Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What are the Origins of all these Religions??

The Origins of Religions


Definition of religion: 

Religion is:
  • The belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal god or gods
  • A particular system of faith and worship
  • A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance
So, when did religion or religions first start? First off, I will look at the origins of the top five religions that still are in existence today. In future writings, I will explore the very beginnings of religion or as the case may be the invention of it.

One caveat, I will NOT be assuming here that Christianity is the one true religion and that it is the first and only origin of true religions. The reason being, is that I must look at it objectively, not with the assumption that Christianity or the Bible has all the answers to its origins.

Therefore, I will look for any and all known indicators for the origins of these religions, that has been shown to be accurate, or at least mostly accurate.

Calendar Definitions

I will use the terms BCE and CE to describe the eras of time prescribed by the Gregorian calendar (Before the Common Era and Common Era) rather than BC and AD. These terms are outdated and give preference to the Christian religion in dating time. Other religions have their own calendars as well, but I will use the above terms as they are understood by most people, and the Gregorian calendar has the most widespread usage today.


Here's the top five religions in terms of prominence and longevity, in no particular order. These are only the known origins and beginnings of these religions. Obviously there is much more history to what makes them what they appear to be in today's world. That will be included in my future book!


Judaism:


 Its name is derived from Judah, one of the sons of Jacob, also known later as Israel from the Torah (the first 5 books of the Jewish Bible). Judaism has quite a few points in its history that contributed to its beginnings. First, would be Abram, also known later as Abraham. "God" chose Abram to be father of his covenant nation, theorized to be about 2200 BCE (I have found the year 2165 BCE many times to be the exact year, but who knows). Abram/Abraham's son Isaac, and grandson Jacob/Israel also received this covenant from their God.

For those not familiar with this Covenant, here it is in a nutshell: Abram's descendants would become a great nation (as many as the stars) and they were promised the land of Canaan. All they had to do was follow their God's rules and worship only him. And of course that would mean packing up all his family and stuff, and hiking their way out to this promised Land!

Moses was the next highlight in their history, as he received the Law (rules) of God and brought the people of Israel halfway to Canaan. Then came judges, prophets, and many kings. David and his son Solomon were the most influential kings on the religion. Solomon built the first temple for the people in Jerusalem.

Modern Judaism didn't really begin in a significant way, until the Jewish temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 CE. With their temple gone, the Jewish folks needed to find a way to survive without their rituals, sacrifices, and their temple.

Hinduism:


 Began with people that migrated from Central Asia into India about 1500 BCE. Hinduism was the main religion in the area of present day's India until Buddhism split off into opposite beliefs from it in the 5th or 6th century BCE. (sources are varied)


Buddhism:


   It is mainly an Asian religion that originated in India and is dominant in its original form in SE Asia (areas such as Thailand, Tibet, Korea, China, and Japan). Has its origins in Hinduism. The founder was born Siddhartha Gautama, a royal prince born in the 5th or 6th century BCE. 'Sidd' declared himself the "Buddha" or "the Enlightened One", after wandering the forest and meditating for six or seven years (depending on sources) in search of enlightenment. He finally found it under a tree, the Bodhi Tree.





Christianity:


 Its name comes from Jesus, also known as Christ. It built its foundations on the Jewish Bible, which is the Old Testament only, and the New Testament of today's Bible. Jesus death is thought to be anywhere from 30-36 CE according to most scholars, depending on the dating of his birth. The Christian church originated in the middle of the first century and its attributed beginnings are to Paul, who authored at least 8 and perhaps up to 14 of the books of the New Testament. Paul's letters were written anywhere from 50 to 69 CE.

I don't get hooked into theological arguments or interpretations of what things supposedly mean or the exact dates of events unless warranted. Personally, it is a waste of my time, since people have fought over the Bible's meanings for thousands of years. One blog won't change that! Suffice to say, many people who wrote books in this timeframe were known to have claimed that famous people had authored their book, just to give it some authority. For my purposes here, it doesn't matter if Paul wrote them all or not. They are in the New Testament of the Bible. That's all there is to know.




