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: June, 2015
Jun 11, 2015

Our quote for today is from Marcus Aurelius. He said, "It is a ridiculous thing for a man not to fly from his own badness, which is indeed possible, but to fly from other men's badness, which is impossible."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Jainism" 

Jainism, little known in the West, had a significant role in shaping post-classical Hinduism. And although today it has barely four million followers, Jainism continues to have an impact on modern India because its adherents are among the wealthiest and most influential of the country's businessmen. 

The founder was a man named Mahavira, born somewhere around 590 BC into the Kshatriya caste. As a young man, he abandoned his life of wealth and ease and joined a group of Hindu ascetics in search of answers to life's deep questions. He found even their self-deprivation insufficient and set out on his own course of extreme asceticism, seeking the most difficult and painful circumstances to free his soul from the bonds of reincarnation. After twelve years, he claimed to have achieved moksha (release) and spent his remaining thirty or so years teaching others about the path he had discovered. 

Unlike the monistic concept of Hinduism, Mahavira taught the dualism of body and soul. Somewhat like the ancient Greek philosophers, he saw the body, or material universe, as evil and the soul as good. Karma holds the soul onto the wheel of reincarnation "like mud clings to a wheel." If this is so, the only solution is extreme asceticism, depriving the body to weaken its grip on the soul. The goal becomes complete detachment from worldly things. 


Jun 4, 2015

Our quote for today is from Robert Hugh Benson. He said, "The Church must be intelligible to the simple as well as to the shrewd."

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, "Hinduism Today" 

We've already seen that Hinduism displays tremendous variety even in India. India's place at the forefront of twenty-first-century globalization and modernization has impacted religious practice, as well. Rural life mostly has gone on as it has for centuries, despite the introduction of radio and television, but in cities, a burgeoning middle class is being changed by the secularizing influences of Westernization. India, a nuclear power, is noted for its progress in science and technology. It's also the world's largest democracy, and the political aspirations of its people sometimes clash with Hindu values. 

This clash is most evident today in the social and economic aspirations of the Dalits (Untouchables). For centuries given the lowest jobs, they achieved legal rights at India's independence from Great Britain in 1947. Mahatma Gandhi called them ha-ri-jan, "children of God," and India's constitution outlawed the caste system, but just as 1960s Civil Rights laws didn't eliminate racial prejudice in the U.S., discrimination against Dalits has continued. India has a form of affirmative action that has guaranteed a percentage of university admissions and government jobs to each caste, and there are Dalits who have earned PhDs, but they are still denied entry into many hotels and restaurants (the upper castes believe their presence would bring defilement). 

For devout Hindus, the Dalits are born into their state due to karma from a previous life—to seek improvement is to only make things worse next time around. Some Dalits have protested against Hinduism entirely by formally and publicly converting to Christianity or, more recently, Buddhism. The caste issue is still challenging traditional Hindu beliefs, and change is slow. Cross-caste marriages are slowly being accepted among the educated, urban population, but in rural areas they can still result in so-called honor killings.