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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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Apr 2, 2015

Our quote for today is from Martin Luther King Jr. He said, "Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals."

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 Theology of Islam." 

Monotheistic Islam shares many similarities with Judaism and Christianity, along with Zoroastrianism and Baha'i. But there are important differences. For example, Muslims share Judaism's belief in God's absolute oneness. Christians also believe God is one Being and that he eternally exists as three persons. The Qur'an and the Bible likewise agree on many of God's attributes, but again there are areas of disagreement. That the same or similar words are sometimes used with different meanings generates misunderstanding. For instance, Muslims and Christians both say God is merciful, but the Bible adds to this his grace and love. Minus these attributes, salvation as a divine gift is incomprehensible to Muslims. 

All the monotheistic religions believe their scriptures to be a revelation from God. Muslims believe the revealing takes place by a process of dictation. The Qur'an, they say, exists eternally in heaven, and Gabriel came to earth and dictated the book to God's messenger Muhammad. Christians believe in a process called inspiration, from a Greek word meaning "God-breathed." The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible's human authors so that God's message is communicated while retaining the writers' individual styles and vocabulary. 

These views have significant impact on thoughts about translation. The Bible was rendered into Syriac and Latin within a century of the New Testament's completion. Other translations followed; the combination of the printing press and the Protestant Reformation unleashed a tidal wave of translations into other languages. In contrast, the "true message" of the Qur'an can be read only in Arabic. Though translations exist, they're considered paraphrases, not authoritative. The many Muslims who don't read Arabic often use editions with parallel columns in Arabic and their own language. 

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