Islam:




 Founded by Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad  (known simply as Muhammad) was born about 570 CE in Mecca in present day Saudi Arabia. Islam has roots in Judaism as it is believed that Muhammad's ancestry is from Ishmael, Abram's (Abraham) son with Haggar. Islam originated in 622 CE when Muhammad and his followers left Mecca for Medina, and established the Muslim community there. Muhammad had gained many followers while in Mecca and emigrated with them to Medina in 622 CE. This date is considered the beginning of the Islamic Calendar.

So, there you have it. A short abridged guide to five of today's popular religions' origins.




Friday, June 17, 2016

Back to the World's Religions

I posted previously the Top 8 Religious groups in the world. Click HERE to read it. 

In researching theses religions, I was curious about how many 'active' world religions there are today. It's hard to pinpoint an exact number of religions without narrowing them down by size or popularity. Some sects may be very small or unknown to researchers. It also depends on how you define the religion.

Some religions do share some common roots or beliefs. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and all have "Abrahamic" roots and have obviously evolved from their common beginning into to very different religions today. Christianity and Islam both evolved as offshoots of Judaism. The others have their roots independently from each other. 

In Christianity, there are 4 major branches: Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Independents. Independents identify themselves as independent of historic, organized, mainstream institutionalized Christian denominations. 

And when you look at these four major branches, there are almost endless denominations split off from the branches. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are about 41,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. I have found lists stating anywhere from 20,000 to 41,000 from different sources.

The top 35 denominations, at least in the United States are as follows:*

  1. Catholic
  2. Baptist
  3. Christian (no denomination specified)
  4. Methodist
  5. Lutheran
  6. Presbyterian
  7. Protestant
  8. Pentecostal/Charismatic
  9. Espicopal/Anglican
  10. Mormon /Latter-Day Saints
  11. Church of Christ
  12. Nondenominational
  13. Congregational/United Church of Christ
  14. Jehovah's Witness
  15. Assembly of God
  16. Evangelical
  17. Church of God
  18. Seventh-Day Adventist
  19. Eastern Orthodox 
  20. Holiness/Holy
  21. Church of the Nazarene
  22. Disciples of Christ
  23. Church of the Brethren
  24. Mennonite
  25. Reformed/Dutch Reformed
  26. Apostolic/New Apostolic
  27. Quaker
  28. Christian Science
  29. Full Gospel
  30. Christian Reformed
  31. Independent Christian Church
  32. Foursquare Gospel
  33. Fundamentalist
  34. Born Again
  35. Salvation Army
*This list is from a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Graduate Center of the University of New York.

These are only the largest denominations and do not include all the branches which split from these 35 main branches.

So what are we to make of all of this? I would suggest that all these different denominations came about because everyone has different interpretations of the Bible. This has caused so many disagreements, arguments, and even wars because of all the passionate beliefs of it's members, and especially the leaders. 

To put it another way, the members tend to believe what they are told by the priests, ministers, pastors, leaders, and those 'in authority' over the denominations (I think of the Pope as an example of one man yielding extraordinary influence). Traditions play an important role in forming these beliefs as well. I can't count how many times I've heard, "But we always have done it this way. My grandparents, my parents, and now my family. And you want to change everything now?" Inevitably this leads to secessions and splits of which I am very familiar. 

My premises come from the Dutch Reformed tradition, in which I grew up with, and my parents, and grandparents, and great grandparents, etc. The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) split from the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in 1857, shortly after a multitude of Dutch people emigrated to America. If you can believe it, some of the reasons for the split, was that the RCA congregations were singing man-made hymns instead of Psalms, didn't preach catechism as much as was preferred, they let non-Reformed people partake in the Lord's Supper, and permitted membership in the Masonic lodges. 

We are talking some serious disagreements here, aren't we??? It's almost laughable!

Anyway, They seceded from the Reformed Church, made themselves the Psalter Hymnal, and restricted all kinds of behavior and set more rules. Isn't that what Religion really is all about anyway, making rules? 

I understand that so many people have so many opinions on interpretation, doctrine, and theology related to the Bible and their religion. But, it is a pattern that resonates through the ages. Everyone feels that they are correct, the others are all or mostly wrong, and they are going to hell because they do not believe as they do.


So what about Hell?? What is that all about?

to be continued...

