Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chapter 9 - Pocket Guide to World Religions

(Originally written February 18, 2007)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Win Corduan

Chapter Nine: Jainism


Jainism is derived from the Sanskrit word jina. Tina means "conquerer". A Jain is a "follower of the conquerer". The conquerer refers to the founder of the religion, Mahavira.

To the outsider, Jainism appears similar to Hinduism.

Numbers and Distribution

There are 4 million Jains in the world today.

The vast majority live in India, but Kenya has a number of Jains because of Indian immigration.

There is an active Jain temple in Chicago.


Jainism has many symbols but for a millennia it had no universal symbol.

In 1975, a global convention of Jains met to observe the 2500th anniversary of Mahavira's death and devised a single symbol. It combined five elements:

1. The outside is a person's torso, the shape Jains imagine the universe exists in.
2) The arc represents the head of the human shape, the dot represents those who have attained liberation.
3) The three dots stand for the three Jain principles: faith, right knowledge and right conduct
4) The swastika has many meanings: entanglement in the cycle of reincarnations, the four kinds of beings in need of salvation: gods, humans, animals and demons
5) the hand indicates a blessing and a warning. Inside the hand is a wheel with 24 spokes. Each spoke represents an ancient teacher (the Tirthankaras). Inside the wheel is the inscription "ahimsa" which means non-violence. Non-violence is the most basic principle of Jainism


Jainism was founded by Mahavira, who lived in the 6th century BC. He was the son of making who renounced his wealth and leisure to find enlightenment. He then lived a life of extreme self-mortification, punishing his body to liberate his soul. At the brink of death he experienced a flash of enlightenment.

Unlike the Buddha, Mahavira di not cease to live an ascetic life. He recruited others to emulate his lifestyle.

Jainism split from Hinduism because it didn't acknowledge the caste system or divinity of the Hindu scriptures.

Jainism's central belief not to harm any living beings is so strict it denies farming as a valid occupation.

Jains became good commerce and finance occupations.


There are many Jain writings. The most popular collection of Scriptures is the Agam Sutras, but they are not universally accepted.

Major Beliefs

Jainism's main focus is on liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

Jainism teaches the law of karma.

Jainism teaches that each being has its own soul and its own divinity. The soul is called a jiva and it is trapped in a cycle of births and rebirths. The goal of each jiva is to rise to the top of the universe to enjoy peace. Ajiva (or dead matter) clings to the soul and keeps it trapped in its current bondage. Ajiva is depicted as granules that weigh the soul down and the more bad karma one accrues, the more ajiva sets piled on one's jiva.

The point of Jainism is to purify one's soul of all ajiva in order to enter the permanent state of bliss. Removing bad karma from one's soul is something all persons need to do for themselves.

The gods are ambivalent role in Jainism.

Jainism vigorously denies the existence of a creator or sustainer of the universe.

The Hindu gods are recognized in Jainism, but seen as being in need of salvation. The gods must be reborn in human form to receive salvation through personal enlightenment.

There are five vows one must take to achieve enlightenment.
1) Ahisma - never harming many living thing. Eating can be given up to remove all karma.
2) Always tell the truth. One must qualify all of one's speech so that no one can mishear them.
3) Never steal property
4) Avoid all sexual contact
5) Do not get attached to anything material. One must limit one's sensory input as much as possible.

Mahavira showed the way to enlightenment. He was a jina (a conqueror) and a Tirthankara (a  ford finder). Mahavira was the last of the 24 Tirthankara.

Even though Tirthankaras are not gods in Jainism, they are worshipped as such in Jain temples.


There are two major subgroups and a number of small ones. The two major subgroups are:
1) Svetambara - "clad in white". The monks wear white.
2) Digambara - "clad in atmosphere". The monks wear only air.

Digambara Jainists believe that one cannot attain enlightenment while wearing clothes and that women cannot go naked. Thus, they believe that women cannot be enlightened.

The Svetambara believe that women can attain enlightenment and that one of the Tirthankaras was a woman named Subidhi.

Worship practices

One attaining enlightenment through strictly observing precepts.

In the Jain temples people focus on the teachings of the Tirthankaras and venerate their statues.

