Cultural Anthropology/Ritual and Religion

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search


Huichol Shaman in Bolaños, Jalisco, Mexico.

Ritual, Religion and Myth[edit]

Origin of Religion[edit]

James Frazer's ethnology of religion entitled The Golden Bough, published in 1890 and again in 1922, offered a thorough review of the cross cultural variation in ideas related to magic, myth and religion that were known to Europeans at the time. Taking an evolutionary approach he proposed that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, which was displaced by religion, which in turn was replaced by science.

Magic Vs. Religion

Anthropologists have suggested that religion was created out of a failure of magic to give a satisfying answer to the 'big questions' inherent across human civilization. Initially, the term religion was used to describe a domain of western culture and belief in the supernatural. The definition of religion has been disputed among anthropologists because some would define the 'supernatural' as something that does not exist, and some define it as something that is simply 'beyond sensed'. Recently, evolutionary biologist and psychologists have begun to look at religion in terms of it being a natural evolution of human culture over time. Much like the idea of culture itself, they believe that religion was replicated, adapted, and evolved from generation to generation in much the same way that human genes do.


Magic is defined as a set of beliefs and practices designed to control the visible or invisible world for a specific purpose. Magic is another platform like Religion and Science that is used to explain what is happening around us. In fact, religion and science evolved out of magic's inability to explain the natural world. It is used as an attempt to create change in the natural world through supernatural means. Depending on the culture, magic can be used by humans or can originate from some higher power. In many cultures those who are suspected of using magic are feared and hated, but in other cultures they are respected and insightful leaders. In the past, religion has been said to have developed as a result of magic failing to explain phenomenons turning to God like figures rather then human vessels that contained powers .(Frazer) In the United States, local village girls would "magically" appear naked in men's dream causing the women to be prosecuted for witchcraft on the assumption that they were practitioners of magic in a society where magic is straight from the devil. There are two types of magic: imitative and contagious.


Voodoo doll with pins in it.

Imitative magic attempts to control the universe through the mimicking of a desired event (e.g. a rain dance to bring rain to dry crops). A Voodoo doll is an example of imitative magic. The Voodoo doll is used as a symbolic representation of another person. A person that practices Voodoo magic may stick pins into a doll in order to inflict harm or put a curse on another individual. It is thought that by harming the Voodoo doll, one can manipulate the physical or emotional state of the person that the doll is meant to represent.

In the Babar Archipelago, when a woman wants a child, she invites a man from the village who has a large family to pray to Upulero. Upulero is the the spirit of the sun. For the ritual, a doll made out of red cloth is held to the woman's breast as if it was suckling. The man who was invited over grabs a chicken by the leg and holds it over the woman's head saying "O Upulero, make use of this fowl; let fall, let descend a child, I beseech you, I entreat you, let a child fall and descend into my hands and onto my lap." He then asks the women if the baby has come and she says "yes, it's already suckling." The man then holds the fowl over the husbands' head with a prayer recited, and the chicken is killed and laid out for sacrifice. This ceremony blends together the ideas of imitative magic and religion. (Frazer, 2003)

Imitative magic is often perceived negative and only used for harm. Voodoo has a negative conniption because of this misconception. However, Voodoo is often used to heal relationships or other personal issues. An example of this is found in the book Mama Lola: A voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown. Brown studies the priestesses daily practices, and finds that Mama Lola uses imitative magic to help people's lives. An example is when she helps a young women's relationship with her husband. The husband is cheating on his wife, so Moma Lola tells her to write his name on a piece of paper, tear it up, and speak his name. By doing this, he will hear her and come back to her.


Contagious magic is often associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Witchcraft often uses magic by casting spells, sometimes affiliated with spirits. Despite the stereotypes of European American witchcraft - old hags dressed in black, riding on broomsticks, casting spells, causing milk to sour or people to sicken - most witchcraft is quite tame and does not involve the hurting of others.[1] Contemporary Wicca is often associated with witchcraft. It is disputed among the Wicca community whether they should self identify as witches. Most Wiccans use what is known as "white magic." White magic is often used for healing, focusing the individual (or group, depending on circumstances), speaking to a deity, meditation, and cleansing a space or object. Generally, the priest or priestess will cast a circle (everyone does it a little differently) and call the God and Goddess to watch over the work of the day, whether it be to raise energy for a sick friend or to cleanse a new apartment. The four elements: air, earth, fire, and water are usually represented in various ways, and help make the circle complete. The work is performed within the created "sacred space" of the circle, and then broken down when the work is complete. A meal is often served after circle, to rejuvenate the participants.

Nonetheless, contagious magic is still practiced today throughout the U.S. It usually used for beneficial and positive outcomes. For example, many people still use puppets (much like voodoo dolls) which are made with someone's personal possessions in order to draw positive energy into that person's life. [2] The ability that a Navajo Witch has to cause you physical pain because they have a piece of your hair is an example of contagious magic. Another example of contagious magic, used among Australian tribes, is a custom of removing a young male's front tooth in an initiation ceremony. In some of the tribes in New South Wales the tooth was placed under the bark of a tree; if the bark grew over the tooth or the tooth fell out then the boy would have good health, but if the tooth was exposed he would have diseases of the mouth. The tooth was out into the care of an influential man in the tribe and passed from man to man by hand. The tooth was never to touch any magical substance because it would seep into the tooth and harm the boy/man that it came from. More forms include using the afterbirth or placenta is another form of contagious magic. The belief that the afterbirth can affect the rest of an individual’s life is known around the world in many different contemporary societies. While it is rich in nutrients, the afterbirth isn't only eaten; there are many different rituals around the placenta. The Lom on the island of Bangka in Indonesia, clean the placenta immediately after birth, "regardless of its subsequent treatment." They believe this prevents the baby's abdomen from bloating.[3] Common beliefs are that the afterbirth will influence the character and career of the person.For men, eating the placenta can make you a nimble climber, a strong swimmer, a skillful hunter, or a brave soldier. For women eating the placenta can make you a cunning seamstress, and a good baker. Midwives in the United States still ask the family if they would like to have the afterbirth for any ritual purposes. There are many similarities and differences among different cultures now and throughout history.

Functions of Religion[edit]

Religion attempts to answer (or to help cope with) the “big questions” in life. Such questions may range anywhere from “who am I?" and "why am I here?" to "what is my purpose in life?" Although some religions do not directly answer all of these “big questions,” most religions help some individuals cope with such daunting thoughts, making the lives of followers of arguably all religions more cohesive. It allows individuals to concentrate their efforts on their day to day life, rather than worrying about yet unanswerable questions. Religion may create a foundation in life to build upon, as well as for cultures to come together.

Percentage of citizens who consider religion "very important".

Religion also offers some comfort over uncertainty. This concept ties into the idea that religion serves to answer the “big questions” of life. By attempting to offer answers to such large questions, religion fulfills an individuals “need to know,” and thus provides some relief to an individual’s uncertainty about life. However, it is important to note that this concept of believing in the answers religion offers is called faith, in which an individual believes in something regardless of whether there is physical proof or not. Through the centuries there has been much debate over whether faith in a religion is positive or is a detriment to mankind. While the fourteenth century Italian poet and philosopher Dante wrote about the virtues or religion, the nineteenth century German philosopher Nietzsche argued that accepting a dogmatic moral code on faith alone is not only illogical but fundamentally limits human potential.

French sociologist Émile Durkheim claims that in addition, religion attempts to offer a singular answer to life, and thus allows for the social cohesion of a society through its shared beliefs. So, in a sense, religion serves to unite a society under a system of belief (religion), which leads to the group’s ability to successfully interact within itself and allows for social control. Religion can also potentially divide people, as we see with religious wars in the past or in the present, for example the Sunni and Shiite are in constant turbulence and war <ref:>. Certain groups, such as Al-Qauda, wage what is called a "holy struggle", or a conflict (usually social or political in nature) that believers see as justified and necessary because they consider it to be God's work, or the will of God [4]. Religion serves to define groups of people, who identify intimately with the beliefs encompassed by their religion, which leads to a shared worldview.

Finally, according to Clifford James Geertz, an American anthropologist, religion attempts to offer a structure of meaning to life. Geertz believed that religion served as a model for how life should exist. Therefore religion demonstrates how individuals should conduct themselves in everyday life. An example of this is the Christian catchphrase, “what Would Jesus Do? (WWJD)”. By asking this question, Christians attempt to live their everyday lives by Jesus’ example and directives, such as the concept of loving one’s neighbor as yourself, which can be found in Matthew, chapter 19, verse 16 in the Christian Holy Bible.

Overall, it is important to note from an anthropological point of view, religion does not serve a singular purpose, but in fact serves many purposes in society. While religions unite a society, they also offer answers to those in need, while giving a society rules of conduct in which adherents should live by. Most importantly religions add to and define cultures. Therefore, by studying a culture’s religion, the culture itself can be better understood.

Concepts of Supernatural Beings[edit]


A Polynesian carving, spirits are said to be able to manifest themselves in any object.
Mana is conveyed trough tiki statues in Polynesian culture

Animatism is the belief in a supernatural power that is able to be something other than a person or animal. In this sense, it is the belief that the supernatural is all around you and could be anything. Individuals that hold these beliefs explain a powerful unseen force that can potentially be found all around us; in people, animals, plants and features of nature such as volcanoes and the ocean, for example, Mother Earth (believing in the non-living). The belief of animatism doesn't assign a spiritual identity, but instead believes in a single unified power that can manifest itself into objects or be acquired by and controlled by certain individuals. The term was coined by the British Anthropologist Robert Marett as "a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control"Animatism is the cause of consciousness and personality to natural phenomena such as thunderstorms and earthquakes and to objects such as plants and stones. Inanimate objects, forces and plants have personalities and wills, but not souls. These forces are inanimate and impersonal, This is not true for those beliefs relating to animism.

In the South Pacific Polynesian cultures, the power of animatism is commonly referred to as "Mana". For them, it is a force that is inherent in all objects, plants, and animals (including people) to different degrees. Some things or people have more of it than others and are, therefore, potentially dangerous. Often a chief must have some with him at all times. Dangerous places, such as volcanoes, were considered to have concentrated amounts of mana. This impersonal power is much like the Force described in the popular Star Wars movies. Mana is a spiritual quality considered to have supernatural origin – a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Therefore to have mana is to have influence and authority, and efficacy – the power to perform in a given situation. Mana, Marett states, is a concentrated form of animatistic force found within any of these objects that confer power, strength, and success. For example, the Polynesians, believe in mana as a force inherent in all objects. This essential quality of mana is not limited to persons – folks, governments, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.


Buddhism is the religion originated by Siddhartha Gautama around the late 6th century B.C.E in India. Later the religion then spread to other parts of South Asia including China, Tibet, Burma, and Japan. Currently, it is one of the three largest religions practiced globally and is over 2,000 years old. The name Buddhism comes from the word 'budhi' which translates as 'to wake up'. The key to Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. [5] It focus on the realization of the truth, which is awareness and advancement of human's moral and mind. Buddhist believe that by studying Buddhism, they will one day discover the truth of life and universe, eventually transcendent through death and hardship, disconnect with all troubles, and getting liberation from all earthly trouble. The supernatural Beings in Buddhism is believed to be the soul of normal human beings that go through reincarnation after their death and kept in this cycle until they go through the phrase of Nirvana. Then they become the being of emotionless, which exceed the natural death and reincarnate cycle.


Hercules Clubs the Hydra.

Euhemerism is a rationalizing method of interpretation that was named after the Greek mythographer (compiler of myths) Euhemerus. Euhemerism is the idea that a real person can become a deity or a supernatural immortal being through the constant telling and re-telling of their stories that leads to the distortion of the actual story. For example, many people believe that Hercules was a real person but was deified through the stories of his life and after some time the embellished story became the accepted story. Therefore, Hercules was remembered as a deity. Euhemerism is the worship and belief in an ancestor or historical being who is thought to have supernatural power. Euhemerus believed that every Greek god was someone that actually lived long ago and was immortalized in myth through their actions in life. Euhemerus believed that the Gods of Greece were in fact humanly-conceived incarnations of important historical figures who had achieved high reputation by advancing several areas of Greek society. [6]


Animism is the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe all possess individual souls. Deriving from the Latin word anima, meaning a breath or soul, it is one of man’s oldest beliefs dating back to the Paleolithic Age and is greatly associated with primitive peoples, those without a written tradition. Sir Edward Burnett Tylor was one of the first Anthropologists to study animism, believing it to be a “minimum definition of religion”, he theorized that all globally recognized religions had some aspects of animism^ . Tylor posited that animism was birthed by primitive cultures mistaking their dreams for reality [4]. It is believed that animism was first constructed out of a need to explain natural phenomena such as sleeping, dreaming, and death. In classical animism it is said that spirits are a separate entity from the body, and cause life in humans by passing through bodies and other inanimate objects. Robert Ranulph Marett, another Anthropologist of Tylor’s time, suggested that the earliest forms of animism were created based on emotion and intuition, rather than sacred practices, and written word. He believed that the earliest animists based their religion on inanimate objects acting strangely, or uniquely giving them the illusion of life alike to humans, trees blowing in the wind for instance. Contrary to Tylor, Marett believed that animists did not separate between the body and the soul, claiming them to be a single entity living and dying as one^ .

In terms of practices, many animistic cultures worshiped plant life, including trees and plants, because of their beauty, strength, and life. It is thought that all beings, including plants, have a soul. This is why in many Native American cultures totem poles are major symbolic structures, and the main focus of many rituals. Centuries ago the Coast Salish Indian Tribe was well known for its belief in spiritual transmutation between humans and animals, a trait of animistic culture. Living in Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island they created hundreds of totem poles in order to showcase the spirits believed to be living in the animals portrayed upon the totems, and the trees the totems themselves were made out of. Now, the remnants of these totems are on display in both museums, and in their original locations in the city of Duncan, now known as “Totem City” because of the animistic art left over by the Coast Salish Indians.

Totem poles at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

As mentioned, animism is greatly associated with more primitive cultures. However, “new animism” a more symbolic and less literal form of animism is still found in many different cultures worldwide^ . This form of the religion is focused on the different types of souls in different types of people from all different cultures. It is more acutely understood as the teaching of how to have respectful relationships with human beings, as well as the natural world. It is also to be understood, that not all things have a truly human soul, including humans, and part of animism is distinguishing what/who is truly human, and what/who is not. The basic idea is that showing respect for relationships is vital to survival. ^ .


Dualism in the sense of theology is a belief in two supernatural god like figures. Bitheism/Ditheism are two forms that both involve the two gods. Bitheism implies that the gods live in peace and ditheism implies that there is opposition. This means that a ditheism system would have one good and one evil god or one god that listened and helped and one that ignored. A god of life and one of death is another example. An example of a bitheism system would be something like one god is of the sky and one of the wind. It is not always easy to distinguish between the two, like a sky god who brings storms and rain and an earth god who brings fertility and tremors. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato also had a hand in dualism, but more in the sense of body and soul. In a moral sense Christianity is a dualism religion with the opposition of God and Satan. [7]


Anthropomorphic figure from Mycenae in Greece (1250-1180 BC).

Anthropomorphism is the concept of attributing human characteristics or behaviors to a non-human being. This can mean animals, plants, and almost anything else taking on the personality of a human. Different religions have different interpretations of anthropomorphism, but in general it is to show their God as something or someone else. For Catholics the purpose of drawings and other forms of anthropomorphism is to reach our philosophic knowledge of God. In Greek mythology anthropomorphic animals are representations of their Gods. The Greeks show that the gods are different from us by attributing them to the features of being ‘immortal and ageless.’ [1]

In the anthropology of religion the primary use of anthropomorphism is to embody the supernatural in human form. An example that is most defined in Western culture is in Judaism and Christianity, God has given human feelings of anger and jealousy or compassion and forgiveness. All human qualities that have been given to God in human settings that surround humanity, where these feelings are all emotions that humans have observed and none that we haven't. A functional analysis of anthropomorphism proposes that when the supernatural takes human form, it may be easier for people to relate to the concepts promoted by religion.

Another use of anthropomorphism is the blending of human traits with other beings. “John Tenniel's depiction of an anthropomorphic rabbit was featured in the first chapter of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.” This is an example of anthropomorphism in the form of a children story. Another example in Western culture is Goldilocks and The Three Bears. All the bears talk and walk around like humans do. Both of these stories bring us closer to animals because they seem more like us, they seem friendly like someone a child would want to be friends with. This is a longstanding culture tradition in Western culture and many other cultures in fables and myths. Though many people do not like being compared to animals, especially primates, because they want to be seen as separate from animals.


The zoomorphic deity Anubis.

Zoomorphism is the attribution of animal qualities or characteristics to a God. It is the act of attributing animal qualities to things that are not animals. Many times it is mistaken for anthropomorphism, which attributes human characteristics or qualities to things that are not human. Zoomorphic supernaturals can be found in many religions, such as Hinduism with the deity Ganesha. Other examples include images of male deities with antlers that appeared in prehistoric art in countries as far apart as France, Australia, Canada and China. [2]

An example of zoomorphism can also be found Egyptian mythology with the god Anubis. In Egyptian mythology Anubis was the god that protected the dead and brought them to the after life until Osiris took over the position and then Anubis became the gate keeper of the dead.[3]

In Egyptian Mythology death was not seen as the last stage of life it was seen as the stage of life where a person was at rest while they waited for the rebirth of their soul. The burial process of the Egyptians was very elaborate and complex because it was meant to protect the spirits from the different levels of good and evil.[4] Anubis had the duties of watching over the mummification process, conduct the souls through the underworld, and placing the hearts of the souls on the Scales of Justice during the Judging of the Heart, and feeds the souls of the wicked people to Ammit.[5] Anubis has the head of a jackal with the body of a human. His head is the color black because black is the color associated with death and the rotting color of flesh and the black soil of the Nile valley. The head of a jackal is significant because in ancient times jackals would hunt at the edges of deserts near the necropolis and cemeteries and ravage the desert graves throughout Egypt.[6] Anubis was not the only zoomorphic god of Egypt. Horus was often drawn as a falcon on the shoulder of a ruler and he is typically depicted as having the head of a falcon when drawn alone. He was often used to show a ruler's connection to the Gods. Other examples in Egyptian mythology include Hathor, who is often depicted as a cow, and the warrior goddess Sekhmet, who is depicted as a lioness in human form. The use of zoomorphic gods shows a cultures connection with the animals surrounding it. [8]


Victoria's "World's Tallest Totem Pole."

Totemism is a religious practice in which a family is seen to have a close kinship with a particular spiritual being, such as an animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol.[[7]] Each spirit can be associated with an animal of some kind as a symbol of power or any other type of attribute. Masks are sometimes used as well to recreate the spirit or being. Usually seen through the use of Totem poles with Native American families in traditional societies. Though this is usually seen in Native American traditional societies, this is something that is practiced all over the world, and it is not exclusively associated with those groups of people. The term totem is derived from the Ojibwa word ototeman, meaning “one’s brother-sister kin.” The grammatical root, ote, signifies a blood relationship between brothers and sisters who have the same mother and who may not marry each other. [9]


Monotheistic religions have only one god. These also traditionally shun and don't believe in the existence of any other deity. They traditionally have a specific set of views centered around their singular god and his teaching and scripts. Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

An ethnographic example of religious syncretism is Haitian Vodou. Haitian Vodou is a mix between the beliefs and practices of West African peoples who were brought to Haiti as slaves in the 16th century and the religion of their owners, Roman Catholic Christianity.

Haitian Vodou has two tiers of deities, the Lwa and the greater god, Bondyè. Since the actions of Bondyè are beyond human control, Haitian Vodou practitioners focus their worship on the Lwa. However, since they believe in Bondyè as a supreme being, Haitian Vodou can be considered monotheistic. The Lwa are dealt with like family members for the most part; able to be bribed, threatened and even married. Thus, all sickness and misfortune that is not caused by Bondyè is caused by one of the Lwa and the healing of these ailments is seen as "the healing of relationships" (Lola by Karen Brown). Even though Haitian Vodou may seem very far off from Roman Catholic Christianity, each of the Lwa has a connection with one of the important Roman Catholic figures. For example, the Petwo spirit Ezili Danto is associated with the Roman Catholic image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, which is a holy icon of the Virgin Mary. She is also considered the Iwa of motherhood, single motherhood in particular.

The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, used in the depiction of Ezili Danto

Syncretism , the merging of two or more religious traditions into one that contains elements of all the original religions. Syncretism is the blending of two or more religions to create a larger cultural group or a mix of a conquerors and conquered peoples religions. In some cases deities or influential figures are blended and called by one name but retain attributes, images, symbols and sometimes holy sites from the original religions.

Exclusivism, in belief is the view that one's own religion is inerrant and all others are in error, may be practiced by the original traditions and the new syncretic religion, although syncretism seems antithetical to exclusivism, a part of the traditional religion survives. Exclusivism may also relate to practice rather than mere belief. Ancient Greek Religion combined many local deities, such as nymphs and other divinities connected to nature, into the myth system of the Greek Pantheon. The Decree of Diopithes of 430BCE forbade the worship or introduction of and the belief in deities other than the Greek Pantheon and made it an offense punishable by death. Later Greeks syncretised the Gods of other peoples with their own, this was not so much a matter of inclusivism but exclusivism, as though the Greeks were saying only Greek Gods are real so your Gods are really my Gods.

In its more extreme form, religious exclusivism teaches that only the members of one religion or sect will reach Heaven, while others will be doomed to eternal damnation. The opposite of religious exclusivism is universalism, the teaching that all will eventually share in the eternal blessings of God or the heavenly realm.

