Jainism is the smallest major Indian religious, with about 4 million adherents. Nonetheless, they have a notable impact on the world around us. Join with me in discussing Jainism.
By Mark D. Harris
As the Babylonians crashed through the walls of Jerusalem and the sun set on the Israelite monarchy (586 BC), Lao-tzu (604-521 BC) assembled the set of concepts known as Taoism in China, and the Classical Age (510-320 BC) stirred in Greece. Soon, Siddartha Gautama (560-480 BC) would introduce Buddhism from northeast India (modern Nepal). Farther south and west, another religion emerged from the mists of Indian spirituality, Jainism.
Jains claim that Jainism was founded 8.4 million years ago. Vardhamana (Mahavira, 599-527 BC) was a prince who, as legend has it, left his palace at age 30 to begin 12 years of rigorous asceticism. He achieved perfect enlightenment, attracted many followers, and starved himself to death at age 72. Emperor Ashoka (273-232 BC), grandson of Chandragupta (350-295 BC), led the Mauryan Empire and followed the Jain faith. As a tiny fish swimming in a Hindu (and to a lesser extent, Buddhist) pool, Jainism did not play a prominent role in ancient Indian history.
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Islam is the second largest religion and the fastest growing religion (by fertility, not by conversions) on earth. For 1400 years it has been in an existential struggle against all others for earthly power.
By Mark D. Harris
The Middle East in AD 600.
The Middle East in the late 6th century AD bristled with thorns. The Byzantines and Persians crossed swords time and time again. Christendom rent itself over theological disputes, with arguments sometimes ending in blood. The Jews, having lost their homeland to the Romans over 400 years before, got on as best they could as minorities in societies very different from them. Justinian’s Plague, an outbreak of yersinia pestis, killed at least 15 million people from 541-549, depopulating farms and cities alike. A volcanic eruption in 535 covered the earth’s atmosphere with ash, darkening the sun and causing a year-old cold spell that caused a mass famine in the northern hemisphere.
In Arabia, Bedouin tribes and their livestock moved from pastureland to pastureland as they had done since the days of Abraham and Ishmael. In accordance with tradition, they raided, looted, burned, and murdered each other. Townsmen, who lived in settlements built near the rare oases in the desert, made a living from making and trading goods and services. Traditional Arab pagans worshipped many gods of whom Allah was only one. Mecca was a site of pilgrimage, and the Kaaba in Mecca housed the holy black stone. Christianity, Judaism, and paganism shaped the thinking of men.
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Witchcraft is not typically considered a religion on its own but rather practices that people in any religion, or no religion, engage in or are accused of engaging in. Paganism is a blanket term for religions outside the religious mainstream in an area. Discover witchcraft, and a Christian response, today.
By Mark D. Harris
Paganism encompasses a wide variety of religious activities in the modern world. The word pagan comes from the Latin word (paganus) for rustic or rural. Beginning in the fourth century, it was used by Christians to describe their neighbors, especially peasants, who participated in polytheistic or ethnic religions. Paganism, therefore, originally referred to many religions, including emperor worship, the elysian mystery cults, Egyptian mythology, and many others.
In this article, I have used the pronoun “her” for historical accuracy since the vast majority of people who claim to be or have been accused of being witches are female.
Classification of Paganism
By the 20th century, people engaged in religious activities not associated with an organized religion began to call themselves pagan. Neopagan religions are modern versions of pre-Christian religions that focus on the supremacy and unity of nature in spirituality. Wicca, neo-Druidism, and Heathenry are examples. Paleopagan religions are modern versions of the ancient Greek, Roman, and other polytheistic national faiths. Mesopagan religions range from African-diasporic faiths to New Age groups. Another way to categorize pagan religions is by primary traits. Polytheistic religions honor many divine beings, nature-based religions see nature and supreme, not fallen as Christians do. Sacred feminine beliefs use the concept of a female goddess to join or replace a male god.
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Hinduism is the third largest religion on earth. It is the faith of the most populous and fastest growing major nation. Hundreds of millions of Hindus need to know the Gospel. Knowing more about the Hindu faith will help Christians minister better to Hindus.
By Mark D. Harris
Out of the mists of the ancient past, without a face or a name, the ideas of reincarnation, caste, the cycle of lives, dharma, karma, and all that we know today as Hinduism emerged in the land between the Indus River and the Ganges plain. These concepts were contained in the sruti (revealed) texts such as the Vedas (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda), and the Upanishads (Vedanta). Alongside these sacred books arose the smrti (remembered) texts, including the Bhagavad Gita.
The above paragraph would suit many Hindu apologists but requires a bit more explanation. Hinduism is, indeed, a historical accretion of ideas that arose, mixed, and developed through the interactions of the native Dasyu peoples and the Indo-European Aryan immigrants in the second and first millennia BC. Scholars bicker about whether the Aryans invaded or migrated from the northwestern plains, but world historical experience from the Bantus in Africa to the Europeans in the New World 2,500 years later proves that invasion and migration often look the same. Hinduism has no known founder, unlike other world religions.
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