World's Major Religions
The major religious traditions are Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.
Christianity is the world's biggest religion, with about 2.2 billion followers worldwide. It is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in the Holy Land1 2000 years ago. Through its missionary activity Christianity has spread to most parts of the world. The founder of Christianity is Jesus Christ (Jesus of Nazareth). Jesus was a Jew who was born in Bethlehem. He lived for 33 years before being crucified by Romans. He came to earth to teach about love and fellowship. Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples (followers) to show everyone that there is another life after death. They also believe that there is one God, but it consists of three "persons" — God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. The most important Christian Festivals are Lent, Easter and Christmas. There are three main branches of Christianity - the Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Orthodox Church. All Christians share common beliefs that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, that Christ was crucified and resurrected. The Christian place of worship is a Church, also a Chapel and a Cathedral. They are often built in the shape of a cross with the altar facing east towards the rising sun. Churches are usually beautifully decorated. Christian worship involves praising God in music, speech, readings from scripture. The Bible, the Christian holy book, is divided into the Old and New Testaments. Parts of the writing contained in the Old Testament are also sacred to Jewish and Muslim people.
Islam is the second most popular religion in the world with over a thousand million followers. Islam began in Arabia and was revealed to humanity by Muhammad (570—632), a holy man born in Mecca, to whom God told many things which are recorded in the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam, translated as "the word of God". Those who follow Islam are called Muslims. They believe that there is only one i God called Allah ['эе1э]. The Muslim building for ! worship is called a mosque. Very often mosques have a domed roof with a tall tower called a minaret, from which Muslims are called to prayer. Mosques have bare walls and very little furniture. Muslims take off their shoes before entering the mosque and use prayer mats to kneel on them. Women do not pray in the same place as men. There is usually a screened off area for them. Muslims pray five times a day (prayer times are fixed by the sun and change daily). They wash themselves before prayer and face the direction of Mecca while praying. If it is financially possible, Muslims are required to travel to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The main Muslim Festival is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar. During Ramadan all Muslims across the world do not eat during the hours of daylight.
Judaism, which has only about 12 million followers, is around 3500 years old and is the oldest of the world's four great religions. This religion originated in Israel. The founder of Judaism is Abraham who is regarded as the father of Jewish people. Jews see Abraham as a symbol of trusting and obeying God. Moses is also an important figure of Judaism as he gave the Jews the To rah, the Jewish Holy Book, which contains the laws of God. Moses was the leader of Jews who freed them from slavery in Egypt. Moses protected the Jews from the anger of God and negotiated with God on their behalf. Jews believe in a single God) who created the universe.
Jews worship in synagogues. Men and women usually sit separately. Men are required to cover their heads. In most cases worship takes place in Hebrew. The Jewish spiritual leaders are called rabbis.
The most important day of the week is the Sabbath (Shabbat), which is a day made holy. This day starts at sunset on Friday and continues until sunset on Saturday. During the Sabbath, people do nothing that might be counted as work, they shouldn't even drive or cook.
The main Jewish Festival is Passover (Pesach in Hebrew). Passover is the time when Jewish people remember how they left Egypt. It is a major eight-day festival. Matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival. There is a great spring cleaning in the home before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the home during Pesach.
Buddhism began in India and is based on the teaching of the Buddha. The religion is 2,500 years old and is followed by 350 million Buddhists worldwide. Buddhism is the main religion in many Asian countries. It is a religion about suffering and need to get rid of it. A key concept of Buddhism is Nirvana, the most enlightened, blissful state one can achieve, a state without suffering. Buddhism is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God. The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama. He was born around the year 580 B.C. in Nepal. He was born into a royal family and for many years lived within the palace away from sufferings of life. One day he went outside the royal palace and saw what real life was like. He was worried by what he saw. He stopped being a prince and became a homeless holy man. He found the path to Enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or "awakened one". Statues of Buddha include a lot of symbols. Buddha is often seen with a round mark on his forehead which is his third eye. This is a symbol to show that he can see things ordinary people cannot see.
Buddhists worship at home or at a temple. They may sit on the floor barefoot facing an image of Buddha and chanting. It is very important that their feet face away from the image of Buddha. All Buddhist temples contain an image of a statue of Buddha. Every month, most Buddhists have special religious days. These are often days when there is a full moon. Buddhists believe that there is a cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. This goes on and on. But if a person can gain Enlightenment, they can break out of this cycle. Breaking out of the cycle is called Nirvana. It is perfect peace, free of suffering. Buddhists try to reach Nirvana by following the Buddha's teaching and by meditating. Meditation means training the mind to empty it of all thoughts. When this happens what is important comes clear.
Match the names of the religions with the facts about them.
1. The followers of this religion do not believe that the world was created by God.
2. In these religions men and women usually don't worship together.
3. This religion is the youngest of the four.
4. This religion has more followers than the others.
5. According to this religious teaching people can achieve happiness on earth.
6. Followers of this religion eat a special type of food during their holiday.
7. Followers of this religion try to visit the place where the creator of their religion was born.
8. Followers of this religion are allowed to eat only after sunset during one of their holidays.
9. Men following this religion cannot be bareheaded when in the place of worship.
10. A key concept of this religion says that one of their holy men sacrificed his life for them.