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Article by: Michelle Mock
The subject of religion is often considered controversial. Discussing it is sometimes avoided for fear of offending others. It is my personal belief that all human beings need to embrace or, at a minimum, tolerate the beliefs of others and for that reason I wanted this section included at Imagiverse. I have tried to be accurate in my general discussion of religion, but if I erred, please write to us at Imagiverse - Team and let us know. I hope that you will submit a letter on what religion means to you.
Thank you and peace be with you.
What is religion?
The simplest answer is: religion is a person's beliefs. Some people believe in a supreme being. Others do not. Some people worship in a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other building with others who share their beliefs. Others do not.
What do people believe?
People around the world have a wide variety of beliefs. In the United States, many of us are fortunate to live side by side with people who have different beliefs from our own. We have the opportunity to find out what our friends believe and learn to understand the different customs and rituals related to their faith. We also have the opportunity to learn tolerance for the beliefs of others and to embrace the diversity of religious freedom.
Beliefs are a very personal thing. Most of the time, children are raised with the same beliefs as their parents, and their parents' parents before them. Religion is something that is often passed down through the family. As we grow, especially when we become teenagers and young adults, we make choices about how we want to live our lives. Religion often provides the foundation for making the good choices.
What is the purpose of religion?
If we strip away all the rituals, celebrations, traditions and other things that define any particular religion, we are left with something that every organized religion holds dear: GOODNESS. Religion is guide for people to be good. We are human. Humans make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes hurt others. Mistakes are part of being human. Religion tries to guide people to do the right thing and to be good. Some religions have lots of rules. Some people need lots of rules. Following the rules might not make someone a "better" person, but if everyone follows the rules, it sure makes living together a lot nicer!
Religions have a way of changing as time progresses. Many religions split into different variations of the same faith. Sometimes, new religions are created, and new laws or rituals are added. People also change as they grow up and often they change religions becoming "converts" of another religion. Converting to a different religion or staying with the same religion for life is another personal choice people make.
As part of their religion, many are expected to share their faith with others. They spread the word through missionary work to different countries, or by contacting people within their own communities. Others spread the word through their actions and by setting an example for others to follow. Some faiths are more tolerant of the beliefs of others and others are quite insistent that they are the only ones who are "right".
As a member of the human race, it is not really important which religion you follow or if you follow an organized religion at all. Oh! I know many people will strongly disagree with that statement! Let me explain. Religion is about being "a good person". If all people of the world would live life as loving, caring, responsible, honorable human beings, we would live in a wonderful, peaceful world. If people would accept and respect the beliefs, customs and differences of others, we would all be able to live in harmony. Unfortunately, people are not always loving and caring or responsible and honorable. Sadly, many people do not respect the beliefs of others.
Did you ever wonder what kinds of rules different religions have?
It is not possible to cover all the rules (or laws or commandments), for all the religions of the World in these pages; but one thing is for sure: there are many similarities. In almost all instances, the rules and guidelines were given to the people by great men. Many of these rules are said to come directly from a "supreme being". There are many different names for this supreme being. For a moment, let's look at just a few of these great men and the supreme being that gave them the rules and the guidelines for people to be good. In English we call this being: God. Many people believe that they are all talking about the same being. Others do not believe this. Beliefs are different but the purpose is similar.
Have you ever heard of Moses?
Well, many years ago, as the story goes, a little Hebrew baby was placed into the waters of the Nile River (can you find it on a map?). He was found by an Egyptian princess, who raised him as her own child. Later he became the leader of the Israelites and took them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. On the way, Moses was given a set of laws, called the Ten Commandments, to give to his people. The Ten Commandments were rules, from God, that guide people to be good. Some of the things God told Moses to tell the people were: love each other, don't steal and don't kill. You can read the whole story, of the great man people call Moses, in a book called the Bible. This was the beginning of Judaism (the Jewish faith).
Have you ever heard of Jesus?
Well, many years ago, as the story goes, the baby Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was a Jew. When he came along, people needed to be reminded to be good (sometimes people forget how to be good). Through his stories and actions, Jesus showed people how to be good. He told them to love each other. He told them to treat each other the way they themselves wished to be treated. He demonstrated love and caring. He developed many followers. His followers became "Christians" and Christians believe that this great man was the son of God. You can read more about this great man in the second part of the Christian bible, a book called the New Testament. The first part of the Christian Bible (before Jesus Christ) is called the Old Testament.
Have you ever heard of Mohammed?
Many, years ago, as the story goes, a little baby named Mohammed was born. It seemed that people forgot how to be good again. [Do you ever wonder why people do that? Isn't it easier to be a good person?] Mohammed was raised by his grandfather because his father died before he was born and his mother died when he was only six years old. Mohammed came to understand that the God the Arabs called Allah was "the God" and was the same "one God" that Jews and Christians called God, Yahweh or Elohim. Jews, Christians and Arabs all believed that they descended from Adam and Eve, Noah, Shem and Abraham. Many of the beliefs were the same. How they showed those beliefs differed. Mohammed was a great man and his followers became known as Muslims (the Islamic faith).
Have you ever heard of Buddha?
Buddha was another great man. Many, many years ago (long before the times of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed), a baby named Siddhartha Gautama was born in India near the Himalayas (Can you find India on a map of the World?). When he was a little boy, Siddhartha's father tried to protect him from all knowledge of illness, pain and suffering. He knew nothing about unhappiness, growing up in a palace. Eventually he did learn about all these things and he discovered the cause of unhappiness and a cure for it. He became known as Buddha (the "wise" or "enlightened" one). For 45 years he taught people about the meaning of life. Buddha's teachings became the religion known as Buddhism.
One God, many Gods or no God?
In some religions, people believe in one God. In other religions, people believe there are many gods, each one having a particular purpose. Many religions believe that God is everywhere: God is in nature; God is in the good actions of people; and, God is in the mysteries of life and the heavens. Some people believe that there is no such thing as God. Whatever you believe, always remember that others have a right to their beliefs, even if those beliefs conflict with yours. Always strive to be the best that you can be. Set an example through your good actions.
Here within the pages of Imagiverse, we would like people around the world to share what religion means to you. Let us know some of the traditions you observe and explain some of the misunderstandings that you think other people have about your religion.
Follow your faith and your beliefs, but always respect the faith and beliefs of others. When you respect the beliefs of others, you set an example, and represent your faith and beliefs in the most positive way.
Please send your letters to: Imagiverse - Team. Write from the heart and share as much or as little as you wish. Write about how religion has affected your life, what your favorite traditions or holidays are, or what others might not understand about your beliefs. We will not post anything that may be offensive to people of other beliefs. If we believe that something you write may be a problem, we will let you know and explain why. Sometimes people say things and do not mean to be offensive or insensitive to others. This is only because we do not understand their beliefs and feelings. Sometimes changing a word, or two, can make a big difference in how others will understand what you say. If someone writes a letter that "hurts your feelings", please write a letter of your own in response. Always try to be positive and share your thoughts without hurting others in return.
If you are under age 13, please have your parents send your letter, with permission to post. Include your first name, last initial, age and State, Province or Country only. Imagiverse does not keep or use this information for any other purpose than to post your letters. The privacy of all writers is protected. If you wish to use a nickname or pretend name, that is fine too.
We also would like to receive letters from adults. You may sign the letter with your full name, your first name or a pseudonym. Please include your State/Province and Country (either where you live or where you grew up). These letters are primarily intended for children to read, but will also be of interest to parents, teachers and others.
Read the letters we have received so far:
27 December 2002
© 2002 - www.imagiverse.org