DL










Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Top Religious Groups in the World

Top 8 Religious Groups in the World 


I'll start today with some tables and charts showing the size of the top 8 World Religious Groups according to the Pew Research Center from 2010-12. 1


     - Unaffiliated refers to agnostics, atheists, nonreligious, secular, humanists, and people who answered 'none'. Half of this group believe in a god, but are not religious.    
- Folk Religions include African traditional religions, Chinese Folk religions, Native American religions, and Australian Aboriginal religions.   
- Other Religions include the Baha’i faith, Taoism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism and many others. 


Looking at these figures, we can see that over 82% of the world's population belong to one of the top five religious groups, excluding the unaffiliated group. If we add back in the half of those who say they believe in a god, we have over 90% of the world's population adhere to a religion or believe in a supernatural being!

Numbers of Adherents in each group  (2010)

  • Christianity               2.1 Billion
  • Islam                        1.6 Billion
  • Unaffiliated              1.1 Billion
  • Hinduism                 1.0 Billion
  • Buddhism               487 Million
  • Folk                        404 Million
  • Other                        58 Million
  • Judaism                   14 Million
    Totals                    6.76 Billion          Estimated World Population 2010 - 6.9 Billion  2

Definition of Religion (Merriam-Webster)

  • the belief in a god or in a group of gods
  • an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods
  • an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

So, looking at these figures, 9 out of 10 people in the world believe in a god, a supernatural being, or adhere to some belief or activity that is very important to them.

These are just some basic statistics about the world's religions and the enormous influence that religions have over people in the world. I use the word 'influence' because the majority of religions have some institutionalized system of beliefs, practices, views, convictions, rules, creeds, and ideology that its members follow, observe, and obey.

On this blog, I will be looking primarily at Christianity, since this is what I am most familiar with, but I will be addressing other religions as well in the future on my website origins of religions  HERE


The next Blog will ask and answer some questions as to why I am choosing to leave the religion of Christianity, even though the overwhelming majority of people in the world have belief in a religion.







1. [Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world 1]
2. [Population Reference Bureau's 2010 World Population Data Sheet
-Accessed 06/13/16 -http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2010/2010wpds.aspx 2]

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What about Prayer?

Before I get back to my look at the world's religions, I want to talk briefly about prayer.

I been hearing a lot this week about people offering their prayers for the people involved in the horrible tragedy in the Orlando shooting. This got me to do some more thinking about prayers and their use in religions today.

As I go through my journey of de-converting from Christianity, I have been thinking about prayer and what are the reasons for even praying at all. I grew up with a Calvinist Protestant form of Christianity. The most common answer given for unanswered prayer that I remember is that it wasn't God's will.

Type in google why prayers are unanswered and hundreds of websites will pop up. Here are a few of the things I found:

One site says there are 4 categories of reasons for unanswered prayers


  • Spiritual sins - doubt, hypocrisy, pride, flippancy etc




  • Poor relationships - rudeness, unforgiveness, malice, anger, wrath, divisiveness.
  • Major sin - things categorized as "doing evil" 
  • Praying amiss - lack of persistence, not fasting, not using Jesus' name etc.


  • These categories form the basis for these reasons:
    • you are not asking God in the first place but trying to obtain it by quarreling.
    • you Ask wrongly e.g for worldly pleasures.
    • you treat your wife in an inconsiderate manner.
    • you are doing evil
    • you have a flippant attitude to holy things.
    • you are hypocritical  and attention-seeking.
    • you are using vain repetition (e.g. like Buddhist prayer wheels etc).
    • your lack of unity especially among Christian leaders.
    • you lack of persistence
    • you need to fasting in some situations
    • you have spiritual pride
    • you have wrath/anger
    • it's not according to God's will (God's broad moral will is meant here)
    • you live an erratic life that seldom "abides" in God.
    • you are not asking "in Jesus name" i.e asking in the will and clear purposes of Jesus and with his designated authority.
    • you do not believe in Jesus.

