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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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Dec 3, 2015

Our quote for today is from Ravi Zacharias. He said, "My premise is that the popular aphorism that 'all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different' simply is not true. It is more correct to say that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different."

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, "Cults, 'Isms,' and Contemporary Religious Movements"

In the last few episodes of this podcast, we will deal with belief systems not typically categorized as world religions, even though some of them are global in nature and have many millions of followers. The number of adherents to Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), for instance, far exceeds the number of adherents to Judaism, Jainism, or Baha'i, and Mormons are in nearly every country though usually categorized as a cult. Conversely, Sikhism is small in numbers and followed by just one ethnic group (though it has spread somewhat through migration), but is nearly always found in books on world religions. How do we distinguish a cult from a religion?

At the outset, we must know there is no "Central Board of Religions" that decides what "gets in" and what doesn't. Some books include Baha'i and some don't. Some books on contemporary religious movements include it as well, just as most would include the Nation of Islam.

By our working definition, all these are religions—organized sets of beliefs that answer ultimate questions. So how does one end up as a religion and another as a contemporary religious movement? Some criteria does help distinguish one from another. A few belief systems are rather obviously one or the other. With some we might make the case either way.

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