Understanding World Religions

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today -- particularly when it comes to the "big three" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don't adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world's religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.
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Understanding World Religions




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Now displaying: March, 2015
Mar 26, 2015

Our quote for today is from Tony Blair. He said, "The big issue of our time is trying to deal with extremism based on a perversion of religion and how you get peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths and cultures."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day." 

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "The Foundations of Islam." 

Essential to the religion of Islam are the Five Pillars, or obligations, that are required of all Muslims. These are, in English:


1. Reciting the Creed

2. Praying five times daily

3. Almsgiving

4. Fasting

5. Making the pilgrimage to Mecca


We will look at each in more detail in this episode.

Mar 18, 2015

Our quote for today is from journalist Bruce Buursma. He said, “Almost every story around the world has a religion sub-plot."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "The Beginning of Islam." 

Islam is the world's second largest religion, with about 1.6 billion followers in 2010 (more than 20 percent of the earth's population). Including  biological growth, it is also the globe's fastest-growing, and is the majority religion in forty-nine countries. Contemporary politics and the issue of terrorism have thrust Islam into the worldwide spotlight as never before. 

Islam is an Arabic word meaning "submission," and the religion's central theme is submission to the will of God. So a Muslim is one who submits to God's will, which is revealed in the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book. Qur'an, which is an Arabic word meaning "recite," is often transliterated Koran in English texts. Although the Arabic language and culture are central to Islam, only 25 percent of the world's Muslims are ethnically Arab, and the four countries with the largest Muslim populations (Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India) are all outside the Middle East. 

Some older books on history and religion refer to this faith as Mohammedanism. This is inaccurate and offensive to Muslims, as they do not worship Muhammad. Although they revere him greatly and follow his example in many ways, they insist he was just a man. To deify him, they say, is contrary to Muhammad's own teaching. 

Islam teaches that God has sent a long line of prophets to reveal his will to humans, and many Muslims would say Islam has existed since Adam's creation. However, to understand Islam today, we need to look at sixth-century Arabia and a man named Muhammad, considered Islam's final and greatest prophet.

Mar 11, 2015

Our quote for today is from Francis of Assisi. He said, "I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Zoroastrianism." 

How many people do you know who believe that after they die God will weigh their deeds and, as long as they have at least 50 percent good deeds, will allow them into heaven? This idea of God using balance scales to weigh deeds is held by many, including quite a number who call themselves Christians. But this concept is definitely not found in the Bible. So where did it come from? 

Zoroastrianism, a religion most people have never heard of, was the first to put forth the concept of judgment by weighing good and bad deeds, called ethical dualism. Due to their geographic distribution today, and because persecution in some countries forces them to keep a low profile, it is difficult to know how many Zoroastrians there are. Estimates range from a low of 150,000 to as many as several million worldwide. The most reliable figures place the number at 250,000. 

Mar 4, 2015

Our quote for today is from Anne Graham Lotz. She said, "Abraham is such a fascinating figure. Three world religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- all claim him as a patriarch. He was raised in a religious home. And yet he rejected religion in order to pursue a personal relationship with God."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

"It is impossible to understand modern Judaism without knowing the events and experiences of the Jewish people since the time of Moses. In its number of followers, Judaism is among the smallest of the world's living religions, with slightly more than fourteen million adherents globally, yet it exerts a proportionally larger influence on world affairs today, in part because of the modern state of Israel, formed in 1948. 

"Many people, particularly Christians familiar with the Old Testament—the Hebrew Scriptures—think of Judaism in terms of what they've read in Exodus or Deuteronomy. Therefore, we must note that modern Judaism is Rabbinic, or Talmudic. Without a temple or sacrificial system, much of the Law cannot be followed. Over many centuries, influential rabbis have reflected and written on how to practice the Jewish faith under changed circumstances. The Talmud is the collection of those reflections and the basis for modern Judaism. 

"Jewish life today is primarily lived out in the home and secondarily in the synagogue. Practicing Judaism is more about daily life than about specific beliefs or formal rituals, although these do exist..."