Christianity is often viewed as an exclusive religion because of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”[[8]]

Exclusivism -- "Salvation is found in only one religion."[[9]]

Religious Specialists[edit]


Shaman from an equatorial Amazonian forest. June 2006

A shaman is a part-time religious practitioner who acts as a medium between the human and spirit world. A shaman is believed to have the power to communicate with supernatural forces to intercede on the behalf of individuals or groups. The term shaman,as defined in Schultz and Lavenda,"comes from the Tungus of eastern Siberia, where it refers to a religious specialist who has the ability to enter a trance through which he or she is believed to enter into direct contact with spiritual beings and guardian spirits for the purposes of healing, fertility, protection, and aggression, in a ritual setting [10]." Shamans are generally thought of as healers, and yet they may also be feared or mistrusted by their own people because of their supernatural capabilities. Although having the power to converse with spirits may make them subject to suspicion, shamans are usually considered to be powerful,influential and valuable members of their society. There are even some tales among the peoples of North America about shamans succeeding in bringing the souls of the dead back to earth. [11] Shamans are often prevalent among hunter-gatherer societies. A shaman must typically endure intense training which may take over a decade and involve the use of psychotropic drugs to attain an altered state of consciousness. Shamanic activity is said to take place while the shaman is in a trance. Typical methods for inducing a trance involve:

  • fasting
  • the use of psychedelic mushrooms, peyote, cannabis, ayahuasca, salvia, tobacco
  • dancing, singing or drumming to a hypnotic rhythm
  • deadly nightshade
  • sweat lodges
  • vision quests
  • incense and plants such as morning glory, sage and sweet grass

Shamans have been an integral part of hunter-gatherer societies for thousands of years. In prehistoric North America, for example, evidence of shamanic activity has been discovered in the form of rock art. Archaeologist David Whitley explains that,"shamans would often record their spiritual journeys symbolically by carving or painting rock surfaces in a sacred place. For instance,among the Numic people and in south-central California, rock art was created by shamans the morning after a vision was received, in order to preserve it for posterity. This was necessary because forgetting the details of a vision would result in the shaman's death or serious illness [12]." Whitley also points out that,"there is extensive and compelling ethnohistorical evidence from throughout far western North America that the rock art in this region was made after the conclusion of ASCs (altered state of consciousness) to portray shamans' and puberty initiates' visions of the supernatural realm [13]." Shamanic art is often characterized by geometric patterns and or images of death, flight, drowning and sexual intercourse.[14] Some researchers advocate that rock art is symbolic of the visual imagery and sensations a person experiences on hallucinogenic drugs. Shamanic activity is still practiced among North American tribes today, although it has drastically declined since European colonization (only around 500 of the 2,000 tribes remain that were present in the 17th century). [10] [11]

Priest and Priestess[edit]

A priest or priestess, male and female respectively, is a person within a religion that has special authority to perform religious rituals. Different religions have different rules about men or women being excluded from priesthood or to what degree. Priests and Priestesses differ from shamans in that it is often a full-time occupation. Being a priest is an institutional result through social aspiration and belief. Priests generally hold a higher position and status in society over those they preside over. A priest's power comes from the recognized influence of their religious organization and the hierarchy. A form of priesthood exists in many religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Shintoism, and Hinduism. For many religions being a priest or priestess is a life-long commitment and can be left only either voluntarily or by excommunication</ref></ref>.

Priest's main duties consist of of guiding other believers in worship, knowledge of the religion, and spiritual guidance. They spread word of their religious beliefs and mediate contact between individuals and their deity. These rites are carried out for the benefit of the believers such as with healing or absolution granted by the higher powers. The priests are connected to the deity of their beliefs through numerous different systems based upon the religion. Some believe there are oracles or prophets while others achieve a connection to higher forces through direct contact.

Other societies in ancient history were affiliated with priests and priestesses. Ancient Egypt was among one the first cultures to use priests to carry out sacred rituals rather than having a shaman. Priests were often passed down from father and son rather than being appointed like many cultures. Duties of Egyptian priest to care for the gods and goddesses and to attend to the needs of them. Unlike how priest are seen today as only being close to the gods and having rapport with them, the job was more like an everyday job. The duties of the priest were more than just preaching and religious practices. They taught in schools, assisted artists and their works, and guided people through their problems that they were having. Egyptian priest believed in many ritual taboos. Some of these were that the priest must be circumcised. Many priests also wouldn’t wear wool or any animal products because it was seen as unclean. PRIESTS also would bathe 3 to 4 times a day in scared pools, and shave of all of their body hair. Although Pharaohs were seen as gods themselves, in Egyptian societies priests are a stand in for Pharaohs or successor to the throne if anything were to ever happen to the Pharaoh</ref></ref>.

Although many affiliate priests with the Roman Catholic Church, over time there have been many divisions in the church which have led to numerous Protestant and orthodox churches. Even if some are “in communion with the pope” they can be considered separate religions due to minor differences in beliefs. These churches in many cases still have priests or priestesses due to their catholic roots, examples of these are certain Protestant, Anglican and Episcopalian, and Orthodox churches. The first division of Christianity was between the East and the West in 1054 due to a rivalry between Rome and Constantinople [12]. The Eastern Orthodox churches only recognize the canons of the seven ecumenical councils as binding for faith, and rejected doctrines that were later added in the West. The next major division of the church was in the early 16th century when many began to question the power of the Catholic Church. During that time the Protestant Reformation occurred and the Lutheran and Anglican churches were formed[13]. Even though these churches are separate from the Catholic Church many continue to have priests, and in some cases allow for women priestesses.

Roman Catholic priests in clerical clothing, Vienna, Austria, 2005


Pastors are generally known as ordained leaders within the Christian church. Unlike priests, pastors do not serve the role of mediating between a person/group and God; instead, they are in charge of leading and mentoring the church towards developing and deepening a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not only do pastors help people develop a deep relationship with Jesus, but they also help with marriage counseling and other types of counseling for everybody and anybody in the church. To be qualified to become a pastor in most Christian churches, one must have some type of pastoral degree (the most common degrees are Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Theology) from a bible or religious college (known as Seminary). However many of the Slavic Baptist churches in America do not require a degree because of the language barrier that the pastor may not be able to overcome to achieve a university degree. [14]

If a church is already developed but does not have a pastor yet, often the other leaders or elders of the church will determine pastoral qualifications which they feel are vital to being a good leader of the congregation. Although education is required, churches may look more closely at other qualifications of the pastor, in order to find a leader who will have the same core beliefs, values, and goals that the church has already set in place.

Qualifications to be a good pastor: Love for their people, A positive attitude and approach, people skills, an intimate relationship with god, priority on teaching, leadership and focus.[[15]]

According to Daniel Sherman, some areas in which pastors may differ are Character, Philosophy of Ministry, Skills , Spiritual Gifts , Education , Doctrine , Experience , Personal Information , Leadership Style (Sherman 2008)


The prophet Abraham of Judaism who was to sacrifice his son for God.

The basic definition of the word "prophet" is someone who has encountered the supernatural or divine. Prophets are often regarded as someone who has a role in their society in which they are able to promote change due to their messages and/or actions. However, the word "prophet" is extremely subjective, depending on which religious context it is being used in. To some, an individual may be considered an "authentic prophet", while to others that same individual may be considered a "false prophet"(regardless of their religious background). Some religions that include the use of prophets are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Sybilline and Delpich Oracles practiced in Ancient Greece, and Zoroaster.

In regards to the non-religious use of the word in the late 20th century, "prophet" refers to either people who are successful in analyzing the field of economics (the "prophets of greed") or to those who are social commentators that suggest there may be an escalating crisis within their environment and society due to others' lack of compassion ("prophets of doom"). In more modern times, however, the concept of "prophets" as a whole has come under scrutiny, passing off the visions that the prophets have as cases of Schizophrenia.


Prophets are heavily intertwined with Judaism. In this religion, a prophet is an individual who is selected by God to act as a representation. The prophets intend their messages to cause social changes among people, in order to conform to God's desires for humanity. Currently, the Talmud recognizes 48 male prophets and 7 women prophets. Non-Jewish prophets have a much lower status than Jewish prophets in the eyes of those who adhere to the Jewish traditions. A few prophets that are referenced in the Jewish religion are Abraham, Job, Samuel, Miriam, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekial and Malachi.


The founding father of the religion of Islam, Muhammed, is regarded by Muslims as a messenger and prophet of God. He began to preach in BC 613. He urged the rich to give to the poor and called for the destruction of idols. [16] Muslims consider him the restorer of the uncorrupted original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets. He was also active as a diplomat, merchant, philosopher, orator, legislator, reformer, military general, and, according to Muslim belief, an agent of divine action.


St. Anthony the Great, considered the Father of Christian Monasticism

The term "monk" is used to describe a religious specialist who conditions the mind and body in favor of the spirit. This conditioning often includes seclusion from those who do not follow the same beliefs, abstinence, silence, and prayer. Monks were originally present solely in Christianity, but through a looser definition created by modern westerners, the term has been applied to more religions (ex. Buddhism). The term is also often used interchangeably with the term “ascetic,” which describes a greater focus on a life of abstinence, especially from sex, alcohol, and material wealth. In Ancient Greece, “monk” referred to both men and women, as opposed to modern English, which uses the term “nun” to describe a female monk. Before becoming a monk in a monastery, nearly every monk must take some sort of vow, the most famous being the Roman Catholic vow of “poverty, chastity, and obedience.” It is also common to have a hierarchy within a monastery through which monks can rise over time with the growth of spiritual excellence. Monks are often confused with friars. Although they are very similar, the main difference between the two terms is the inclusion of friars in community development and aid to the poor.

While two of the more known types of monks are Orthodox and Roman Catholic, a recently created sect of monasteries is Anglican. Roman Catholic monks were common throughout England until King Henry VIII broke off from the Roman Catholic Church and later ordered the razing, demolishing or removal, of all monasteries. Centuries later during the 1840s, a Catholic revitalization movement began in England, prompting Anglicans to believe that a monastic life should become not only part of England again, but also part of the Anglican Church. John Henry Newman started the first Anglican monastery in Littlemore, near Oxford. Since then, Anglican monasteries have spread throughout England and have been known to lead a “mixed” existence by taking traditions from different religions and religious specialists. They daily recite the Divine Office in choir and follow services from the Book of Common Prayer and Breviary. The also celebrate the Eucharist daily, and like Roman Catholic monks, take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Anglican’s service to the local community, as a friar might do, sets them apart from other monks. However, during the past century and especially the past few decades, Anglican monasteries have lost support and are becoming extinct.

The man pictured on the left was a Christian saint from Egypt during the first century CE. He was a leader among the Desert Fathers and is known as the father of all monks.


Saints are individuals who have died but, in Catholicism, have lead virtuous lives and have gone through the process of canonization.

Christian saints are most commonly individuals of excessive holiness who had done amazing things in their lifetime and after. Commonly have followed in the teachings of Christ, though not all were Christian. The lives and teachings of saints has been used to further the examples of the a persons faith. They are essentially experts on the ways of holiness and their lives are to be used as examples making them in a way a religious expert. Many are martyrs, exemplary people, who brought out the glory of God through their works. Some defining characteristics of saints are as follows:

  • 1. exemplary model;
  • 2. extraordinary teacher;
  • 3. wonder worker or source of benevolent power;
  • 4. intercessor
  • 5. selfless, ascetic behavior; and
  • 6. possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.[15] Saints

There are currently over 10,000 saints. Many saints also have an associated item they are recognized for or something which they protect. Many saints also have a day associated for a feast in their honor. For the Catholic Church a saint is "recognized" by them, usually through the pope, as a saint and therefore is guaranteed passage into heaven.

"Christian" religions that have differing views of saints or something much like a saint are the Catholic as mentioned, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Then also Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism all have saint like figures.


What Are Rituals?[edit]

According to Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition; by Emily Shultz and Robert Lavenda, a ritual must fit into four categories. These four categories are:

    -that it must be a repetitive social practice, 
    -it must be set off from the routines of day to day life, 
    -it must follow some sort of ritual schema, and 
    -it must be encoded in myth. 

Ritual often has its roots in myth and religion, tying itself to ancient practices between the divine and humans. However, a ritual does not have to be religious in nature; graduation ceremonies and birthday parties are rituals as well. [16] Religion can be defined as concepts or ideas and the practices associated with them. These practices hypothesize reality beyond that which is instantly available to the senses. Religion is a type of worldview, a collective picture of reality created by members of a society, and exists in many forms. As time passes and cultures change, religions evolve and change as well. Some popular present day religions include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. In many cultures, religion is practiced through rituals.

Every society has their own rituals; an action performed as a common practice. These practices can be a result of religion beliefs, or society ideas or expectations. For example, in the United States, when a person dies, family members and friends of the person attend a funeral; a ceremony in which they honor the dead person right before they are buried or cremated. Not all societies practice the same rituals however. Some societies may partake in physical actions to celebrate the adulthood of a child, while others may participate in religious rituals. Evangelical christian families in the USA partake in their religious ritual by going to their local church every Sunday morning. They do this to strengthen their personal relationship with Jesus. But even with an overarching title "Christians" the ritual is not practiced unanimously throughout the group. Rituals can vary by geography, culture or personality and are practiced just as varied.

Ritual has been a cornerstone of anthropological thought for an extended period, and countless classics have been built upon this infinitely complicated and thus fascinating aspect of human life. In recent decades, however, the ritual has been falling behind from the forefront of anthropological consideration. Although ritual’s role in the earliest formation of anthropology does not grant it permanent immunity to transitions in scholarly interest, its recent departure also should not be casually interpreted as proof of irrelevance.[17]

Ancestor worship[edit]

Confucian temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ancestor Worship is basically defined as a religious or spiritual practice which revolves around the belief that the deceased continue to have a presence after they die and contribute to the spiritual quality of their living relatives. Most religions have some form of ancestor worship, and consider the connection they have to their ancestors a significant component of their belief systems. This type of worship can often be confused with the worshiping of gods and deities, but it is an entirely separate practice. Many cultures see ancestor worship as non-religious; something that simply strengthens bonds with family and offers the proper respect for deceased loved ones. Others base a person’s social status on who their ancestors were and how high on the social hierarchy they were in life. Ancestor worship is mainly performed so that, by placating one’s ancestors, they may be taken care of in life and death. In return for the blessing by ancestors, worship insures that the ancestor’s spirits may be at peace. Other rituals that can sometimes accompany this type of worship include: sacrifice, elaborate burial ceremonies and the preparation of specific food dishes.

One of the religions that is most associated with ancestor worship is called Confucianism , which is typically observed in many countries in Asia, specifically China. Confucianism focuses mostly on the concept of filial piety , or Hsiao; the respect for deceased relatives and their actions. Hsiao also represents the love within a family and between parent and child. Although the Chinese celebrated and worshiped their ancestors long before Confucianism, Confucius, the religion’s founder, really promoted it as a regular spiritual practice. Ancestor worship in Confucianism typically involves offering things to the ancestors that they may need to thrive in the afterlife such as food, weapons and other utensils. It is thought that if the proper items are not offered to the ancestors that they will come back to earth and haunt their living relatives. The Chinese celebrate a holiday called Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, during which people place wine and food outside their doors to please the ancestors so that they will return to the afterlife

Ancestor worship is common in Korea. The ancestors that Koreans worship are usually deceased family relatives that hand down blessings to the still living relatives through worship. Many Korean families hold ancestral ceremonies at least 3 times a year. One occasion would be the anniversary of when the ancestors passed away (dates they died). Another occasion would be New Years, worshiping ancestors to bless the family at the start of a new year. Another time would be Thanksgiving, when Koreans eat the first fruit of the fall season on the lunar calendar. Usually during these ancestral ceremonies, tables would be set up with the pictures of the deceased relatives (ancestors) upright, and plates of traditional Korean food (kimchi, rice, galbi, meats, broth, etc.) set before the pictures. Members of the immediate family of the deceased would be present at the ceremony. Members of the family would take turns bowing before the table where the ancestors are "sitting", to show a sign of respect and an invitation to dine. Then a family member (usually the oldest woman) would cut up the meat, vegetables, mix it with the rice, all of this a motion of "serving" the ancestors. All of the members of the family would then bow once more to show respect and the ceremony would conclude. [18]

This is a couple at their traditional Thai wedding ceremony, an example of a commonly prevalent life-cycle ritual.

Life-Cycle Rituals[edit]

Rites of passage are a category of rituals that mark the passage of a person through the life cycle, from one stage to another. Birth, puberty, marriage and death are the most pivotal in the human experience.The importance of ritual dates back as far as 40,000 BCE. The evidence we have for this are flower-strewn remains of Neanderthal humans [17]. The act of this ritual we can only assume helped the survivors honor the value of life and to cope with this intense life crisis. The grieving pre-modern hominid discovered the comforting, and life affirming act of ritual. The motivation behind the Neanderthals actions is perhaps intuitive human habit of ritual, which maybe the true prescription for dealing with these profound life transitions.

Rituals of Death and Mourning[edit]
Jewish Mourning Rituals[edit]

Many different religions or cultures have varying rituals following the death of a person. Burial and mourning rituals may differ even among the same religion. The following are commonly accepted burial and mourning practices in Judaism:

After people have died, their eyes and mouths are closed. They are then placed on the floor and covered with a sheet, while a lit candle is placed by their head. The body is not to be left alone until burial, and it is seen as a good deed to sit with the body and to read psalms. Before burial the body is cleansed and clothed in a simple white shroud. The coffin is traditionally a simple cedar casket constructed without the use of metal due to the belief that people should decompose back into the earth, returning to dust after death.

The mourning process is divided into three sections, each increasing in time and lessening in intensity. The first period of mourning is called "Shiva." This period of mourning lasts seven days starting from the day of burial. This mourning period applies to the immediate family of the decease. It involves mourners rending their clothes in an outward sign of mourning. Furthermore, mourners sit on the floor or cushions or low stools and are prohibited from bathing, shaving, working, cutting their hair or washing their clothes. Some families also cover mirrors in their house in order to recognize that they should not be focusing on their own appearance in a time of such intense mourning. This is often the time when friends prepare meals for the family of the deceased and sit with them to comfort them. A second period of mourning is called "Sheloshim" and takes place from the 7th day after the burial till the 30th day. During this time the immediate family of the deceased should not cut their hair, shave or attend parties. The third mourning period lasts until the anniversary of the death. During this time mourners do not attend public parties or celebrations, but can cut their hair. However, mourning may be suspended during important Jewish holidays in order to take place in the celebration and prayer.[18]

The Components of Rites of Passage[edit]

The Elders, Knower’s or Guides: [that help the novice during the parts of or all throughout the liminal stages];

  • The Separation: [from home or community; in route to the sacred place, in which the novice experiences his or her ordeal].
  • The Sacred Place: can be a recreation of the original archetype, it is the place where human and the spiritual will commune;
  • Trials and Tribulations: are those hardships that the novice will endure, such as disorientation, chaos, training, depravation, chanting and-or altered states of consciousness;
  • Revelation: the revealing of inner meanings, the explanation of myths and transcendental knowing;
  • Symbolic Death: [the personal identity of the novice in the pre-liminal stage has been transformed, the old identity of the novice has died and no longer exists].
  • Resurrection and Rebirth: [the novice has been recreated, with a new identity and status];
  • Reincorporation: [where the novice returns home or enters into a new community, along with there new status].
  • A celebration is often common to commemorate the completion of the rite. [19]

In the 2002 film Whale Rider, a story of modern day rite of passage in a traditional Maori village and into the Whangara culture of modern day New Zealand. In the Whangara myth their presence on the island dates back a thousand years to one single ancestor “Paikea”, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding the back of whale to the village shore. Since then, the chiefly leadership role has been passed down to the first born male of the first born male, establishing a patriarchal society. “Pai” is the films 12 year old protagonist, who after the death of her twin brother, and her mother at childbirth is now in her own mind, destined to be the next Whangara chief. Pai’s father has exchanged his traditional culture for a life in Europe. In her quest to fulfill her destiny Pai faces the many challenges of this patriarchal tribe and all the elements of rite of passage are in the plot of the film: The “elders” or “knowers”:Pai’s elders are her grandfather, her grandmother Nanny Flowers and her uncle Rawiri. The separation: Pai’s grandfather, "Koro" who is the tribal chief, blames her for the death of the chosen one and as the personification of the curse upon the tribe whose ancestral chain has been broken. The grandfather ignores her at home, and further alienates Pai by forbidding her from participating in the warrior rituals with the rest of the male initiates. The sacred place: There are two sacred places in this film; the first one is the unfinished chief’s canoe of her father, and the beach. The canoe stands above land on blocks. This is where Pai seeks refuge and calls out to her ancestors. She is visited by an elder, her grandmother, Nanny who unlike her grandfather, supports Pai’s quest. The second sacred place is the beach, where she has her sacred encounter with the whale. Trials and tribulations: Pai sets out to seek the ways of warrior by sneaking onto the training compound, only to be caught by her grandfather, and to be humiliated in front of her male initiates. In one very important scene, Pai is being honored at school and dedicates as a gesture, a traditional tribal performance to her grandfather. Her heart is broken when he fails to show up. Revelation: A truth is revealed to her Uncle Rawiri one afternoon, as Pai retrieves the lost sacred artifact (the whale tooth) of her grandfather. (The “tooth” was tossed into the bay, during a training session with the aspiring young chiefs.) ‘The one who gets my tooth back to me, is the one” “Koro” announces (Whale Rider, 2002.) Symbolic death: Near the end of the film, Pai has her sacred encounter with the beached whale. She climbs up onto the back of the lead whale, in an attempt to get the whale to re-enter the water. The whale responds and off she goes with the whale into deeper waters. She almost drowns and is hospitalized for a few days. This is Pai’s symbolic death. It is during this time that her family is remorseful, especially her grandfather and reconsiders his point of view on who should be chief. Resurrection and rebirth: The film fades from a lonely scene of Pai in her hospital bed, to a vibrant ceremony of Pai in the finished canoe of her father. With her grandfather by her side, the fully crewed canoe is ocean bound. Pai is dressed in traditional clothing and proudly wearing her grandfather’s whale tooth necklace. Reincorporation & Celebration: The film stops at the re-birth stage, but the last scene in the film doubles to fulfil the stage of celebration. It is safe to assume Pai will fulfil her duties as the new chief.


A pilgrimage is a journey on behalf of ritual and religious belief. One who goes on a pilgrimage is called a Pilgrim. Often pilgrims try to obtain salvation of their soul through this physical journey. Most times the journey is to a shrine or a sacred place of importance to a person's faith. The institution of pilgrimage is evident in all world religions and was also important in the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome. Pilgrimages attract visitors from widely dispersed cultural backgrounds and physical locations, offering them the opportunity to be brought together because of the origins of their faith.