They meditate in the temples.

Religious Buildings

Jain temples are usually highly ornate and white on the outside.

Inside a temple there are decorations to aid meditation.

There are statues of the Tirthankaras in an isolated room. Worshippers must wear cloths on their face to not contaminate the purity of the air with their breath.

Home Practices

Jains believe that only monks can remove all karma to attain enlightenment.

The laity of Jainism work to remove as much karma as possible to have a favorable reincarnation.


Laypersons must dress modestly. Monks split over wearing white robes and going nude.


Laypersons eat a strict vegetarian diet. This is still a compromise because plants are living creatures and they believe that they are incurring karma every time they eat.

Monks only eat what was going to be thrown away.


Jains follow a lunar calendar that keeps step with the solar year.

All groups celebrate the birthday of Mahavira, which roughly falls into April.

The other main holiday is a 10-day fast used as a time of reflection and prayer.

The Svetambras call this Paryusham and hold it in August. The Digambaras observe their  fast as the Das Lakshon in September.

Jainism is a culture based on rigorous ethical principles, paying a high respect for truth.

Chapter 8 - Pocket Guide to World Religions

(Originally written February 18, 2007)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Chapter 8 - Islam


The name Islam literally means, "submission".

Muslim is translated as "one who submits to God".

Muhammadism and Mahometism and derivatives should not be used to describe Muslims.

Numbers and Distribution

There are 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. 5-7 million Muslims live in the U.S.

The largest populations of Muslims are actually in Asia, not the Middle East.
- India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


The most common is the crescent moon with a star inside it.

The meaning of the crescent is obscure. Most frequently it is deemed to stand for representing the new moon because many Muslim practices are tied to a lunar calendar.


According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in Mecca, in A.D. 570.

Muhammad meditated and received messages from God and passed them to the people. These messages were collected in the Qur'an (Koran).

Muhammad preached that there is only one God and all human beings will be held accountable to him at the last judgment.

The idolatrous religions of the Arabian peninsula and their leaders took offense at Muhammad's message and persecuted the new Muslim community. They fled Mecca.

Muhammad and his followers formed an army in nearby Medina. They returned to Mecca and purged the city of idolatry and claimed it for Islam.

After Muhammad died the Muslim community split over who would be his successor. This is where the Shi'ite and Sunni division took place.

During this time of inner strife, Islam spread rapidly. Over 30 years nearly the entire Middle East and Northern Africa was conquered by Islam.

Islam is not simply a religion, ti is  aching that encompasses an entire community, including government.


Only one book contains the complete and true revelation of God, the Qur'an.

Islam recognizes the Law of Moses, the Psalms of David and the Gospels of Jesus as holy books, but they have been corrupted and thus, are unreliable.

Also the Hadith is a collection of several words from Muhammad and stories of his life. The Hadith is not the word of Allah, but it is an authoritative interpretation of the Qur'an.

Major Beliefs

There are Five or Six Essential beliefs in Islam

1) God
- Allah is one God
- He can neither be divided nor multiplied
-Islam rejects polytheism and Christianity's idea of the Trinity

2) Angels and Spirits
- There are beings who were created to serve humans and Allah
- The angel Gabriel presented Muhammad with his first revelation
- The jinn are malicious spirits
- Iblis is the spirit who refused to bow to Adam and became the devil

3) Prophets
- God has designated individuals to be prophets in order to declare his standards
- Muhammad is the "seal of the prophets". He brought the same message, but it has been preserved without corruption or alteration
- Noah, Adam, Abraham and Jesus are some notable prophets recognized by Islam

4) Books
- Some prophets (Moses, Jesus, David and Muhammad) embodied their words in books. Jews and Christians have flawed books, but their devotion to Monotheism, gain them a special standing as "people of the book"

5) Judgment
- all will be judged at the last judgment
- at the final judgment a book of their actions will be placed in every persons' hands by an angel. If it is placed in their left hand they are condemned. If it is placed in their right hand they will spend eternity with Allah in Heaven.
- If you submitted to Allah you will spend eternity in Heaven. Some who have never even heard of Islam will be deemed to have submitted while those who claim to be Muslim may be deemed to have not submitted
- "Allah's judgement will be harshest on hypocrites and lapsed Muslims" (Corduan, 84).


