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Belief System Descriptions:


Bahá'í Faith


CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN-PROTESTANT


CHRISTIAN SCIENCE
(Church of Christ, Scientist)


EASTERN ORTHODOX


HINDUISM


ISLAM


JAINISM


JEHOVAH'S WITNESS
(Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)


LIBERAL CHRISTIAN/PROTESTANT


LIBERAL QUAKER


MAHAYANA BUDDHISM


MORMON
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints


NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY


NON-THEIST


NEO-PAGAN


NEW THOUGHT


ORTHODOX JUDAISM


ORTHODOX QUAKER


ROMAN CATHOLIC


REFORM JUDAISM


SCIENTOLOGY


SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST


SECULAR HUMANIST


SIKHISM


TAOISM, or DAOISM


THERAVADA BUDDHISM


UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST


These descriptions are generally aligned with the topics addressed in SelectSmart.com's entertaining yet educational Spiritual Belief Systems selector quiz, comparing more than two dozen world religions/belief systems.



NON-THEIST


Other belief system descriptions
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Other belief system descriptions

Non-theists generally include atheists and agnostics and others such as "Scientific Skeptic" and "Secular Humanist" who do not adhere to a belief in an intelligent, personal deity - God or gods. Some non-theist beliefs may be aligned with those of the Secular Humanists , but non-theism in itself does not necessarily include an emphasis on ethics and/or improving the human condition. Views on contemporary issues vary widely. Agnostics are inclined to question the existence of supernatural being(s) or a force, e.g. the answer to whether or not God (or Deity) exists would be: "We do not and/or cannot know." Many atheists would argue with theists that there is no more credible evidence for God than there is for a "Flying Spaghetti Monster."
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  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance - Non-theism
  • Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.



    LIBERAL CHRISTIAN/PROTESTANT


    Other belief system descriptions
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    Other belief system descriptions

    Also sometimes referred to as secular, modern, progressive, or humanistic Christian. This is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God, to be interpreted in its historical context through critical analysis. Examples include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, United Church of Christ. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
  • Belief in Deity: Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. Many believe God is incorporeal.
  • Incarnations: Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Some believe we are all sons and daughters of God and that Christ was exemplary, but not God.
  • Origin of universe and life: The Bible's account is symbolic. God created and controls the processes that account for the universe and life (e.g. evolution), as continually revealed by modern science.
  • After death: Goodness will somehow be rewarded and evil punished after death, but what is most important is how you show your faith and conduct your life on earth.
  • Why evil? Most do not believe that humanity inherited original sin from Adam and Eve or that Satan actually exists. Most believe that God is good and made people inherently good, but also with free will and imperfect nature which leads some to immoral behavior.
  • Salvation: Various beliefs: Some believe all will go to heaven as God is loving and forgiving. Others believe salvation lies in doing good works and no harm to others, regardless of faith. Some believe baptism is important. Some believe the concept of salvation after death is symbolic, or nonexistent.
  • Undeserving Suffering: Most Liberal Christians do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, and most take a humanistic approach to helping those in need.
  • Contemporary Issues: Most churches teach that abortion is morally wrong, but many ultimately support a woman's right to choose, usually accompanied by policies to provide counseling on alternatives. Many are accepting of homosexuality and gay rights.
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  • Recommended Website: The Center for Progressive Christianity.
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance - Conservative, mainline and liberal "wings" in Protestantism.



    CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN-PROTESTANT

    Other belief system descriptions

    On a continuum from Liberal to Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant, Conservative Christian is also sometimes referred to as traditionalist, orthodox, fundamental, or Evangelical. Conservative Christian is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that are Bible-centered, viewing the Holy Bible as the final and only authority, the inerrant Word of God, interpreted literally as law. Examples of conservative Protestant include some churches within Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Lutheran, etc.. Anglican/Episcopalian is often regarded as a "bridge" denomination between Roman Catholic and Protestant. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
  • Belief in Deity: Some, particularly Evangelical and Pentecostal, believe God has a perfect human body. Most Conservative Protestants believe God is incorporeal, omnipresent spirit -- a Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God's only Incarnation. He is the Son of God and God, both fully divine and fully human, part of the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that comprises on God Almighty.
  • Origin of universe and life: The biblical Book of Genesis is inerrant. God created the universe and all life forms from nothing in less than 7 days, less than 10,000 years ago -- not as revealed by modern science. Many resolve the conflict between scientific evidence and the Book of Genesis with the contention that God created the appearance of evolution (perhaps as a test of faith), or that scientific evidence is faulty.
  • After death: Saved souls experience the bliss of heaven and unsaved souls the torture of hell. On Judgment Day, Jesus Christ will resurrect the dead, reunite body and soul, and judge each for eternity in heaven or on a restored, paradisiacal earth, or in hell. Some believe the souls of the dead will remain "asleep" until the resurrection and final judgment.
  • Why evil? The original sin of Adam and Eve caused all to inherit sinfulness. Some Conservative Protestants believe that only relatively few people will be saved. The work and influence of Satan prevail among the unsaved and/or those who lack complete faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • Salvation: Salvation is granted by the grace of God alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone as Lord and Savior -- not through "works" such as moral behavior, good deeds, and generally not through sacraments. Some believe that once saved, or born again, always saved. When performed, baptism is regarded by many Conservative Protestants as a practice for adult believers, rather than infants/children, as it is not considered a sacrament for salvation, but an act of commitment to the fellowship. However, some churches do regard certain sacraments as very important components on the path to salvation (e.g. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church) including infant baptism, regarding baptism as a miracle from God that creates faith in the heart. Some Protestants regard baptism as a washing away of sin, which may be repeated. Among most, confession/repentance is considered personal, between the individual and God, unless a public sin is involved, and confession to a pastor, when offered, is optional. Some use exorcism to remove indwelling evil spirits. Pentacostals believe that speaking in tongues is a gift from God as evidence of having been saved, and some regard it as the only evidence of having been saved. Preaching the gospel, the Word of God, is often regarded as a means for building faith in Christ.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Some suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality originating from Adam and Eve's disobedience to God, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, Satan rules the earth, causing pain and suffering. Many believe that suffering is God's design to test, teach, or strengthen belief in Him; the greater the suffering of innocent believers, the greater will be their reward after life.
  • Issues: Abortion is considered murder. Positions among denominations on divorce vary from unacceptability of divorce and remarriage to acceptance of divorce in certain situations and remarriage.
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  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance -Conservative, mainline and liberal "wings" in Protestantism.



