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Dvě miminka v bříšku
V bříšku těhotné ženy byla dvě miminka. První se druhého zeptalo:
- Do you believe in life after the birth?
- Sure. There must be something after the birth. Maybe, we are now here only to get ready for it.
- Nonsense, there cannot be any life after the birth. What do you think it would look like?
- I really don't know... There may be more light than here. It's possible we'll use our legs for walking and our mouths for eating...
- No to je přece nesmysl! Běhat se nedá. A jíst pusou, to je úplně směšné!
Živí nás přece pupeční šňůra. Něco ti řeknu: Život po porodu je vyloučený - pupeční šňůra je už teď moc krátká.
- Ba ne, určitě něco bude. Jen asi bude všechno trochu jinak, než jsme tady zvyklí.
- Ale nikdo se přece odtamtud po porodu nevrátil. Porodem prostě život končí. A vůbec, život není nic, než vleklá stísněnost v temnu.
- No, já přesně nevím, jak to bude po porodu vypadat, ale každopádně uvidíme mámu a ta se o nás postará.
- Máma? Ty věříš na mámu? A kde má jako podle tebe být?
- No přece všude kolem nás! V ní a díky ní žijeme. Bez ní bychom vůbec nebyli.
- Tomu nevěřím! Žádnou mámu jsem nikdy neviděl, takže je jasné, že žádná není.
- No ale někdy, když jsme zticha, můžeš zaslechnout jak zpívá, nebo cítit, jak hladí náš svět. Víš, já si fakt myslím, že opravdový život nás čeká až potom...

An Introduction to the Study of World Religions
(Written by Sara Wenner, 2001)

From the earliest known evidence of human religion by Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis around 100,000 years ago to the present day, religion continues to be a very influential aspect of human lives.
Today, there are numerous challenges and problems faced by humans from every possible background, location and social class. Every day people must face issues of health, safety and mortality. It is because of these daily challenges that religion continues to exist. Religion is the universal tool for explaining things which we do not understand through the context the known physical world.
Although there are countless religions, each different from the other, they all serve the same purpose. Each answers questions which all humans seem to be programmed to ask: Why are we here? What happens when I die? How shall I live my life?
Religion helps us to transmit our values from one generation to another, and influences the way we interact with the natural environment. It teaches us how to see ourselves in light of the universe and gives purpose and meaning to life.
Whether you are a member of a particular religious group, unsure of what you should believe, or do not have any religious beliefs, this text will introduce you to the world's six major religions. It is intended to serve as an introduction, to whet your appetite for further study and to help you understand those around you better. With our global society, it is likely that in your lifetime you will meet people from every corner of the planet. Understanding the religious beliefs of these people is one of the many steps which mankind must take in order to someday prosper together in peace.


The central figure in Christianity is Jesus (or Christ), a Jew who came into this world by immaculate conception to a virgin named Mary. His birth is celebrated at Christmas with hymns and gift giving. This man was not only man, but also the son of God and lived his life without sin.
During his lifetime, Jesus performed many miracles and spoke to many people about his father in heaven. He was arrested for claiming to be God's son and was hung on the cross by the Romans at age 33. Christians believe that the suffering and death upon the cross which this sinless man endured paid for the sins of all mankind, and because of Jesus' actions, salvation can be achieved by anyone who believes in him. This act of sacrifice is remembered during Lent.
Following his death, Christians believe that he rose from the grave (celebrated at Easter) and returned to the earth, appearing to his followers and telling them of the kingdom of God to which he was going. He also promised his disciples that he would return one day to bring all believers with him to that kingdom, to enjoy eternal life in the presence of God.
Christians can read of the life of Jesus, as well as his ancestors in the only Christian holy text, the Bible. It consists of the Old Testament (which is also considered sacred to Judaism and Islam) and the New Testament. The Old Testament chronicles the lives of Jews and others who lived before Jesus, who had been promised a savior by God, and were waiting for him. This text contains many stories about people demonstrating faith in God and also provides historical information about the era. The New Testament is unique to Christianity, for it centers around the figure of Jesus and his effect on the world. Christians believe that Jesus is the one that the Old Testament foretold, so instead of looking for a savior, they await the return of Jesus so that he can take them to his kingdom, or heaven.