There are two major divisions amongst Muslims:
1) Sunnis
2) Shi'ites

The split is primarily historical, but there are few belief/practice differences as well.

Sunni Muslims followed Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad's fathers-in-law, upon Muhammad's death.

According to the Sunni tradition, Muhammad's spiritual gifts died with him and the Qur'an is the final say on all matters.

The Shi'ite Muslims followed Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law. Ali, according to the Shi'ite tradition, possessed a spiritual endowment from the prophet.

Shi'ites believe that their leaders, the imams, have, if not authority on par with the Qur'an, the final say on interpretation.

Sunni Islam does not have a central authority, is fairly uniform and believe Mecca is the only pilgrimage. The Shi'ite tradition has a hierarchy with 1 imam, 12ish ayatollahs and many local mullahs, is split into further divisions and has other major pilgrimage sites like the tombs of Ali and Hussein.

Sunnis have a vague expectation of a future leader, the Mahdi.

Shi'ites believe that an important imam went into concealment hundreds of years ago and continues to live there. He will return as the Mahdi.

The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni.

Yemen, Lebanon and Iran contain significant numbers of Shi'ites.

Iraq is mostly Shi'ite and contain most of the Shi'ite holy sites. Ironically, Iraq has almost always been ruled by a Sunni government from the Turkish Sultans to the Hashemite Kings to the Baath party.

Worship Practices:

The Five Pillars of Islam

1) Confession: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah". This must be recited by all Muslims

2) Prayer
- Muslims must pray five times daily
- After prayer is called, the worshiper must rinse one's hands, feet, eyes and mouth three times as a purification ritual
- Men and wormen pray separately
- They pray side by side and perform ritual moments while silently reciting the Qur'an

3) Fasting
- During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset
- It is a month of meditation and reflection

4) Alms giving
- Muslims must provide for the poor and needy
- The Zakat is required annual contribution of about 2.5% of one's income

5) Pilgrimage
- All muslims should visit Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime.

Jihad: Holy War
- Sometimes called the 6th pillar
- Literally means "struggle"
- "Greater Jihad" inner struggle of each individual to submit to Allah
- "Lesser Jihad" -outward struggle to defend the Islamic community
- The Qur'an forbids conversion by force
- Physical warfare is legitimate in two cases:
1) To protect an oppressed Muslim minority
2) TO reclaim what was once Islamic territory

Religious Buildings

Islamic places of worship are called mosques

Mosques traditionally have turrets with balconies for the muezzin to call to prayer.

A niche indicating the way to Mecca is in the front of the empty hall of the Mosque.

There is also a separate place for women to pray away from the men.

Sermons are given on Friday afternoons.

Home Practices

Most prayers are said at home.

The Qur'an states that a man may have up to four wives, so long as he treats each of them equally in all respects.


Men and women are expected to dress modestly in public.

The full face veil is not a Koranic requirement for women.

Women must keep all but their faces covered while men must keep everything down to their knees and above their elbows covered.


The Halal is the food laws followed by Muslims.

The halal is similar to the Jewish Kosher laws.

Muslims mustn't eat pork or anything that has come into contact with pork.


The Islamic Calendar has 12 months of approximately 29 1/2 days.

The Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the Western one.

The calendar began with Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina called the hijira in A.D. 622. It is designated 1 A.H (Anno Hegirae).

2000 A.D. roughly coincided with 1421 A.H.

The two major holidays are:
1) Ramadan - the month of fasting
2) Eid-al-Adha pilgrims sacrifice animals outside of Mecca to observe God's gift to Abraham

Chapter 7 - Pocket Guide to World Religions

(Originally written February 18, 2007)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Win Corduan

Chapter 7 - Hinduism


Hinduism is a Western created word to encompass the religious and social system of India.

Hindus refer to their religion as the dharma, which means "the way" or "the religion".

Numbers and Distribution

There are approximately 900 million Hindus worldwide.

The largest numbers of Hindus live in India, including the 300 million "untouchables" who are considered Hindus, but cannot fully participate in the religion.