    ROMAN CATHOLIC


    Other belief system descriptions

    Note: (1) Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox have much in common. (2) Anglican/Episcopalian has much in common with the Catholic church, considered a "bridge" denomination between Protestant and Catholic.
  • Belief in Deity: Trinity of God the Father, God the Son (Christ), and God the Holy Spirit, which comprises one God Almighty -- incorporeal spirit.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God's only incarnation, Son of God and God.
  • Origin of universe and life: A literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is held by some, but the Church maintains that God gave humankind both supernatural revelation in the Bible and natural revelation through the rational human mind. One may harmonize science with the Book of Genesis in that a "day" in the Bible is not defined as a 24 hour day. It is infallible that God created the universe from nothing, thus if the "Big Bang" theory is true, then God created this event. If evolution did occur, it only occured under the choice and control of God, and only with the understanding that God breathed the first soul into the first man and all souls are immediately created by God
  • After death: God judges who will go immediately to heaven or hell and who will experience the suffering and joys of purgatory for purification of all sins before heaven. Afterlife reward and punishment are relative to one's faith and deeds. Hell is considered a place of torture (eternal fire), especially the torment of eternal separation from God, a condition of one's own making by lack of faith in God and by committing unrepentant mortal sin(s). Christ will return to resurrect body with soul and judge each for eternal happiness in a perfectly renewed universe in Christ (heaven) or for eternal torment in hell.
  • Why wrongdoing? Due to Adam and Eve's original sin, all are born sinners and are prone to the influence of Satan, but all have the potential to attain righteousness.
  • Salvation: One strives for salvation through worship and prayer to God the Father, in Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit; good works, and seven sacraments, including one (infant) baptism and Communion. One's salvation must be restored after commission of a mortal sin by repeating the sacraments of Repentance/Confession and Communion. Confession of "venial" (less serious) sins to a priest is recommended but generally not required for salvation.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Some suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality originating from Adam and Eve's disobedience to God, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, Satan's presence causes pain and suffering. Suffering is God's design to test, teach, or strengthen belief in Him; the greater the suffering of innocent believers, the greater will be their reward after life.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is considered to be a form of murder, an act worthy of excommunication. Homosexual behavior is unacceptable. Women and men are considered equal in dignity and value; however, it is a priority to enable and encourage women to be mothers and wives, which are highly valued roles. Marriage is considered a sacrament and permanent until death of a spouse. Divorce is not recognized, therefore remarriage results in sinful behavior unless the first marriage is nullified, declared invalid and non-sacrament, by the Church. Remarriage after civil divorce (without nullification) results in inability to receive Church sacraments.
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  • Recommended Website: Catholic Answers - Apologetics & Evangelization
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance-Comparing the beliefs of Roman Catholics & conservative Protestants.



    EASTERN ORTHODOX


    Other belief system descriptions

    Includes the Church of Greece, the Church of Cyprus, and the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • Belief in Deity: Trinity of the God the Father, the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit, which comprises one God Almighty - incorporeal spirit.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God's only incarnation, Son of God and God.
  • Origin of universe and life: God created the universe and life. The Bible is not intended to be a scientific revelation, and science is not infallible. There is no desire to create conflict between science and Christian faith.
  • After death: God immediately judges who will experience happiness (heaven), unhappiness (hell), or temporary punishment. Those who kept faith in Christ, didn't sin after baptised or repented before death, and did good works will find happiness after death. Those whose faith in Christ was lacking or corrupt, or sinned after baptism without repentance before death, or didn't do good deeds will find unhappiness after death. Those whose only transgression was not performing good deeds may be punished temporarily. Christ will return to resurrect and judge all for eternity in either heaven or hell. Level of reward is relative to one's deeds in life.
  • Why wrongdoing? God made humans righteous by nature, but the original sin of Adam and Eve damaged that nature. All have been potentially saved through Christ's death, but those not "in Christ," born to God, are vulnerable to being with the devil, born to the devil. Satan and his countless evil spirits work to lie and tempt those who are not filled with the Holy Spirit to commit wrongs.
  • Salvation: All are already potentially saved (through Christ's death and resurrection), are still being saved (through faith), and will be saved in the future (with the second coming of Christ). Demands faith in and prayers to God the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit; good works. Required sacraments include one baptism at infancy, and the Holy Eucharist with confession and repentance. Adherence to moral laws is essential.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Some suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality originating from Adam and Eve's disobedience to God, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, Satan's presence causes pain and suffering. Suffering is God's design to test, teach, or strengthen belief in Him; the greater the suffering of innocent believers, the greater will be their reward after life.
  • Issues: Abortion is a sin. Homosexual behavior is a sin. Marriage is considered a sacrament and permanent, but divorce and remarriage are not condemned if reconciliation attempts are exhausted. A remarriage wedding ceremony must include prayer and repentance for the commission of sin. Remarriage may only occur three times. Some churches provide "ecclesiastical divorce" and "ecclesiastical remarriage" license.
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  • Recommended Website: Orthodox Church in America
  • Recommended Website: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America



    JEHOVAH'S WITNESS ("Watchtower Bible and Tract Society")


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: There is one God Almighty - a Spirit Being with a body but not a human body. There is one God and no Trinity.
  • Incarnations: Incarnations: Christ is Lord and Savior, but not God (Jehovah) incarnate, not a God-man but inferior to God, not part of a Godhead. He was a created spirit being, God's only begotten son, sent to Earth as a perfect human. His sacrifice became the "ransom" price to redeem mankind from sin and death. God created all in heaven and on Earth through Christ, the "master worker," God's servant. After Christ's resurrection by God, he was "exalted" to a level higher than angel.
  • Origin of universe and life: God created the heavens and earth in six days but each "day" is equal to thousands of years. God created and controls all processes and events.
  • After death: Other than the "little flock" of 144,000 faithful Christians who rose to heaven to rule over earth with Christ, a process completed since 1914, people cease to exist after death; the soul does not survive. At a time appointed by God, Jesus Christ will cleanse the earth, destroy the wicked, eliminate Satan, evil, illness and death. God will recreate the body and soul of each of the righteous (and potentially righteous) to spend eternity on this restored, paradisiacal earth.
  • Why evil? The original sin caused humans to inherit death and sin. Satan and his demons pervade the earth as spirits tempting all to sin, which God allows as a test of faith in Him.
  • Salvation: You must show faith in God and in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Adhere to the practices, requirements, commandments, laws, and sacraments of the faith. "Witnessing" and active sharing of their faith with others is fundamental. Avoid behaviors that God dislikes, including celebration of birthdays and holidays originating from false religions.
  • Undeserved suffering: Much suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality from Adam and Eve, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, those who choose to succumb to Satan's temptations may suffer self-inflicted damage to their health. Satan and his demons cause great misery. God has allowed the situation to continue so that mankind can discover that God's rule is better than independent human-rule. He has allowed Satan to cause suffering to challenge Satan's claim that God's creation, humans, would turn from and curse God under pressure.
  • Contemporary issues: Abortion is wrong. Homosexuality is a serious sin. Gender roles are defined -- men are the head of the household and women are loving caretakers who assist the husband in teaching the children. Divorce is permitted under certain circumstances, but Jehovah hates remarriage unless the divorce occured as a result of adultery. Service in armed forces or any form of allegiance to government is prohibited; one must only show allegiance to the Kingdom of Christ. Blood transfusions, along with ingesting blood, are considered wrong, as God said the soul is in the blood. Bone marrow transplants are left to the individual conscience. (Note: all other forms of medical treatment are acceptable.) Jehovah's Witnesses persistently promote their belief system, especially through dissemination of Watchtower Society literature and door-to-door contacts.
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  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Official Web Site of Jehovah's Witnesses