History of Christianity
Christianity is based upon the teachings of Jesus, a Jew who lived his life in the Roman province of Palestine. Roman communications networks enabled Christianity to spread quickly throughout the Roman empire and eventually to the rest of Europe, and finally the entire globe.
As time progressed, Christianity divided into three major branches. The Roman Catholic branch of Christianity is the successor of the church established in Rome soon after Christ's death. It traces its spiritual history to the early disciples of Jesus. The Pope, or spiritual leader, traces his office's lineage back to St. Peter, the first Pope, one of Jesus' disciples. Roman Catholicism was originally predominately practiced in Ireland, Poland, France and Spain.
During the fourth century, the Roman Catholic church split and the Eastern Orthodox branch was formed.
The split was primarily a political one due to the division of the Roman Empire into western and eastern components. The two churches became officially separate in 1054. Orthodox churches are largely national, each associated with a particular country. Orthodoxy is common in Russia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, and Armenia.
The Protestant branch split from Roman Catholicism during the Reformation, a sixteenth and seventeenth century series of church reforms in doctrine and practice. This movement challenged the authority of the Pope, and became popular in Scandinavia, England, and the Netherlands. Protestantism eventually divided into many denominations which arose in response to disputes over doctrine, theology, or religious practice. Some of the large denominations today are Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists.

History of Islam

The history of Islam centers around one person, Muhammad (also spelled Muhammed or Mohammed). He was born around 570 A.D. and was raised by his extended family after the death of his parents. As he grew, he became dissatisfied with polytheism and came to believe in one God, Allah. He began to have religious visions around age 40. During these visions, Muhammad would receive "messages" or "revelations" from Allah. He would memorize them and teach them to his followers. These visions are now recorded in the Qur'an (or Koran). Muhammad continued to receive these visions and messages until his death in 632 A.D.

The Expansion of Islam

Muhammad's new faith was not widely accepted in his hometown of Mecca. Therefore, he and his followers moved to Medina which means "City of the Prophet". This movement is known as the Hijirat or "the flight". It marks the turning point in Islam and serves as the beginning date on Islamic calendars.

At first, Muhammad was sympathetic to both Christians and Jews, but after their rejection of his teaching, he turned from Jerusalem as the center of worship for Islam to Mecca. He realized he must return to Mecca, and he did, conquering the city. Islam quickly spread throughout the area.

When Muhammad died, he left no document appointing a successor. Some people thought that one of the original converts who had taught with Muhammad, some wanted a member of a powerful political family in the area, and others felt that 'Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad had been divinely designated as successor. An early believer, Abu Bakr was appointed, but died within two years.

Eventually, a power struggle developed as different groups of Muslims believed their method of establishing a successor were the best. The largest argument was over whether the successor should be elected or chosen through heredity. This controversy produced the main body of Islam known as the Sunnis (followers of the prophet's way) and other numerous sects including the Shi'a and the Sufis. The Sunnis are the majority in Islam today.

The Shi'a are the group of Muslims who believe that the successorship should remain within Muhammad's family, and that leaders are spiritually chosen, not politically chosen. They carry with them the pain of Muhammad's son-in-law, 'Ali, who was murdered by Mu'awiya in order to obtain power. Today, the Shi'a dominate Iran.

The Sufis are a group who believes that orthodox Islam is too mechanical and impersonal. This group of Islamic mystics seek for direct personal experience of the Divine.

Nationalism in the Arab world since the rise of Israel as a political power has kept Islam strong. It is a rapidly spreading religion because of its cultural and political appeal and its universal message of peace, temperance and the brotherhood of man.

Basic Beliefs of Islam
The teachings of Islam are comprised of both faith and duty (din). One branch of Muslim learning, "Tawhid", defines all that a man should believe, while the other branch, "Shari'a," prescribes everything that he should do. There is no priesthood and no sacraments. Except among the Sufis, Muslims receive instruction only from those who consider themselves adequately learned in theology or law.

The basis for Islamic doctrine is found in the Qur'an (Koran). It is the scripture of Islam, written by Muhammad and his disciples as dictated by the Angel Gabriel. It alone is infallible and without error. The Qur'an is comprised of 114 surahs, or chapters, arranged from longest to shortest. For Muslims, the Qur'an is the word of God, and he carrier of the revelation of Muhammad, the last and most perfect of God's messengers to mankind.

In addition to the Qur'an, other documents are also referred to by followers of Islam. A number of additional sayings of Muhammad were complied in the Hadith ("tradition"). The Torat (of Moses), Suhuf (books of the prophets), Zabur (psalms of David), and the Injil (gospel of Jesus) are also studied and considered to be revelations, although they are believed to have been corrupted through time.