Symbols play an important role in Hinduism.

The most universal symbol is the Om. Om is a sound that has no literal meaning but that is supposed represent the totality of the spiritual universe.

The swastika is also a prevalent symbol in Hinduism, but is not displayed in the West. It represents prosperity and good fortune in Hinduism.


Hinduism began as the religion of a group of people migrations to the Indian subcontinent from central Asia. These people are called the Aryans (not to be confused with the racist ideology of Hitler's race). The Aryans migrated around 1500 BC. They worshiped a few gods with animal sacrifice.

The priests of the Aryans were called Brahmins. The Brahmins recorded prayers and sacrificial formulas in books called Vedas. The Brahmins introduced new rules and regulations, altering Hinduism dramatically.

The Caste system developed and the belief in reincarnation became a vital part of Hinduism.

This early form of Hinduism is sometimes referred to as "the way of works" because of its emphasis on the Brahmin ritualistic and legalistic emphasis.

Around the 6th century BC the people reacted against the Brahmin legalism. Buddhism and Jainism emerged out of this reaction, and a new understanding of Hinduism emerged.

"The way of knowledge", the process of finding God within one's self replaced "the way of works". But, "The way of works" and "the way of knowledge" coexist and influence one another.

By the 8th century AD, "the way of devotion" had emerged. This interpretation of Hinduism focuses on one particular god or goddess.

Modern Hinduism blends all three ways but "the way of devotion" is the major influence.

1. Way of Works - based on sacrifices and rituals
2. Way of knowledge - based on finding God within one's self
3. Way of Devotion - based on a person's relationship with a particular deity.

1. Way of works is called Brahmanism or Vedic Hinduism
2. Way of knowledge is called Vedantic Hinduism
3. Way of Devotion is called Bhakti Hinduism


Hinduism has many writings that are organized into two main categories:

1. Shruti - writings "heard" from the gods by holy men (richis)
2. Smriti - writings handed down by tradition

The Smriti contain mostly stories, so average Hindus pay the most attention to them.

The Shruti contain thoughts and beliefs and are usually confined to priests and scholars.

Many Hindu scholars believe that the Scriptures were only written down a few centuries ago and that they were passed down orally for generations.

1) Vedas
2) Brahmanas
3) Sutras
4) Law of Manu
5) Upanishads

1) Mahabharata
2) Bhagavad Gita
3) Ramayana
4) Puranas

Major Beliefs

Hinduism has no mandatory set of beliefs but most agree on certain concepts.

What most Hindus agree on:

1. Life is hard and full of suffering
2. Reincarnation
3. What you come back as is based on what you have done in previous lives. (Law of Karma)

Hinduism, in all its forms, attempts to find a way out of the never-ending cycle of lives, deaths and rebirths.

What many Hindus agree on: ritual obligations

A large number of Hindus consider it important to maintain fundamental rules of life.

Hindu culture is woven into the fabric of Hindu  society and Hindus cling to ritual obligations regardless of their religious convictions.

What many Hindus agree on: Vedantic Hinduism

The most important problem of all human beings is that they have forgotten they are living in an unreal world.

The is a true reality: the Brahman.

The Brahman is the spiritual being that is ultimately beyond understanding or description.

If we treat our experiences (maya) of the world as real, we will remain trapped in the cycle of reincarnation. If we realize that deep within ourselves there is a self (atman) that is identical with Brahman we are on the way to escaping the never-ending cycle of reincarnation.

What many Hindus agree on: Bhakti Hinduism

Some Hindus believe that all gods are manifestations of the Brahman, others believe that their specific god or goddess is the supreme being.

There're are 300 million gods in Hinduism, but not all gods are equal in importance.

The are 3 main gods (traditionally)

1) Brahma - creator of the universe
2) Vishnu - the preserver
3) Shiva - the destroyer of the world.

Each of these gods has a female counterpart, a shaky, who brings out his power

1) Brahma - Sarasvati, the goddess of learning
2) Vishnu - Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune
3) Shiva - Parvati, his devoted wife
 - Durga, the goddess of death
 - Kali, the destroyer of evil

Vishnu is extremely important because he occasionally incarnates himself to restore order. His most prominent incarnations (avatars) include Krishna and Rama.