    MORMON - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: A "Godhead" of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three separate entities united in purpose. God the Father resides in heaven with His wife the Heavenly Mother, Christ their only begotten Son, and "exalted" Mormons who become godlike in heaven. God has a perfect body, which looks like ours.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is not God incarnate, but God's firstborn son. Jesus is Lord and Savior; God of this earth; creator of all in heaven and earth as directed by God the Father; one in purpose with the Father and the Holy Spirit -- a Godhead of three separate members.
  • Origin of universe and life: God created the heavens and earth in six time periods -- the word "day" is not of a specified number of years.
  • After death: One's spirit immediately joins the spirit world and will be assigned to either paradise or spirit prison. Based on one's record of thoughts, words, and actions, righteous believers will live in a state of paradisiacal happiness. Unbelievers and sinners in spirit prison will live in misery, but they are provided the opportunity to repent, accept the gospel, receive ordinances performed for them by the living, and thus move to the lowest level of heaven. At the Final Judgment and Resurrection, most will be assigned to a one of three kingdoms of heaven where spiritual growth continues. Only a relatively few, the unpardonable sinners, will suffer eternal torture in the outer darkness as most will have accepted the gospel and suffered for their sins enough by the end of the Millenium.
  • Why evil? Humans did not inherit guilt, as children are innocent, but Adam and Eve's original sin resulted in adult propensity for sin and the presence of evil in the world. The Fall was a planned blessing from God, enabling people to experience human bodies, the joy of redemption, to procreate, and to do good (to which evil is a necessary complement). Satan and his demons pervade the earth as fallen angels tempting all to sin. God gave people free will, and Satan's temptations are a blessing from God so that people can show their faith by resisting.
  • Salvation: Show faith in and obedience to God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Adhere to the practices, requirements, commandments, laws, and sacraments of the faith as exemplified by Jesus Christ. Good works are integral to the faith through monthly fasts and fast offerings to the needy, to show your obedience and love for God. Baptism at age 8 is necessary, the age of accountability, and be confirmed as a member of the church. Confess all sins to God, and major transgressions to a presiding officer as well. Receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; receive the temple endowment; be married for time and eternity.
  • Undeserved suffering: Adam and Eve disobeyed God, thus the first humans and their descendants lost their immortality and connection to God, gaining physical bodies that suffer disease and deterioration. Also, Satan pervades the earth and causes misery to those who succumb to temptation. God allows Satan to cause misery to mankind as an opportunity to test, challenge, and strengthen character and faith.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is wrong. Homosexual behavior is wrong and homosexual rights are vehemently opposed. The divine role of woman is mother and wife, helper to the husband. Men are regarded as the head of the family, provider, leader, and teacher. Marriage is regarded as eternal and a sacrament, and divorce is strongly discouraged, but it is permitted if necessary. The marriage seal must be cancelled by the church, not just through civil action. In keeping with the belief that doing good works is essential for salvation and is Christian, Mormons established a "welfare" program. Mormons practice monthly fasts and give fast offerings to assist the needy.
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  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: The Official Internet site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints



    ORTHODOX QUAKER


    Other belief system descriptions

    A Christocentric branch (Note other Quaker branches: Wilburites are traditional; Gurneyites are progressive, evangelical, and bible-centered; Hicksites and Beanites are liberal, primarily in eastern USA.)
  • Belief in Deities and Incarnations: There is a Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. God is personal and incorporeal.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God's only incarnation. God is manifest within all as the light. Jesus possessed the light to the highest degree and is "the Light" within.
  • Origins of universe/life: The most orthodox Quakers hold to authority of the Bible, and the Book of Genesis - that God created all in less than seven days and less that 10,000 years ago. But many would maintain that a Biblical "day" is not a literal 24 hours.
  • After death: Most orthodox Quakers believe in direct reward and punishment, heaven and hell, the second coming of Christ and resurrection of the dead (similar to conservative Christian).
  • Why evil? Some Orthodox Quakers adhere to similar beliefs as conservative Christians - belief in original sin and Satan. Many believe that lack of awareness of God's divine light within, or rebellion against it, is the cause of wrongdoing, and that alienation from God leaves one vulnerable to temptation, or Satan.
  • Salvation: Some Friends churches include rites of baptism and communion, but sacraments to God are most often considered to arise from inward experiences, a personal encounter with God, rather than church ritual. Salvation is found internally through union with Christ, the divine Light within all. Many Quaker churches, e.g. Evangelical, believe similarly to Conservative Protestant, that salvation is a free gift from God, with faith, independent of good works. Yet, moral behavior and good works are viewed as essential to showing faith and obedience to God. Good works, such as humanitarian service, social justice, and peace efforts are an expression of Christian love. Simplicity and humility are viewed as essential to living a Christian life.
  • Undeserved suffering: The most orthodox Quakers maintain that Satan causes suffering. Suffering is allowed by God as part of His divine will and plan. Quakers focus on reducing human suffering, especially that caused by social injustice or violence.
  • Contemporary Issues: Contemporary Issues: Social betterment programs and nonviolence are fundamental to Quakerism. Some Orthodox Quaker churches are very accepting of homosexuality and others condemn it as contrary to God's will.