Relevant to so many different cultural contexts, there is no single definition to describe to the act of pilgrimage. However, similarities are noticeable. Pilgrimage usually requires separation from the common everyday world, and in displaying that separation pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from familiar comforts. Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time (i.e. The hajj always occurs on the 8th, 9th, and 10th days of the last month of the Muslim year).

The location of sacred sites and shrines often represent some great miracle or divine appearance, they may also appropriate the places that are holy to older or rival faiths. A factor that unites pilgrimage locations across different religions is the sense, variously expressed, that a given place can provide privileged access to a divine or transcendent state.

Some of the most visited religious pilgrimage sites in the world are The Vatican in RomeRoman Catholic Church, the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico Catholic Church, and Mecca in Saudi Arabia Islam.


Pilgrim at Mecca.

The hajj is the fifth pillar of faith. It occurs on the 8th to 12th day of Dhul-Hijah, which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Members of the Islamic faith are encouraged to perform the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime. However, religious law allow exclusions on grounds of hardship. [20] It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world.[21] Once a person has successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca he/she will receive the status of Hajji. Mecca is known by Muslims as the dwelling place of Adam after his expulsion from paradise and as the birthplace of Muhammad (570–632), the prophet of Islam. [22] Its yearly observance is held on the holy day id al-adha as a memorial of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders. [23]

Pilgrims converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform the following rituals:

  • Each person walks counter-clockwise seven times about the Kaaba, a building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer
  • They kiss the Black Stone in the corner of the Kaaba
  • They run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah
  • They drink from the Zamzam Well
  • They go to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil
  • They throws stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil.
  • They shave their heads
  • They perform a ritual of animal sacrifice.
  • They celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha. [24]

Buddhist Pilgrimage[edit]

Buddhists also take part in religious travels to sacred sites. Similar to the travels to Mecca in Islam or the Vatican in Catholicism, Buddhists travel to four main sites in Northern India and Southern Nepal. These sites are significant places in the life of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Gautama taught that these foaaaur main sites would make his followers feel a sense of spiritual urgency, as they coincide with the life and spiritually significant experiences of the religious leader. The four significant places are as follows: Lumbini, where Siddartha Gautama was born, Bodh Gaya, where he was enlightened, Sarnath, where he gave his first teaching, and finally Kusinara, where Siddartha died.

Aside from the four main pilgrimage sites, there are also four other pilgrimage sites held to a high level of status due to the miracles that Buddha performed there. These are all together known as the eight great places. The last four places are: Srazasti- a major city in India where Buddha spent much of his time and is considered to be the "Place of the Twin Miracle". Rajgir- where the angry elephant , Nalagiri, was subdued through friendliness. Sankasia- said to be the "Place of the descending to earth from Tusita heaven". And lastly, Vaishali- the capital of the Vajjian Republic and the place where an offering of honey from a monkey was received.

The Huichol's Pilgrimage for Peyote[edit]

The Huichol are a indigenous group of maize (corn) farmers who reside in Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. Maize, along with deer and peyote-which the Huichol have linked together-are key ingredients for their way of life. "In Huichol religious thought, deer, maize, and peyote fit together: Maize cannot grow without deer blood; the deer cannot be sacrificed until after the peyote hunt; the ceremony that brings the rain cannot be held without peyote; and the peyote cannot be hunted until maize has been cleaned and sanctified." [19] Here, Schultz shows the connection between three of the most prominent cultural symbols for the Huichol; and of those items, peyote seems to act as the metaphorical backbone that triggers the Huichol's religious practice. However, a pilgrimage must be first undertaken to find the peyote; beginning an approximate 350 mile trek.

The location the pilgrims of Huichol are destined to find the peyote is a representation of "Wirikuta, the original homeland where the First People, both deities and ancestors, once lived." [20] After they have "captured" the peyote plant -shooting two arrows into it- a shaman places peyote in each pilgrims mouth and the group then begins to gather peyote for the rest of the community.

The pilgrimage for peyote is an example of a culture actively holding onto their past. Instead of allowing their traditions to fall through the cracks, the Huichol use a holistic experience to preserve their religion and culture. [21]

Rituals of Inversion[edit]

-Where the standards of everyday society are inverted and/or suspended, otherwise solid social codes are ignored. Two examples include Carnival and Halloween

Carnival - The Carnival celebration occurs as a way to let loose before the strict rules of religion are set in place for lent. Typically, during Carnival everyday customs, rules, and habits of the community are inverted. Kings become servants, servants become kings, women dress as men and vice versa. The normal rules are overturned and indulgence becomes the rule. The body is granted freedom and obscenity is expected. Work and diets are omitted as people take to the streets to eat and party the days away. [25] A common thing to find during carnival are masquerade balls, where men and women can wear masks of animals, creatures, and other people and in trying to figure out who the various attendees are, risqué behaviour is to be expected.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Regardless, many people participate in the carnival tradition today. The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. Festivities are held in hundreds of different countries worldwide.

An example of Carnival in the United States is Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras occurs in February right before the season of lent. It was first introduced by the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to the territory of Louisiane which now includes the states Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Ever since its introduction Mardi Gras has been celebrated in that area of the United States for many years. Its common to see people wearing minimal clothing, flashing for beaded necklaces, and partying in the streets. Much of this behaviour is overlooked by police who only react when it is taken to the extreme or is in the more "family friendly" areas.


Inversion on Halloween

The Celtic celebration Samhain, pronounced “sow-in”, was the yearly culmination of the summer and harvest months and the beginning of the winter season marked by cold and death [22]. This “Feast of the Sun” was a time for all Celtic clans spanning across Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France to gather comfort and support while giving thanks to their many divine beings. Traditionally, large bonfires were built and people gathered to offer food and animals as sacrifice to the many deities. The Celts, pronounced Kelts, were polytheistic and offered gifts to specific Pagan Gods throughout the year. After the celebration had ended, people would relight the hearth in their homes with fire from the communal and sacred bonfire. This fire was thought to protect the people especially on the night of October 31, when the ghosts of the dead and otherworldly spirits were believed to return to earth.

All Saints in Poland

As Christianity and Roman rule began to spread through the Celtic lands, the holiday of Samhain or “Halloween” would be reinterpreted and designated as three holidays known as the Eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’ Day. All Saints’ Day, November 1st, was created as a memorial for all saints and martyrs recognized by the Roman Catholic Church while All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, is a day to honor the dead. These church-sanctioned holidays were similarly celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes consisting of saints, angels, and devils. The idea of Satan is a Christian concept that did not exist in pagan beliefs. In order to believe in one idea of ultimate evil (the Devil) the Celts had to believe in one concrete idea of ultimate good (God), but they worshiped several Gods. These traditions went under further construction as further generations began to relocate away from ancestral grounds.

The Great Potato Famine of 1845-1850 resulted in the emigration of 1.5 million Irish. Large Irish communities were based near ports in New England states as well as the western territories. Many Irish practiced their Catholic faith and their traditional practices in America, including All Hallows Eve. This cultural practice has been adopted to fit modern customs and reflects a diverse holiday rooted in Celtic and Mexican beliefs. However, the current practice of Halloween emphasizes less of the religious aspect and emphasizes the idea of fun. Americans can be seen going door to door gathering candy from neighbors and decorating yards with grim decorations. Jack-O-Lanterns line porches, spiders and skeletons hang from doorways, and eerie music plays while young children run through the streets shouting Trick or Treat! Costumes that depict superheroes or popular icons of the year are worn by people of all ages. Small acts of vandalism include pumpkin smashing, throwing of toilet paper, and the stealing of candy. These forms of mischief may stem from the ancient Celtic belief that all trickery was done by fairies that were upset with mankind. Such antics are often very minuscule but add to the “haunting” affect that Halloween has on American culture.


thumb|300px|left|Brahmana performing fire sacrifice

A sacrifice is an offering of something of value to an invisible force, and is done in many cultures and religions. To thank the invisible or cosmic forces in hopes of getting them to perform in a certain way or to gain merit in their religious group (Shultz & Lavenda, 2009) are some reasons to perform sacrifices. Sacrifices are also made out of selfless good deeds. The word "sacrifice" in Latin means "to make sacred." Some examples of sacrifices are: Money, goods, services, animals and humans.

In pre-Columbian Mexico, the Aztecs sacrificed hundreds of humans in accordance with their ritual calendar in what is referred to as a human sacrifice.[23] It was thought that in order for the sun to shine everyday a certain amount of human hearts had to be sacrificed. The most common sacrifice was for the sun God, Huitzilopochtli, in which a knife is used to cut under the ribs to get to the human heart, which was then forcibly removed.

In Hindu culture, sacrifices are made to the Agni, the divine messenger. In the sacrifice, grains, spices, and wood are thrown into a fire and represent devotion, aspiration, and the seeds of past karma.

During the Bronze period of ancient China, sacrifices were very common in the worship of ancestors. It was believed that when a person died their fate was decided by spirits. In order to invoke these spirits a beautiful bronze vessel was filled with wine and water as an offering. It was to be placed outside of the city during a time of need as a offering to the Heavens. This is an example of a goods sacrifice.[26]

In the Hmong Shamanism tradition, shamans would sacrifice animals to try and retrieve lost souls from the clutches of evil spirits. This was because animal souls were thought to be linked with human souls. In their tradition, evil spirits, known as dabs, would steal a persons soul and make them ill. When this happens, a chicken, pig, goat, or cow would be sacrificed and the animal's soul would be given to the evil spirits in exchange for the human soul, and this would make the person well again. [24]

In Hmong funerals, animals would be sacrificed to help the soul of the dead person reach the end of its journey. The body of the animal would then be consumed during feasts that occur during the funeral.

Other Examples of Rituals[edit]

A little girl praying before her meal in the USA.

Religions have different rituals and practices that accompany and highlight religious experience. Familiar examples of rituals in christian faith include attending church, praying, and witnessing. American Christians pray before a meal, in time of grief and guidance, and for a friend or family member and before and after waking up. However these rituals are only a very small fraction of the vast diversity of practices that religions from around the world use.

Another example of a religious practice is the Huichol Indian's consumption of peyote. In the Sierra Madre Occidentals, where the Huichol Indians live, there is a sacred place called Wirikuta. The Huichol Indians make a pilgrimage to this sacred land to collect the peyote cactus. The sacred peyote cactus, which can induce hallucinogenic visions, is eaten by the Huichol as a way to connect their three key symbols of life. These symbols are maize, deer and peyote.

An example of an old ritual that is encoded in myth and religious symbolism can be found in the catacombs of Sicily. In Sicily over 2,000 dead bodies are kept. Most of these bodies have been embalmed or mummified and dressed in the attire that suited their profession. The oldest body dates from 1599, while the freshest have been dated to the 19th century. The truth of the reasons for mummifying some of Sicily’s most important people is still surrounded by myth[25] A myth is a story, the truth of which seems “self-evident because they do such a good job integrating personal experiences, with a wider set of assumptions about the way society, or the world in general, must operate” [26]. Myths can also be defined as untrue beliefs. Aside from the myths, many used to go down to the crypts and “pray for the souls of dead relatives” to the mummified clergymen. This type of worship can be seen in many shamanistic cultures.

Another example of ritual can be seen in the Sinhalese Buddhist ceremonies of Sri Lanka. To cure people of illness the Sinhalese perform an elaborate exorcism ritual that involves all night dancing, singing, and role playing. The ceremony traditionally lasts from Midnight until 6 AM. At Midnight, costumed actors appear to portray the afflicting demons. As time passes, these figures are turned into comedic figures of ridicule. At 3 AM actors dressed as Sinhalese gods appear and reassert their dominance. The final performance, done around 6 AM, the absurdity of the demons if confirmed and the ritual ends. It is important to note that the ritual involves several crucial and distinctly separate phases. [27]

An example of a ritual In Russia, more specifically Siberia, there is a republic called "Tuva" in which members living there are referred to as "Tuvinians." Members of the society are very involved with the landscape surrounding them. Inside the landscape contains spirits, ranging from ancestor spirits to demon-like spirits. Each family has a personal boos (stone cairns) and tree. Once there is a death in the community, it locates to somewhere in the landscape, where it "influences the lives of the living kin."[28] (Kristensen, Benedikte Møller) Rituals are common in this Tuvinian society. On certain dates, occasionally a month, the shamans will drum because they think they can travel to where the spirits are. The purpose of this is to get rid of all illness and misfortunes within the community. The shamans in the society need to be aware of where the spirits are located so no bad misfortunate event(s) happen.

An example of a secular ritual is a birthday party. The candles on a cake are symbolic, each representing a year. The blowing out of the candles is symbolic of the successful passage of time and, if completed successfully, supposedly foretell the granting of a birthday wish. The giving of presents, singing of the birthday song, and wearing of ritualistic costume (in the form of party hats) are all ritual elements.

Participants of Islam,if possible make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. These believers pray five times (before sunrise, and after sunset) every day at specific times in the direction of Mecca. In Judaism, rituals include lighting the menorah, celebrating Hanukkah, abstaining from the consumption of pork and shellfish, and eating only unleavened bread during Passover. Hinduism involves regularly attending temples to burn incense and offerings including bread and flowers to each God and Goddess’s alter. Every belief system, whether it has one hundred followers or one hundred million, uses rituals to symbolize important aspects of their faith.


In Vodou, a priest or priestess creates desirable conditions for one ore more lwa (spirits) to come into. Some lwa like rum, specific kinds of food, perfume, etc. Then, she offers herself as a "cheval", or "horse", so a lwa can "ride", or possess her. From this point on, for all intents and purposes, the Vodou practitioners present at the ritual treat the priestess as the lwa that has possessed her. They give the lwa it's favored items, and treasure it's company as they would a family members'. Usually, the priestess will be possessed by several different spirits in the course of one ritual [30].

Rituals in the southwest region of the United States are also very common, especially among the Native American pueblos. In Sandia Pueblo, a pueblo in New Mexico near Albuquerque, the annual Buffalo Festival takes place. Early in the morning the males go into the Sandia Mountains and re-enact a hunting party that their ancestors once participated in. Once they return, the dancing ceremonies begin. The people of the pueblo who are a certain age begin to participate in the dancing, which is an especially big deal to the children who have finally come of age and have their first dance. After the first dance, a family will invite others into their home to eat a large feast usually consisting of buffalo. After this feast another dance takes place followed by a different family's invitation to eat at their home. It is considered rude to refuse an invitation. This cycle of dancing and feasting continues until dusk when the Throw occurs. The Throw is when the family of the children who get to have their first dance go onto the roofs of houses in the main square and throw off practical household items, such as spatulas and spoons. This gut-stuffing ritual has taken place for many many years and will certainly continue for many more. [31]

The Sandia Mountains, the sacred land of the Sandia people

The Hmong people practice sacrifices for their rituals. They believe that sickness is caused by an evil spirit called a Dab. It is thought that a dab can steal someones soul away from their body, thus causing the person to fall ill. To treat this, a Shaman is hired to engage in negotiation with the dab for the persons soul. The shaman enters a trance, in which they enter the spirit world and barter with, trick, or convince the dab to release the persons soul. Often, they sacrifice an animal to protect the persons soul once it has returned, or to trade for the soul of the sick person. By doing this, the person is healed. This is very common occurrence for the Hmong people. They believe that one person can have multiple souls, and these souls can easily become lost or stolen from the earthly world [32].

World Religions[edit]


Celebration of Ganesh, Paris.
Krishna (left), the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu or svayam bhagavan, with his consort Radha, worshiped as Radha Krishna across a number of traditions - traditional painting from the 1700s.

Hinduism [27] is also called Sanatana Dharma (Eternal religion) and Vaidika Dharma (Religion of the Vedas). Overall, adherents to Hinduism make up around 15% of the global population with over a billion members, and approximately 95% of those live in India. There are two major divisions within Hinduism: Vaishnavaism and Shivaism. Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul. This is the transfer of one's soul after death into another body. This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their many lifetimes that's called Samsara. Karma is the accumulated sum of ones good and bad deeds. Karma determines how you will live your next life. Through pure acts, thoughts and devotion, one can be reborn at a higher level. Eventually, one can escape samsara and achieve enlightenment. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn as a lower level, or even as an animal. Hindus body of scriptures is divided into Sruti and Smriti. Hindus organize their lives around certain activities (Purusharthas). These are called the Four aims of Hinduism or "The doctrine of the fourfold end of life." They are:

  • Dharma: righteousness in their religious life. This is the most important of the three.
  • Artha: success in their economic life; material prosperity.
  • Kama: gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual, sexual, and mental enjoyment.

The main goal for the "Nivritti," those who renounce the world. is:

  • Moksa: Liberation from "samsara." This is considered the supreme goal of mankind.

Hinduism is unique due to the fact that there is no real distinction between beings divine and human. In Hinduism humans can appear divine, and gods human. Also, unlike most religions such as Christianity, there are two supreme gods Vishnu and Shiva, who are equal in power. Hinduism also has other gods such as Lakshmi and Parvati, who are wives to Vishnu and Shiva. A staple of Hinduism is greetings. Many times Hindu’s will bow their heads or raise heir hands as a sign of greeting and respect. It is this same raising of the hands which Hindu’s praise and worships their gods. In most pictorials of the deities, the divine are often showing this same way of greeting, showing that the divine must show respect. [33]

Hinduism today is seen and argued as being polytheistic or monotheistic. In fact they would both be right. They do worship many deities, but they believe that each one is part of a whole unity. This is the panentheistic principle of Brahman: that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is one divine entity that is at one with the universe. Strictly speaking, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, meaning they recognize a single deity, and recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that God.

The formal way to great people in the Hindu culture is to put one’s hands together, bow the head and say “Namaste” (Hindi language), “Vanakkam” (Tamil language) or another language variation. The translation means “the God/Goddess in me respects the God/Goddess in you” or "I bow to the divine within you".

The mantra Om mani padme hum written on rocks. Chanting mantras has been a feature of Ayurveda since the Atharvaveda—a largely religious text—was compiled.[34]


Viashnavism is a tradition of Hinduism distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or his manifestations, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. Viashnavism is seen as monotheistic, since adherents to this form of Hinduism believe in one Supreme God. They believe that the living entity (or soul) is eternal, and that the purpose of life is to be free from reincarnation through spiritual practices. Bhakti Yoga (the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to God) is seen as the most direct method to achieve this. Desire is seen as the root of all evil, and thus a great deal of importance is assigned to the control of the senses, mainly through meditation and yoga practice. Material nature is seen as temporary, and is said to contain 3 modes: Goodness, Passion, and Ignorance. Desire, or lust, is said to be the result of material contact with the mode of passion, which is inevitably transformed into ignorance. The Supreme Personality Of Godhead is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. He is male, and eternal. He is the Creator and the Destroyer. It is said that He created the material world by impregnating it with His eyes. The Material Universe is said to last 311 trillion 40 billion years and then die. At this point the devastation takes place, which means that the energy manifested by the Lord is again would up in Himself. Then Creation follows, and material energy is let loose once again. This cycle repeats infinitely... [28]

The Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads are seen as major religious texts.

The monotheistic worship of Vishnu was already well developed in the period of the Itihasas. Hopkins says "Vishnuism, in a word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India. Vaishnavism is expounded in a part of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita, which contains the words of Krishna, one the avatars of Vishnu.

Vaishnavism flourished in predominantly Shaivite South India during the seventh to tenth centuries CE, and is still commonplace, especially in Tamil Nadu, as a result of the twelve Alvars, saints who spread the sect to the common people with their devotional hymns. The temples which the Alvars visited or founded are now known as Divya Desams. Their poems in praise of Vishnu and Krishna in Tamil language are collectively known as Naalayira (Divya Prabandha).

In later years Vaishnava practices increased in popularity due to the influence of sages like Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Manavala Mamunigal, Vedanta Desika, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, and many others.

Large Vaishnava communities now exist throughout India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as Rajasthan and Gujarat and north eastern state Assam. Important sites of pilgrimage for Vaishnavs include: Guruvayur Temple, Sri Rangam, Vrindavan, Mathura, Ayodhya, Tirupati, Puri, Mayapur and Dwarka. Krishna murti with Radha Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England

Since the 1900s Vaishnavism has spread from within India and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America. This is largely due to the growth of the ISKCON movement, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966.

The Mahabharata is known to be the longest epic in the world. A collection of narratives, the Mahabharata is a holy text about ancient India under King Bharata. Dhritarashtra had 100 sons and 5 step sons called the Pandavas. The 5 Pandavas took pride in their morals and piety. Therefore, Dhritarashtra’s first son Duryodhana planned to have them murdered in an inflammable religious palace. Believed dead, the Pandavas escaped, moved into the forest, and became Brahmins.

In a nearby kingdom, a princess was looking for a suitor. The five brothers heard this and made way for the festivities. If one man could bend an enormous bow and hit a tiny target, then he would have the princess’s hand in marriage. Each man failed until the third son, Arjuna, struck the target with ease. The other suitors were upset about this forest dweller defeating them and brought the ruckus. A battle would have prevailed if Krishna did not intervene. Krishna held Arjuna’s right to the bride. A legendary war then prevailed between the newly allied Pandava brothers and Dhritarashtra’s kin. Specifically, The Bhagavad Gita tells this tale.

The Mahabharata is similar to the Bible in terms of being a homogeneous work. Also, it is the most translated piece of literature next to the Bible. Westerners, specifically people from the United States should make an effort to be familiar with the Mahabharata just like foreigners know about the Bible.

1 ^ His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivadanta Swami Prabhupada., "The Bhagavad Gita As It Is"


(Pujio) Bhai Sahib Norang Singh Ji doing Ardās.