-Brahma, the creator, four heads
-Saraswati, Brahma's wife, goddess of learning, stringed instrument
-Vishnu, preserver, blue, conch shell, discuss, staff
-Lakshmi, Vishnu's wife, goddess of fortune, Blue conch shell
-Shiva, destroyer, trident, three horizontal stripes
-Paravati, Shiva's wife, depicted with Shiva
-Durga, goddess of death, eight or ten arms, long spear, riding a lion
-Kali, destroyer of demons, black grimaced face, skull necklace rides a tiger
-Rama, avatar of Vishnu, ideal king, Green with a large bow
-Krishna, Avatar of Vishnu, cowherd, Dark blue or black with a flute
-Ganesha, son of Shiva, remover of obstacles, Elephant head
-Hanuman, Grand vizier of the monkeys, green monkey, often with Rama


Subgroups can be distinguished by their devotion o a main god. There could be countless subgroups, but there are three main ones:

1) Vishnavites - Vishnu is head god
2) Shaivites - Shiva is head god
3) Shaktites - Kali or Durga is head god.

Some groups of Hinduism practice yoga to liberate one's spirit from their body.

Another way of grouping Hindus is the caste system. While the caste system is a social construct, it has a profound impact on religious life.

Brahmins - Priests
Kshatriyas - Warriors or rulers
Vaishyas - Merchants, landowners
Shudras - workers
Dalits - outcasts

Worship Practices

Worship is performed before statues of gods in the home and temple.

Hindus believe that the god/goddess live in the statue as long as the statue is properly cared for.

The worship is called puja. Puja can be simple at home and last for only a few minutes. It can also be very ornate in temple settings.

Religious buildings

A Hindu temple is often highly decorated and dedicated to a specific deity.

Temples normally have a statue of the main god in the most prominent palace, and a statue of Ganesha to the right of it.

Home Practices

Traditionally, a Hindu house hold has a statue of a god that must be worshipped daily.

Women have a special duty to make pilgrimages for their family.

Women also decorate the front door with Kola diagrams. Kola diagrams are designed made of colored rice to be eaten by ants as an offering to gods and spirits.


Little of traditional Indian dress is considered intrinsically religious.

Masks on the face or forehead can be very significant.

Devotees of particular deities will rub ash on their face after worship. Shaivites mark their forehead with three horizontal stripes. Vaishnavites make two vertical lines that converge on the bridge of the nose.

The red spot on the forehead of women is called the bindi. Bindi means "little drop". The Bindi lets the world know that the wearer is a Hindu and a married woman.

Some unmarried girls have a spot on their forehead to protect against the "evil eye".


Hindus do not eat beef because the cow is considered sacred.

Many Hindus are vegetarians, but not all.


Hindus follow a lunar calendar.

Festivals are put on the full full moon, 10 fall in the middle of the moth.

Because of sectarian and regional differences the same festival is celebrated to different gods on a regular basis.

Some important celebrations:

1. Diwali (late October/Early November)
- most important and most widespread of all Hindu holidays
- honors a godess, usually Lakshmi
- sometimes considered New Year's Day

2. Pangal (January)
- primarily a South Indian celebration
- Some times considered a New Year's
- festival of fertility, not devoted to a specific god
- women make kola diagrams, men fly kites
- cows are adorned with garland

3. Taipusam (late January, early February)
- entirely a South Indian holiday
- dedicated to Muruka, the son of Shiva
- devotion expressed through acts of austerity and self-immolation

4. Holi (late February, early March)
- honors Krishna
- honors his pranks played as a youth
- 5 days of high spirits
- on the 5th day people throw buckets of colored water on one another

Every deity has his or her own birthday or day of descent.

Chapter 6 - Pocket Guide to World Religions

(Originally written February 18, 2006)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Win Corduan

Chapter 6 - Daoism


Also spelled Taoism. The name is based on the concept of Dao, which means "The Way".

Taoism means "following the Way".

It is an abstract philosophy and a religion.

