Honor your father & mother
6. Thou shall not murder
7. Thou shall not commit adultery
8. Thou shall not steal
9. Thou shall not bear false witness
10. Thou shall not covet

Dalai Lama - "I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness is bringing happiness to all human beings"

Duties in Religion

- Moral Norms
- Religious Norms
--> obligatory actions
--> ritual avoidances (defilement of self, defilement of the Holy)

10 Commandments

1 No other gods
2 No idolatry
3 No Lord's name in vain
4 Honor father & mother
5 Sabbath day
6 No killing
7 No adultery
8 No stealing
9 No lying
10 No coveting

10 Precepts (Buddhism)

1 Protect life
2 Sexual morality
3 No stealing
4 No lying
5 No alcohol
6 Don't eat in excess or at all after noon
7 No entertainment/shows
8 No jewelry/cosmetics
9 No comfortable beds
10 No touching Gold or silver

1-5 are for all people
6-8 are for monks always and the laity on holidays
9-10 are for monks alone

Principle of Ahisma - not to take any other life

The 10 commandments and 10 precepts overlap in 4 categories

No killing - Protect Life
No Adultery - Sexual Morality
No stealing - No stealing
No lying - No lying

Thou Shalt not Kill vs. Ahisma

- 6th commandment better stated as, "Thou shall not murder"
- Ahisma is a refusal to harm any living being whatsoever

Even superficial similarities are influenced by the religion of their context.

Within a particular religion the distinction between moral obligations and religious obligations is blurred.

Codes of morality may overlap to a certain extent between religions, but they are not the same.

Moral Purity Vs. Ceremonial Purity

Morality: Sin = Guilt
Ceremonial: Violation = Defilement

Moral guilt ultimately depends on intent. Ritual defilement does not depend on intent

Quick idea FMAG & Leibniz

In reading some old notes on Leibniz I think that I would like to make the alien that picks up the protagonist in the story a Leibniz-like figure. Or at least use some of Leibniz's metaphysical principles to power his space ship.

The Categorical difference of Christianity

(Originally written March 13, 2007)

Class Notes

Christianity is categorically different than all other religions.

Muhammad -> Islam
Buddha -> Buddhism
Christ -> Christianity

Islam could still exist even without Muhammad.

Buddhist teaching is more important than the Buddha, the Buddha is non-essential.

You can have the religion without the founder. All you need is the teaching.

It is impossible to live on the basis of Jesus' teachings alone. They are too idealistic. If you take the historical Jesus out of Christianity then you have a religion not worth talking about.

An equivocating essay on Doubt

(Originally written June 2, 2007)

Chris Linehan

Can any one doubt, truly doubt the existence of God? Can anyone be so convinced that this is our ultimate, our pinnacle of existence? Is it truly possible to disbelieve in what is ultimately real?

Can anyone doubt, truly doubt their own existence? Can we truly escape our own mind to postulate that we are not here? Is it even possible to claim that our own existence is not a necessary one?

Can I doubt that I have a headache? Can I doubt that I am writing? Can I doubt any part of my physical existence? Can I doubt that my body is composed of parts or that these parts are composed of cells or those cells are composed of smaller things still?

It is easy to doubt that which we cannot perceive immediately. It's easier for me to make claims that I have no atoms rather than I have no hands though both are equally absurd. Would we consider a man that certainly, visibly had two hands, but doubted that he had two hands capable of rationality? Not likely, we would doubt that he possessed the faculties of a sound mind to make him capable of doubt.

Doubt can be therefore rational or irrational. If I were to doubt that the woman in front of me was actually real then many would question that as a rational doubt. But if I doubted that my cell phone would work in the remote areas of North Dakota, people would consider that a rational doubt.

But, in a shocking and fantastic scenario it would be found out that the woman in front of me was actually a hologram and that Verizon Wireless had been secretly testing underground stations throughout the Dakotas my irrational doubt would prove true and my rational doubt would prove false. What then of doubt?

It seems as if we treat doubt as being based on consequences prior to testing them but not so after testing them. I do not believe that means people would consider my doubts to be reversed once proven true and false. Doubting a woman's reality would still be an irrational doubt and doubting cell phone reception in unpopulated areas would still be considered rational.

Doubt and belief are similar here. In spite of rare, fantastic occurrences that prove the irrational true and the rational false, we are not abandoning reason altogether because of chance circumstances. Doubt and belief are further interconnected when it is applied to higher more ultimate things, namely religion and God. Is it rational to doubt God's existence? We cannot perceive God via the five senses, at least not directly. And for some this is sufficient to claim that doubting his existence is rational.

Others claim that rational proofs of his non-exisnetence are required to suffice rational doubt of the existence of God. Others point to the existence of evil as a sufficient condition of doubting the existence of God.

I feel that any sufficient reason for doubting the existence of an ultimate reality is purely subjective and totally arbitrary, There must be a supreme existence that is ultimate, otherwise we are no more real than Huck Finn or Hamlet. Without claiming some ultimate reality we cannot claim that our physical existence is any more real than the mental existence these characters enjoy.

So to doubt the existence of God, as defined as ultimate reality is completely irrational. Bud do not for one instance feel comfortable as a theist in stating that this proves the existence of a theistic, let alone Christian God. For this argument can claim that we are all our own God and we are ultimate existence unto ourselves.

However, I think here we can apply easy, fundamental notions to show that we are not in fact ultimate reality unto ourselves. The very notion of ultimate demands singularity. The fact that humanity is a multiplicity denies that each human being can be itself the God.

What then of all humanity? Can the aggregate of all humanity be this singular God? No series or multiplicity can be a unity. If humanity were the God then we would be all one mind, which is absurd. The same argument can be used against the totality of the universe. The universe itself is an aggregate and cannot in any way be construed as the God or ultimate reality.

Therefore, since we know that it is irrational to doubt the existence of God or ultimate reality and that, no single human or combination of humans or combination or totality of this universe can be called God then God whom we cannot rationally doubt to exist must exist outside this universe.

Whether or not to believe in the Christian, deistic or theistic God is another topic. For now it is clear and simple enough to demand that if we are rational in our thought process we cannot doubt that God, an ultimate reality exists. And in continuing with being rational in thought we cannot claim that any part or sum of this universe can claim ultimate reality or God-status. Thus, God, whose existence is rationally doubtless must exist beyond this universe.

End of Book XIV
02/15/07 - 06/02/07