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  • Recommended Website: The Religious Society of Friends
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: George Amoss' Quaker Electronic Archive & Meeting Place



    LIBERAL QUAKER


    Other belief system descriptions

    Liberal Quakers have been referred to as Hicksites, supporters of the influential 19th century liberal Quaker Elias Hicks; similar to Beanite Quaker. (Note other Quaker groups: Wilburites are traditional; Gurneyites are progressive, evangelical, and bible-centered; Orthodox are Christocentric churches.)
  • Belief in Deity: Diverse beliefs, from belief in a personal God as an incorporeal spirit to questioning belief in a personal God.
  • Incarnations: Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Most believe we are all sons and daughters of God with the main focus on experiencing and listening to God, the Light within, accessible to all.
  • Origin of universe and life: Emphasis is placed on spiritual truths as revealed to each individual. Many believe that God created/controls all events/process that modern scientists are uncovering about origins. Many believe in scientific accounts alone, or don't profess to know.
  • After death: Few liberal Quakers believe in direct reward and punishment, heaven and hell, or second coming of Christ. The primary focus is non-dogmatic -- God is love, love is eternal, and our actions in life should reflect love for all of humanity.
  • Why evil? Beliefs vary, as the focus is not on why, but how to eliminate wrongs, especially violence. Many believe that violence against another human is violence against God. Many Quakers believe that lack of awareness of God's divine light within all may result in wrongdoing. Many believe that evil is simply an unfortunate part of human nature that we all must work to eliminate.
  • Salvation: Diverse beliefs as there is a de-emphasis on dogma. Most believe that all will be saved as God is good and forgiving, and the divine light of God is available to all. Good works, especially social work and peace efforts, are viewed as integral to the salvation of humanity, regardless of belief or non-belief in an afterlife.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Liberal Quakers do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering. Quakers focus on reducing human suffering, especially that caused by social injustice or violence.
  • Contemporary Issues: Views vary, some maintaining that abortion violates Quaker commitment to nonviolence, but many view the right to choose abortion as an aspect of equal rights for women, and/or as a personal matter between the woman and God. The American Friends Service Committee (an independent Quaker organization with participants of many faiths that provides international programs for economic and social justice, peace, humanitarian aid) supports the woman's right to choose abortion per her own conscience. Very accepting of homesexual behavior and supportive of homosexual rights.
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    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: The Religious Society of Friends
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: George Amoss' Quaker Electronic Archive & Meeting Place
  • Recommended Website: soc.religion.quaker Answers to Frequently Asked Questions



    CHRISTIAN SCIENCE ("Church of Christ, Scientist")


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deities: God is incorporeal Spirit -- creative Principle, supreme, omnipotent Father-Mother, omnipresent, omniscient -- the only intelligence and all that actually exists. God is Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love. "God is All-in-all."
  • Incarnations: We are all incarnations of God. Jesus was the Christ, divine Exemplar, and the divine idea of sonship -- the Master. Jesus showed the way (the "Wayshower") for all to realize Truth, which is God. We are all sons/daughters of God.
  • Origin of universe and life: The universe and humans are reflections of God's likeness and image, which is Spirit -- without beginning or end. Illusions, or delusions, of a material world and material body result from error in thought and ignorance of the true and only nature of reality, which is spiritual. God is all that truly exists.
  • After death: Death is the belief in death. There is no death as humans are immortal Spirit. After that which we call "death," spiritual development toward Truth continues until all evil, or "error," destroys itself. Heaven and hell are not places, but states of consciousness that continue after death. "Heaven" is the self-made eternal bliss of realizing oneness with God. "Hell" is the self-made anguish of believing in pain and death.
  • Why evil? Evil is the belief in evil. God is all that is real and God is completely good; therefore, good is real and evil is an illusion/delusion. The only power evil has is to destroy itself; attempts to destroy good naturally result in punishment for the evildoer. Sin creates its own hell. Not realizing one's true nature as Spirit results in selfishness, which can lead to error and disharmony.
  • Salvation: Salvation lies in bringing oneself into harmony with one's true nature as God's reflection, through good works, patience, meekness, love, watchfulness, prayerful gratitude, devout obedience in following Christ's example. There are two basic commandments: that one turn only to God, perfect Mind, for guidance -- the Mind that was also in Christ; and, that one "love thy neighbor as thyself." Healing and immortality are achieved through consciousness that the only true reality is God, which is Love, and that one's true and only nature is in God's likeness. As one realizes the error of belief in the reality of suffering and evil, these images of thought impressed upon the mortal mind can be altered, thus banishing sickness, death, and sin -- testimony to the power of faith in God, of Mind over matter.
  • Why suffering: Suffering is the belief in suffering, an illusion/delusion (or error) of mortal thought.
  • Issues: The church claims no position on abortion. Conventional medicine is not forbidden, but is often eschewed even in cases of serious conditions, as a basic tenet of the faith is that sickness is illusion and that Christian Science healing is effective. Christian Science Practitioners may be called upon to provide healing prayers and consultation on treatment. Homosexuality is sometimes regarded by adherents negatively, as a condition that requires healing through Christian Science practices. The Mother Church has recently (mid-2000s) extended a welcoming and non-judgmental stance regarding sexual orientation.
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  • Recommended Website: The official home page of the Church of Christ, Scientist
  • Recommended Website: Spirituality.com
  • Recommended Website: Mary Baker Eddy Biographical information
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance



    SECULAR HUMANIST


    Other belief system descriptions

    Generally, Secular Humanists are atheists or agnostics who value ethics, reason, logic, rational/critical thinking, inquisitiveness, use of scientific methods to learn about the world, and humanitarian action to improve the quality of life of individuals and humankind. Related: Scientific Humanism, Scientific Skeptics; Freethought, Ethical Culture, etc.. Some secular humanists identify as "deist," believing that a mystical force was responsible for the origins of matter and life ("First Cause"), but is no longer present or in control.
  • Belief in Deity: Belief in deity is disregarded as irrational or as an unnecessary hypothesis,or unknowable; many secular humanists take a strong atheistic stand. Some say that claiming the existence of a "Flying Spaghetti Monster" is no less valid than claims of a Supreme Being.
  • Incarnations: Same as above.
  • Origins of universe/life: The scientific method is most respected as the means for revealing the mysteries of the origins of the universe and life.
  • After death: The concept of an afterlife or any kind of spiritual existence after death is not recognized or is viewed with deep skepticism, or viewed as unimportant/irrelevant as it cannot be disproved. Some oppose such beliefs as irrational, or lacking in credible evidence. Those who claim to be able to contact or "channel" the dead are viewed with suspicion. No afterlife heaven or hell: most important is how you live your life and serve humanity now.
  • Why evil? No concept of "evil," or Satan, or supernatural Karmic action. Reasons for wrongdoing are explored through scientific methods, e.g. through study of sociology, psychology, criminology, etc.
  • Salvation: No concept of afterlife or spiritual liberation or salvation. Realizing ones personal potential and working for the betterment of humanity through ethical consciousness and social works are considered paramount, but from a naturalistic rather than spiritual standpoint.
  • Undeserved suffering: No spiritual reasons, but rather a matter of human vulnerability to misfortune, illness, natural disasters, and victimization. Secular humanists believe rational thinking and human actions can reduce human suffering.
  • Contemporary Issues: The American Humanist Association endorses self-determination and privacy in matters such as abortion, reproduction, sexual orientation, gender roles, etc.. Secular humanists generally initiate and support secular programs/legal action for equal rights for homosexuals, gender equality, racial equality, anti-poverty, health, peace and non-violence, and environmental protection. They value separation of church and state. They take a secular approach to divorce and remarriage. Some organizations actively oppose supernatural and/or unproven claims (e.g."pseudoscience"), which are regarded as obstacles to individual well-being and and human progress.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: The American Humanist Association
  • Recommended Website: Council for Secular Humanism.



    UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST


    Other belief system descriptions

    A tradition that values spiritual seeking, acceptance of diverse and liberal spiritual and philosophical beliefs that are not necessarily based on the precepts of an established religion. Comprised of mostly Non-theists (atheists, agnostics etc.), Humanists, Liberal Christians, Neopagans, New Age spirituality, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. (Note: Some UU churches are led by Christian ministers, but this is not to be confused with the Christian Universalist church )
  • Belief in Deity: Very diverse deity beliefs, as Unitarian Universalists (UU) welcome all deity beliefs as well as non-theistic. The UU tradition does not generally offer deity-centered services; few UU believe in a corporeal or incorporeal "personal" God. Many believe in a universal life spirit or force within that connects all, which some UU refer to as "God."
  • Incarnations: Very diverse beliefs, but most do not believe in a supernatural deity nor incarnation as such; many believe that all are the embodiment of God. Some believe Christ is God's Son; most view Christ as an important figure, a "wayshower," exemplary of the power of love, compassion, and humanitarian values.
  • Origins of universe/life: Diverse beliefs; most believe in the Bible as symbolic and that natural processes such as evolution account for the origins of the universe and life.
  • After death: Diverse beliefs; most believe that heaven and hell are not actual places but symbolic. Some believe heaven and hell are states of consciousness either in life or continuing after death; some believe in reincarnation; many believe that a supernatural afterlife is nonexistent or not known or not important, and that actions in life are all that matter. Many believe that one lives on through their legacy and memories held by those they impacted in life.
  • Why evil? Diverse beliefs. Some believe wrong is committed when people distance themselves from God. Some believe in "karma" in the sense that "what goes around comes around." Many believe wrongdoing is a matter of human nature, psychology, sociology, etc.
  • Salvation: Some believe in salvation through faith in God and Jesus Christ, along with doing good works and doing no harm to others. Many believe all will be saved, as God is good and forgiving. Some believe in reincarnation and the necessity to eliminate personal greed or to learn all of life's lessons before achieving enlightenment or salvation. For many, the concepts of salvation or enlightenment are irrelevant or disbelieved, or that you achieve your highest level of actualization through devotion to humanitarian works.
  • Undeserved suffering: Diverse beliefs. It would be a rare Unitarian Universalists that believes that a literal Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design even if we don't immediately understand it. Many don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, but turn their attention to reducing suffering.
  • Contemporary Issues: The Unitarian Universalist Association's stance is to protect the personal right to choose abortion. Other contemporary views include working for equality for homosexuals, gender equality, a secular approach to divorce and remarriage, working to end poverty, promoting peace and non-violence, and environmental protection. Humanitarian work is intergral to the church, including social justice, human rights, and charity.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, "100 Questions That Non-Members Ask About Unitarian Universalism."
  • Recommended Website: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations



    THERAVADA BUDDHISM


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: The concept of a supreme, Creator God is rejected or at least considered irrelevant to Theravada Buddhism. Buddha, "the Awakened One," is revered above all -- not as "God" but as supreme sage, model of a fully Enlightened person. Many Buddhists hold that there is a spirit world with gods in the heavens, but gods are not supreme and are subject to rebirth, while only humans have the potential to attain Enlightenment and reach Nirvana (eternal bliss), free from rebirth.
  • Incarnations: Buddha was a human, a fully Enlightened spiritual teacher and inspiration. As there no belief in or relevance to God, there are no incarnations of God worshipped.
  • Origins of universe/life: Buddhists consider it the job of scientists to explain origins of the universe and life. Many maintain that the world creates and recreates itself millions of times every fraction of a second, but there is no contradiction with scientific discovery. Questions of origins are considered irrelevant to the goal of enlightenment.
  • After death: There is no transmigration of individual souls, but through the law of karma, one's wholesome or unwholesome intentions become imprinted in the mind. Negative mental states persist through continual rebirth until one's intentions become wholesome. Once fully enlightened, one is liberated from rebirths, reaching a state of absolute selflessness resulting in ultimate bliss called Nirvana--the "Deathless State". One becomes Buddha (or one with Buddha). Some Buddhists, especially modern Western, don't emphasize or believe in literal rebirth. Belief in literal rebirth is not essential to the practice of Buddhism.
  • Why evil? People have free will to commit wrongs or rights. Evil doings may result when egoism, cravings, attachments and ignorance are expressed as greed, hatred, violence which, if unmitigated, is perpetuated through rebirth.
  • Salvation: Enlightenment is an individual journey to Nirvana (complete bliss), liberation from suffering and cycles of rebirth, by following the Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold path. To eliminate karma, which causes rebirth, one must extinguish self: all cravings, desires, and attachments. The path to enlightenment includes loving kindness and compassion, moral conduct, charity, wisdom, and meditation. Attaining unnecessary worldly possessions and over-indulgence causes karma to accumulate.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Suffering is inherent in life, and the cessation of suffering is the primary goal of Buddhism - to reach Nirvana, to end cycles of rebirth. Suffering is a result of past-life greed, hatred, and ignorance that has returned suffering (karma). Compassion toward others who suffer reduces the effects of karma.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is generally considered murder, and all violent acts cause horrific karmic consequence. Homosexuality in itself is not specifically condemned by scripture, but opinions vary, especially among various Buddhist cultures -- e.g. USA Buddhists are generally very accepting while Asian Buddhists are generally strongly opposed to homosexuality. It is believed that divorce wouldn't occur if one follows Buddhist precepts, but a couple is not condemned if they separate due to vast personal differences. Gender roles are generally traditional (e.g. woman as child caretakers and men as providers), but less rigid as contemporary demands are made on women (e.g. working women). Nonviolence and non-injury to other life forms and to the environment are fundamental.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Tricycle.com -- The Buddhist Review