Sikhism is a religion based in Punjab, India. It is the fifth-largest world religion. It is founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak Guru Nanak, along with ten successive Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak founded the religion in 1469 CE. The principle belief of Sikhism is faith in Waheguru, which refers to God or Supreme Being. It means "wonderful teacher" in the Punjabi language. Sikhism promotes the idea of salvation through disciplined and personal meditation on the name and message of God. The concept of God in Sikhism is oneness with the entire universe and its spirit. Sikhs must eliminate ego to be able to find God. Sikhs do not believe in heaven or hell. "Heaven" can be attained on earth by being in tune with God while still alive. The suffering and pain caused by ego is seen as "hell" on earth. They believe that upon death, one merges back into universal nature. Sikhs view men and women as equal in the world. Women are expected to participate in the same religious life as men are. In Sikhism, every person is fully responsible for leading a moral life. Sikhs have no priestly class. Therefore, those who are educated in the ways of the religion are free to teach others about Sikhism, however, they cannot claim to have access to God. The only religious text of the Sikhs is Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which contains hymns written by Guru Nanak and the other Gurus. Sikhs believe they have no right to impose their beliefs on others or to cajole members of other religions to convert. All individuals, regardless of race, gender, or nationality, are eligible to become Sikhs.


Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest recorded monotheistic religions started in Persia and based on the teachings of Zoroaster a prophet of the early 5th century BCE. Many present day Theologians point to Zoroastrianism as the influence for many of today's monotheistic world religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism etc. Zoroaster preached the following of Ahura Mazda which equates to God. Ahura Mazda is the supreme being of good whose enemy is represented by "druj" which is simply the power of evil. Zoroastrianism asks its followers simply to do good and to go through life with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds as these are necessary to create happiness and to keep the "druj" at bay. Pre-Islam Iranian governments promoted the teaching of Zoroastrianism during that time. Zoroastrianism was extremely popular to the Iranian people and was considered a state religion until it was marginalized by other religions in the 7th century. However it is still significant due to its history, the possible influence it had on other religions, and its followers who still are around today. Currently there are approximately 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world.


Gandhara Buddha (1st-2nd Century CE) at the Tokyo National Museum.

Buddhism is a religion based on personal spiritual development with some atheistic characteristics formed by a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly called "the Buddha" (which is actually a title that means "the Enlightened One"). He was believed to be born in Nepal around 563 BCE. Buddhism was formed after Siddhartha came to disagree with the practices and beliefs of asceticism. Born into a royal family, he became aware of suffering after taking a trip outside of the palace. Here, he encountered people suffering from disease, old age, and death. At the age of 29, having witnessed such sufferings, he decided to leave his life of comfort and become an ascetic in an attempt to find the solution to end suffering. For six years he ate only tiny handfuls of rice each day and did little besides meditate, in an attempt to free himself of bodily concerns. It is said that after those six years, he ran into a little girl by a river, who offered him a bowl of rice to feed his famished body. At this same time, a man (so the story goes) was traveling down the river playing a stringed instrument. Here Siddhartha came to a realization, which he later explained as: "Look at the lute. If its strings are too tight, they will break. If they are too loose, it cannot be played. Only by tuning them neither too tight nor too lose will the lute work." The Buddha later called this the Middle Way, the path of neither giving in to one's desires nor walking the line of extreme self-deprivation. After this realization, he broke away from his ascetic practices and sat himself under a tree (latter called the Bo-tree, or Tree of Enlightenment), entering a deep meditation. This act is what is known as Jiriki or self power. At the age of 35, after meditating for 49 days, he attained Enlightenment and was henceforth called "the Buddha"[29]. After attaining enlightenment, he went on to help others reach nirvana. During his experience of enlightenment, Siddhartha came to realize the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Buddhism also splits into three subcategories, the first being Theravada Buddhism (which is found in South East Asia), Mahayana Buddhism (found throughout East Asia), and Vajrayana Buddhism (this includes many subcategories of Buddhism including Tantric Buddhism and Mantrayana)[35] [30]. It is estimated that there are currently 365 million people who practice Buddhism today. This makes the religion the fourth largest in the world.[36]

Concepts of Buddhism

Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Paths

The Dharma Wheel is often used to symbolize the Eightfold Path

The Four Noble Truths deal with the nature, origin, cessation, and path to the cessation of suffering. These four things are the core of Siddhartha's message, and presumably expresses what he learned while meditating under the Bo-tree.

  • Life leads to suffering
  • Suffering is a result of a craving of worldly pleasures in any form
  • Suffering ends when this desire is gone
  • When one follows the path described the Buddha, one can be relieved of desire and achieve enlightenment

The Eightfold Path is part of the Fourth Noble Truth, or the path leading to the cessation of suffering. It is referred to as the Eightfold Path because of the eight categories or divisions that it is composed of, those being:

1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

These paths are used to avoid two extremes: one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses; the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of ascentism peterson9949 (talk). It should not be thought that the categories should be followed by the numerical order above, but should instead be used more or less simultaneously, according to the capacity of each individual.Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Samsara is a Buddhist concept that directly related to this cycle of rebirth. It is the world in which the human race currently resides and in which there is much pain, suffering, and sorrow. One can only leave Samsara once they have reached nirvana.

The Ten Fetters is a series of items that keep a person in Samsara.

  • Belief in a separate individuality or personality
  • Doubt without desire for satisfaction
  • Attachment to rules/rituals without a critical perspective
  • Craving of sensuous things
  • Wishing harm or ill will on others.
  • Desire for more material items or greater material existence
  • Desire for non-material existence
  • Ego
  • Restlessness
  • Ignorance[37]

If one possesses any of these, he or she will remain in Samsara. One, according to Buddhist thought, should strive to overcome these things.[38]

Pilgrimage in Buddhism

Lumbini, The birthplace of Siddartha Gautama

Buddhists take part in religious travels to sacred sites called pilgrimages. Similar to the travels to Mecca in Islam or the Vatican in Catholicism, Buddhists travel to four main sites in Northern India and Southern Nepal. These sites are significant places in the life of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Gautama taught that these four main sites would make his followers feel a sense of spiritual urgency, as they coincide with the life and spiritually significant experiences of the religious leader. The four significant places are as follows: Lumbini, where Siddartha Gautama was born, Bodh Gaya, where he was enlightened, Sarnath, where he gave his first teaching, and finally Kusinara, where Siddartha died.

The sacred site Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama is surrounded by an area called a monastic zone, or, an area in which only monasteries can be built. The site is visited by many looking to meditate and chant near the exact place of Siddartha's birth, and the sacred Bodhi tree. The site was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Lumbini, The sacred Bodhi Tree at the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama

Traveling on a pilgrimage is an act Buddhists believe will earn them merit for future incarnations. The farther and longer the journey, and the more humble the mind of the person traveling, the greater the merit will be. Going on a pilgrimage is also a way for Buddhists to practice becoming free from worldly attachments. They might aim to no long feel so attached to an old home, to old relationships, or to old desires. By dedicating oneself to the pursuit on a holy place in a humble mindset, one comes closer to walking the Eightfold Path. The traveling of many monks over the centuries is attributed as one of the main causes of the spread of Buddhism. [39]

Buddhist Temples

Mahabodhi Buddhist Temple

Buddhist temples come in many shapes that can be located anywhere throughout the world. Perhaps the best known are the pagodas of China and Japan. In Theravada Buddhist temples, the monks live there and practice their everyday meditation. [40] Another typical Buddhist building is the Stupa, which is a stone structure built over what are thought to be relics of the Buddha, or over copies of the Buddha's teachings.

Buddhist temples are designed to symbolize the five elements:

• Fire

• Air

• Earth, symbolized by the square base

• Water

• Wisdom, symbolized by the pinnacle at the top All Buddhist temples contain an image or a statue of Buddha.

A Stupa


Stupa are a symbolic structure that are meant to house Buddhist relics, and other holy objects. The ancient tradition has it that following the cremation of Buddha; his ashes were then divided into eight parts which were dispersed among various rulers to be enshrined at special burial mounds as relics. King Asoka, who ruled from 274-236 BC, supposedly redistributed these relics over a larger area. The mounds that were built specially to enshrine Buddha’s remains were built in the form of brick or stone stupas. [41]

A stupa brings enlightenment to the one who builds and owns it. The stupa structure is visually, a dome, which has a specific geometry to show the connection to enlightenment. For those that live in a Buddhist society, stupas are everywhere, they can be found on the side of the road, in a Buddhist’s backyard, or can be a holy shrine for relics that came from Buddha.

The Dalai Lama

The Current Dalai Lama, photo by Luca Galuzzi 2007

The Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and traditionally has been responsible for the governing of Tibet. However, the Chinese government established control in 1959. The Dalai Lama's official residence before 1959 was the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. However after his exile, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was instrumental in granting safe refuge to the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government-in-exile) is also established.

The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the largest and most influential tradition in Tibet. The institution of the Dalai Lama is a relatively recent one. There have been only 14 Dalai Lamas in the history of Buddhism, and the first and second Dalai Lamas were given the title posthumously.

According to Buddhist belief, the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a past lama who decided to be reborn again to continue his important work. The Dalai Lama essentially chooses to be reborn again instead of passing onward. A person who decides to be continually reborn is known as tulku. Buddhists believe that the first tulku in this reincarnation was Gedun Drub, who lived from 1391-1474, and the second was Gendun Gyatso. However, the name Dalai Lama meaning Ocean of Wisdom, was not conferred until the third reincarnation in the form of Sonam Gyatso in 1578. The current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity" A widely cited, but apparently spurious quotation attributed to Albert Einstein [42]

Zen Buddhism[edit]

The founder of Zen Bodhidharma

Zen is a school of Buddhist thought that developed in China during the 7th century, by an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, from a combination of Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism. Practitioners of Zen aim to see the world as it truly is, without lasting thoughts or feelings but instead as a constant stream of unconnected thoughts. Zen strays from traditional Buddhism and other religions because instead of focusing on learning religious text or other passive forms of teaching Zen focus on meditation and the practitioners own direct path to enlightenment. Zen is predominantly practiced in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea but in recent years has gained popularity in the western world.

Zen was introduced into Korea, where it was known as Seon, during the 8th century by a Korean monk named Mazu Daoyi. Over the next four hundred years it spread all throughout Korea from the upper class to the poorest farmers. Because Zen discourages the use of religious texts, it makes it much more accessible to people that are either illiterate or don’t have access to formal religious schooling. Korean Zen focuses more on meditation and monks than other countries forms of Zen. The Korean monks that practice Zen spend their time meditating and traveling instead of trying to gain any physical belongings or ties. Recently, Korean Zen has adopted the philosophy that it is possible for one to gain enlightenment by suddenly switching to practicing Zen, rather than spending the huge amounts of time meditating and preparing for enlightenment that other countries that practice Zen recommend, such as China and Japan.


Commonly translated as "The Way of the Gods," by combining the borrowed Chinese ideograms for 'gods' or 'spirits' (shin) and 'philosophical path' (tō). [43]

Shinto is a form of animism that is the indigenous religion of Japan. It is a form of worship that is based upon nature. It teaches that every living or non living object in the world contains “kami”. “Kami” can be most easily explained as an inner spirit or god within that object. So any tree, rock, car, dog, cat, person, or anything else has a Kami. Kami also means 'paper' in Japanese, so the usage of it is a common theme in marking shrines and divine objects. In Japan, it typically is practiced alongside Japanese Buddhism. Since Buddhism focuses primarily on the afterlife, Shintoism focuses on the present. [44] Unlike most other religions, Shinto has no real founder, no written scriptures, no body of religious law, and only a very loosely-organized priesthood. [45]

There are 4 affirmations to Shintoism that include 1)Tradition and family, 2)Respect of nature, 3)Physical cleanliness, 4)and the celebration of festivals (matsuri) for the various kami. [46]

Shinto is centered on `KAMI' (innumerable gods or spirits) of places, families, communities who interact with us. Kami are:

• Mostly associated with some particular place - a grove of impressive trees, a waterfall, a town, village, valley, etc. The kami are believed to move among their shrines and to reside in a small house-shaped box built for them at the shrine (or jinja).

• Usually beneficent, but not always. Occasionally they may be vengeful.

• Many kami are the spirits of deceased ancestors, emperors, prominent military figures, important animals (tiger, fox, etc), waterfalls, forests, distinctive rocks, rivers, etc.

• No `allpowerful god' in Shinto - only lots of little ones. Each has limitations. But the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, is dominant however. She gave birth to the first emperor. Her main shrine is called Jingu and is located in a forest at Ise in western Japan.

• No concrete visual representation. No paintings, sculptures, masks, etc. of the kami themselves. Only Buddhist temples use physical representations (in painting and sculpture) of the Buddha and the Boddhisatvas.

• Religious ceremonies are attempts to please and entertain the kami. For example, sumo wrestling matches and the many local festivals, called matsuri, began as means of entertaining local kami.[[31]]


Judaism is the first monotheistic religion and is a product of Abraham’s covenant with God. Judaism is based on the laws and principles of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Tanakh is a Hebrew acronym for Torah (“Teachings”), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”). Within the Tanakh there are a total of twenty-four books. According to Judaism, God created a covenant with the Israelites when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. Judaism’s values stand on three things: Torah and the commandments, the study and doing of good deeds (mitzvah). Their Holy land is Israel, but their perceived right to the land is great source of controversy between the Jews and their Muslim neighbors.

Because of their banishment from the land of Israel in ancient times, Jews now live all over the world. There are approximately 14 million practicing and secular Jews today. The United States is home to around 5,602,000 Jews, New York alone has some 1,654,000 Jews, and Israel has about 4,390,000 Jews. [47] Since 250 AD, Jews have been kicked out of 109 countries total. Throughout history, many Christians have blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus. During the high Middle Ages, Jews were expelled, massacred, and forced to convert to Christianity. In the mid-14th century, as the Black Death devastated Europe, rumors spread that the Jews had caused the disease by poisoning the wells. In Strasbourg, a city that hadn't yet been affected by the plague, 900 Jews were burnt alive. After much more persecution throughout the next few centuries, such as the Holocaust that lead to the death 6 million Jews and the displacement of most of Europe's Jews. After such a tragedy, the Jews saw to the formation of a recognized Jewish State known as Israel in 1948.

The Holocaust[edit]

The Holocaust, also known as "The Shoah" in Hebrew, which comes from the word for catastrophe, was the systematic murder of some 6 million European Jews by the Nazis during WWII. The Nazi regime lasted from 1933 to 1945; the mass genocide only began in 1941. Beforehand, Jews had been gradually stripped of the rights they shared with their fellow Germans. On the night of November 7th, 1938, a Jew assassinated a Nazi diplomat. This gave the Nazi party the excuse they needed to justify mass oppression. That night two thirds of all German Jewish synagogues were damaged or destroyed and roughly around 7,000 Jewish were ransacked. Soon most major cities in Nazi occupied territory had a separate ghetto where Jews were forced to live under terrible conditions. In addition, many Jews were forced to work at hard labor camps. After the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Nazi forces, people who were deemed "life unworthy of life" (people with mental or physical handicaps and the Romani people) were systematically executed by Nazi forces. In the early forties, when the Nazis felt it was time to expunge the Jews from the earth, they began construction on numerous work and extermination camps. Jews placed in ghettos began to be taken to these extermination camps, primarily by train. After departing the overly crowded trains they were forced to ride in, a large percentage of the Jews would be taken inside and gassed immediately. Some camps had a labor sub-camp where people selected at the gate would be taken to preform manual labor. If you were not selected for this, you would either be chosen with the purpose of having medical experiments preformed on you or you would be taken to a gas chamber. After years of systemic killings, the Nazis were aware they were going to lose. As Soviet and American troops marched westward, many camps had their prisoners evacuated. After the evacuations, the Nazis would attempt to destroy all evidence of the gas chambers. The prisoners were forced to go on death marches in the freezing cold for hours on end. Many died mere days or weeks before freedom.

After the war was over, many Jews found that their houses were destroyed or occupied by strangers. The majority of surviving Jews immigrated to the United States or Palestine. Many Jews during this time were afraid to speak about what had happened. The scars of the Holocaust were fresh in their minds and they avoided the subject and tried to move on. Primo Levi is widely credited as being the first survivor to widely publicize their story. Levi was an successful Jewish-Italian chemist who, in 1944, was taken to Auschwitz (the most infamous extermination/labor camp the Nazis built). After his eventual return to his native Turin, and his finding of work, he began to write a manuscript based on his experiences in Auschwitz. Published in 1947, If This Is A Man (published in the United States as: Survival in Auschwitz) was his personal account of his experience in Auschwitz. He continued his work in chemistry and continued to publish writing and poetry on his experiences during the Holocaust. As a prominent anti-fascist, Levi spoke at over 130 schools about what he went through. Levi was disgusted by how many people wished to downplay to horrors of his experience. These people were referred to as "revisionists" as the phrase Holocaust Denial was not yet in use. Forty-two years after his return from Auschwitz, Primo Levi took his own life. Nobel peace prize winner and fellow Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who published the penultimate Holocaust account Night (book), was famously quoted as saying: "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz 40 years later".

After Elie Wiesel's death in 2016, and as the number of Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle, Jews of the world task themselves with making sure that there is never another Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was founded in 1993 with the purpose of making sure everyone who can is educated, and receives around 15 Million visitors each year. Similarly, Yad Vashem was created in Israel with the same message in mind and is Israel's second most visited site yearly. It also has numerous online resources for Holocaust education. [48]

A Yemenite Jew at morning prayers, wearing a kippah skullcap, prayer shawl and tefillin.

Sects/Branches of Judaism[edit]

There are three main sects in Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Jewish men and women wear special clothing during times of prayer and other religious practices. While praying, eating, reciting blessings, or studying Jewish religious texts, a round brimless (for the most part) skull cap called a kippah or yarmulke is worn. The tzitzit are special knotted tassels that are worn on the four corners of a prayer shawl; different Jewish customs explain when these should be worn. Tefillin are two square leather boxes that contain bible verses and are worn during the weekday morning prayers. A kittel is a white knee-length overgarment that is worn by prayer leaders on the high holidays and the head of the household wears this at the Passover seder. The tallit is similar to the kittel and is worn in similar situations as well as by boys and girls becoming bar/bat mitzvahs when they turn 13 and become adults in the eyes of the Jewish community.

Orthodox Jews traditionally pray three times a day, and on holidays a fourth prayer is added. Prayers are typically recited throughout the day upon waking, and before and after eating a meal. Although most prayers can be recited in solidarity, communal prayer is often preferred. In many reform temples, musical accompaniment such as organs and choirs are used. Further, a fifth prayer service, Ne'ilah ("closing"), is recited only on Yom Kippur. [49]

The Jewish religion can be categorized into six major branches in America. They are the Reform, the Conservative, the Modern Orthodox, the Re-constructionist and the Ultra Orthodox or Haredim, which breaks into two separate groups called the Hasidim and the Mitnaggedim. Reform is the largest branch in America and is the most liberal. Between 1885-1930, immigrating Jews decided that Jewish law is a personal idea and not a requirement. These changes were made in an attempt to keep Jewish people Jewish as there was no longer a pressure to remain Jewish once people assimilated to American culture. The Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and Re-constructionist function as denominations or different branches of the same religion. The Haredim are a community based group and culturally connected. These are those who life in strict adherence to the Halacha. [50]


In Judaism, there are many holidays, festivals and other holy days are observed such as: Creation, Revelation, Redemption, Shabbat, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukah, and Purim.


According to Halakha, Jewish law, Shabbat is the most important Jewish holiday. It occurs weekly from Friday evening at sundown until Saturday evening when the first three stars appear. Shabbat[32] is the day of rest that falls on the seventh day of the week after the six days of creation in the book of Bereishit, “In the Beginning,” or the book of Genesis as it is commonly known. There are many rituals that happen on Shabbat such as different blessings over the wine, candles, and Challah (bread), as well as prohibited activities including any type of “work” because it is the day of rest. Practitioners will go so far as to pre-tear their toilet paper, use plastic and paper cutlery and utensils to avoid working while cleaning up, and cooking all meals ahead of time.

Though, many people who don't personally observe Shabbat don't quite understand what the 'forbidden work' entails. Most Americans see the word 'work' and instantly think of physical labor or employment. They wonder how a rabbi is able to lead Shabbat on Sunday and not be breaking his own religious commandment. However, this is not the type of work referred to in the Shabbat restrictions. The Torah prohibits "Melachah" which means work, but not in the same sense as the English word. Melachah refers to work that "is creative or exercises control over the environment". An example of Melachah is the work of creating the universe, in which God died on the seventh day. [[33]]

Yom Kippur[edit]

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most important holiday of the year in Judaism.[34] During this day, people come to synagogue to atone for any sins that have occurred over the past year. Yom Kippur is a time to request forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt. Jewish men and women who are 13-years and older take part in a 25-hour fast from the evening before until sunset the following day. [51]
It is important to note that there are always exceptions on who must abstain from eating and drinking. Anybody less than nine years of age is forbidden from fasting, as well as new mothers who gave birth within the last three days. People who are ill, children over nine, and mothers who gave birth within the last week are allowed to fast, but if they feel they need to eat, they may stop. [52]

Rosh Hashanah[edit]

Rosh Hashanah is one of the high holidays of Judaism, and it marks the start of the Jewish New Year. The holiday is celebrated on the first day of Tishre, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It also occurs five days after the day that is thought to be the day of creation. On this holiday, most Jews around the world gather for services in their temples and pray through out the day. A shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown to symbolize the New Year and people eat apples dipped in honey to wish for a sweet new year. Rosh Hashanah is also thought to be judgement day. It is said that on this day, the fate of everyone is made. It is decided who will live on to see the next year and who will die before they get the chance to. Just like on Shabbat, it is advised that, on Rosh Hashanah, people rest and enjoy the start of a fresh new year.

Shofar (by Alphonse Lévy)


Hanukah is one of the most well known Jewish holidays in the United States. It is celebrated in the winter, usually around the same time as Christmas. The beginning date of Hanukkah varies due to the Hebrew calendar being lunisolar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar which is solar. It originated from the story of a miracle.
After a revolution against the Greeks, the Jewish people of Judea only had enough oil to light the Menorah in their temple for one night, which was supposed to burn every night. Miraculously, the oil managed to burn for eight nights, giving them enough time to prepare more oil[53].
To commemorate this event, Hanukah is celebrated for eight days every year. Each night, a new branch of the Menorah is lit, along with one extra candle (the Shamash), used to light the others.

