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Agnosticism
A word meaning ?don?t know?. Agnostics keep an open mind about whether or not to believe what they are told by others is certain truth. A healthy attitude to have towards new claims for wonder drugs, sure fire winners, atheism and even some religions.
Animism
A belief in spiritual beings inhabiting all living creatures. Considered by some people to be the basis for historically primitive religions. Thus trees, plants, animals contain spirits or souls who can be worshipped.
Atheism
A very definite belief that God does not exist. Such a firm belief colours your attitude towards every aspect of life since if there is no God there is no real reason to pay attention to anyone or anything other than your own needs. Many young people become atheistic through rebelling against adult religious beliefs. Sometimes they then discover a faith of their own.
Ba-hai-sm
A religion founded in 1863 by a follower of the Bab, who had foretold the coming of a new divine manifestation before his own massacre in 1850 in Persia (Iran). Misara Husain Ali Nuri believed he was that divine person and he brought into being a creed that included the promotion of religious and racial harmony, equality for all people, and a universal faith based on all the great religions. Bah-ai- sm spread throughout the world and its greatest number of followers are in the United States of America. It is not in favour in Iran.
Buddhism
Buddhism is an ancient religion, founded in North East India by Siddartha Gautama, known as the Buddha or Enlightened One. He was born about 563BC. He left no writings, just a pattern of life which can result in peace, enlightenment and release from the cycle of rebirths (reincarnation) that he believed in. Although you can believe in God if you want to you do not have to believe in God to be a Buddhist. You do have to want to control your mind and emotions in order to live a more self-aware, mindful and compassionate life in harmony with nature and all living creatures. Wanting is not enough; self control is gained through silence, care in speech and relationships and regular practice of meditation.
Christianity
A world wide religion based on the belief that there is a God and that Jesus Christ (a real man who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago) is God made visible in human form. Christians believe that they cannot become whole people by their own efforts, but only through Jesus - who loved them so much that he was willing to take their sins upon himself by dying as a criminal on a cross. In doing that for no reason other than love, he gained victory over sin and evil and won the gift of eternal life for all who believe in him. At this present time in history when self-help and self-development are watchwords in materialistic Western societies the idea that our health, wholeness and eventual destiny is dependent upon someone other than ourselves, God, is not likely to be very popular. Yet there are still millions of Christians in the world whose hero is Jesus and whose beliefs influence their relationships and actions.
Existentialism
A belief in the importance of individual human existence, freedom and choice.
Such beliefs have been held since the time of Plato, but became well known through the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. He said that people had the right to choose their own way without the aid of universal objective standards. If they did that, they also had the responsibility of following their convictions wherever they led. Existentialism became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries through writers like Nietsche, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Camus, Beckett and Ionescu.
Fundamentalism
A 19th century development among Protestants of the United States of America. It stressed the infallibility of Holy Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, his atoning work on the cross, his physical resurrection, his second coming and the bodily resurrection of believers. The movement was popularised in 1909 and spread quickly to all Christian denominations. It still holds sway among some Christian groups.
Hinduism
A major world religion that originated in India in about 1500BC and spread to many neighbouring countries. It has assimilated a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Hindus worship many gods and godesses, chief among whom are Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Kali. Its sacred texts are known as the four Vedas. Belief in transmigration is universal among Hindus; they believe that behaviour in one life affects the kind of life a being or person will live in the next life (karma). Ultimately a soul can escape further reincarnation through purification, (moksha).
Humanism
an attitude of respect for the dignity and worth of all human beings. People are regarded as having reason and a natural aptitude for truth and goodness within them. the movement started in late fourteenth century Christian Italy and influenced culture and literature throughout Europe, and there are still many Christian humanists in today?s world. You do not have to believe in God to be a humanist.
Islam
A world wide religion, based on belief in one God (Allah), surrender to God and the conviction that Muhammed (7th century AD) was God?s messenger - that the collection of his writings (The Koran) contain divine guidance. The five pillars of Islam are 1) bearing witness to the unity and uniqueness of God and to his prophet, Muhammed; 2) prayer at prescribed times each day; 3) Fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan, 4) undertaking a pilgrimage (haj) at a special time of the year to Mecca at least once during one?s lifetime and 5) assigning part of one?s income to poorer Muslims and certain other categories (zakat.)

Like many Jews, Muslims observe dietary laws, such as abstention from pork, and their meat has to be slaughtered ritually (hallal)
Judaism
One of the world?s oldest religious beliefs in the existence and oneness of God (monotheism). It originated in Israel(Palestine) as a result of a contract (covenant) made between God and his special people, the Jews. This promised that God would be faithful to the Jews if in return the Jews would keep the laws set out by God in writings such as the Old Testament, (the Tanach), the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrash and the Targums.

Religious Jews pray three times a day, recite many blessings each day, observe the Sabbath each week and keep five major festivals and two minor ones. These include Passover, Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and (ten days later) Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement - the holiest day of the Jewish year, marked by fasting , prayer and confession of sin.

Jewish religious customs include male circumscision and the observance of dietary laws, such as abstention from pork and the separation of meat and milk products.

Jewish people share a culture, but not all Jews are religious observers.
Paganism
A nature based religion whose members worship ancient gods and godesses who pre-date the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Pagan believers include Druids, pre-Christian Celtic cults and adherents of Wicca (witchcraft). Paganism has recently gained many adherents among Western societies as people react against a predominantly materialistic and secular culture. It relies largely on ritual mystery in its worship rituals.
Scientology
A religion founded in 1954 by L Roy Hubbard. He developed a form of psychotherapy known as Dianetics which aims to erase painful memories (engrams) which may lead to irrational behaviour. Trained ?auditors? assist adherents to erase these memories. Those oppose scientology think of this process as a form of brain-washing. It is often described as a money making cult rather than a religion.
Spiritualism
A belief that the dead can communicate with living people, most often through the assistance of psychically sensitive people known as ?mediums.? They hold meetings or ?seances?, either in people?s homes or in central meeting places, at which a medium asks for the help of one or more ?spirit guides? in establishing communication between the dead and the living. Spiritualist churches exist all over the world. Mediums are often accused of being charlatans, but some reputable investigators, such as the Society for Psychical Research (founded in 1882) believe in some claims of spiritualist practitioners.
Transmigration
A belief that at death a soul can pass into a new body (reincarnation) or new form of being. This belief is different from metamorphosis, the changing of a living being into another form, and from resurrection, the rising again to life after death. It is different because in transmigration (according to Pythagorus and Plato) the human soul survives bodily death, being immortal. It retains its identity(essence) so that a reincarnated soul can ‘remember’ events from previous existences. Transmigration is a feature of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It gained some followers among early Christian sects such as Gnostics and Manichees, but they were declared to be heretics. Neverthless there are sincere Christians today who believe in transmigration.
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