Here's a guide to some of the world's major religions
The Baha'i faith is identified with a man who took the name Baha'u'llah, which means “Glory of God.” This religion is less than 200 years old. It claims 6.9 million followers in more than 200 countries and territories. People of the Baha'i faith believe in one God, who has many messengers.
“Choose for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.”
Buddha means “the awakened one.” It is the title that was given to Siddhartha Gautama, who was born about 566 B.C. into a royal family in what is now Nepal. Buddhism teaches that the Buddha suddenly realized the secrets of the universe while he sat under a fig tree meditating. Buddha did not claim to be divine and did not point to any god. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, or that people and animals can come back to Earth in different bodies after they die. There are 356 million Buddhists worldwide.
“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago by the followers of Jesus, a Jewish man born in what is now Israel. The calendar most people use today dates from the time of his birth. Christians believe Jesus is God's son. They teach that he was crucified, or nailed to a cross, to die for everyone's sins and that he rose from the dead and is in heaven. One of every three people in the world is Christian.
“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Jainism takes its name from the word ''jinas" or conquerors. The title doesn't refer to military conquests, but to victory over the cycles of life. Jainism claims to be based on 24 master teachers. The religion began in northeastern India during the 6th century B.C.E. with a man known as Mahavira, or "Great Hero," who is regarded as the last of the master teachers. Jains do not believe in a supreme being or god. The world's four million Jains are known for their respect for all creatures and even value good deeds toward insects.
“One should treat all beings as he himself would be treated."
When the K'ung family, which was living in what is now the Shantung province of China, had a baby boy in about 551 B.C., they named him Ch'iu. Later, his followers called him K'ung Fu-tzy, or K'ung the Master. In the West, he is known as Confucius. He became a teacher of arts and mathematics. He also emphasized the need for harmony and order in society. His teachings were passed down through generations in China and other parts of Asia. The World Almanac estimates the number of Confucianists at 6.2 million today.
“Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.”
Jews consider Abraham, a shepherd who lived about 4,000 years ago, as the first Jew. It was Abraham who reportedly first recognized and worshipped the one God, YHWH, or Yahweh. They believe God is the creator of the universe and also a personal deity who requires people to live morally and ethically. The 10 Commandments are the basic rules of Judaism, which claims 14 million followers in the world.
“What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man."
Hinduism cannot be traced to a single founder. It evolved over thousands of years in India. Most of the world's 800-million-Hindus still live in India, but many now live in the United States.
Hindus generally accepts that there is one supreme deity, or god, but they worship the god in a variety of forms. These include Vishnu, the protector of the universe, Brahma, who is in charge of creation, and Shiva, the destroyer.
“Do naught to others which, if done to thee, would cause thee pain: This is the sum of duty.”
A spiritual teacher named Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism. He was born in the Punjab region of northern India in 1469. He maintained all people are equal in the sight of the divine. He was the first of 10 gurus, or spiritual leaders, who led the religion until 1708. Since then, Sikhs have depended on the religion's holy book as their primary teacher. There are about 23 million Sikhs today.
“Treat others as you would be treated yourself."
Followers of Islam are known as Muslims. They believe in God, whom they call Allah. The religion claims roots going back to Ibrahim (Abraham) of the Bible. Islam's founder was Hadhrat Muhammad, who was born in Saudi Arabia about 570 and died in 632. There are 1.1 billion Muslims, who believe Muhammad received messages from God. Muhammad died in 632. So many followers of Islam have named their children in his honor that more people bear the name Muhammad than any other name in the world.
“Not one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what he desires for himself.”
Zoroaster is the Greek name for Zarathushtra, a prophet who may have lived as early as 1500 B.C. in what is now Iran. He is said to have visions and, when he was 30 years old, saw Ahura Mazda, the "Lord of Wisdom" or the one true God. When he began to teach his beliefs, he was forced from the country and found refuge in what is now Afghanistan. About 2.5 million people practice Zoroastrianism.
“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not unto others."
©Copyright 2002, The Daily Reflector (Greenville, North Carolina, USA)