Shalosha Regalim[edit]

The Shalosh Regalim, Three Pilgrimage Festivals, are three major festivals in Judaism. These include Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Pesach (Passover) is the holiday about the Israelites escaping from slavery in Egypt. Shavuot (Pentecost) is the holiday that honors the day that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Sukkot (Tabernacles) is the holiday that serves as a reminder of the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the desert searching for Israel. During this holiday, Jews build a Sukkah (a hut) that is similar to where the Israelites dwelt during their wandering after the Exodus from Egypt.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah[edit]

A bar mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony for Jewish males. [54] "Bar" meaning son of, and "mitzvah" meaning commandments. A bar mitzvah is permissible at the age of 13 for males. This is considered the Jewish rite of passage. In order to complete a bar mitzvah, a male must be called to the Torah to chant out the week's Torah portion in front of the entire congregation. This is when the congregation begins to view him as a male. As stated on the site,, "A ceremony marking the first performance of mitzvot such as being called up to the Torah to say the blessings (known as "getting an aliyah") began to make sense only in the Middle Ages." [55] In traditional Judaism only males are allowed to have a bar mitzvah. In modern Judaism, girls are allowed to participate in this rite of passage. This ceremony is called a bat mitzvah. "Bat" means daughter of and "mitzvah" means commandments. "B'nai" is used when twins, triplets etc. have a bar/bat mitzvah. The torah portion is divided among the kids equally.

Other important aspects of this rite of passage is the passing down of the Torah from generation to generation, physically passing the Torah from father to son and mother to daughter and the receiving of the "tallit" or prayer shal. This is a tradition garment worn by Jews when participating in prayer.

Major Jewish Prayers[edit]

The Shema: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.

   "Hear O Israel, the Lord is G-d. The Lord is one."

This prayer is said twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) to affirm the chanter’s belief and trust in one G-d. This is known by many to be one of the most important prayers in Judaism. The use of G-d in the wiki version of this text is intended to prevent defacing the Name of God [35].

The Shehecheyanu: Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'o'lam sheh'heh'cheh'ya'nu veh'ki'yeh'ma'nu veh'he'g'a'nu laz'man ha'zeh.

  "Blessed are You, LORD, our G-d, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us,
and enabled us to reach this season."

This prayer is said on occasions that haven’t occurred in awhile, thereby making them particularly special. It can be said at the beginning of a holiday, when first performing a certain mitzvot every year, eating a new fruit since Rosh Hashanah, seeing a friend one has not seen in thirty days, buying new dress clothes, or at the birth of a son.

The Mezuzah: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha�olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu likbo'a m'zuza.

   "Blessed are you, LORD, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His
commandments and commanded us to affix the mezuzah."

This prayer is said whenever attaching a mezuzah to a doorpost.

The Modeh Ani: Modeh ani lifanekha melekh hai v'kayam shehehezarta bi nishmahti b'hemla, raba emunatekha.

   "I give thanks before You, Living and Eternal King, that You have returned within me my
soul with compassion; [how] abundant is Your faithfulness!"

This prayer is recited daily upon waking, while still in bed. It can be deduced from this prayer that G-d renews everyone as a new creation each morning.

Channukah blessings: 1. (Lighting candles) Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha�olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner (shel) hanuka.

   "Blessed are You, LORD, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His
commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light[s]."

2. (The miracle) Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha�olam, she�asa nisim la�avoteinu ba�yamim ha�heim ba�z'man ha�ze.

   "Blessed are you, LORD, our G-d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our
ancestors in those days at this time."

This prayer is said each of the eight nights of Channukah. In addition, the Shehecheyanu is recited on the first night as well. The first prayer is recited to bless the candles, while the second one is recited to remind ourselves and to thank God of the miracle of Channukah.

Mourner’s Kaddish: Yitgaddal v'yitqaddash sh'meh rabba B'ʻal'ma di v'raʼ khiruteh v'yamlikh malkhuteh [v'yatzmach purqaneh viqarev (Ketz) m'shicheh] b'chayekhon uvyomekhon uvchaye d'khol bet yisraʼel b'ʻagala uvizman qariv v'ʼimru amen y'he sh'meh rabba m'varakh l'ʻalam ulʻal'me ʻal'maya Yitbarakh v'yishtabbach v'yitpaʼar v'yitromam v'yitnasse v'yithaddar v'yitʻalle v'yithallal sh'meh d'qudsha, b'rikh hu. l'ʻella (lʻella mikkol) min kol birkhata v'shirata tushb'chata v'nechemata daʼamiran b'al'ma v'ʼimru amen

   "Exalted and sanctified is G-d’s great name. In the world which He has created according to
His will and may He establish His kingdom may His salvation blossom and His anointed near.
In your lifetime and your days and in the lifetimes of all the House of Israel speedily and
soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified
and exalted, extolled and honored, elevated and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed
be He. Beyond (far beyond) all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are
spoken in the world; and say, Amen."

Several versions of this Aramaic prayer exist. This prayer is said mainly as the sanctification of G-d’s name. The Kaddish unambiguously refers to the prayer for mourning. After a child, spouse or close relative has died the Kaddish is said daily for thirty days. After a parent dies, the Kaddish is said daily for eleven months, then again on every anniversary of the death. Christianity’s “The Lord’s Prayer” has its roots in the Kaddish.

Shabbat: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha�olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat.

   "Blessed are You, LORD, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His
commandments and commanded us to light the Shabbat candle[s]."

Shabbat begins every Friday at sundown and ends Saturday night once three stars have appeared in the night sky. Shabbat is the holiday commemorating G-d’s day of rest after He created the Universe.


The cross is a common symbol for Christians and Christianity.

Christianity is a monotheistic religion made up of roughly 2 billion people[56], and is considered one of the Abrahamic religions, which originally began as a movement from Judaism. Where Christianity and Judaism depart from one another is in the Christian belief that Jesus of Nazareth (Christ or simply Jesus) was divine and was literally the "Son of God." Christians believe that God sent His "one and only son" to Earth to die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity, in order to "pay" the price of sin and death. Jesus mainly taught about God's love and mercy, but also taught about forgiveness, charity, and treating yourself well. [57] Jesus was crucified on a cross by the Romans in His act of sacrifice. Christians also believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and when He did, He allowed the Holy Spirit to "enter" into anyone who chose to believe in Him so that they may have eternal life with God in Heaven after their physical bodies die on earth. There are many branches of Christianity that are not the same. Christians believe in one God and one God only, it is just how they express their love and grace for him. This ranges differently from the vast amount of Christian groups.

The Ten Commandments, which are found in the Old Testament, Exodus Chapter 20 are the basis for the Christian faith, but when Jesus Christ came to earth as a man. He came not to destroy those laws (Ten Commandments), but to fulfil those laws as stated in Matthew 5:17-48. [58] He fulfilled those laws by showing perfect love through dying on the cross, which was the ultimate sacrifice, and abiding by those laws. Therefore, fulfilling the law is Jesus Christ living out the laws perfectly, so that his followers will also be able to do the same. [59]

The Ten Commandments are as follows: "And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the LORD your God… 'You shall have no other gods before Me.' 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.' 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.' 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.' 'Honor your father and your mother.' 'You shall not murder.' 'You shall not commit adultery.' 'You shall not steal.' 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.' 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

Christianity is the major religion practiced in the United States; 85 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians. The state of Utah has the largest percent of Christians over the other 49 states. .[60]


The Crucifix, a cross with the corpus (Body of Christ) is an ancient symbol used within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, and Anglican churches, in contrast with some Protestant sects, which use only a cross.

Catholicism, made up of about 1.2 billion members[61] is a form of Christianity that focuses on understanding and commitment to tradition; the believers live a Christian lifestyle but obtain a catholic perspective. Catholics believe that people are good but corrupted by a sin nature and the only way to redeem people from that sin is divine grace from the sacraments. However, unlike non-Catholic Christianity, some Catholic sects do not believe that salvation is obtained solely through accepting Jesus Christ as ones Savior, but believe that good works are required to obtain salvation and are a visible manifestation of faith in Christ.

Catholic Churches are unified under the Pope in Rome. Under him are Cardinals, Arch bishops, Bishops, and Priests. Priests preside over individual churches also known as parishes. Catholicism entails that God created everything, nothing is outside of God’s jurisdiction and that includes the believers’ thoughts, word, and deed all of the time. Although there is very important aspect of Christianity that believes in Free Will. The term free will implies that although God rules all things, he wants humans to make their own choices, we can choose to sin or to turn away from sin. Unlike Non denominational Christians, Catholics are involved in using the Sacraments. Sacraments of the Catholic belief consists of: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the sick, and also Holy Orders.

Baptism is the first sacrament that a Catholic can receive. Catholics often receive Baptism as an infant, and it is the first step in the Initiation Sacraments. Next is First Communion, when a child receives the Holy Eucharist for the first time. This usually happens when the child is seven, or in most Western cultures when the child in the 2nd grade. Last is Confirmation, when the Holy Spirit comes to a believer in a special way making their faith stronger. If a Catholic takes place in this sacrament it is thought that they are ready for adult Christian life. They will be confirmed by the Bishop; he will place his hands on them and pray while blessing them with holy oil. Although Catholics are often given the choice to decide for themselves whether to be confirmed, sometimes children receive all three of the Initiation Sacrements at once. Another instance is the Easter Vigil, a yearly service that inducts people who weren't originally Catholic but would like to join the Church. All three of the sacraments are received at the Easter Vigil, which occurs the Saturday before Easter.

The Holy Eucharist is also known as the Lord’s Supper, the last supper or the Holy Communion. Through bread and wine, Catholic’s believe Jesus is with them through the eating and drinking of the wine and bread. Jesus said during his last supper "Do this in memory of me," referring to eating bread and wine together as a community. According to Catholic faith, the bread and wine is transfigured by the priest into the flesh and blood of Christ, a process called "transubstantiation". Only a priest can give communion and it is thought as ideal to receive it every Sunday.

Mass, which is usually on Sunday, is the way that Catholics offer latria, or adoration, to God. Catholicism is known for its loyalty to tradition, and this is clearly seen with the strict schedule of the masses. The mass starts with the Introductory Rites which includes the entrance of the priest, the Greeting, the Kyrie Eleison (the only Greek in the Latin Mass) , and the Opening Prayer. Next comes the Liturgy of the Word. This consists of the First Reading, Psalms, Second Reading, Gospel Readings, the Homily, the Profession of Faith which is also known as the Nicene Creed, and then ending with the prayers of petition. Following the Liturgy of the Word comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This includes the Preparation of the Gifts in which the bread and wine are brought forward and placed on the alter. Then the congregation stands for the Eucharistic prayer. During the prayer the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. A prominent idea in Catholicism is the idea of objective reality, not just symbolism. An example of this is the Eucharist. It is not a wafer to Catholics, it is the body of Christ. This ritual is followed by the Lord's Prayer, the Rite of Peace (people offer one another a sign of peace), then Breaking of the Bread, and then finally with Communion. Non-Catholics do not receive communion, but do approach the alter and receive a blessing. The Mass ends with the Concluding Rites. The Concluding Rights consist of parish announcements, a blessing, the dismissal, and finally the exit procession of the priest.

Reconciliation is also known as confession or the sacrament of Penance. This is when Catholics confess their sins to God through a priest. Participating in reconciliation is more appropriate for confessing mortal sins (pertaining to wilful violations of God's Commandments), while venial sins (lesser than mortal sins) may be confessed during communion. Most Catholics believe that although God already knows these sins when they confess them, they receive grace from the Lord and are forgiven. This idea can be better understood if one thinks about a child stealing cookies from the cookie jar. The Dad knows his kid did it, but would like the child to confess what he did before he is forgiven. This sacrament should take place as much as possible in the Catholic faith.

Marriage, defined by Traditional Catholics, is when a man and a women make a promise among each other as well as with God to live together, helping each other in good times and bad times. The marriage sacrament gives couples grace in order for them to live together outside of sin to support and raise children. Anointing of the sick is also known as last rights or extreme unction. This is when a priest prays and blesses you with holy oil when a Catholic is dying, it is supposed to give them special grace and strength. Lastly Holy Orders are the sacrament of ordination which pertains to men in the church. After a practicing catholic man goes to school for a number of years to study the bible there is a ceremony held where he is ordained and becomes a priest.

The Vatican is located in the Vatican City, a sovereign country of which the Pope is the sovereign leader. The history of the Catholic Church starts from apostolic times making it the worlds oldest and largest institution covering nearly 2,000 years.

The Pope is recognized by Catholics of the world as the successor to Saint Peter who was an early leader of the Christian church and had a large part in writing the New Testament. Peter was the first official Bishop of Rome, making all of his successors superior to any other worldly Bishop. The current pope is Pope Benedict XVI, making him the current leader of the Catholic Church. He was elected April 19th, 2005, and took office April 24th 2005. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.

From my own personal experience with Catholic faith the majorities of those who practice, take part and support all of these sacraments religiously. My grandfather is Catholic and goes to mass every Sunday, fasts every Friday and participates in all of the practices of a Catholic. The majority of the time they are very knowledgeable about their religion and are very learned on how to support claims made about and against their religious faith. My grandfather and I have countless discussions on the different interpretations of the bible and it is very interesting to see his Catholic point of view applied to life.

I, too, am Catholic and find this information to be accurate and relevant to my faith. We consider ourselves to be monotheistic (believing in one god), however the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—are three deities that form one being. There are seven vital sacraments to affirm religious beliefs in the Catholic Church: baptism to be inducted into the Church (usually as an infant); reconciliation to learn more about the faith (usually around age 8) and this is when one confesses one’s sins; holy communion after reconciliation where the body and blood of Christ is consumed through the communion wafer and wine; confirmation to reaffirm one’s beliefs in Catholicism (around age 16 or 17); marriage (in a church, not just officially at a courthouse), holy order is only for priests and bishops when they are ordained into the church; and anointing of the sick for final confessions before one passes away. These are all imperative steps in Catholicism that guide our beliefs in God. There are myriad ways to show love for our faith such as going to mass, taking communion, and following the Ten Commandments, but, in the end, it comes down to what we are willing to believe that cannot otherwise be proven. [36][62]

The Apostles Creed

This is a concise profession of the essence of the Catholic faith, and is recited by the congregation during mass.

Some traditional prayers recited at Catholic mass:

Nicene Creed: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered died, and was buried. On the third day He rose in fulfillment of the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. (For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.) Amen.[63] This is a prayer recited during confession, it was said by Jesus at the sermon on the mount. He said it to teach Christians how to pray.

Act of Contrition O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the occasions of sin. Amen.[64]

The Baptism of Jesus painted by Piero della Francesca in 1449

Jesus commanded His followers, during His ministry on Earth, to be Baptized. Baptism is the symbolic act of being reborn[37]. A person is submerged in water and lifted back up again. This is to represent the act of the old individual dying, as Christ died, and being reborn or rising from the dead, as Christ rose from the dead. The symbol of Christ’s death is also used in Communion practices.[38] The bread that is consumed symbolized Christ’s body that was broken to save His believers from sin. The wine that is consumed symbolizes Christ’s blood that was shed in the sacrifice of His life to save his believers from sin.

Baptism generally is practiced and performed on and for infants; this mentality is held strongly for Catholics and for many Protestant churches as well, however it is not necessary or required in some Protestant churches to have each child baptized as infants. The practice of baptism is the idea of the Christian God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit has given salvation through Jesus’ crucifixion and that once baptized that person has accepted this salvation. Confirmation, in many practices of Christianity, is the next step in a person’s walk with God by accepting God’s grace and making their faith one with God as a statement to the community, the congregation of their church, and themselves.

The time to be baptized is questioned depending on the denomination in Christianity. The Catholics, and some Protestants including the Lutherans, believe in infant baptisms. Other Protestants, such as the Evangelical, Free denominations believe that the individual should decide when to be baptized. The Evangelical Free denomination follows the scriptures of the Bible that says that a follower of Christianity is to believe before he or she is to be baptized, which is supported by teachings in Acts 2:38, Mathew 28:19, Mark 16:16.

Believers of Christianity are persecuted around the world to this day. People in China are not free to worship in the Christian faith. China focuses on house church leaders, house churches in urban areas, Christian publications, and foreign Christians and missionaries living and working in China. In December of 2007 270 Protestant house church pastors were arrested, most were released a few weeks later after interrogation and paying a fine. A stipulation of China getting a bid for the 2008 Olympics was that they were going to allow their people freedom of worship, but since the crack down on churches has not only continued but in the months following the Olympics they have increased. [39][40]Although Christianity is based in the worship of one god, there are many divisions within the religion(denominations), as well as within the denominations under the religion, regarding the interpretation of religious doctrine.These divisions are responsible for the many variations within the 2 main subsets of Christianity, Catholicism and Protestantism. [

In infant baptism since the child is so young they are not able to make the decision for themselves. Some may view infant baptism as an act of parents dedicating their child to God. Others might think that the child should be only dedicated and not baptized. It is a personal choice that families should talk about and discuss.

Some of the most widely practiced rituals of Catholicism are:

Baptism - The first sacrament of Christian initiation, the basis for all the other sacraments. Baptism is the "for the forgiveness of sins” usually performed "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Baptism is performed at infancy in Catholicism to wash away original sin, whereas other Christians believe that a person should choose to get baptized when they want to claim Christianity as their own faith and can understand the implications. Young men and women who belong to the Catholic Church must go through a confirmation process usually during their 16th or 17th year prior to confirmation as a full member into the church.

Penance - (also called Confession and Reconciliation)- The first of the two sacraments of healing. It is also called the sacrament of conversion, of forgiveness, and of absolution. The first reconciliation of a Catholic must take place before receiving the Eucharist. To purely receive the body and blood of Christ one must be free of mortal sin.

Eucharist - The third sacrament of Christian initiation by which the faithful receive their ultimate "daily bread", also known as first communion if issued for the first time. Participants partaking of bread and sacramental wine to symbolize the body and the blood as spoken of in the last supper. That during communion Catholics, differing from other Christians, believe that upon consecration the Eucharist transcends a mere symbol and becomes the body and blood of Christ for the believer. A real presence of Christ, although not human flesh and blood in a literal sense.

Confirmation - The second sacrament of Christian initiation, the means by which the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism is "strengthened and deepened" by a sealing. The wilful choice at an appropriate age of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior. This takes place after the Eucharist and Baptism.

Marriage (or Holy Matrimony) - The sacrament of joining a man and a woman (according to church doctrine) for mutual help and love, so that they might continue their religious life as a family.

•Anointing of the Sick (or Unction) - The second sacrament of healing. In it those who are suffering an illness are anointed by a minister with oil consecrated by a bishop specifically for that purpose. Often called "Last Rites" if issued when someone is considered to be dying with little to no possibility of recovery.

•The Sacrament of Holy Orders - That which integrates someone into the Holy Orders of bishops, priests, and deacons, the "administrators of the mysteries of God", giving the person the mission to teach, sanctify, and govern.



Protestantism began in Europe during the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, which began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church. The name Protestant comes from those who "protested" against the Catholic Church and therefore were named Protestant by the church. It is believed that the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther when he published his Ninety-Five Theses against the Catholic Church. This religion then moved to the Americas during colonization by the English. The religion originated out of the belief that the covenant was broken by Adam and Eve and was then recovered by Jesus. So they believe that they owe God their obedience do to the recovery of the covenant. When things in their lives are going well it shows Protestants that they are fulfilling the covenant with God. It is the opposite when things in their life begin to go wrong, they must not be fulfilling the covenant. Basic beliefs consist of the Bible holding all truths and that God has a set hierarchy; God, King, fathers/husbands, wives, children, and lastly animals. Another basic belief is that the individual must subject themselves for the good of the whole, because even though there is a set hierarchy each individual needs each other for the strength as one. This being said everyone in their society has set responsibilities and everyone is then dependent upon one another. Further more Protestants see themselves as God's chosen people and at the time of colonization it was their duty to God to pass on his word to Native Americans and those who did not know God.[66]

One Protestant woman, Mary Rowlandson, who recorded her time when she was held captive by the Native Americans, this gave a great example of the beliefs and importance of the Protestant religion. Rowlandson was continuously questioning her herself as a Protestant women because of how horribly her life had gone in the wrong direction. Her family had been separated and her youngest daughter had died a few days after their captivity. During this time Rowlandson was able to get a Bible and almost the entire time she was reading it, trying to prove to God that she was a good and obedient Protestant woman. Also Rowlandson was more concerned about reconnecting with her husband and not as concerned about her children that were alone and also in captivity. This was a good example of Protestant beliefs because being a good wife was more important then being a good mother. Rowlandson's story was a great example of how a true Protestant family works and the belief system in action.[67]

Jehovah's Witnesses[edit]

The Origin: From the early 1870s, Charles Taze Russell studied the Bible with a group of Millerist Adventists. In July 1879, Russell began leading a Bible study group and publishing the magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, highlighting his interpretations of biblical chronology, with particular attention to his belief that the world was in "the last days". In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to disseminate tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and bibles; three years later, on December 15, 1884, Russell became the president of the Society when it was legally established in Pennsylvania. Watch Tower supporters gathered as autonomous congregations to study the Bible and Russell's writings. Russell firmly rejected as "wholly unnecessary" the concept of a formal organization for his followers, and declared that his group had no record of its members' names, no creeds, and no sectarian name. The group became known as Bible Students. Russell died on October 31, 1916, and control of the Watch Tower magazine was temporarily passed to an Editorial Committee as outlined in Russell's will, with an Executive Committee in control of the Society.

Jehovah's Witnesses are a form of Christianity. They follow the bible and take its meaning very literally. They are founded from the Bible Student Movement which was founded in the late nineteen hundreds by Charles Russell. They are mainly known for their" pioneering" in which they go door to door spreading the word of Jehovah (whom is God). Pioneering takes much dedication . For example I went to an assembly (which is a gathering of many district kingdom halls) and one couple pioneer 70 hours every month. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 Witnesses will get into heaven, and the rest of the believers will stay in a paradise on earth . Also, Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays, the only they somewhat acknowledge is Memorial of Jesus' Death . The reason they do not celebrate holidays is because every day with Jehovah should be celebrated equally, so no day should be more important than him. [68]


The Christian faith has many diverse denominations and branches. Among these are the Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc. However, some Christians prefer not to associate themselves with any particular church branch because many Christians feel that there isn't a church that fulfils all their needs or that agrees with their religious views completely. These people prefer to be labeled as Non-denominational Christians rather than belong to one defined denomination.

