What Do Others Believe?

December 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Religion is one of the great intellectual debates. Even the most hardcore atheist, Christopher Hitchens, who preferred “antitheist”, devoted much of his life to the study and debate of religion before he passed away last week. Even if you don’t believe in God or one particular religion, it is a fascinating subject you could spend your whole life learning about.

It’s easy to chalk all of the religions up to largely having the same end, and roughly the same means to that end. There’s the commonly cited analogy of there being different paths up the same mountain. This week I want to understand the differences more clearly. I came across a book called God is Not One by Stephen Prothero I’ve been reading.

He covers the 8 “greatest” (most impactful) religions of the world and discusses what drives each one , what they entail and why it’s important to understand they are different.

As with many other factors that make people different from one another, religion often leads to stereotypes. He begins the book talking a little bit of the stereotypes of the Western world of all Muslims being terrorists. I was catching up on the new Showtime series Homeland  last night with the my dad and that stereotype was what provided one of the important twists in the show. The writers knew people would be duped into believing the POW would be the terrorist because he had been converted to Islam.

It made me think of my own impressions of the various religions. When I look at the list of of the 8 Prothero covers in the book, my impressions range from some familiarity to stereotypes to absolute ignorance. If these are the main religions driving the behavior of others in the world right now, I could definitely use more education.

To give my initial impressions in one word:

Islam: strict
Christianity: sin
Confucianism: being
Hinduism: polytheistic
Buddhism: enlightenment
Yoruba Religion: no clue
Judaism: guilt
Daoism: harmony

As I continue along learning more about these this week, it will be interesting to compare notes to my initial impressions.

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