Numbers and Distribution

Daoism is considered a part of the combined Chinese religion that includes Confucianism and Buddhism.

250 million practitioners is a rough guess to how many adhere to Daoism.


"The Yin and Yang sign represents the two fundamental elements of the universe intertwined with each other" (Corduan, 58).

Yin and Yang
Earth & Heaven
Cold & Hot
Wet & Dry
Passive & Active
Dark & Bright
Mysterious & Clear
Feminine & Masculine

The Yin-Yang represents the coexistence of opposites that complement one another.

The dots show that yin exists in yang and yang exists in yin, in perfect harmony.

Good and Evil are the same as balance and imbalance. Evil only occurs when there is too much yin or too much yang.

The right amount of balance is dependent on the object.


As a purely philosophical system Daoism has existed since the 6th century.

The founder of Daoism is stated to be Lao-zi (Lao-Tzu). Lao-zi was roughly a contemporary of Buddha and Confucius.

When Lao-Zi was even older he decided to travel west to India in search of more wisdom. At the border, the gate keeper would not let him leave until he wrote down all of his wisdom. Lao-Zi then wrote the Daodejing (Tao-Te-Ching). He then left China, never to be heard of again.

Taoism slowly developed from an abstract philosophy into a religion. The balance of spiritual forces provided a basis for the religion.

The Daoism religion recognized a large number of gods in a hierarchy similar to Chinese government. The highest god was the Jade Emperor, who rules the entire universe.

Daoism is unique among polytheistic religions because "the idea that the power of the gods becomes available insofar as there is spiritual harmony among people, ancestors and gods" (Corduan, 60).


There are many Daoism writings, but the two most important ones are:

1) The Daodejing by Lao-Zi
- about the universe, language and government
- If the Dao is left alone then balance will be restored and everything will be right. People do not let the Dao work, but try to fix things themselves which makes it worse.

2) The Yijing (I-Ching)
- predates Lao-Zi by centuries
- A guide to fortune telling
- "A fortune teller analyzes a combination of sticks that come in two lengths and thereby uncovers the balance of yin and yang for a particular situation" (Corduan, 61).

Major Beliefs

Fundamental premise: The Dao is the ultimate state of harmony and balance in the universe.

To bring about the Dao is to make sure everything is going well in the realm of gods and ancestors.

Daoism as a religion is usually blended with Buddhism and Confucianism.

There are many gods, arranged by power in a bureaucratic manner. Mine gods govern a village or town. Major gods govern the world.

All beings (humans, gods, ancestors and nature) are linked in a glance. Humans must find the imbalance and  remedy the situation.

Humans are quite capable of diagnosing problems and fixing them.


Daoism is not a true organization so there are no subgroups.

Daoism is a philosophy that can be interpreted and applied whenever and wherever.

Worship Practices:

1. Ancestor veneration
- Incense is burnt daily for the deceased. Sometimes feed is offered
2. Fortune telling
- Discerning proper yin and yang is crucial to Daoism
3. Funerals
- Keeping a dead spirit happy is crucial to balance.
- All the funeral rituals must be performed properly to ensure a happy departed spirit. Paper replicas of the deceased belongings are burned to ensure that they will have those things in the after life.
- Even years after death, the living most continually provide for the deceased.
4. Worship of the gods
- The gods are the spiritual rulers of villages, regions and the nation. It is their obligation to provide for their constituents.
- The people under the gods must worship the gods with festivals and temples and rituals to ensure protection and care.
- If the results of worship are not seen, the gods will likely be forgotten or replaced.
5. Feng-Shui
- Feng-Shui is the arrangement of one's space to ensure spiritual harmony and balance.

Religious Buildings

Modern China combines Buddhism and Daoism in one building.

Taoist temples are arranged according to the guidelines of Feng-Shui.

Taoist temples contain:
1. Statues of gods and goddesses that are important to that area.
2. Statues of guardian spirits to scare off evil spirits.
3. Large pots to hold incense sticks called joss sticks.
4. A wall or room with ancestor tablets. A part of the deceased soul remains indwelled in these tablets. Visiting them is maintaining contact with the dead.
5. An area where fortune telling can be done.
6. A table or booth where joss sticks and other paper structure to be burned are sold.
7. A large oven to burn things for the spirits. Usually a drum is attached to the oven so that people can get the attention of the spirits.