    MAHAYANA BUDDHISM


    Other belief system descriptions


    Includes diverse beliefs, various sects, schools, and trends. Main Mahayana sects include Pure Land and Zen. Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism is often considered a separate branch. We focus here on some of the traditional elements of Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Belief in Deity: Both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism posit no Creator or ruler God. However, deity belief is present in the Mahayana doctrine of The Three Bodies (forms) of Buddha: (1) Body of Essence -- the indescribable, impersonal Absolute Reality, or Ultimate Truth which is Nirvana (Infinite Bliss); (2)Body of Bliss or Enjoyment -- Buddha as divine, deity, formless, Celestial spirit with saving power of grace, omnipotence, omniscience; and (3) Body of Transformation or Emanation --an illusion or emanation in human form provided by the divine Buddha to guide humans to Enlightenment. Any person can potentially achieve Buddhahood, transcending personality and becoming one with the impersonal Ultimate Reality, which is Infinite Bliss (Nirvana). There are countless Buddhas presiding over countless universes. Bodhisattvas, humans and celestial spirits who sacrifice their imminent liberation (Buddhahood) to help all others to become liberated, are revered or worshipped as Gods or saints by some.
  • Incarnations: The historic Buddha, the person Siddartha Gautama, is considered by many as an emanation or illusion of the highest power (which is also called Buddha). Many believe there have been countless Buddhas on earth.
  • Origins of universe/life: No Creator God. All matter is illusion or manifestation of the Ultimate Reality. Generally Mahayana Buddhist beliefs don't find modern scientific discoveries contradictory to Buddhist thought.
  • After death: After death: There is no Transmigration of individual souls, but through the law of karma, one's wholesome or unwholesome intentions become imprinted in the mind. Negative mental states persist through continual rebirth until one's intentions become wholesome. Once fully enlightened, one is liberated from rebirths, reaching a state of absolute selflessness resulting in ultimate bliss called Nirvana--the "Deathless State". One becomes Buddha (or one with Buddha). Some Buddhists, especially modern Western, don't emphasize or believe in literal rebirth.
  • Why evil? People have freewill to commit wrongs. Evil results as cravings, attachments and ignorance accumulate through perpetual rebirths, thus perpetuating greed, hatred, violence.
  • Salvation: The goal is Enlightenment, leading to Nirvana, liberation from cycles of rebirth and suffering, which is life. All are already endowed with Buddha nature, but need to come to fully realize that only the Ultimate Reality (the great "void" or "emptiness") is real (or nonconditional) and permanent. The Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold path show the way, along with worship of the essential Buddha. One must work to extinguish self: all worldly cravings, desires, and attachments, through loving kindness, compassion, charity, moral conduct, wisdom and meditation. Renouncing worldly possessions and goals is not necessary for the laity, if balanced. Buddha taught the middle path, moderation. Human and spirit world Bodhisattvas are sought for help in gaining enlightenment. Pure Land Mahayana Buddhists aim to find a place of eternal Nirvana in a paradisical Pure Land, attainable by calling out the name of the Buddha ruler of the Pure Land.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Suffering is inherent in life. Suffering results from thisand past life greed, hatred, and ignorance, which, unless mitigated, returns as suffering (Karma). Intense suffering may be viewed as the release of karma, hastening one's liberation. Suffering is illusion or ignorance of one's true nature as Buddha -- the blissful "void."
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is considered murder, and all violent acts cause horrific karmic consequence. Homosexuality in itself is not specifically condemned by scripture, but opinions vary, especially among various Buddhist cultures -- e.g. USA Buddhists are generally very accepting while Asian Buddhists are generally strongly opposed to homosexuality. It is believed that divorce wouldn't occur if one follows Buddhist precepts, but a couple is not condemned if they separate due to vast personal differences. Gender roles are generally traditional (e.g. woman as child caretakers and men as providers), but less rigid as contemporary demands are made on women (e.g. working women). Nonviolence and non-injury to other life forms and to the environment are fundamental.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Tricycle.com -- The Buddhist Review



    HINDUISM


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: Diverse beliefs. Many Hindus believe in Brahman (God) as the impersonal ultimate reality/world soul. Many believe God is both impersonal force and personal savior. There are many, or countless, gods and goddesses (devas) representative of various aspects of the One supreme God. The Hindu trinity of Brahman is: the creator (Brahma), the preserver (Vishnu) and destroyer (Shiva) of the universe.
  • Incarnations: There are many if not countless incarnations and manifestations (avatars) of God also worshipped as Gods.
  • Origin of universe/life: Diverse beliefs. Many believe the universe recreates itself cyclically after karma is extinguished from all individuals. Many believe in a Creator God, but not per the Book of Genesis.
  • After death: Through laws of karma, one's soul is reborn until enlightened and liberated from rebirth at which time you enter a state of ultimate bliss (moksha) and become one with the ultimate truth and reality, God, Brahman. One may be reborn into a number of heavens and hells, or as lower life forms, depending on one's karma.
  • Why evil? Diverse beliefs. Some believe in gods who have powers to do some evil, a small price to pay to have the gods on our side with their powers to provide great benefits. Many believe evil, sin, and death are illusions, as only the Ultimate Reality (or God) truly exists. Most believe people have free will to commit wrongs, and evil results as cravings, attachments and ignorance accumulate through perpetual rebirths, resulting in greed, hatred, violence. The illusion of evil is extinguished with egoism through enlightenment.
  • Salvation: To become liberated from cycles of rebirth and merge with the Universal Spirit, Brahman, one must worship God or gods, do good works, and live correctly according to the Dharma (based on one's caste and phase of life), go on pilgrimages to the holy places in India, and learn through meditation, yoga, and, with the help of a master, the truth of one's true nature as one with the Universal Spirit. An ascetic lifestyle is recommended in the last phase of life. Some Hindus believe salvation is granted by the grace of a forgiving God.
  • Undeserved suffering: Many believe that suffering is a result of past life greed, hatred, and spiritual ignorance, which returns as suffering (karma). Coping with suffering is sometimes viewed as valuable in furthering spiritual growth. Suffering is also seen as illusory in that it results from attachment to bodily pleasure and pain, and only the Absolute, or God, truly exists.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is considered an abominable, as the fetus deserves protection. Views on homosexuality range from neutral to strong opposition, in part because sexual activity itself is generally regarded as contrary to enlightenment and, as such, is only acceptable within marriage for procreation. Divorce and remarriage is traditionally and culturally unacceptable, although not prohibited by the scriptures. Divorce and remarriage of widows is becoming more common, however, among Hindus.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: ReligionFacts.com on Hinduism
  • Recommended Website: Minnesota State University, EMuseum page on Hinduism...



