By SANDY MURRAY / Special to the Press
Okay, so I researched the different denominations of Christianity. WOW! Mary Fairchild (About.com) estimates that there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. How do I tackle that? It will take me years to try – so – I looked in the Martin phone book and eliminated those religions represented there – at least as far as giving the founder, symbols and descriptions. Guess if you belong, you should know those facts. Right? So I shall begin by addressing the traditional denominations, then tackle the non-traditional ones. On second thought, lets look at the non-traditional ones first then go back to the different Christian denominations. I like that better. Besides, you should have all the facts about your chosen denomination anyway. Plus, since you chose that religious group, you investigated the others so that you have the right fit. Right?
Now for my disclaimer: I do not profess to have all the knowledge about every religion/belief system. I’m sharing what I pulled from the Internet. In most cases I referred to ReligionFacts.com, ReligiousTolerance.com, Tolerance.org and sometimes from material from a certain religion/belief system’s website. If I found something unbelievable or contradictory I widened my search to hopefully find accurate information. So if you disagree with something I have stated – well, I guess you can believe what you want to believe. I’m not here to do anything but give information – not trying to convert anyone – just broadening your knowledge base. So here we go. Full steam ahead. Oh, and I changed my mind about presenting the information in alphabetical order. I picked the ones I wanted to investigate in no order whatsoever.
The Bahá’í Faith was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in the 19th-century in Persia. Bahá’u’lláh is believed to be one of the Divine Messengers who brought new laws and teachings. The Divine Messengers include Moses, Abraham, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Myhammad. It is a monotheistic religion that recognizes the core ethical principles common in all religions. Per the official Bahá’í website the core belief of this faith “is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for humanity’s unification into one global society” (http://www.bahai.us/community-life/community-worship/). Those who practice this faith believe in the oneness of humanity, the common origin and unity of purpose of all world religions, the harmony of science and religion, equality of women and men, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, a spiritual solution to economic problems, and the establishment of a world commonwealth of nations (http://www.bahai.us/community-life/community-worship/). There are nearly five million followers in the world.
The sacred writings of the Bahá’í include the writings of Bahaullah, the Qur’an, the Old and New Testaments, and the sacred writings of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism. Thousands of documents were written by Bahalaullah. His principal doctrinal work is The Book of Certitude (Kitab-i-lqan). The best known of his works is The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys.
The world center for the Bahá’í Faith is located in the Haifa/Akka area in the north of Israel. Members of the Bahá’í Faith hold devotional gatherings in diverse settings like homes, local community centers and other public locations. At the devotional meetings the participants share prayers and passages from Holy Scriptures. These gatherings are intended to create an uplifting and spiritual atmosphere to help participants clear their minds from the anxieties of daily life. Members of the Bahá’í Faith engage daily in prayer and unity with God.
The Bahá’ís recognize Christ as a Divine Messenger but do not celebrate Christmas, but do participate in holiday activities with their Christian family and friends. The gift-giving season for Bahá’ís is Ayyam-i-Ha at the end of February. After this celebration they have a 19-day fast. Naw-Ruz, the Bahá’í New year is observed on March 21. In total the Bahá’í Faith has 11 holy days and do not work on nine of these days.
The Bahá’ís believe that heaven and hell are not physical places but are metaphors for closeness to and remoteness from God. The condition of the soul at death determines the afterlife experience.
Three symbols used in Bahá’í are the nine-pointed star, the ringstone symbol, and the greatest name symbol.
The nine-pointed star is a symbol of Faith. Nine symbolizes comprehensiveness and culmination. The ringstone symbol appears on jewelry and serves as a reminder of God’s purpose for man. From top to bottom the three horizontal levels of the design represent the world of God, the creator; the world of His Manifestations; and the world of man. The vertical line connects the three horizontal bars in the way that the Divine Messengers connect man with God. The two stars represent the Bab and Bahaullah, the messengers of God for this age. The Greatest Name is an incantation in Arabic, “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha,” which means, “O Glory of the All Glorious.” It is seen in Bahá’í homes and places of Bahá’í activity.
This information was taken from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í of the United States http://www.bahai.us/community-life/community-worship/
The Atheist Alliance of America defines Atheism as “the rejection of the belief in the existence of deities.” It is the opposite of theism, which is the belief that there is at least one deity. Atheism originated from the Greek word atheos, which means without gods. It is based on a philosophy that nothing exists but natural phenomena. The term Atheism originated in 16th century France but was documented as early as the Vedic Age (1700 – 1100 BCE). Western Atheism appeared from pre-Socratic Greek philosophy but did not publicly appear until the late Enlightenment, a period in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time intellectuals asserted “their purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment).
In the Supreme Court of the United States case of Murray v. Curlett , 374 U.S. 203, 83S. Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d (MD, 2963) Atheism was described in this manner:
Your petitioners are atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An atheist loves his fellow man instead of god. An atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth for all men together to enjoy.
An atheist believes that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it, and enjoy it.
An atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.
He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.
He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.
He believes that we are our brother’s keepers and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now (http://atheists.org/atheism).
Winfried Schröde identifies Matthias Knutsen, a German critic of religion, as the first known explicit atheist. Knutsen’s conscious disbelief in the existence of deities was reflected in his writings. In 1841 Ludwig Feuerbach published The Essence of Christianity. This work is credited as having a significant influence on philosophers such as Engels, Marx, David Strauss, Nietzsche, and Max Stirner. Feuerbach is considered the founding father of modern anthropology of religion. He deemed God to be a human fabrication and religious undertakings to be wish-fulfillment. In the 20th century Atheism has progressed in many societies. During this time the works of Marx and Engels hastened the political spread of Atheism.
The demographics of Atheism are difficult to determine due to the differing definitions of Atheism. However, in 2005 the Encyclopedia Britannica published a survey that reported that 11.9 percent of the world’s population considered themselves to be non-religious while 2.3 percent considered themselves to be Atheist. In 2006 a Financial Times’ poll reported that 4 percent of the respondents in the United States considered themselves to be Atheist. A Gallop survey conducted in 2012 reported that 13 percent of the respondents worldwide self-reported as Atheist.
The atomic swirl is the symbol of the American Atheists. This symbol is based on the Rutherford Atom, which shows the orbital paths of electrons around the nucleus. It is to symbolize that “only through the use of scientific analysis and free, open inquiry can humankind reach out for a better life” (http://atheists.org/atheism). The central loop is left open as an acknowledgement by Atheists that even though they depend on the scientific methods, they are still searching for answers and even for more questions.
It is a common misconception that Atheists worship the devil, themselves, money etc. Note I said misconception meaning a mistaken idea. This error is based on the “belief that worship is fundamental to human existence such that it simply isn’t possible for a person to live a decent life without worshipping something” (http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmyths/p/AtheismMyths.htm). In reality, this is assuming that one must worship something or perish. Not everyone worships something. Again, what you believe is just that what YOU believe. You should not assume that everyone has that same belief.
Okay, that’s enough for now. My brain is full. Until next time …