Each individual denomination adheres to certain characteristics that they deem fundamental to Christianity. For example a “Christian Church” and a “Community Church” differ slightly in some beliefs. The Christian church believes that miracles no longer occurred after the ascension of Jesus whereas the Community church disagrees by believing that miracles still happen today. A Non-Denominational Christian may agree with some particular doctrines of one church and disagree with other doctrines so they compromise by picking and choosing which articles of faith from different churches they accept as truth. They are free to vary within the walls of Christianity. However, it is only with the minor details in belief that a Non-Denominational Christian disagrees with different churches because this group of people still hold to the core dogmas of the Christian faith. Several churches classified under this sect are noted for being very accepting of people who would never consider themselves to be the “church type.” [69] [70]


Anglicanism started with the Church of England created by King Henry VIII during the Protestant Reformation. [71] It is referred to as the Episcopal Church in the United States which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is considered one of the main traditions of Christianity. It was originally created to declare independence from the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope, and its worship uses little established rules and is based around only a few traditions and loyalties. One of the main ones, the Book of Common Prayer from the 16th century, was written specifically to be independent from Rome and the strict Roman Catholic traditions. One of Henry VIII's main reasons for creating Anglicanism was due to Pope Clement VII refusing to divorce him from his wife. This was only one of the Catholic traditions that Henry VIII wanted to reform, so he replaced Roman Catholicism as the main religion of England with his own Church of England. While Anglicanism and Protestantism are separate, the Church of England was created with many Protestant ideals. Centuries later, Anglicanism was spread around the world with many countries creating their own autonomous organizations of Anglicanism, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the Anglican Church of Canada. The church has been sought out by many diverse groups due to its reputation of acceptance to homosexual couples and ordination of female leaders. [72]


One of the most important holidays within the Christian religion is Christmas Day, December 25, which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated by Christians and is generally a one day event that is preceded by massive decoration, purchasing of gifts and the organization of a family gathering. The decorations include the erection of an evergreen tree, such as a spruce, noble fir, or Douglas fir, the decoration of the tree with different ornaments and lights, hanging of stockings, holly wreaths, and mistletoe. The Christmas tree was adopted from the pagans in their celebration of the winter solstice. Every late January the Pagans would go out and would cut down a big log and burn it on all through the night and celebrate the winter, and good weather to come. All of the decorations are intended to show the spirit of the holiday. The tree was adapted into Christianity as more of an ascetic choice. Originally trees were worshiped by pagans during the winter solstice. The night before Christmas people anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus, the fat man in a red suit that comes down the chimney and puts presents under the Christmas tree. Christmas Day the presents are opened, and exchanged. Family comes together on this special day and celebrates together. In Western tradition it seems that the birth of Jesus is a secondary celebration to the importance of family and the reunion of extended family. However it is very common for Christian families to attend mass on this sacred holiday. Christmas in the United States is a huge opportunity for the sales of products. It is used as a merchandising holiday, as are others, but it is a social standard to exchange gifts with all of family and friends. Also in Christianity, the Christmas season doesn't end with initial birth of Christ, or Christmas Day, but lasts all the way up to the Epiphany. The Epiphany is the celebration of when the Magi arrived to the Nativity with the gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold for the Christ child.

This is an example of a Nativity Scene. It depicts what is commonly assumed to have been the scene of the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on the night of his birth. It also serves to represent God's faithfulness and love in sending his own son into the world.

Although Christmas can be seen by many as a merchandising holiday, it is a very important day in the lives of Christians. As a Christian I participate in many of the exciting Christmas traditions that have little to do with the actual holiday itself. This is true for many of the Christians I know, we all get Christmas trees, buy presents for our friends and family, go ice skating, decorate our houses with Christmas lights and bake Christmas cookies. Although we participate in these traditions, some Christians also participate and have holiday traditions that have to do with the real meaning of Christmas. These are traditions that go beyond just going to mass on Christmas Eve. For example in my family we put up all the traditional Christmas decorations and Christmas lights but we also do something special. Each year along with all the traditional decorations my family also puts up a nativity scene. This is a small scene that represents the night that Jesus was born. Although, a nativity scene can be found in many households during the Christmas holiday, my family does not put the baby Jesus figurine into the scene until Christmas morning. This is because Jesus was not born until Christmas Eve. As a child I was always very excited for the baby Jesus to come out on Christmas Day. This is a way that many Christian families try to keep the real meaning of Christmas alive in the busyness of the holidays.

Christmas is celebrated by Christians all around the world, but is also celebrated by non-Christians as a celebration of the good times and the end of the year. Its a time celebrated to bring families together and exchange gifts to show how much they mean to you. It's a holiday to share between everyone and more recently has been changed to say the holiday or the holiday season.

Christmas seems to be celebrated in the West as a materialistic ritual rather than a religious practice. In the United States the expectations for the reception and delivery of gifts is very high. Regardless of what the gift is, the expectation is still there. In 2006 the average household was expected to spend $1,700 on Christmas and holiday season commodities such as gifts. Families purchase large amounts of gifts, food, and decorations each year in the United States. There is a huge social demand to receive and give gifts. In American culture it seems that the more expensive the gift is, the closer or more intimate the relationship is. For instance, one might give a simple card to a co-worker, where as they might give a gold necklace to a fiancée. This practice of gift exchange and the social expectation of the value or cost of the item is reflective of the overall social hierarchy that is established in the United States. And this interesting ritual is only one among many.

In the 1800's Christmas was introduced by missionaries from Great Britain to the !Kung Bushman of Africa. Ever since the !Kung have celebrated Christmas with a feast. But in a case that Richard Borshay Lee had, where he traveled to the Kalahari and spent much time with the !Kung, he discovered some very interesting behaviors when it came to hunting and gathering food. During the Christmas season he had bought a huge Ox. But when the !Kung Bushman found out what ox he had bought, they told him that it was skinny, and there was not enough food to feed all of them. Lee had purchased the biggest ox, yet the Bushmen denied that it was even sufficient. In the end it turns out that they were teasing him, they had accepted him as a brother of the tribe, and were treating him as they treat others. It seems as though the !Kung Bushmen tend to not brag about their catch, they like to make it seem like the catch was extremely small, and would not be enough for even one person. Constant belittlement of every accomplishment keeps everyone in the tribe on an even scale of power. There is no hierarchy in the !Kung society so conflicts over dominance never occur. Eating Christmas in the Kalahari by Richard Borshay Lee.


Easter eggs are a popular sign of the holiday among its religious and secular observers alike.

Easter is the most important holiday to the Christian religion. Easter Sunday(Easter Day), is known to Christians as the day in which Jesus was resurrected from the dead three days after He was crucified. Easter Sunday takes place two days after Good Friday (three days on the Jewish calendar) , which is known as the day that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. Typically, Easter is a joyous celebration for Christians because it marks the day Jesus overcame death and rose from the grave.

Easter also marks the end of the common practice of Lent, or time or prayer and penance for sins. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Holy Saturday, which precedes Easter Sunday. Typically for Lent, believers give up something that distracts them from being closer to God for forty days, ending on Easter Sunday. The Thursday before Easter Sunday is traditionally observed as Maundy Thursday, which is observed with silence and mourning to remember the Last Supper. Easter corresponds with the beginning of the Jewish festival of Passover. Unlike Christmas, Easter is not a fixed date on the western calendar. It typically falls somewhere between the end of March to the end of April.Easter is observed by the churches of the West on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 21).[41]

Western culture has transformed Easter from a more religious holiday, to a secular day of coloring eggs, eating chocolate bunnies, and being visited by the Easter Bunny. This idea came from celebrating the beginning of the season of Spring. It also came from and includes the representation of new life, found symbolically, in the Easter Egg; the egg being the beginning of life. Children especially enjoy these activities and parents also enjoy taking part with their children in the festivities. Many people also celebrate by wearing new clothes, cooking special dinners, and taking part in Easter egg hunts. However, Easter, apart from Christmas brings one of the highest attendance days in Churches. Many families dress up and go to Easter Sunday services in churches all over the world even if they don’t necessarily practice religion all year round.


The Book Of Mormon a key companion to the bible for the Latter-Day Saints.

The church is more formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church's leader and the head of the First Presidency, the church's highest governing body. The President is also referred to as the Prophet. He is believed to be the prophet, seer, and revelator who receives council from Heavenly Father, or God.

“In September 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by a heavenly messenger named Moroni, in the same way that angels often appeared to Church leaders in the New Testament. Moroni informed Joseph that God had a work for him to do and told him that a record of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent was buried in a nearby hill. He stated that the record contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In September 1827, Joseph received the record, which was written on thin plates of gold. Joseph translated the book into English by the inspiration of God and called the book the Book of Mormon. It is named after Mormon an ancient prophet who compiled the sacred record. The book verifies, as another testament of Christ, the reality and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is, then, a second witness that affirms the truth of the Bible. Since its publishing in 1830, the Book of Mormon has blessed the lives of millions of people through its powerful message about Jesus Christ and His gospel. “

Mormons believe that there are three different divisions of heaven:

  • 1. The Celestial Kingdom is to be compared to the glory of the sun and is where God dwells. People who inherit celestial glory are those who “received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name.” They have kept the commandments of God and have been cleansed from all their sins.
  • 2. The Terrestrial Kingdom can be compared to the glory of the moon. The people who inherit the terrestrial kingdom may have died without learning the laws of Christ. They are those who inherited spirit prison rather than spirit paradise in the spirit world.
  • 3. The Telestial Kingdom can be compared to the glory of the stars (which appear dimmer than the moon in the night sky). Even this, the lowest kingdom of glory, is so glorious that it “surpasses all understanding.” These are those who would not receive the gospel of Christ or the testimony of Jesus. But they have not denied the Holy Spirit, as those who are sent to “outer darkness.”
  • Outer darkness is equivalent to hell.


Mormon Beliefs: Prayer[edit]

Mormons believe in personal prayer. Prayers are spontaneous and prompted by the Holy Spirit. Prayers are only written out before delivery in the case of temple dedications. Mormons pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that all prayers are heard and answered.

We are all children of God. He loves us and knows our needs, and He wants us to communicate with Him through prayer. We should pray to Him and no one else. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19). As we make a habit of approaching God in prayer, we will come to know Him and draw ever nearer to Him. Our desires will become more like His. We will be able to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that He is ready to give if we will but ask in faith (Gospel Topics: Prayer).

Mormons are counseled to “pray always.” They are counseled to do the following when they pray:

To avoid “vain repetitions” and to offer meaningful, thoughtful, and purposeful prayer. To use language that shows love and respect for deity–Thee, Thou, Thy, and Thine, rather than the more common pronouns you, your, and yours. Regardless of the language, the principle remains the same: When we pray, we should use words that appropriately convey a loving, worshipful relationship with God. To always give thanks. To seek Heavenly Father’s guidance and strength in all that they do–”Cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:36–37; see also Alma 34:17–26). To pray for others; the power of prayer can work miracles. To seek the promptings of the Holy Ghost, so they can know what to pray for. To be willing to obey and to work. To be willing to act on the answers they receive. The Savior has commanded, “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:5). Although we cannot be continuously on our knees, always offering a personal, private prayer, we can let our hearts be “full, drawn out in prayer unto [God] continually” (Alma 34:27; see also 3 Nephi 20:1). Throughout each day, we can maintain a constant feeling of love for our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. We can silently express gratitude to our Father and ask Him to strengthen us in our responsibilities. In times of temptation or physical danger, we can silently ask for His help (Gospel Topics: Prayer).

Mormons also stress the importance of family prayer:

The Savior has exhorted us to pray with our families. He said, “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21).

Prayers begin and close every meeting sponsored by the Church. Public prayers are not meant to be sermons, but should be simple and heartfelt.

Answers to prayer come in many ways. They often come through the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. They may come in the circumstances of our lives or through the kind acts of those around us. As we continue to draw near to our Heavenly Father through prayer, we can recognize more readily His merciful and wise answers to our pleadings. We will find that He is our “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Prophet Thomas S. Monson said,

Perhaps there has never been a time when we had greater need to pray and to teach our family members to pray. Prayer is a defense against temptation. It is through earnest and heartfelt prayer that we can receive the needed blessings and the support required to make our way in this sometimes difficult and challenging journey we call mortality.

As we offer unto the Lord our family and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him. Let us remember the injunction of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews: “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). If any of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. William Cowper declared, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” Those who feel that prayer might denote a physical weakness should consider that a man never stands taller than when he is upon his knees. [74]

Mormon Beliefs: Laws of Health[edit]

Mormons follow a law of health that does more than prevent illness. The Mormon code of health, called the “Word of Wisdom,” also protects agency, or freedom of choice, by proscribing the use of addictive substances. The Word of Wisdom was given by revelation to Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of the Church. The revelation was given first as counsel from the Lord and then later was made a commandment under Brigham Young in 1851. Mormons must live according to the dictates of the law in order to enter a Mormon temple.

Brigham Young related some of the circumstances leading up to the reception of the revelation:

“The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles [to Kirtland, Ohio] to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, … and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean [the] floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco.” (Journal of Discourses, 12:158.)

The revelation known as the Word of Wisdom is contained in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants [full text]. Following is a list of the provisions of the law:

“Strong drinks (meaning alcoholic or other harmful beverages) are not for the belly.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:7) “Tobacco is not for the body…and is not good for man.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:8) “Hot drinks [meaning black tea and coffee] are not for the body.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:9) The Word of Wisdom not only admonishes against the use of harmful substances, but it also describes those foods which are good for man:

“All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— “Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; “Flesh … of beasts and of the fowls of the air…are to be used sparingly; “All grain is ordained for the use of man…to be the staff of life… “All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:10–12, 14, 16) The Word of Wisdom is a law and a principle with promise. When men and women obey the provisions of the law, they receive the blessings associated with those provisions. However, if they do not obey, there will be both temporal and spiritual consequences.

The introduction to Section 89 says the following:

“In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:4).

These are the “last days,” and “conspiring men” seek to conceal the destructiveness of certain substances in order to make money. Addictive substances are especially profitable, because those who use them continue to use them and even increase their consumption. Free agency is compromised when addictions take over. Also, all men are responsible for their own behavior, and being in a drunken state does not remove the responsibility for one’s acts, nor the judgements of God for those acts. To fully exercise agency, one must be fully aware of his behavior at all times.

Living the Word of Wisdom has brought noticeable health benefits to Latter-day Saints. These benefits have been measured in numerous studies. [75]

Mormon Marriage[edit]

Mormon marriages are different than civil marriages, in that they are for eternity. Mormon marriages are done in Mormon temples and performed by those having authority.

First of all, let's compare a civil marriage to one that is performed in the temple.

A civil marriage has the following: 1) the bride and groom make certain promises to each other, and 2) the bride and groom can legally live together under the laws of the land. Most civil marriages are beautiful with the tuxedos, limousines, music and decorations, but no matter how you put it together, the marriage is only for time. The authority for the promises between the bride and groom is the integrity of the two people. The authority comes from man and none other.

In a Mormon marriage the bride and groom make covenants and promises to God. The authority for the promises in a celestial marriage, or eternal marriage, comes from God. When a bride and groom enter the temple they are to be 'sealed'. What exactly does this mean? Sealed means to attach or bond together. In the temple, the bride and groom are joined together with God to form a union; God being the foundation in which they base their eternal marriage on. Sealing a husband and wife together is conferring the blessings of God upon each of them individually and jointly and upon the children they will bring into their family. Being sealed also indicates that God is approving of the ordinance that is being performed, that of celestial marriage.

When a bride and groom go to the temple to be married, they will participate in the 'sealing ordinance'. This ordinance was established by God and is the same ordinance by which Adam and Eve were joined together as husband and wife.

Here is where the similarity of the civil and temple marriage are, that of being authorized to live together as a husband and wife under the laws of the land and where you make certain promises to each other, but that is the end of the similarity.

To make clear what a religious ordinance is in the Mormon Church, it is a specific rite or ceremony performed under the power of the priesthood. In the sealing ordinance, the one officiating must hold the power to perform the sealing ordinance. The power is referred to as the sealing authority or the power by which, conditioned upon obedience to the covenants made, eternal family units are formed.

When kneeling across the altar from each other in the sealing room of the Mormon temple, the bride and groom will receive good counsel from the officiator. The officiator is one who holds the priesthood, one who is worthy and one who is among the very few who have had the sealing power conferred upon him from the prophet of the Lord.

The bride and groom make promises, commitments and covenants with their Heavenly Father. Each of them will receive individual promises of blessings, but only on the condition of their individual worthiness. These individual promises are such that if one or the other were to be disobedient through their marriage, the other partner who remained faithful would continue to be eligible to receive the promised blessings.

Next, the bride and groom jointly make promises, commitments, and covenants with their Heavenly Father and will make covenants to receive each other as husband and wife. Promises of blessings are jointly made on the condition of obedience and is essential if the promised blessings are to be received jointly. This is because you then become 'one', a single unit consisting of two halves.


Islam is considered a monotheistic religion originating from the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. [42] Muhammad was a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The definition of Islam is 'submission,' which symbolizes the complete submission required to praise God. Practitioners are referred to as Muslims (literally, 'those who submit'). There are approximately 1-1.8 billion Muslims in the world.[43] This makes Islam the second largest religion in the world, right behind Christianity. Indonesia has the highest percentage of Muslims anywhere, at approximately 88% of the population. Nearly all Muslims belong in one of the two major denominations, Sunni and Shi’a. The Sunni’s comprise of 85% while the Shi’a compose 15% of religious followers.

Muslim faith places Muhammad as a prophet who received the Qur’an directly from the angel Gabriel. Muhammad is considered the final prophet of God, and his words and deeds are fundamental sources of Islam. Muslims however do not consider Muhammad the founder of Islam. Instead, they believe Muhammad restored the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Islamic tradition holds that Jewish and Christian based faiths are distorted versions of Islam.

Muslims are required to adhere to the Five Pillars and the Six Articles of Faith, which serve to unite the Islamic followers in a community. In addition, Islamic followers obey Sharia, or Islamic law. Sharia is a compilation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the recorded words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). These traditions and rulings have touched upon all aspects of life. In some cases, however, it is necessary for Muslims to turn to taqlid, the judiciary interpretations of respected scholars.

As a ritual, Islamic men and women also wear special head and body coverings in order to reflect their overall modesty, both in actions and in appearance. Men often wear turbans which are like hats and only cover the top of the head, whereas women wear veils which cover the whole head, hair, and sometimes the lower half of the face. In public or in a man's presence, women also wear cloak-like garments which are intended to cover the shapes of their bodies as well as their actual skin. In general, men are to wear clothing that covers from the waist to the knees, but men usually wear garments which cover them from the neck to the ankles. Women are also not expected to wear flashy jewelry because this may defeat the purpose of presenting oneself in a modest fashion. Still, the way in which Muslims is more important in revealing their modesty than is their style of dress.

The Qur'an[edit]

The Qur'an ( Arabic : القرآن‎ ) is the most important religious text of Islam. Unlike the Bible, Muslims believe that the words of the Qur'an came directly from God through the prophet Muhammad by the angel Jibril. Often referred to as the "book of guidance" it serves as a guideline regarding how to live life for Muslims. Its contents include conflict resolution, early forms of a legal system, praises to God and addresses domestic affairs.

The word ‘qur’an’ appears in the Qur’an several times throughout the reading, representing various meanings at different points. Though there is not one particular definition for the word, many Muslim authorities believe the origin to come from qara’a, meaning ‘he read’ or ‘he recited’. Many Muslims see this as a very important lesson: to recite the message. They take this to be a vital meaning of the word.

There are many Arabic variants of The Qur'an with their differences due to the fact is that the history of the Quran is complex and controversial.

One thing that can be said with certain is that it is the third (in order of origin) Abrahamic religion sacred text compiled and all religious texts suffer from distortions of the declared original religiously sacred sources, in this The Qur'an is not alone. This occurs not only by direct alterations to the the texts, but by translation, reordering, erasure and adaptations, in sum by human action and in service of human motivations.

The Five Pillars of Faith[edit]

Islam includes many religious practices but the core lies within the Five Pillars. These five pillars are the framework of the Muslim life. They are the testimony of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. [76]

1.Shahada: to become a Muslim one must go through a Testimony of Faith where they say, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah."

2.Salat: prayer is to be done five times a day towards the direction of Mecca.

3.Zakat: annual almsgiving by giving one-fortieth of their income to the needy. Muslims are also encouraged to undertake personal, non-ritualized Zakat throughout the year.

4.Sawm: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. This develops self-control, devotion to God through the denial of wordly distractions, and identification with the needy.

5.Hajj: Each Muslim is supposed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if it is possible to do so. [44]

The Six Articles of Faith[edit]

The main doctrines of Islam are the Articles of Faith, traditionally numbered at six.[45]

1.Belief in one God,Allah, Supreme and Eternal, Creator and Provider. God has no mother or father, no sons or daughters. God has no equals. He is God of all humankind, not of a special tribe, race, or group of people. He is the God of all races and colors, of believers and unbelievers alike.[46]

2.Angels are a part of human life. They have different purposes and messages from God. Everyone has two angels: one for good deeds and one for bad deeds.

3.There are four pieces of scripture that the Muslims follow. The Torah, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Qur'an. The Qur’an is the most important to the Islamic faith.

4.Muslims follow the messages of the six most significant prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Muhammad is the last and most important of Allah's messengers.

5.On Judgment Day those that follow Allah and Muhammad will go to Islamic heaven while those who do not will go to hell.

6.Divine Creed [47]Belief that Almighty God has knowledge of, and control over, everything that exists in all time and space.


Sunnism written in Arabic.

