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I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School Excerpt from I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

by Caroline Taggart

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World Religions

There are, of course, lots of them and lots of subdivisions within them, but here is a little about the five really big ones, starting with the oldest.

Monotheistic religion whose beginnings are lost in the mists of time. Its adherents are called Jews, their god is eternal and invisible, and trusting in God's will is a fundamental tenet. Jewish law as revealed by God is contained in the Torah, which comprises the first five books of the Christian Old Testament. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is a sacred site.

Polytheistic, about 5,000 years old, and followed primarily in India. One of its tenets is that one's actions lead to the reward or punishment of being reincarnated in a higher or lower form of life. The aim is to be freed from this cycle and attain the state of unchanging reality known as Brahman. The three principal creator gods are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, but Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) is also widely worshipped. The main scriptures are the Vedas. The Ganges River is seen as a goddess of purity and pilgrims come to the holy city of Varanesi (Benares) to bathe in the river. The cow is a sacred symbol of fertility.

Founded in the 6th century b.c. by Gautama Siddhartha, known as the Buddha or "Awakened One." There are no gods in Buddhism; its adherents follow the philosophy expressed in the Buddha's Four Noble Truths -- that existence is characterized by suffering, that suffering is caused by desire, that to end desire is therefore to end suffering, and that this may be achieved by following the Eightfold Path to the ideal state of nirvana.

Monotheistic religion that grew out of Judaism 2,000 years ago and is based on the belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God. The holy book is the Bible, divided into the Old and New testaments; the New Testament is the one concerned with the teachings of Christ and his apostles. The church divided initially into Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) branches. The Catholic Church still recognizes the Pope as leader and Rome as a holy city, but a major rift beginning in the 16th century led to the emergence of the Protestants and many subsequent subdivisions. Jerusalem is the traditional site of Christ's burial and resurrection.

Monotheistic religion whose god is called Allah, founded in the 7th century a.d. by the one prophet, Mohammed. The holy book -- the Koran or Qur'an -- contains the revelations that Allah made to Mohammed. The holy cities are Mecca, birthplace of Mohammed, and Medina, where he is buried. All able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are expected to make a pilgrimage (hadj) to Medina at least once in their lives. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is the oldest intact Muslim temple in the world and is built over the point from which Mohammed traditionally ascended to heaven.

Given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai (remember Charlton Heston and those massive tablets?), these are a basic code of conduct for both Jews and Christians.
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

The above is an excerpt from the book I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School by Caroline Taggart. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio
Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writer's Market UK 2009.

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