    JAINISM


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: Humans who have destroyed their karmas achieve Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Preception, Infinite Power and Infinite Bliss. They become Gods, or Jina, and as such will never suffer rebirth again. There is no Creator God, and Jinas do not manage the universe or humankind, which operate under their own laws (cosmic and karmic). The souls of Jinas retain their individual identities. Twenty-four Jinas are worshipped as inspirational bridges for others to achieve liberation, the latest being the founder of the religion. Any living being may become a God once enlightened. As more people become enlightened, the number of Gods becomes innumerable.
  • Incarnations: No incarnations. Gods are humans who attain enlightment and are liberated from rebirth.
  • Origins of Universe/Life: There is no creator; the universe is eternal and infinite and operates under its own cosmic law -- consists of three sections: earth, heaven, and hell.
  • After death: Through laws of karma, one's soul is reborn until enlightened and liberated. One may be reborn into hell or heaven or as a lower life form, depending on one's karma. Once fully liberated, you become a God with omniscience and omnipotence.
  • Why evil? People have free will to commit wrongs. Evil results as cravings, attachments and ignorance accumulate through perpetual rebirths, resulting in greed, hatred, violence.
  • Salvation: Ridding oneself of all karmas (good or bad) and extinguishing all attachments enables one to become enlightened/liberated from cycles of rebirth and become a God with limitless perception, knowledge, power, and happiness. One must follow the "Three Jewels" of right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. This includes no violence to any life form, even vegetables (eaten if the plant is not killed by doing so). To hasten liberation, one must confess/repent regularly and often and live ascetically, especially in the fourth and final stage of life.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Suffering is a result of past life greed, hatred, and ignorance, which returns as suffering (karma). Suffering is also seen as illusory in that it results from attachment to bodily pleasure and pain, while only the Absolute truly exists. Suffering is one way of actively ridding oneself of bad karma.
  • Contemporary Issues: Homosexuality would result in negative karma as sexuality is only to occur between a husband and wife; celibacy is required on the path to spiritual liberation.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Jainism: Jain Principles, Tradition and Practices
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: JainNet



    SIKHISM


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deities: God Almighty is impersonal, formless ultimate reality and He is the Creator, personal savior, inner teacher, omniscient, omnipotent - incorporeal.
  • Incarnations: God reveals and manifests Himself through all in the universe, but no finite form can be worshipped as God, who is infinite. God chose to embody the Divine Light in the Guru Nanak and in 9 gurus successively and finally to the scriptures themselves, but none are to be worshipped as God(s).
  • Origin of the universe/life: God existed in deep meditation of the void for countless ages until deciding to create the universe and life. Only God knows how and when the universe and life and the first karma were created.
  • After death: One's soul is continually reborn until liberated by the Grace of God, at which time the soul merges with God (Guru).
  • Why evil? No original sin, no Satan. We are currently in the age of sin when evil is likely to flourish. Humans are inherently prone to succumb to temptations. God created all, and gave people free will. Evil is permitted as a test of the character of humanity and the faithfulness of evil's victims. Godless evildoers are to be avoided.
  • Salvation: Salvation is enlightenment, granted by God's grace only, resulting in liberation from cycles of rebirth and the soul's merger with God (the Supreme Soul or Guru) after death. Frequent prayer, mediation, and song in praise of God, adult baptism into the Khalsa brotherhood, good works (alms and free food kitchen), morality, and obeying God's laws (divine words conveyed through 10 human Gurus) demonstrate devotion and purify the soul of impurities accumulated over many prior lifetimes and of human vices: lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride (or ego).
  • Undeserved suffering: Rebirth occurs, but one is not destined to suffer under the law of karma. Suffering is not inflicted directly by God, but is permitted by God as a test of courage and faith. Suffering is appreciated for the good that it often brings out in humanity, e.g. compassion. The faithful are most vulnerable to suffering at the hand of evildoers who challenge their faith. Suffering is seen as the remedy and pleasure the disease.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is a sin. Homosexuality is not addressed in scripture, but one source indicated that it is considered as part of one's karma, and subjects the person to psychic imbalance between female and male energies, which could lead to self-destructive behaviors. Gender equality is a stated position and is emphasized in practice. Remarriage of widows is permitted.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Sikhism



    TAOISM, or DAOISM


    Other belief system descriptions

    Written for SelectSmart.com by Jeff Rasmussen, PhD, author of Spirit of Tao Te Ching
    Taoism is a 2,500+ year old spiritual practice. The main texts of Taoism are the "Tao Te Ching" (the Book of the Way and its Power) by Lao Tzu and "Inner Chapters" by Chuang Tzu. Similar to Zen, Taoism is like a "finger pointing at the moon". That is, Taoism states that words are just a sign to point to the nonconceptual ultimate reality. It is of value to not obsess over the conceptual pointer but to clearly see the ultimate reality. The current write-up focuses on the so-called Philosophical-Spiritual Taoism. There is also an indigenous variety, which has incorporated divination and alchemy, that would differ in some respects from the Philosophical-Spiritual Taoism.
  • Belief in Deity: The supreme being, ultimate truth is beyond words or any conceptual understanding. When asked to name it, it is referred to as Tao or the Way. The Power of the Way is referred to as Te. Although Tao and Te are similar to other practices ideas of God, Taoists seldom refer to God.
  • Incarnations: Taoism does not refer to any specific incarnation of God.
  • Origins of universe/life: All matter is a manifestation of the Ultimate Reality. Generally Taoist beliefs don't find modern scientific discoveries contradictory to Taoist thought; hence Fritjof Capra's "The Tao of Physics" is aptly named.
  • After death: Death has no particular meaning to Taoist.
  • Why evil? To understand the Taoist notion of Good and Evil, it is important to distinguish between the "concept" of evil versus the "reality" of evil. As a concept, Taoist do not hold the position of Good against Evil; rather they see the interdependence of all dualities. So when one labels something as an Good, one automatically creates Evil. That is, all concepts necessarily are based on one aspect vs another; if a concept were to have only one aspect it would be nonsensical.
  • The "reality" of Good and Evil is that all actions contain some aspect of each. This is represented in the t'ai chi, more commonly referred to as the yin-yang symbol. Any action would have some negative (yin) and some positive (yang) aspect to it. Taoist believe that nature is a continual balance between yin and yang, and that any attempt to go towards one extreme or the other will be ineffective, self-defeating and short-lived. When people interfere with the natural balance by trying to impose their egoistic plans, they will not succeed; rather, the non-egoistic person allows nature to unfold watching it ebb and flow from good to bad and back again. Another way of understanding this is that the sage person understands the "reality" of Good and Evil, whereas the fool concentrates on the "concept" of good and evil. The sage knows that any evil will soon be replaced by good, the fool is forever fruitlessly trying to eliminate evil. Similar to the Buddhist concept of Sunyata "the void", good and evil are just empty conceptual abstractions that have no permanent independent existence.
  • Salvation: Taoism is not a salvific practice. There is nothing that one needs to be saved from and belief in Salvation would lead to belief in Damnation in the same manner as belief in Good leads to belief in Evil. Although they do not accept the false duality of Salvation vs Damnation, living simply in harmony with Te and Tao and not excessively pursing material wealth, stature or prestige will lead to a joyful life.
  • Contemporary Issues: Positions on abortion, homosexuality, divorce, and non-violence and social betterment programs are not unambiguously stated in the ancient texts. One might be able to derive a stance on these issues, but any such stance would be attenuated by the recognition that any stance is just a conceptual abstraction that has little usefulness.
    Taoism would see expressing traditionally male and female roles for both men and women as being in harmony. In some sects of Taoism spiritual healing is practiced. Protecting nature is favored, though not by laws or injunction.
    You might also enjoy taking this SelectSmart.com selector-quiz:
  • Taoism School Selector, by Ming Miaoxue.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Spirit of Tao Te Ching, by Jeff Rasmussen - the author of SelectSmart.com's Taoism Description, above.
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: "Images of Taoism" & "Spirit of Tao Te Ching"