The Sunni are a religious denomination that branch off of the religion of Islam.[48] The Sunni make up around 90% of Islamic believers. The Sunni put far more importance on the pilgrimage to Mecca to achieve Hajji status. There are few theologies and traditions that set the Sunni apart from all the others. A few of these include:

• The Theology of Ash’ari

• The School of Maturidiyya

• The School of Athariyya

Theology of Ash’ari

The theology of Ash’ari was founded by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Ash’ari theology emphasizes many different ideas but the most pronounced is this: divine revelation over human reason. Human reason cannot develop ethics as read in the Qur'an and that it is solely derived from God’s commands. This theology also describes that divine omnipotence is over human free will. It is believed within the Ash’ari that the Qur'an is eternal and uncreated. Basically, the theology of Ash’ari teaches that what the Qur'an says about God should be directly understood as being true, even though some statements can’t be fully conceptualized

School of Maturidiyya

The school of Maturidiyya, along with Athariyya, form the basis for the understanding of the Sunni. Maturidiyya was incorporated into the Sunni-Islamic religion through Turkish adherents of Central Asia. The Turkish people eventually traveled to different areas of the Middle East taking the tradition of Maturidiyya along with them, thus allowing other believers to be exposed to new theories and ideas. The theory behind Maturidiyya argues that the knowledge of God’s existence can be derived through human reason alone. This, in combination with aspects from the theory of Ash'ari, provide the very basic background and understanding of the Sunni denomination

School of Athariyya

The school of Athariyya, unlike the school of Ash’ariyyah, teaches instead that the attributes and names given to God by the Qur'an can be taken in a literal sense. For instance, in the Qur'an it describes God as having a “yad” (hands) and a “wajh” (face). So according to the teachings of Athariyya, God has a face and some hands. It is also mentioned that God does not resemble his creation in any way. So the faces and hands of God do not resemble that of his creation but in a way that is only befitting to him. The teachings of Athariyya only convey the idea that God exactly describes himself only suiting to his majesty in literal form.

Muslim Culture

Sunni Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion that is adhered to by those of the Muslim culture. The word Islam in Arabic literally means “submission.” The word Muslim in Arabic means “one who submits to God.” It is believed in the Muslim culture that God delivered the Qur'an to them through an angel by the name of Gabriel who sought out the prophet named Muhammad. The Qur'an and Sunnah (words divinely spoken by the prophet Muhammad) are the foundation of which Islam was based upon. It is believed that Muhammad simply restored the religion of Islam rather than creating it, and that other religions such as Judaism and Christianity distorted the true meaning and constructed a false interpretation. Muslims are found throughout various parts of the world, all the way from the West coast of Africa to some parts of China. Most Muslim cultures are found within the Middle East. The Muslim culture practice a very strict type of ritual, which can also be seen as a religious duty, in which they pray five times a day. People are considered to be a Muslim after publicly reciting the Shahadah.

Muslim Dress

Men: must avoid wearing tight clothing and cover the area between the knees and the navel. This is normally done by wearing a loose gown and usually a turban. Men must also grow a beard, as long as it’s possible.

Women: more conservative followers of Islam require women to wear loose-fitting clothes and to be covered from their ankles to their wrists. A veil is to be worn on the head, and too much makeup and perfume should be avoided. However many more modern Muslims especially residing in North America and Europe practice their faith without covering themselves up to such an extent. Today there are many Muslims, mostly the younger generation, who believe that there is much more to having faith in Islam and following the word of God than focusing on what one wears. [49]


Shi'a Islam is the world's second largest Islamic denomination behind the Sunni denomination. Shi'a Muslims make up the majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Bahrain. The distinguishing characteristic of Shi'a Islam is that it believes that after the Prophet Muhammad died, political and spiritual leadership of the Muslim community should have gone to his family and descendents, mainly his cousin and son-in-law Ali. They believe that only god can appoint the successor to the Prophet and that before his death, Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor. Shi’as call the political and spiritual leaders Imams. They believe that there have been twelve Imams, starting with Ali. The last Imam, Mahdi, is believed not to have died, and is a messianic figure who will return with Christ. According to Shi'a doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation and once returned will re-establish the rightful governance of Islam and replete the earth with justice and peace.

Shi'a Practices[edit]

One of the most important Shi’a practices is the annual commemoration of the Battle of Karbala. This battle involves the death of Husayn, Muhammad’s grandson, at the hands of Yazid, son of Mu’awiya.

After Muhammad’s death in 632, rule of the Muslim community was passed to Abu Bakr, then to Umar, then to Uthman, then finally to Ali. Mu’awiya claimed that Ali was unfit for various reasons to inherit the throne and led an uprising against him. After Ali’s death, Mu’awiya instated himself as Caliph and appointed his son, Yazid, as his successor.

Ali’s sons, Hassan and Husayn, rebelled against Yazid’s undertaking of the Caliphate. Hassan was quickly poisoned. Husayn led his followers against Yazid, but was overwhelmed and killed. [77] These events are recounted in annual reenactments. The deaths of Hassan and Husayn are considered tragic, and the reenactments are very emotional. They are considered by Shi'as yet another way the rightful leadership of the Muslim community has been denied by usurpers—first with Ali’s death, then with the death of his sons.[78]

African Religions[edit]

African traditional and diasporic: 100 million. (Diaspora: A dispersion of a people from their original homeland.)

This is not a single organized religion, but it includes several traditional African beliefs and philosophies such as those of the Yoruba, Ewe (Vodun), and the Bakongo. These three religious traditions (especially that of the Yoruba) have been very influential to the diasporic beliefs of the Americas such as Candomblé, Santería and Voodoo.

In the Yorùbá religion, all humans have Ayanmo (manifest destiny) to become one in spirit with Olódùmarè, or Olòrún, the divine creator and source of all energy. Each being in Ayé, the physical realm, uses energy to impact the community of all other living things to move towards destiny. In other words, one's destiny is in one's own hands. To attain transcendence and destiny in Òrún-Réré, the spiritual realm of those who do good things, one's Orí-Inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must be elevated to unify with one's Iponri (Orí Òrún). Those who stop improving are destined for Òrún-Apadi, the spiritual realm of the forsaken. Life and death are physical cycles that alternate while one’s spirit evolves toward transcendence. The religious capital of the Yoruba religion is at Ile Ife.

Ewe religion is organized around a creator deity named Mawu. Mawu is the Supreme Being, separate from daily affairs. “Se” is a word for law, order and harmony; Se is the maker and keeper of human souls; in an abstract sense, Se is destiny.

The Bakongo or the Kongo people, also called the Congolese, are an ethnic group living along the Atlantic coast of Africa. Traditional Kongo religion believed heavily on the concept of the dead, and that most of their supernaturals or deities are thought to have once lived on Earth. Only Nzambi Mpungu, the name for the high god, existed outside the world and created it from outside. Other categories of the dead include bakulu, or ancestors, the souls of the recently departed, and in some cases, more powerful beings believed to be the souls of the long departed. There are also supernatural beings who are guardians of particular places and territories, sometimes considered to be the soul of the founder, and there are those who inhabit and are captured in minkisi (singular nkisi), or charms, whose operation is the closest to our modern idea of magic. The value of these supernatural operations is generally seen as a reflection of the intentions of the worker, instead of the worker being intrinsically good or bad.

Vodou (Voodoo)[edit]

Though relatively small in comparison to other world religions in practice, Vodou can be encompassed under the Catholic religion as many practitioners of Vodou consider themselves devout Catholics. Vodou is the Haitian spelling for Vodun, which is an amalgamation of West African traditional religion with Catholicism. Consisting of veneration for Catholic saints, Vodou also consists of veneration of ancestral spirits that can be evoked to posses a host through Catholic hymns and ritual dance and sometimes through animal sacrifice, most commonly of chickens. These ritual parties are normally induced at a spirit's birthday or another important celebration, at which gatherers give the host food or money for the visiting spirit that is used for the party and salutations for the spirit guest. Vodou communities are tightly knit, and are sparing on outsiders as they are surrounded by poverty and are misunderstood by most onlookers that stereotype Vodou to be a form of black-magic practice by using voodoo as a derogatory term and; therefore, looked down upon by outsiders. Like Catholicism in the act of personal saints, those who practice Vodou often have their own spirits to look after them. Maintaining these spirits’ happiness is very important to the health and protection of those who practice Vodou. In Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn there are often times when the priestess Mama Lola's spirit, Ezili Freda, will not come to her if she has not showered. Ezili Freda admires and requires cleanliness. If her expectations are not met she will simply leave. [50]

Vodou in Brooklyn

A large part of Brooklyn Vodou comes from Haiti and many of the devotees have family ties to the poverty stricken island. Normally there is one host or hostess known as a priest or priestess that leads the ritual ceremonies in a broken-down backstreet housing development that is in desperate need of repair and upkeep. The host goes through days of preparation for a ceremony, sometimes with help, but a lot of times alone, creating a large alter with items that the spirit favored or was known to like while living. For example, some spirits may like sugary food while others may like spicy foods. The Haitian Spirit Azaka receives candies and liquor as well as cookies and fruits. [79] When the time comes the participants give the host money for the items, but all pooled money is extremely valuable, so when a person can't be a contributor it is forgiven. Ceremonies start late at night or early morning, usually after midnight and continue on for hours until the spirit leaves.

The process of inducing the spirit can be very strenuous on the host, and may take hours for the possession to take place, but through singing of hymns and rhythmic dancing the crowd tries to bring about the spirit that is the guest of honor. Since money is so scarce for the community some ritual birthdays are skipped for minor spirits; however, main spirits are never left from having their sacred ceremonies no matter how severe the situation becomes from lack of money.

Those who practice Vodou call on these spirits who are not seen as perfect, god-like figures. This makes Vodou somewhat unique when compared to other religious practices. The Vodou spirits are representations of how people should act in the world and they themselves have impurities, which allows everyday people to relate to these spirits. In Vodou a priest or priestess will often have certain spirits that are more important to him or her. In Karen McCarthy Brown’s book Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn we meet a Vodou priestess named Alourdes who calls on spirits for help with daily assistance anywhere. It’s Alourdes’s job to host extravagant parties for these spirits and to please them so they will continue to come to her. The priests and priestesses in Vodou hold great power and are very well respected in their community. Alourdes has several spirits that she calls on. Some of these spirits are Rada spirits who tend to be more even tempered and soft while others are Petro spirits who are much more aggressive and angry. [80]

When a priest or priestess holds a party for a spirit there is a lot of preparation that takes place. Grand altars are assembled, animal sacrifices may be made, and food that the spirit is known to like will be displayed. The spirit Azaka is offered fancy cakes, fruits, and candies.[81]

The Rastafarians[edit]

5 basic beliefs can be identified as uniquely Rastafarian:

-Haile Selassie is seen as the Messiah; The chosen one.

-They are part of the tribe of Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been exiled in Jamaica.

-Everyone is Rasta in terms of being children and servants of God.

-The Jamaican situation is a hopeless hell; Ethiopia is heaven.

-Because of the Nazarite Vow which Jesus, Moses and Samson took, no instrument shall touch the hair or beard unless it is an atonement.


The Rastafari movement was developed in the slums of Jamaica during the 1920's and 30's. During the 1930's Jamaica was experiencing a severe depression, and the people were subject to racism and class discrimination. This set the stage for the poor and rural Jamaicans to embrace a new religion and ideology. This movement began with the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Garvey believed Africans were the original Israelites, who had been exiled to Africa as divine punishment. Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement encouraged black pride in the people and helped to reverse the mindset of black inferiority.

On November 2nd, 1930 Ras Tafari Makonnen became emperor of Ethiopia, and took the name Haile Selassie. Followers of Marcus Garvey believed Selassie was the messiah that had been predicted, and that the return to Africa would begin. Jamaicans named this movement Ras Tafari. This movement became visible in the 1930's when peaceful communities in the Kingston Slums began to grow.[51]

Bob Marley, (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981), was a famous reggae musician and arguably the most famous rastafarian. He is credited with taking reggae and expanding to a worldwide audience. He wore dreadlocks and preached the use of cannabis in his lyrics. Most of his music, lyrics and album covers contained nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting. He was baptized by the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 4, 1980.

"The Lion Of Judah"

Rastafarian tradition believes the famous King Haile Selassie I was a direct descendent of a lineage from King David and Solomon, of the historic faiths. The Rastafarian religious figures were from then on known for their bloodline which gave them the name Lion of Judah, which has been a symbol on the Rastafarian flag since the birth of Rastafarianism. This concept is one of the most important aspects of the Rastafarian way of life, and culture. The symbol is synonymous with other religions, which give it a multicultural connection to many other traditions.

Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg

Ganja: Religious Sacrament

Rastafarians have unique practices that are recognized worldwide. The most well known practice is the use of marijuana, which grows plentiful in Jamaica. Rastas know it as ganja, the holy herb, lley or Callie, and they believe it was given by God. It is used as a part of a religious ritual and as a means of getting closer to their inner spiritual self. The verse Psalm 104:14 is used to validate their explanation as it states “He causeth the grass for the cattle and herb for the service of man." Before Rastafari began, marijuana was used for medicinal purposes by herbalists in Jamaica as a remedy for illnesses including colds.

Ganja, or marijuana is used among the Rastafarians as a religious ritual. At first it was smoked or used in teas as a way to rebel against the system, "Babylon." The Babylon system came to symbolize Western society in general. However, Ganja is also used for several other reasons. Those reasons include gaining a sense of unity, attaining higher meditation, producing visions, and assisting the mind by keeping it calm during fearful times. Thus Ganja has become a very dominant symbol in Rastafarian culture.(Barrett pg.128-9)

Marijuana is used mainly during the most celebrated rituals: reasonings and nyabingi. Reasoning is a meeting in the form of a ceremony that usually takes place out in the woods or in secluded areas. Rastas get together to discuss and debate issues such as ideologies, philosophy and theology. Marijuana is used during this time with the intention of opening up and becoming more open-minded for discussion. Nyabingi is a dance held on special occasions and holidays. Hundreds of Rastafarians come from around Jamaica and gather for this celebration, which can last for days at a time. The Rastas dance and sing all night until the morning. In the day time, they “rest and Reason”.


There are many Jamaican holidays, most of which are focused on events in the life of Emperor Haile Selassie. The most important ones are:

• January 6 - Ceremonial birthday of Selassie

• February 6 – Bob Marley’s birthday

• April 21 - Selassie's visit to Jamaica

• July 23 - Selassie's personal birthday

• August 1 - Emancipation from slavery

• August 17 - Marcus Garvey's birthday

• November 2 – The coronation of Selassie


"Natty Never Get Weary" lyrics by: Culture

Rastafarians have transformed the word "dread" from unkempt, dangerous, and dirty, to instead be a symbol of power, freedom and defiance. The way to form natural dreadlocks is to allow hair to grow in its natural pattern, without cutting, combing or brushing, but simply to wash it with pure water. The way dreads are worn, how long they are, and the newness of them means a lot. If one does not have dreadlocks but is a Rastafarian, they are called a "cleanface." People who have short newly started dreads are called "nubbies," and this can sometimes determine the respect that one is given. Rastas maintain that dreadlocks are supported by Leviticus 21:5 ("They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh.")

Food Symbolism

Rastas do not eat much meat. They eat small fish such as herring, but the foods they eat the most are vegetables. Most call the food I-tal which means, "The essence of things, things that are in their natural states." This translates to using nothing artificial and certainly no salt. They drink no alcohol, caffeine, or milk, but will drink anything made with natural herbs from the earth.

Red, Gold, Green, and Black-Jamaica's colors

Red: The triumphant church of the Rastas as well as the blood shed of the martyrs in the black struggle for liberation.

Gold: The wealth of their African homeland, the color of Jamaica and hope to end oppression

Green: Ethiopia's beauty and lush vegetation as well as the riches that were stolen from the Jamaicans

Black: The color of the people that make up most of the Jamaican population

Cargo Cult[edit]

Cargo Cult is a form of revitalization movement that emerged as early as the late eighteenth century but really developed in the early to mid nineteenth centuries. Predominantly found in Melanesia and New Guinea, these cargo cults formed with the influence of European trading stations and colonial administration.<> Most prominent in the first half of the nineteenth century, cargo cults emphasize the acquisition of Western trade goods, or cargo in local terms, and these foreign goods were used to rank stature and prosperity. Typically, tribal deities, cultural heroes or ancestors created supernatural theories in which they enacted various rituals to produce the speedy arrival of the "promised" gifts. In one instance, the leader predicted that a ship would come, bringing not only cargo but also the people's dead ancestors. Followers set up tables for the expected guests, complete with flower arrangements. New cults formed with the occurrence of World War II and the spread of occupying troops that were stationed around islands in the South Pacific. Initially the delivery mode for cargo to occupying troops was via ships, and islanders would mimic the behaviour of the troops preparing for the arrival of ships. Over time ships were replaced with aircraft, and so correspondingly the mode of anticipated arrival changed to planes. The islanders would imitate the soldier's activities, making headphones out of wood and sitting in makeshift control towers in the mistaken belief that these activities would cause aircraft to arrive rather than simply pre-cursor their arrival. Some cults even built elaborate landing strips in the belief that this would cause planes to continue to land with cargo. When packages and cargo ceased to bless the islanders, leaders of the cults were discredited and the groups were disbanded.

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Bahá'ís, in Haifa, Israel

The Bahá'í Faith is one of the youngest of the world’s religions. Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by the Bahá'ís as the most recent messenger from God. The line of messengers goes back before recorded time and includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the time has come for unity. “God”, Bahá'u'lláh said, “has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification”.

One of the purposes of the Bahá'í Faith is to help make the unification of mankind possible. There are around five million Bahá'ís worldwide, representing most of the world’s nations, races, and cultures on earth. The Bahá’í World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akká and Haifa in northern Israel.

The Bahá'í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end.


Atheists holds a lack of belief in any god, making up about 2.3% of the world population. Certain countries such as Japan (65%) and Sweden (85%) have higher populations of Atheists. Atheists are often considered 'strong atheists' or 'weak atheists' depending on the context and certainty of their beliefs or lack thereof.

Some atheists strongly oppose creationism or intelligent design being taught in place of biological evolution in schools in the U.S. In 2005, after a Kansas State Board of Education decision, which allowed intelligent design to be taught in place of evolution, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created by a group in response to the decision. The flying spaghetti monster is a sarcastic theory that pastafarians argue has as much scientific backing as the theory of intelligent design. Within the original letter that was sent to the Kansas School Board, Henderson showed that correlation does not imply causation by linking the increase in global warming to the decrease in pirate population. This exampled mocked the belief of some religious groups that the world was going though hardships, such as war and famine, because praise was not being given to a deity. The original copy of the letter also included a graph showing the correlation between pirate populations and global warming.This adds to atheists having a strong sense of boundary for church and state, keeping the sacrosanct state separate from religious interference. However, this strong belief in a boundary between church and state is not only limited to atheists and pastafarians. Many people simply do not think that organized religion is a benefit to society. Not only is it not taxed, but it indulges in what can be considered brainwashing of children, i.e. the repetitious statement of a known untruth to an impressionable child for years on end. Some argue that if those children had not been thusly mislead he would at least look at the bible critically. In many instances of actions by organized religious groups throughout history resulted not only in the death of millions of people but has been a block in many cases to the abandonment of human rights. Religions necessarily divide people into groups and therefore encourage hierarchical behavior.


Agnostics do not have a conviction as to whether there is or is not a god, often due to the difficulty in proving or disproving such an entity. It does not deny the existence of a supernatural being; however, it does not fully understand or accept there is a god or supernatural being. It is often seen as the middle ground between theist and atheism. Sometimes when asked what their religion is, many of those who are unsure of the existence of a God will reply "Agnostic". [52] The terms Agnostic and Agnosticism were created in the 19th century (many sources are different about the exact date) [82]by Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist who was an advocate of Darwin's theory of evolution. There is often prejudice against Agnostics to be unbound by moral code because of their lack of religion. Though recently the definition of an Agnostic has changed, for there are several definitions now.[83] The two most predominant are Weak Agnostic and Strong Agnostic. A Weak Agnostic is someone who believes that God is unknown, meaning that God may be known, and some people may possibly know God. The second, a Strong Agnostic, is someone who believes that God is unknowable or cannot be known. [84] However there are many different degrees to Agnosticism. Some examples are "empricial Agnostics" who believe that a God may exist, but nothing is or can be known about him/her/it. Also, there are "Agnostic Humanists" who are undecided about whether or not God exists, but they question the importance of the question. [53]


Satanism is the term for a number of belief systems that all feature the symbolism of Satan or other figures. Originally, Satan was the symbol for all those who challenged the Hebrew Bible. Proceeding this, the Abrahamic religions have described Lucifer as a fallen angel or a mislead demon that tempts people to sin. However, contrary to this, non religious or satanists see the Biblical Satan as a satire for individualism, freewill and enlightenment.

In modern times there are two types of Satanists:

Theistic: Satanists that believe Satan to be a deity and supernatural being. Theistic Satanism may include the use of meditation and self expansion or often includes the use of magic through rituals.

- One group that falls under the definition of Theistic Satanists are Reverse Christians. Reverse Christians follow Satan but in the context of the Christian version and biblical definition of him.

Atheistic: Satanists that regard Satan as a symbol of their freewill and of certain human traits. Some use Satan as a symbol to annoy religious people.

-LaVeyan Satanism: A religion founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality. LaVeyan Satanists are atheists and agnostics who regard Satan as a symbol of humanity's inherent nature.

-Temple of Set: Established in 1975 by Michael A. Aquino and other members of the priesthood of the Church of Satan, who left because of administrative and philosophical disagreements. The philosophy of the Temple of Set may be summed up as "enlightened individualism" – enhancement and improvement of oneself by personal education, experiment, and initiation. This process must be different for each individual as each is enlightened in different ways.

-Symbolic Satanism: (sometimes called Modern Satanism) is the observance and practice of Satanic religious beliefs, philosophies and customs. In this interpretation of Satanism, the Satanist does not worship Satan in the theistic sense, but is an adversary to all, spiritual creeds, espousing hedonism, materialism, rational egoism, individualism and anti-theism.

The Pentagram

A classic five point pentagram.

The Pentagram is a five sided star shown upside down in the satanic religion. This star has a couple of meanings Lucifer or vesper, the star of morning and evening, and it also represents Satan as a goat of the sabbath (which when a goats head is placed inside the horns point up the sides are the ears and the bottom point is the beard of the goat). The logo also symbolizes the rules and the ideology each point of the star represents a aspect to the satanic belief. Satanist are supposed to follow each point and build off of it to have a better life. The five points of the pentagram are similar to the ten commandments they explain how to live your life and to be a satanist you must follow these rules.

