Major Religions in WHAP prior to 600 C.E.

Major Religions in WHAP prior to
600 C.E.
• Polytheisms
• Hinduism
• Judaism
• Confucianism
• Daoism
• Buddhism
• Christianity
• “poly” means many; these religions worship
multiple gods
Examples: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Shang,
Mesoamerica, Greece, Rome
Similarities: many of these polytheisms focused
on appeasing the gods through rituals,
obedience to a priestly class, sacrifices (human
and/or animal)
Differences: some gods were earth or
agriculturally based (Mesopotamia, Greece),
others were king based (Egypt)
(“what the Indians do”)
• Location: began in the Indus Valley region (has origins in
Vedic religion of those people) and is mostly found in
Sacred Text: the Vedas, Upanishads. Non sacred but
important: Mahabharata and Bhagavad-Gita (epic story)
Important leaders: none-the evolution of Hinduism from
Vedic religions of the past is fuzzy in history
Major beliefs: “Hinduism is not a homogeneous,
organized system. Many Hindus are devoted followers of
Shiva or Vishnu, whom they regard as the only true God,
while others look inward to the divine Self (atman). But
most recognize the existence of Brahman, the unifying
principle and Supreme Reality behind all that is.”
(“what the Indians do”)
• Major Beliefs cont’d: words to know:
– Dharma: fulfill religious, moral, social duties
– Karma: deeds in a particular cycle of life
– Atman: “breath” or soul, reborn in another body after
death, based on previous life’s karma “You are where
you deserve to be.”
– Caste system: Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors
& officials), Vaishya (merchants, artisans,
landowners), Shudra (peasants, laborers),
Untouchables (nastiest jobs)
(“what the Indians do”)
• Deities: There is some debate on whether or not
Hinduism is polytheistic. In once sense it is
monotheistic because all gods are connected to
Brahman or Ultimate Reality.
– The Vedas are full of mythologies concerning many
deities (Shiva and Vishnu most popular) that are
worshipped largely based on regional preferences
• Afterlife?: Hindus believe in reincarnation that
never ends, but some branched out to believe in
“moksha” or liberation, which was a release
from the cycle of reincarnation.
• Location: the crossroads of Anatolia, Egypt,
Arabia, and Mesopotamia. Modern day Israel is
the Jewish nation (with complications.) The
Diaspora, or scattering, caused Jews to live all
over the world; a large concentration live in
Eastern Europe.
Sacred Text: Hebrew Bible (The Christian Old
Testament) (Torah is first 5 books)
Important Leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
Moses, King David (transferred Israel to a
monarchy), King Solomon (built the First Temple
in Jerusalem)
• Major Beliefs: There is one God (Yahweh) and the 10
Commandments (part of a larger book of the law
containing over 600 laws) say to worship him only,
making them God’s Chosen People by covenant. God led
them from captivity in Egypt (using Moses) and through
the desert for 40 years, a wandering ending in the
Promised Land of Canaan (modern Israel and Palestinian
– Concerned with the coming of the Messiah who will save the
Jewish people
• Deity: God, called Yahweh, meaning “I Am.”
• Afterlife?: Jews do not emphasize this, but some do
believe in an afterlife like heaven.
• Location: founded in China, mostly
confined to China today
• Sacred Text: Analects (the sayings of
Confucius, probably written by followers)
• Important leader: Confucius
• Deity: None. He did talk about Heaven,
which was “a positive and personal force
in the universe” but not a god
• Afterlife? Not addressed.
• Major Beliefs: purpose in life is to fulfill role in
society (hierarchy) with honesty, propriety,
loyalty to family & nation.
– Optimistic religion that says people can be guided to
the right path through education, good role models,
and self-improvement
– Women should not participate in public life
– Absolute authority rests with the father, the
intermediary between the living and their ancestors
– Practices involve following Chinese religions
(important in ancestor worship), or even Buddhism
(may be spelled Taoism)
• Location: China during the Warring States
Period, also southeast Asia
• Sacred Text: Tao Te Ching, a small tract
• Important Leader: Laozi
• Deity: polytheistic Chinese religion,
Daoism can also be purely philosophical
• Afterlife?: try to revert back to a state of
non-being, which is the other side of
(may be spelled Taoism)
• Major Beliefs: Urges people to accept the
world as they find it, avoid violence and
struggle, adhere to the path (Dao) of
– An alternative to Confucius’s strict hierarchy,
it idealizes finding your own path to
– Yin and yang, the complementary nature of
female and male roles in the natural world
• Location: began in India, spread through South Asia into
East Asia
Sacred Text: Tripitaka (collection of Buddha’s teachings)
Important Leader: Siddhartha Guatama (The Buddha, or
“Enlightened One”. He was a princely Hindu who decided
to wander until he gained spiritual insight. Under a lotus
tree he is said to have learned The Four Noble Truths
then preached his first sermon, beginning the “Wheel of
the Law”
Deities: Buddhism doesn’t reject gods, but says they are
unhelpful in finding enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhism
is considered polytheistic, Theraveda Buddhism is
Afterlife?: Reincarnation until enlightenment (nirvana) is
achieved, which is a state of permanent tranquility (no
Major Beliefs: The true nature of reality is the Four
Noble Truths:
Life is suffering
Suffering comes from your desires
The solution to suffering is curbing desires
Desire can be curbed if you follow the Eightfold Path: right
views, aspirations, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort,
mindfulness, and meditation
Buddhism split into two parts: Mahayana and
Theraveda. Mahayana is “Great Vehicle” Buddhism, or
accessible to the masses. Theraveda is the “Teachings
of the Elders” or the most original of Buddha’s
• Location: modern day Israel; Rome ruled the area and
came in conflict with the monotheism of Judaism (the
caesar should be worshipped, not just God)
Sacred Text: The Bible, which includes the Hebrew Bible
plus the New Testament, a collection of Jesus’ teachings
and writing by his followers
Important leaders: Jesus, Paul
Deity: God, who has three parts: Father, Son (Jesus),
Holy Spirit
Afterlife?: Heaven or hell. Heaven for those who claim
Jesus as their savior, hell for those who do not.
• Major Beliefs: All have sinned and are
thereby separated from God. Salvation is
through faith in Christ and, for some
denominations, sacraments and good
– There is a wide range of beliefs beyond this
depending on denomination.
– Remember: Under the title Christianity come
both Catholicism and Protestantism!