Candomblé is a religion based on African beliefs which is particularly popular in Brazil. It is also practised in other countries, and has as many as two million followers.
~The religion is a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs which originated from different regions in Africa. It has also incorporated some aspects of the Catholic faith over time. ~A religion which combines elements of many religions is called a syncretic religion. ~Enslaved Africans brought their beliefs with them when they were shipped to Brazil during the slave trade. ~The name Candomblé means ‘dance in honour of the gods’. ~Practitioners of Candomblé believe in one all powerful God called Oludumaré who is served by lesser deities. These deities are called orixas. (They can also be called voduns and inkices.) ~Candomblé practitioners believe that every person has their own individual orixa which controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector. ~Music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies. Specially choreographed dances are performed by worshippers to enable them to become possessed by the orixas. ~There is no concept of good or bad in Candomblé. Each person is only required to fulfil his or her destiny to the fullest, regardless of what that is. ~Candomblé is an oral tradition and therefore has no holy scriptures. ~The first official temple was founded at the beginning of the 19th century in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil.
Rastafari is a young, Africa-centred religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930.
Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie is God and that he will return to Africa members of the black community who are living in exile as the result of colonisation and the slave trade.
Rastafari theology developed from the ideas of Marcus Garvey, a political activist who wanted to improve the status of fellow blacks.
There are approximately one million world wide adherents of Rastafari as a faith. The 2001 census found 5,000 Rastafarians living in England and Wales.
Followers of Rastafari are known by a variety of names: Rastafarians, Rastas, Sufferers, Locksmen, Dreads or Dreadlocks.
~It spread globally following the success of Bob Marley and his music in the 1970s ~Rastafarians believe that blacks are the chosen people of God, but that through colonisation and the slave trade their role has been suppressed ~The movement’s greatest concerns are the repatriation of blacks to their homeland, Africa, and the reinstatement of blacks’ position in society ~It is an exocentric religion – as Haile Selassie, whom adherents consider as God, is outside the religion ~Rastafari religious ceremonies consist of chanting, drumming and meditating in order to reach a state of heightened spirituality ~Rastafarian religious practice includes the ritual inhalation of marijuana, to increase their spiritual awareness ~Rastafarians follow strict dietary laws and abstain from alcohol. ~Rastafarians follow a number of Old Testament Laws ~There is a separate code of religious practice for women in Rastafari ~Rastafarians believe reincarnation follows death and that life is eternal ~Rastafarians are forbidden to cut their hair; instead, they grow it and twist it into dreadlocks ~Rastafarians eat clean and natural produce, such as fruit and vegetables ~Rastafarians try to refrain from the consumption of meat, especially pork ~Rastafarians are opposed to abortion and contraception ~The Rastafarian colours are red, green and gold. Sometimes black is added. These colours are chosen because ~Red signifies the blood of those killed for the cause of the black community, throughout Jamaican history ~Green represents Jamaica’s vegetation and hope for the eradication of suppression ~Gold symbolises the wealth of Ethiopia ~Black signifies the colour of the Africans who initiated Rastafari ~The lion is the symbol of Rastafari. This lion represents Haile Selassie I, who is referred to as the ‘Conquering Lion of Judah’. Rastafarians’ dreadlocks represent the lion’s mane.
Taoism is an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview.
Taoism is also referred to as Daoism, which is a more accurate way of representing in English the sound of the Chinese word.
Taoism is about the Tao. This is usually translated as the Way. But it’s hard to say exactly what this means. The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao.
~Taoism originated in China 2000 years ago ~It is a religion of unity and opposites; Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin Yang sees the world as filled with complementary forces – action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold, and so on ~The Tao is not God and is not worshipped. Taoism includes many deities, that are worshipped in Taoist temples, they are part of the universe and depend, like everything, on the Tao ~Taoism promotes: ~achieving harmony or union with nature ~the pursuit of spiritual immortality ~being ‘virtuous’ (but not ostentatiously so) ~self-development ~Taoist practices include: ~meditation ~feng shui ~fortune telling ~reading and chanting of scriptures ~Before the Communist revolution fifty years ago, Taoism was one of the strongest religions in China. After a campaign to destroy non-Communist religion, however, the numbers significantly reduced, and it has become difficult to assess the statistical popularity of Taoism in the world.
The essence of Shinto is the Japanese devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called kami, to shrines, and to various rituals.
Shinto is not a way of explaining the world. What matters are rituals that enable human beings to communicate with kami.