Five Articles of Faith
The five articles of faith are the main doctrines of Islam. All Muslims are expected to believe the following:

God. There is one true God and his name is Allah.
Angels. Angels exist and interact with human lives. They are comprised of light, and each have different purposes or messages to bring to earth. Each man or woman has two angels who record his actions; one records good deeds, the other bad deeds.
Scripture. There are four inspired books, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms (Zabin) of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Injil) and the Qur'an. All but the Qur'an have been corrupted by Jews and Christians.
Prophets. God has spoken through numerous prophets throughout time. The six greatest are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Muhammad is the last and greatest of Allah's messengers.
Last Days. On the last day there will be a time of resurrection and judgment. Those who follow Allah and Muhammad will go to Islamic heaven, or Paradise. Those who do not will go to hell.
The Five Pillars of Faith
The five pillars of faith are observances in Islam which are duties each Muslim must perform.

Creed (Kalima)- One must state, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah." publicly to become a Muslim.
Prayer (Salat)- Prayer must be done five times a day (upon rising, at noon, in mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before going to sleep) towards the direction of Mecca. The call to prayer is sounded by the muezzin (Muslim crier) from a tower (minaret) within the mosque.
Almsgiving (Zakat)- Muslims are legally required to give one-fortieth of their income to the needy. Since those whom alms are given are helping the giver achieve salvation, there is no sense of shame in receiving charity.
Fasting (Ramadan)- During the holy month of Ramadan, faithful Muslims fast from sunup to sundown each day. This develops self-control, devotion to God, and identity with the needy.
Pilgrimage (Hajj)- Each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they have the means to do it and are physically capable of the trip. It is an essential part of gaining salvation, so the old or infirm may send someone in their place. It involves a set of rituals and ceremonies.
A sixth religious duty associated with the five pillars is Jihad, or Holy War. This duty requires that if the situation warrants, men are required to go to war to defend or spread Islam. If they are killed, they are guaranteed eternal life in Paradise.

Basic Beliefs of Judaism
Judaism is a monotheistic religion which believes that the world was created by a single, all-knowing divinity, and that all things within that world were designed to have meaning and purpose as part of a divine order. According to the teachings of Judaism, God's will for human behavior was revealed to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Saini. The Torah, or commandments, which regulate how humans are to live their lives, were a gift from God so that they might live in according to His will.

Statement of Faith
Moses Maimonides, a Spanish Jew who lived in the 12th century, tried to condense the basic beliefs of Judaism into the form of a creed. It is still followed by the traditional forms of Judaism.

1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.

3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that He has not any form whatever.

4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.

5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.

6. I believe with perfect faith that all the works of the prophets are true.

7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, peace be unto him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.

8. I believe with perfect faith that the whole Torah, now in our possession, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be unto him.

9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be any other Law from the Creator, blessed be His name.

10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows very deed of the children of men, and all their thoughts, as it is said. It is He that fashioned the hearts of them all, that gives heed to all their works.

11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.

12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.

13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, blessed be His name, and exalted be His Fame for ever and ever.

For Thy salvation I hope, O Lord.

Three Branches of Judaism
These are the three branches of Judaism which form the framework for the type of lifestyle and beliefs of Jewish individuals:

Traditionalists who observe most of the traditional dietary and ceremonial laws of Judaism
Do not hold to the importance of a Jewish political state, but put more emphasis on the historic and religious aspects of Judaism, doctrinally somewhere between Orthodox and Reform
The liberal wing of Judaism, culture and race oriented with little consensus on doctrinal or religious belief

History of Judaism
The Old Testament books of the Bible describe numerous struggles of the Jewish people. After their triumphant Exodus from Egyptian captivity following Moses, they wandered around in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. They had many conflicts with neighboring societies, yet for several centuries were able to maintain a unified state centered in Jerusalem.

This occupation of the Promised Land was not to last, however. In 722 BC, the northern part of the Hebrew state fell to Assyrian raiders. By 586 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by Babylonians. The land of Israel was successively ruled by Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Syrians, and Romans in the time that followed. As a result of the Syrian King Antiochus IV Epiphanes' attempt to suppress the Jewish religion, a rebellion led by Judas Maccabaeus in 167 BC resulted in the independence of the Jewish nation. This is celebrated today by the festival Hanukkah.

In 70 AD, the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were forced out of the area and settled in Mediterranean countries and in other areas in southwest Asia. This migration of the Jewish population is known as Diaspora. Many of these Jews settled in Europe and became victims of persecution and poverty. Ghettoes and slums became their homes and massacres were common. Because of these living conditions, many fled to the United States in the late 19th century. Migration to the States especially climbed during the aftermath of the Holocaust, the organized murder of Jews during and after World War II. Today the United States has the largest population of Jewish people with high concentration areas in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Washington D.C.