The First Point- represents the social responsibility to respect other on how you would like to be treated. They strive for members that are law-abiding, tax-paying honest and responsible satanist.

The Second Point- represents the power of magic as well as the power of will. Satanist believe that with strong beliefs Their magic will become more powerful. The magic is used in the satanic practices and it is encouraged that satanist experiment with different types of magical path or style they feel drawn to.

The Third Point- represents the importance of enchanting ones life and living it to the fullest, while staying in control and being responsible. With this point it states the satanic rule that "do whatever you wish, but in doing so, harm no one deserving it". This leaves a lot of open space for satanist to live their life and have fun. Addictions and breaking the law are frowned upon as qualities of the weak.

The Fourth Point- represents the "Wolf Pack" which is respect your family and friends. Any person that is close to a satanist and fullfils their life is to be included in the wolf pack.

The Fifth point- represents that man creates his own gods. Live as if you are the king or queen, and believe in yourself. This point is stating that you can do the best you can and try your hardest through out life. This is the most valued point of the star, it concludes that worship what you want to worship and do what makes you happy.

The Pentagram as a non-satanic symbol The image of a Pentagram is not purely linked to the practice of Satanism. Many cultures have utilized the pentagram as a symbol. For instance, various Neo-paganism beliefs such as Wicca or Neo-druidism, take a version of the pentagram and infuse it with their own ideas and imagery. In Wicca, the pentagram is not inverted as it is in Satanism but rather is upright. The pentagram can even be found in older history Christianity where it was held as a symbol of health or as a representation of the five wounds of Christ. Further uses can be found in the Bahá'í faith where it is one of the major identifying symbols, and in Taoism where it represents the five elements of Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood.


Scientology is one of the youngest religions practiced today, created in 1952 by the American science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard. In 1953, the Church of Scientology was founded in New Jersey. The core of Scientology teaches that human beings are immortal spiritual beings that have forgotten their true nature. To spiritually rehabilitate oneself, one must go through a process of counseling known as “auditing.” To undergo this type of counseling, a member must give a specified monetary donation. Scientology is legally recognized as a religion in the United States as well as a few other countries. The activities of Scientology are restricted in many countries. Many European countries considered the organization to be a cult. There have been many criticisms of Scientology, one of which is that they financially defraud and abuse their members.

Scientology presents two divisions of the mind, reactive and analytical. The reactive mind is believed to absorb all pain and emotional trauma, while the analytical mind is a rational mechanism which is responsible for consciousness. The reactive mind stores mental images which are not readily available to the conscious mind; these are referred to as engrams. Engrams are believed to be painful and debilitating; as they accumulate, people move further away from their true identity. To avoid this fate is the Scientologist's basic goal. Dianetic training is the tool through which the Scientologist progresses towards the "Clear" state, winning gradual freedom from the reactive mind's engrams, and acquiring certainty of his or her reality.[85]

A visitor to a Church of Scientology public information tent receives a demonstration of an E-meter

The E-meter is a device used by Scientologists to measure the level of static field around a person. It is used by the upper clerics of the Church of Scientology to reflect or indicate whether or not one has been relieved of the spiritual impediment of sin. The E-meter helps those who are qualified to use them determine the areas of spiritual distress in the mind so they can be further addressed.

One of the followers of Scientology, especially prevalent due to American media, is Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise became involved with the Church of Scientology in 1990. He has publicly announced his belief that Scientology has cured his dyslexia. Other celebrities have adopted Scientology as their new religious belief in recent years like: John Travolta, Katie Holmes and Isaac Hayes. The media has drawn a lot of attention to Scientology because of its celebrity followers and has made the practice of Scientology more recognized in Western culture.

Doomsday Cults[edit]

The term ‘Doomsday Cult’, coined by anthropologist John Lofland in 1966, encapsulates groups who make predictions about an apocalypse, and those who attempt to bring one about. Often Doomsday cults are classified as believing in either Apocalypticism or [86]

Confucianism (儒敎)[edit]

Confucianism (儒敎) is a complex belief system, which was found by Confucius (K’ung Fu Tzu, 孔夫子, 551-479 BCE). The system is based on his teachings that primarily focus on individual morality, ethics and the proper exercise of political power by rulers. It was spread out to China, Japan, Korea and some other areas in Asia and influenced on philosophies and thoughts in those areas for thousands years. There are approximately 6 million Confucians in the world; about 26,000 in North America and almost all of the remainder throughout China and rest of Asia.[87] However, because the belief system has became part of culture in those areas, especially in Asia, it is often debated whether Confucianism is still a religion or a philosophy. For example, in South Korea, ancestor worship, which is a practice of Confucianism, is still performed in many households and values of ethical teachings are considered very importantly.

Six values of the ethical teachings[edit]

* Li (禮): Ritual, Propriety, Etiquette
* Xiao (孝): Love within family
* Yi (義): Righteousness, morality
* Xin (信): Honesty and trustworthiness
* Ren (仁): Generosity, humanity, love; Confucianism’s fundamental virtue
* Zhong (忠): Loyalty to the state


Image of the immortal soul of a Taoist adept.

Taoism or Daoism is a philosophy which can be simply put as "Be the water not the rock..." or in other words, go with the flow. Though the philosophy is much deeper than that description it does give an outsider the general idea. Taosim was founded by Lao Zi, a philosopher of ancient China. There are the Three Jewels of the Tao which are compassion, moderation and humility.

Taoism is a religion that doesn't worship a single deity but instead is a level of social respect. The Tao is the closest thing to a deity in this religion. The Tao is a guide through life who is there to help any individual group make a decision. Although the Tao is a way to rank respect it is unlike a caste system, the Tao do not rank each other socially but instead personally.

The Three Jewels of the Tao[edit]

Compassion Defined as "abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment."[88] Which suggests that a Taoist should practice pacifism and avoid fighting. Also to show compassion to others a Taoist must thusly avoid practices of capital punishment and must strive to understand the ways of others. In doing this a Taoist comes to feel connected with the world and to sympathize with all living beings.

Moderation Defined as "absolute simplicity of living."[89] This Jewel Of the Tao asks Taoists to live modestly and take no more than they need. In terms of nature this means to coexist. Many Taoists have a deeply ingrained connection to nature and reducing their effect on it while living humbly is something to strive for. In living only in moderation and becoming a minimalist Taoists are able to avoid hollow wants and can minimize materialism through living in this simple way.

Humility Defined as "refusal to assert active authority" [90] The third and final Jewel of the Tao is there to point Taoists toward a more peaceful life. Taoists suggest staying out of the spotlight and in the background because that can protect one from premature death. Taoists have a love for life that they protect at all costs and staying humble and not at the forefront allow them to survive peacefully which is one of their main goals to have a full life.


Taoist thought is often focused on nature, longevity, health, liberty and spontaneity. The exact number of practicing Taoists is unknown due to many factors including the criteria used to define Taoism. There are an estimated twenty to fifty million taoists worldwide, mainly in regions populated with Chinese people, China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. However, Taoist art and literature has influenced the cultures of Korea, Vietnam and Japan.


Sometimes labeled as cults, there are several religious movements based on UFO (unidentified flying object) sightings and claimed extraterrestrial encounters. Often referred to as Flying Saucer Cults, the common theme between the UFO religions is that they believe an extraterrestrial being has influenced life on Earth in some respect.[91] These religions have beginnings in science fiction, fantasy and famous UFO sightings from around the world. Some noteworthy UFO religions are:

Church of Scientology- followers believe that an alien named Xenu brought humans to Earth 75 million years ago.[92]

Raelism- believed to be the largest UFO religion in the world,[93] centers around an alien race that genetically engineered humanity.

Aetherius Society- founded by George King after, what he claims were, personal encounters with "Cosmic Masters."[94]

Heaven's Gate- American UFO Cult based in San Diego, California, founded in 1970 and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The group preached that followers would be able to leave their bodies to attain a higher form of physical existence. In accordance with that, the group made headlines in 1997 when 39 members were found dead in a San Diego suburb.[95]


Henotheism is not so much a religion as a personal belief, much like Agnosticism or Atheism. Henotheism is actually a belief that is held by MANY people, from all different religions and beliefs. In easy terms to understand, Henotheism is the belief in a specific god, just like any religion. However, henotheists also accept the fact that there are other beliefs and other versions of a higher power that people may believe in, even if they contradict the henotheist's own belief system. Bussiem


One dictionary defines cults as a religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. There are, however many meanings to what cults are and these are split into groups of positive, neutral, and negative connotations. Negatively connotative cults usually get the most media attention and these range from religious, commercial, self-help and counseling, and political.

Some modern examples of cults (in no particular order)[54]:

• The Church of Bible Understanding

• The Manson Family

• Aum Shinrikyo

• Restoration of the 10 Commandments

• Raëlism

• The Church of Scientology

• The Order of the Solar Temple

• Heaven’s Gate

• Branch Davidians

• The Unification Church

Glossary of Key Terms[edit]

Myth — stories which have seemingly self-evident truth through their integration of personal experiences and wider assumptions regarding how society and the world should operate.

Orthodoxy — "correct doctrine"; not allowing movement away from agreed upon mythic texts.

Ritual — continual social practice made up of a sequence of symbolic activities which are intertwined with a group of ideas which are often encoded in a myth. These social practices may include dance, song, speech, gestures, or the manipulation of objects.

Rite of Passage — a ritual which calls attention to the change of an individual from one social position to another.

Orthopraxy — "correct practice"; not allowing movement away from agreed upon forms of ritual behavior.

Religion — the beliefs, values, morals, and ideas of an individual which are symbolically related to their actions.

Syncretism — a layering or combination of the meanings or beliefs of more than one religion.

Terms are loosely taken from Cultural Anthropology: A Persective on the Human Condition by Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda.

Animatism — a belief system in which the supernatural is conceived of as an impersonal power

Authority — the ability to take action based on a person’s achieved of ascribed status (power, moral reputation and recognized knowledge)

Band — the form of political organization of foraging groups, with flexible membership and minimal leadership

Bilineal descent — the tracing of descent through both parents

Brideprice — the transfer of cash and goods from the groom’s family to the bride’s family and to the bride

Brideservice — a form of marriage exchange in which the groom works for his father­-in-­law for a certain length of time before returning home with the bride

Clubs/fraternities/sororities — social groups that define membership in terms of a sense of shared identity and objectives

Chiefdom — a form of political organization in which permanently allied tribes and villages have one recognized leader who holds “office”

Civil society — the collection of interest groups that function outside the government to organize economic and other aspects of life

Creole — a language directly descended from a pidgin b possessing its own native speakers and involving linguistic expansion and elaboration

Descent — the tracing of kinship relationships though parentage

Dowry — the transfer of cash and goods from the bride’s family to the newly married couple

Ethnic conflict — prolonged conflict that erupts to evoke major change where minorities challenge overseeing bodies of authority

Ethnosemantics — the study of the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences in particular cultural contexts

Gangs — an organized group, often referred to in the sense of a group of criminals

Animism — attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena

Endogamy — marriage within a particular group of locality

Exogamy — marriage outside a particular group of locality Friendship—

Historical linguistics — the study of language change using formal methods that compare shifts over time and across space in aspects of language such as phonetics, syntax, and semantics

Influence — the ability to achieve a desired end by exerting social or moral pressure on someone or some group

Law — a binding rule created through enactment or custom that defines right and reasonable behavior and is enforceable by threat of punishment

Marriage — a union, usually between two people who are likely to be, but are not necessarily, coresident, sexually involved with each other, and procreative

Matriarchy — the dominance of women in economic, political, social and ideological domains

Matrilineal descent — a descent system that highlights the importance of women by tracing descent through the female line, favoring marital residence with or near the bride’s family, and providing property to be inherited through the female line

Matrilocality — custom in marriage where the husband goes to live with the wife's community

Monogamy — marriage between two people

Morphology — the study of the forms of words

Norm — a generally agreed ­upon standard for how people should behave, usually unwritten and learned unconsciously

Patriarchy — the dominance of men in economic, political social, and ideological domains

Patrilineal descent — a descent system that highlights the importance of men in tracing descent, determining marital residence with or near the groom’s family, and proving for inheritance of property through the male line

Patrilocality — refers to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband's parents

Phonology — branch of linguistics that deals with systems of sounds

Pidgin — a contact language that blends elements of at least two languages and that emerges when people with different languages need to communicate

Polyandry — marriage of one wife with more then one husband

Groomprice — dowry paid from the bride's family to that of the groom's

Polygamy — marriage involving multiple spouses

Power — the ability to take action in the face of resistance through force if necessary

Ritual — patterned behavior that has to do with the supernatural realm

Sectarian conflict — conflict based on perceived differences between divisions or sects within a religion

Social groups — a cluster of people beyond the domestic unit who are usually related on grounds other than kinship

State — a form of political organization in which a centralized political unit encompasses many communities, a bureaucratic structure, and leaders who possess coercive power

Syntax — the study of sentence pattern; the way words of various kinds are put together in a sentence

Tribe — a form of political organization that comprises several bands or lineage groups, each with a similar language and lifestyle and occupying a distant territory

Unilineal descent — the tracing of descent through only one parent

War — organized and purposeful group action directed against another group and involving lethal force


  1. p. 217 Schultz & Lavenda
  2. personal experience from spending time with self-identified Wiccan family
  3. Smedal, Olaf H. Order and Difference: An Ethnographic Study of Orang Lom of Bangka, West Indonesia Originally published in the series Oslo Occasional Papers in Social Anthropology, as Occasional Paper No.19 Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, 1989 [ISSN 0333-2675]
  4. a b Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  6. William Harris Middlebury College.
  9. Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  10. Cotterell 2000
  11. Kapplers
  14. Eduard Skachkov, I have been a part of this church for many years and have talked with my pastor about this issue
  15. Coleman, John A. S.J. "Conclusion: after sainthood", in Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. pp 214-217
  16. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology. 7th ed. New York: Oxford P, 2009.
  18. T.J. Kim personal experience
  19. Schultz 2009, 213
  20. Schultz 2009, 212
  21. Furst, 2003, 18-24
  22. Linton, Ralph and Adelin Linton 1950 Halloween through twenty centuries New York, Schuman |
  24. Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. Print.
  25. A.A. Gill 2009 National Geographic.
  26. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology. 7th ed. New York: Oxford P, 2009. Page 188.
  27. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology. 7th ed. New York: Oxford P, 2009.
  28. Kristensen, Benedikte M. "The Landscape of Knowledge" Anthrobase. April 2002.
  29. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, FSG Classics, 1997.
  30. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, University of California Press, Ltd., 1991.
  31. Robinson, Kelsey. Self experience in Sandia Pueblo, 2005
  32. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, FSG Classics, 1997.
  33. The camphor flame By Christopher John Fuller
  34. Kasulis, Thomas P.; Aimes, Roger T.; Dissanayake, Wimal (1993). Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice. State University of New York Press. 104. ISBN 079141079X.
  35. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Buddhism.
  36. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Buddhism.
  37. Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippenburgs University, Introduction to Buddhism.
  38. Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippenburgs University, Introduction to Buddhism.
  40. Juana Im. This is based off my own experience since I have been practicing Theravada Buddhism all my life as a Cambodian.
  41. Denis Byrne, World Archaeology, Vol. 27, No. 2, Buddhist Archaeology (Oct., 1995), pp. 266-281.
  42. B.A Robinson.
  43. Hall, Alana. Japanese/Chinese language student, 3rd Year.
  44. A.C. Underwood, Shintoism: The Indigenous Religion of Japan
  45. McBennett, Mark. "Shinto." JapanZone. Japan Zone. 29 Apr 2009 <>.
  46. Authors, Contributors. "Belief and Practice." Encyclopedia of Shinto. 2006. Kokugakuin University. 29 Apr 2009 <>.
  50. Folk, Holly. "Introduction to Religious Studies." Western Washington University, Bellingham. apr 2009. Performance.
  51. Tracey R Rich. Judaism 101.
  52. Tracey R Rich, Judaism 101.
  53. Tracey R Rich, Judaism 101.
  54. Rachel Rasmus- Jewish education
  55. My Jewish Learning: Bar and Bat Mitzvah 101.
  57. Brown, Lindsey Personal experience learned from attending Sunday school during grade school.
  58. Amplified Bible.
  60. The source is quoted from
  62. Miramiller (talk) 04:14, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
  63. Megan Jones, I have attended mass for 22 years.
  64. Megan Jones, I have recited this prayer many times during confession.
  65. Personal experience.
  66. Kennedy, Kathleen. "Protestantism." Protestatism. Western Washington University, Bellingham. Jan. 2009.
  67. Rowlandson, Mary. The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 1997. by Vatornquist
  69. Murray, Drew. I have been a part of a non-denominational church for 18 years.
  70. Gordon, Lesley. Non-Denominational Christian.
  71. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  72. David Lloyd. I was part of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia for 18 years.
  76. Aziz Sheikh, Radcliff Publishing 2000.,M1
  77. Rippin, Andrew, and Jan Knappert. Textual Sources for the Study of Islam. 1990 ed. Chicago: Chicago Press, 1986. Print.
  78. Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.
  79. Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: U of California, 1991. Print.
  80. Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: U of California, 1991. Print.
  81. Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: U of California, 1991. Print.
  82. B.A. Robinson.
  86. Lofland, John (1966). Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-8290-0095-5.
  87. the source is quoted from "Religious Tolerance website,"
  88. Waley, Arthur, 1934, The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and its Place in Chinese Thought, Allen & Unwin.
  89. Waley, Arthur, 1934, The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and its Place in Chinese Thought, Allen & Unwin.
  90. Waley, Arthur, 1934, The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and its Place in Chinese Thought, Allen & Unwin.
  92. Reece, Gregory L. (August 21, 2007). UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture. I. B. Tauris. pp. 182–186. ISBN 1-84511-451-5.
  93. Susan J. Palmer, "Women in Controversial New Religions", in New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America, ed. Derek H. Davis & Barry Hankins, p. 66. Baylor University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-918954-92-4
  94. Rothstein, Mikael (2003). "The idea of the past, the reality of the present, and the construction of the future: millenarianism in the Aetherius Society". In Lewis, James R. Encyclopedic sourcebook of UFO religions. New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 144–5. ISBN 1-57392-964-6.
  95. Perkins, Rodney.(1997) Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven's Gate

^ Wigoder, Geoffrey. "Mourning."The New Encyclopedia of Judaism. 2nd ed. New York University Press. 2002.

^ Turpin, Solvieg A. 1994 Shamanism and Rock Art in North America. TX. University of Texas at Austin. p. 9-24

^ Turpin, Solvieg A. 1994 Shamanism and Rock Art in North America. TX. University of Texas at Austin. p. 5

^ Turpin, Solvieg A. 1994 Shamanism and Rock Art in North America. TX. University of Texas at Austin p. 4

^ Schultz, Emily A. and Lavenda, Robert H. 2009 Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition. 7th Edition. NY. Oxford University Press. p. 211

^ “Hajj.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001–07. February 19, 2009.

^ "pilgrimage." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Feb. 2009

^ Colin Wilson. 1996. Atlas of Holy Places & Sacred Sites. DK Adult. p. 29.

^ Karen Armstrong (2000,2002). Islam: A Short History. pp. 10–12.

^ "Muhammad." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Feb. 2009

^ Clarifying Christianity; What is Baptism? 1998. 19 Feb. 2009 <>

^ Fairchild, Mary. “What is Communion and Why Do Christians Observe Communion?”

^ Emperor Constantine. 19 Feb. 2009 <>

^ The Christian Empire: 313-476. United Methodist Women in Worship. 19 Feb. 2009 <>

^ Cole, Ethan. “China’s Crackdown on Christians Worsens”. The Christian Post 7 Feb. 2007. Feb 19 2007

^ "Anubis," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008 <> © 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

^ Scott, David. "Anubis". InterCity Oz. Inc. © 2000-2004. Feb 26 <>

^ Whitney. "Egyptian Afterlife". Hubpages Inc, © 2009. Feb 26 <>

^ Meyerhoff, Barbara, Linda A. Camino and Edith Turner. Rites of Passage…An Overview. In Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade, Vol. 12. 380-387.

^ Sanyika, Dadisi. Gang Rites and Rituals of Initiation. In Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rights of Passage. Edited by Mahdi, Louis Carus, Nancy Gever Christopher and Michael Meade. La Salle, IL. Open Court. 1996

^ Cotterell, Arthur 2000. Myths & Legends. London: Marshall Editions Ltd.

^ Frazer, James 2003 Golden Bough: A Study in "Magic and Religion" Kessinger Publishing

^ Kessler, Gary (2007). Voices of Wisdom: A Multicultural Philosophy Reader. Sixth Edition. pp.30-36

^ Gautama Siddhartha, March 4, 2009

^ Wenner, Sara. “Basic Beliefs of Islam.” Minnesota State University: Mankato. 2001. 28 Feb. 2009 <>.

^ “Islam.” Gale Virtual Reference Library. 2007. 5 Mar. 2009 <>.

^ Sherman, Daniel (2008). "Pastor Qualifications." <> (March 8, 2009)

^ James, Paul E. "Ritual And Religion." Anthropology 201. Western Washington University, Bellingham. 2009.

^ Hefner, Alan; Guimaraes,Virgilio. "Animism" March 5, 2008 <>

^ Harvey, Graham. "Animism; Respecting the Living World" 2006. New York: Columbia University Press.

^ Brown, Karen MacCarthy. "Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn" 1991, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

^ Henderson, Bobby. "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" 9 Mar 2009 <>

^ "Flying Spaghetti Monster" 9 Mar 2009

"Anthropology of religion: Common elements of religion." Palomar College. Palomar College. 8 Mar 2009 <>.

"Agnostics and Agnosticism:Uncertainty about whether God exists." Religious Tolerance. Religious Tolerance. 9 Mar 2009 <>


<ref> Religions of the Ancient world<ref>

Play, Sport and Arts · Production, Inequality and Development

  1. Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. Print.