    Wait, here are some more:
    • you don't see that it's not God's will
    • you have the wrong motives
    • you are rebellious 
    • you are living in sin
    • you do not have fellowship with the Lord 
    • you have a non-existent prayer life
    • God could be protecting you from danger that you don't see coming
    • you doubt God
    • you need to learn humility so God didn't answer
    • you pray hypocritical prayers to get attention
    • sometimes God says 'no' or 'not yet' to bring greater glory to himself
    • God is making you trust in him more
    • God is in control
    • you didn't ask
    • you are not seeking to please God
    • you have wavering faith
    • you misunderstand your faith
    • you're not ready
    • the answer will hurt you
    • you don't see that heaven is better
    • you are not praying the right way
    • you are too greedy; be more thankful
    • your prayers are too small; don't be petty
    • your prayers are too vague; be more specific
    • your prayers are too public; pray in secret
    • you don't spend enough time in prayer
    • you are impatient
    • your prayers are already answered; you just don't know it yet
    • you are not reading the Bible enough
    • your prayers are too long
    • your prayers are too short
    • you are holding a grudge against someone
    • you have a lack of praise, thankfulness and love
    • you fail to resist Satan
    • you pray to other gods
    • you refuse to do your part
    • you are stingy in your giving
    • you believe God is obligated to answer yes
    • you have a lack of time
    • you have bad family relationship


    -These came from globalchristians dot org, biblereasons dot com, victorious dot org, cbn dot com,
    crossmap dot com graceambassadors dot com ( I'm not giving them free back links to their websites!)

    Had enough yet?  I could find a million more reasons God doesn't answer our prayers or says 'no'.
    I hope I didn't repeat any, but have you noticed a pattern??

    It's all about YOU and what YOU need to do! You don't do this, you don't do that. You don't believe this, you don't believe that. You do this, not that. 

    The Grace Ambassadors page says this about why it's all about you:
    "Notice most of the reasons start with ‘You’. When the prayer promises were given to Israel it was with covenantal strings attached. If they behaved, then God would bless them (and answer their prayer)."

    Now I'm not a rocket scientist, but it seems to me that people (Christians) can come up with a gazillion reasons why prayer is not answered. And the underlying theme to almost all of their reasons is this: You need to do or not do something better or less, and then your prayers should be answered. It's all about behavior, rules, and faith!

    So there you have it. You are the main reason your prayers are not answered. I tend to use a common sense approach to life and that is one reason that I have gone done this path of leaving Christianity. All of this doesn't make sense to me. God is supposed to be the supreme being who created the world and us. It this is so, is there anything that I can do as a human being to pacify this deity or gain his favor? 

    According to these reasons in the list, I guess there is. It appears that WE are in control of our own destiny in prayers. Behave and you will get it! 

    I do believe that we are in control of our own destiny, fate, future (whatever you want to call it) for the most part. Obviously things happen to us because of other people's actions, as it did in Orlando. But overall, we do control what happens to us. For example, you can choose to live like a hermit or a monk, and never leave your house, if you choose to have one. You can try to avoid other people and not be affected by their actions. This only works if you live on an island somewhere with no neighbors, cities, religions or countries to impose their desires on your life.

    This is just one of my problems with Christianity. Follow the rules, believe and have faith and you will be fine. Don't, and you are destined to eternal damnation in a pit of fire with all your friends. Because the only ones who get everlasting happiness in a magical place called heaven, are those who behave and follow the rules.

    BUT, what are the rules and who makes them??? 

    I will tackle that at another time!

    DL








    Monday, June 13, 2016

    Christianity and Why I am abandoning it

    In all of my research into the Origins of Christianity, I have discovered many things. First and foremost, I needed to find out how and why Christianity has "taken over" the world, and why I was a part of it.

    Through this blog, I will explore the origins of religions, especially Christianity, and the Bible. I will give my reasons and explain why I have abandoned my beliefs.

    I am not trying to convert or de-convert anyone to my point of view, but rather to give my own perspective, so that others may choose for themselves what to believe, if anything!

    As I get all my research uploaded, I will post them to a separate website

    Link to my website with Christianity Origins Resources

    First up: Origins of Religions

    I will begin sharing my research into the origins of religions and gods, and how that eventually led to Christianity, to which I was a participant for over 50 years.

    As my resources for religion's origins are uploaded, they will be found at a separate website.

    Link to website on the Origins of Religions