Home Practices

The Home must be a center for harmony and balance.

A home must follow the demands of fengshui.

Statues of gods are usually kept in the home. The kitchen god who reports the status of the home to the higher god's every New Year's Day is a statue found in virtually every home.

The most important item in every home is the wall shrine that contains ancestor tablets. Incense is burned and food offerings are made daily to the tablets.


Daoism has no clothing regulations.


There are no food prohibitions in Daoism


Taoism follows the Confucian Lunar Calendar

The Hungry Ghost Festival is an important Daoist holiday. A "hungry ghost" is an unsatisfied deceased person. The Hungry Ghost Festival is a time to appease all the hungry ghosts that are freed from hell in the seventh lunar month.

Chapter 5 - Pocket Guide to World Religions

(Originally written February 18, 2007)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Win Corduan

Chapter 5 - Confucianism


Confucianism is named after its founder, Confucius.

Confucianism is often a way of life incorporated with other religions like Daoism and Buddhism.

Numbers and Distribution

Confucianism is not a stand alone religion, so its practitioners are nearly impossible to number.


There are no official symbols for Confucianism.


Confucius lived in China from 551-479 BC.

Confucius lived in tumultuous times in China.

His father died when he was young, leaving him impoverished.

Through hard work he amazingly rose to the position of advisor to the prince of the province of Lu.

While advisor to the prince, he fell victim to the court's intrigue and spent the last 30 years of his life unemployed. He traveled  throughout China his last 30 years and accumulated a vast number of disciples.

His ideas were seen as a way to restore Chinese stability.

Confucius wrote his ideas down, but were blocked by the Qin dynasty. The Han dynasty, which replaced the Qin dynasty, used Confucius' philosophy as the official philosophy of the Chinese Empire.

Confucius the man was venerated after death and became a part of China's long-standing ancestral worship practices.

Confucius' ideals have survived as the structure of Chinese society even until today.


Confucianism venerates all the Confucian classics, but the Analects are the most important.

Major Beliefs

"Confucianism is about how to create a flourishing society" (Corduan, 52).

Confucianism does not promote any supernatural beliefs, but does encourage people to fulfill religious obligations as a part of their moral duties.

Confucianism provides a blueprint for relationships.

Each individual has many roles in a given society. Each role has a virtue attached to it.

The most important virtue in Confucianism is filial piety. Filial piety is maintaining the honor of one's parents. Filial piety is as important in life as it is in death. There are numerous rituals to be performed by children of deceased parents.


There are differences in interpretation of Confucius, but there are no real subgroups in Confucianism.


There are no gods or salvation in Confucius' teachings.

He saw heaven as being the source of virtue.

Confucianism endorsed ancestor veneration and all its rituals.

Religious Buildings

The Han dynasty built temples to Confucius, but temples to Confucius were replaced by the polytheistic religion Daoism.

Today it is common to find a statue of Confucius in a Chinese temple.

Home Practices

Filial piety is rooted in the homes so the home is important in Confucianism.

The relationships are taught in the home.


Confucianism advocates that what one wears should reflect a person's standing in his/her society.


Food is offered to dead ancestors on a regular basis.

The Qing-Ming festival is a gathering where food is offered to the spirits who in turn consume the essence of the food. The food is then eaten by the gatherers. Not to eat it is a breach of filial piety.


Confucianism maintains a traditional Chinese Calendar. It uses a lunar calendar.

The Chinese Calendar began at the onset of the Xia Dynasty, the first Chinese Dynasty. This was in 2698 BC. Thus, the year 2000 AD is year 4698 in China.

Each year is represented by an animal. There are twelve animals:
1) Rooster
2) Dog
3) Pig
4) Rat
5) Ox
6) Tiger
7) Rabbit
8) Dragon
9) Snake
10) Horse
11) Goat
12) Monkey

Chinese New Year, which falls in late January or early February, is the most important holiday.

Confucianism holds that everyone turns one year older on New Year's Day.