In 1917, an attempt to reestablish Palestine as the Jewish homeland began. By 1948, the State of Israel became an independent country. They have regained their Hebrew language, which involved inventing words for modern inventions and concepts unheard of centuries ago and writing a Hebrew dictionary to unify the language.

Basic Beliefs of Buddhism
The basic beliefs of Buddhism can be demonstrated in the following concepts and doctrines:

The Four Noble Truths
The First Noble Truthis the existence of suffering. Birth is painful and death is painful; disease and old age are painful. Not having what we desire is painful and having what we do not desire is also painful.

The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. It is the craving desire for the pleasures of the senses, which seeks satisfaction now here, now there; the craving for happiness and prosperity in this life and in future lives.

The Third Noble Truth is the ending of suffering. To be free of suffering one must give up, get rid of, extinguish this very craving, so that no passion and no desire remain.

The Fourth Noble Truth leads to the ending of all pain by way of the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path
The first step on that path is Right Views: You must accept the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The second is Right Resolve: You must renounce the pleasures of the senses; you must harbor no ill will toward anyone and harm no living creature.

The third is Right Speech: Do not lie; do not slander or abuse anyone. Do not indulge in idle talk.

The fourth is Right Behavior: Do not destroy any living creature; take only what is given to you; do not commit any unlawful sexual act.

The fifth is Right Occupation: You must earn your livelihood in a way that will harm no one.

The sixth is Right Effort: You must resolve and strive heroically to prevent any evil qualities from arising in you and to abandon any evil qualities that you may possess. Strive to acquire good qualities and encourage those you do possess to grow, increase, and be perfected.

The seventh is Right Contemplation: Be observant, strenuous, alert, contemplative, and free of desire and of sorrow.

The eighth is Right Meditation: When you have abandoned all sensuous pleasures, all evil qualities, both joy and sorrow, you must then enter the four degrees of meditation, which are produced by concentration.

Buddhist Precepts
There are five precepts taught by Buddhism that all Buddhists should follow:

Kill no living thing.
Do not steal.
Do not commit adultery.
Tell no lies.
Do not drink intoxicants or take drugs.
Other precepts apply only to monks and nuns:

Eat moderately and only at the appointed time.
Avoid that which excites the senses.
Do not wear adornments.
Do not sleep in luxurious beds.
Accept no silver or gold.
Sacred Scriptures
In Theravada (Southeast Asian) Buddhism, there are three groups of writings considered to be holy scripture, known as the "Three Baskets" (Tripitaka). The Vinaya Pitaka (discipline basket) contains rules for the higher class of Buddhists; the Sutta Pitaka (teaching basket) contains the discourses of Buddha; and the Abidhamma Pitaka (metaphysical basket) contains Buddhist theology.

Mahayana (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.) Buddhism contains an incredibly large amount of holy writings, over five thousand volumes. The oldest scriptures are based on Sanskrit, while others have been written in Nepalese, Tibetan, and Chinese. There are no clear limits as to what should be admitted as scripture, so thousands of writings on the topic have been admitted.

History of Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion which is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the son of a wealthy landowner born in northern India around 560 B.C. In order to achieve spiritual peace, Gautma renounced his worldly advantages and became known as Buddha, or "the enlightened one". He preached his religious views his entire life throughout South Asia.

The story of Gautma's path to enlightenment has mythological quality. The son of a ruler, a prophecy at the time of his birth said that he would be a great king if he stayed at home, but would become a savior for mankind if he were to leave home. Therefore, his father kept him at home and surrounded him with all the worldly pleasures a boy could want, and kept all painful and ugly things out of his sight.

Gautma eventually married and fathered a son, but still had not left his father's palace. One day, he told his father that he wished to see the world. This excursion would change his life, for during this journey, he saw the "four passing sights". Even though his father had ordered the streets to be cleaned and decorated and all elderly or infirmed people hidden, some people did not listen. Gautma saw a decrepit old man, and learned for the first time that everyone someday becomes old. Next, he met a sick man, who taught him that people are liable to sickness and suffering. He saw a funeral procession which taught him that people die. Lastly, he saw a monk begging for food. He longed for the tranquility which he saw on the monk's face and decided this was the lifestyle for him. He left his father, wife, and son to live on the streets and meditate.