Kami are not God or gods. They are spirits that are concerned with human beings – they appreciate our interest in them and want us to be happy – and if they are treated properly they will intervene in our lives to bring benefits like health, business success, and good exam results.
Shinto is a very local religion, in which devotees are likely to be concerned with their local shrine rather than the religion as a whole. Many Japanese will have a tiny shrine-altar in their homes.
However, it is also an unofficial national religion with shrines that draw visitors from across the country. Because ritual rather than belief is at the heart of Shinto, Japanese people don’t usually think of Shinto specifically as a religion – it’s simply an aspect of Japanese life. This has enabled Shinto to coexist happily with Buddhism for centuries.
~The name Shinto comes from Chinese characters for Shen (‘divine being’), and Tao (‘way’) and means ‘Way of the Spirits’. ~Shrine visiting and taking part in festivals play a great part in binding local communities together. ~Shrine visiting at New Year is the most popular shared national event in Japan. ~Because Shinto is focused on the land of Japan it is clearly an ethnic religion. Therefore Shinto is little interested in missionary work, and rarely practised outside its country of origin. ~Shinto sees human beings as basically good and has no concept of original sin, or of humanity as ‘fallen’. ~Everything, including the spiritual, is experienced as part of this world. ~Shinto has no place for any transcendental other world. ~Shinto has no canonical scriptures. ~Shinto teaches important ethical principles but has no commandments. ~Shinto has no founder. ~Shinto has no God. ~Shinto does not require adherents to follow it as their only religion.
“Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. It also exists among significant populations outside of the sub continent and has over 900 million adherents worldwide.
In some ways Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world, or at least elements within it stretch back many thousands of years. Yet Hinduism resists easy definition partly because of the vast array of practices and beliefs found within it. It is also closely associated conceptually and historically with the other Indian religions Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history, there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books. For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as ‘a way of life’ or ‘a family of religions’ rather than a single religion.
Defining Hinduism The term ‘Hindu’ was derived from the river or river complex of the northwest, the Sindhu. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word used by the inhabitants of the region, the Aryans in the second millennium BCE. Later migrants and invaders, the Persians in the sixth century BCE, the Greeks from the 4th century BCE, and the Muslims from the 8th century CE, used the name of this river in their own languages for the land and its people.
The term ‘Hindu’ itself probably does not go back before the 15th and 16th centuries when it was used by people to differentiate themselves from followers of other traditions, especially the Muslims (Yavannas), in Kashmir and Bengal. At that time the term may have simply indicated groups united by certain cultural practices such as cremation of the dead and styles of cuisine. The ‘ism’ was added to ‘Hindu’ only in the 19th century in the context of British colonialism and missionary activity.
The origins of the term ‘hindu’ are thus cultural, political and geographical. Now the term is widely accepted although any definition is subject to much debate. In some ways it is true to say that Hinduism is a religion of recent origin yet its roots and formation go back thousands of years.
Some claim that one is ‘born a Hindu’, but there are now many Hindus of non-Indian descent. Others claim that its core feature is belief in an impersonal Supreme, but important strands have long described and worshipped a personal God. Outsiders often criticise Hindus as being polytheistic, but many adherents claim to be monotheists.
Some Hindus define orthodoxy as compliance with the teachings of the Vedic texts (the four Vedas and their supplements). However, still others identify their tradition with ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the eternal order of conduct that transcends any specific body of sacred literature. Scholars sometimes draw attention to the caste system as a defining feature, but many Hindus view such practices as merely a social phenomenon or an aberration of their original teachings. Nor can we define Hinduism according to belief in concepts such as karma and samsara (reincarnation) because Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists (in a qualified form) accept this teaching too.
Although it is not easy to define Hinduism, we can say that it is rooted in India, most Hindus revere a body of texts as sacred scripture known as the Veda, and most Hindus draw on a common system of values known as dharma.
~Hinduism originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in modern day Pakistan. ~About 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindu. ~Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him. ~Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma. ~Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived. ~The main Hindu texts are the Vedas and their supplements (books based on the Vedas). Veda is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘knowledge’. These scriptures do not mention the word ‘Hindu’ but many scriptures discuss dharma, which can be rendered as ‘code of conduct’, ‘law’, or ‘duty’ ~Hindus celebrate many holy days, but the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the best known. ~The 2001 census recorded 559,000 Hindus in Britain, around 1% of the population.
Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or “some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life”. Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities and/or saints), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that may also attempt to explain the origin of life, the universe, and other phenomena. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. About 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.
The study of religion comprises a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.