The Qing-Ming (spring festival) is the second most important holiday in China. It celebrates the solidarity of the family.

Confucianism has been outwardly eradicated by Westernization and the Communist State. But, Confucius' principles of submission to authority and propriety in relationships still provides the framework for Chinese culture.

Chapter 4 - Pocket Guide to World Religions (C)

(Originally written February 18, 2007)

Pocket Guide to World Religions
Win Corduan

Chapter 4

Religious buildings

Christian buildings are called churches.

The most important room in a church is the sanctuary.

Some churches are adorned with a cross or a crucifix, but others intentionally do not post them so as not to lead to idolatry.

Home practices

There are no specific guidelines for home practices.


No formal requirements, only a general expectation for modesty.

Some sacramental clerics wear robes or vestments in church and some times outside of church settings.


There are no "unclean" foods according to Christianity.

Some Christian groups disparage tobacco and alcohol.


Christianity adapted the calendar of the ancient Romans to their use.

They used the seven day week in continuing their Jewish origin.

Sunday is the Christian day of worship because that is the day Christ rose from the dead.

Chapter 4 - Pocket Guide to World Religions (B)

(Originally written February 16, 2007)

Christianity and Judaism split within the first generations of Christianity.

Life of Jesus Christ

Jesus was born in Bethlehem about 6 BC.

He was born to a virgin via a miraculous birth.

Virtually nothing about his life is known prior to age 30. At 30 he launched his public ministry. He gathered 12 disciples.

He emphasized servitude to God and men out of love, not obligation.

He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. He was a miracle worker and an exorcist.

He was crucified for offending the Jewish establishment and suspected of treason against Rome.

The Scriptures claim that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples over a 40-day period until finally ascending into Heaven.

Subsequent Developments

During the first 70 years after Jesus' death and resurrection his teachings spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Paul the Apostle was instrumental in these early years.

The New Testament books were written in this time too.

The Early Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire until 313 when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion.

When the Roman Empire split tension between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Western Catholic Church arose. The Church finally split in 1054.

The bishop of Rome blame the Pope and asserted authority over all the Western Church between 350 - 850 AD.

Another major split occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation.

Currently, Christianity is characterized by two important features: first a global presence reaching into even the smallest corners of the world; and second, division into many different local churches and denominations, which often differ only on minor matters" (Corduan, 42).


Virtually all Christians recognize the Scriptures as two collections:
1) The Scriptures of Jesus' day (known as the Old Testament)
2) The New Testament

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches maintain that the Apocrypha are also inspired works and thus, Scriptures. Protestants do not hold this view because the Apocrypha was not recognized as Scripture in Jesus' day.

Major Beliefs

Christianity emphasizes correct belief.

1. God - one God who created the universe and is not part of the universe.
2. Trinity - God exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God is one nature, but three distinct persons.
3. Sin and Redemption - man is fallen and must redeemed
4. Christ - Jesus Christ is God. He became Incarnate.
5. Atonement - Jesus' death was not a martyrdom. It was the atonement for sinful man.
6. Faith - faith is an attitude of trust in Christ. Salvation is earned by faith alone, not through works.
7. Future - Jesus will come back to judge the earth. Those who believed will go to Heaven, those who did not will go to Hell.


Christianity is divided into numerous subgroups and sub-subgroups. Many have split over very minor doctrinal disagreements

Major Subgroups

1) Roman Catholic Church
- Headed by the Pope
- The Largest subgroup
- Worldwide
- Sacramental

2) Eastern Orthodox Church
- primarily in Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East
- Sacramental
- Has preserved many ancient traditions
- Headed by the Patriarch

3) Protestant Churches
- Emphasize individual salvation

Worship Practices

They vary from church to church, but usually have singing, scripture reading, prayer and preaching.

Some churches are liturgical, others are very informal.

Baptism and Communion are areas that have caused rifts in the Church.

Church Division: (among many others)

Baptism is the Christian initiation ceremony.

Communion is a ceremonial meal of a portion of bread and a sip of wine.

Some call these sacraments, others call them ordinances.

Sacraments -> conveying of God's grace.
Ordinances -> reminders of God's actions