While in meditation, he reached the highest degree of God-consciousness, nirvana. He stayed under a fig tree which was later called the bodhi or bo tree (the tree of wisdom) for seven days. During this time, he learned truths which he, Buddha, would impart to the world until his death at age 80.

Buddhism became a strong force in India before Buddha's death. The diffusion of Buddhism, however, was limited until the Indian emperor Asoka became a convert and supported missionary activities. Soon, Buddhism became established in China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, where it is most practiced today. Hinduism is now the predominant Indian religion.

Basic Beliefs of Animism
In anthropology, animism can be considered to be the original human religion, being defined simply as belief in the existence of spiritual beings. It dates back to the earliest humans and continues to exist today, making it the oldest form of religious belief on Earth. It is characteristic of aboriginal and native cultures, yet it can be practiced by anyone who believes in spirituality but does not proscribe to any specific organized religion. The basis for animism is acknowledgment that there is a spiritual realm which humans share the universe with. The concepts that humans possess souls and that souls have life apart from human bodies before and after death are central to animism, along with the ideas that animals, plants, and celestial bodies have spirits.

Animistic gods often are immortalized by mythology explaining the creation of fire, wind, water, man, animals, and other natural earthly things. Although specific beliefs of animism vary widely, similarities between the characteristics of gods and goddesses and rituals practiced by animistic societies exist. The presence of holy men or women, visions, trancing, dancing, sacred items, and sacred spaces for worship, and the connection felt to the spirits of ancestors are characteristic of animistic societies.

Basic Beliefs of Hinduism
Hinduism is based on the concept that human and animal spirits reincarnate, or come back to earth to live many times in different forms. The belief that souls move up and down an infinite hierarchy depending on the behaviors they practiced in their life is visible in many of the Hindu societal policies. The caste system survives and charity towards others is unheard of because each individual deserves to be in the social class they were born in. A person is born into the highest class because they behaved well in a past life, and a person is born into poverty and shame because of misbehaviors in a past life.

Today, a Hindu can be polytheistic (more than one god), monotheistic (one god), pantheistic (god and the universe are one), agnostic (unsure if god exists), or atheistic (no god) and still claim to be Hindu. This open theology makes it difficult to discuss basic beliefs since there are many ideas about what Hinduism means. However, these universal ideas must be mentioned.

Central to Hinduism are the concepts of reincarnation, the caste system, merging with brahman (or the ultimate reality), finding morality, and reaching Nirvana (the peaceful escape from the cycle of reincarnation).

Religious documents include Sruti, (what is heard) and Smriti, (what is remembered). The Sruti include deeply religious things communicated to a seer and recorded. The Vedas, the religious writings, include mantras (hymns of praise), brahmanas (sacrificial rituals) and upanishads (108 sacred teachings). The Smriti include the law (books of laws), puranas (myths, stories, legends) and epics (sets of holy myths including Ramayana and Mahabharata).

The Hindu paths to salvation include the way of works (rituals), the way of knowledge (realization of reality and self-reflection), and the way of devotion (devotion to the god that you choose to follow). If the practitioner follows the paths of these ways, salvation can be achieved.

The History of Hinduism
Hinduism is the oldest and most complex of all religious systems. Providing an adequate history for the development of Hinduism is difficult, since it has no specific founder or theology and originated in the religious practices of Aryan tribes who moved to India from central Asia more than three thousand years ago. The Aryans attacked the Harappan people who lived in modern day India around 1500 BC. Eventually, through adaptation to the religious beliefs of the other, both groups developed similar religious belief systems, founded on the polytheism of the Aryans and the sanctity of fertility of the Harappans.

Soon, the predominantly Aryan society developed the caste system, which ranked society according to occupational class. The caste system is as follows:

Brahmins priests

Kshatriyas soldiers, king-warrior class

Vaishyas merchants, farmers, Sutras laborers, craftspeople

Harijahns "untouchables"- those thought to be descended from the Harappan aboriginal people-extremely poor and discriminated against

The higher a person's caste, the more that person is blessed with the benefits and luxuries life has to offer. Although the caste system was outlawed in 1948, it is still important to the Hindu people of India and is still recognized as the proper way to stratify society.

Since the early days of Hinduism, it has branched and now encompasses a wide variety of religious beliefs and religious organizations. Not only is it the primary religion of the region around India, but portions of Hindu beliefs have found their way across oceans to other countries and have been influential in the foundations of other religions, such as Transcendental Meditation and Buddhism.