    Bahá'í Faith


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: One personal God Almighty - Creator, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent - incorporeal spirit.
  • Incarnations: The prophets of many religions, e.g. Jesus Christ, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, are revered as Manifestations and Messengers of God, preexistent spirits (with individual souls) sent to reveal God's message. Each of the Manifestations are considered equal in stature as the perfect reflection, the infallible word, and the divine spirit of God. Bahá'u'lláh was the latest but not final Messenger, bringing God's revelations to the modern world, and is considered to be the fulfillment of the promised return of Christ. The Messengers are not worshipped as equal or identical to God, but are considered an intermediate level of existence between human and God.
  • Origin of universe and life: God created all from nothing and controls all phenomena that modern science reveals about the origins of the universe and life. They support scientific study and education as they believe science serves to reveal rather than dispute God's awesome creative powers.
  • After death: Literal interpretations of resurrection, heaven, and hell are regarded as figments of imagination. Resurrection is the spiritual awakening that occurs upon the appearance of a new Manifestation. Heaven is the indescribable bliss of closeness to God, harmony with God's will as revealed by the Manifestations -- eternal spiritual life. The closer one is to knowing and loving God, the greater the joy of paradise. "Hell" is the self-made torture of isolation from God -- spiritual death. Unlimited spiritual growth toward perfection continues after death.
  • Why evil? No original sin or Satan. The human nature that God created is all good, including both animal and spiritual aspects. God also gave people freewill, and some will choose to express their inherently good nature in imperfect ways. The concept of Satan in the scriptures is symbolic for human choice to express the lower or animal side of their nature in ways that separate them from God. Those farthest from God are most prone to wrongdoing.
  • Salvation: Salvation lies in the search for truth as revealed by the Manifestations of God -- the achievement of spiritual perfection and closeness to God, deliverance from one's imperfection or base nature This is achieved by faith in God and strict obedience to the commands of God; turning to the latest Manifestation of God, Bahá'u'lláh, for spiritual guidance; study of the scriptures of the Manifestations; required daily private prayer; meditation; active participation in service work (tantamount to worship). No sacraments, e.g. baptism.
  • Undeserved suffering: All suffering, including that caused by natural disasters, are God's will as a punitive, educational, or remedial response to individual or to humanity's denial of God and disobedience to the Divine Commands. All of humanity suffer when one commits wrong and all benefit when one does good. The best often suffer the most for humanity's misdeeds. Non-punitive suffering is part of God's plan to challenge the soul with adversity. Suffering educates the sufferer and aids spiritual growth toward perfection. Suffering helps people to remember God in their grief. The suffering of innocents will be greatly rewarded in the world to come.
  • Issues: Devoted to world unity - one world government, language, and religion, peaceful conflict resolution (but opposes disobedience to one's government), gender equality and women's rights (which does not include promotion of abortion rights), anti-poverty and anti-discrimination. Service to others is considered a form of worship. Discourages divorce but doesn't punish or condemn; disapproves of homosexuality.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: The Bahá'í World



    ISLAM


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deities: There exists only one personal God Almighty - Creator, all-powerful, ever-present, and all knowing -- formless, incorporeal spirit.
  • Incarnations: None, as only God is worshipped. Muhammad is revered as the last and greatest of about 124 Prophets/Messengers. Jesus Christ was a Prophet/Messenger of miraculous birth who performed miracles, ascended to heaven before crucifixion, and will return as a Muslim -- but he was not an incarnation of God.
  • Origin of the universe/life: God created the heavens and earth in six days but the Qur'an refers to a "day" as equal to thousands or tens of thousands (or any large number) of years. In the West, some Muslims allow for the belief in evolution but only as controlled by God.
  • After death: Saved souls will experience the bliss of heaven and unsaved souls the torture of hell. On Judgment Day, God will resurrect the dead, unite body and soul, and judge all for eternity in heaven or hell. There are 7 layers of heaven.
  • Why evil? People are not inherently sinners but are, by God's design, free to choose right or wrong, including belief or non-belief in God. Satan and his spirits inhabit the planet and rule the non-believers while Satan cannot touch believers.
  • Salvation: Obey God's law and Muhammad's doctrine. The path to heaven includes confessing faith in one God, Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; recitation of five prayers daily; giving alms; fasting throughout Ramadaan, pilgrimage to Mecca. Confessing and repenting one's sins is between the person and God, made only to Allah and for Allah. Strict obedience to God's laws (conveyed in the Qur'an) and His prophet's doctrine is required.
  • Undeserved suffering: Suffering is desired by Allah to erase one's sins. Some suffering is Satan's doing or is the work of his spirit world cohorts ("Jinn"), and is allowed by Allah as a test of humility and faith; suffering/adversity strengthen one's faith, as pain often leads to repentance and prayer.
  • Issues: Abortion is prohibited. Homosexual behavior is condemned. Gender roles are prescribed. Marriage is a sacred contract (but not regarded as a sacrament), and although divorce is permitted, strong reconciliation attempts and measures are expected to be taken first, per the Qur'an, and there are some waiting periods and restrictions on multiple remarriage to the same woman. Remarriage is not prohibited...
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: ReligionFacts.com



    ORTHODOX JUDAISM


    Other belief system descriptions

    Orthodox Judasim holds that Jewish law is unchangeable and binding upon Jews.
  • Belief in Deity: There exists only one personal G-d Almighty - Creator, all-powerful, ever-present, and all knowing -- formless, incorporeal spirit. So revered is G-d, that the word itself should not be spelled out whereby the name risks being discarded or erased.
  • Incarnations: None, as only G-d is worshipped. Moses was the greatest of all prophets.
  • Origins of universe/life: They hold to the book of Genesis literally, that G-d created the universe/life from nothing, in less than 7 days, less than 10,000 years ago; Adam and Eve were the first humans. But, some hold that a "day" in the bible is not defined as 24 hours, and some believe that scientific discoveries don't contradict G-d's existence but rather attest to G-d's awesome power.
  • After death: Traditional Judaism believes in the World to Come, the coming of the messianic age heralded by the Messiah, and a resurrection of the dead, but beliefs vary on the details. Some believe souls of the righteous go to heaven immediately, or that souls are reincarnated until they become righteous on earth, or that the wicked suffer from a hell of their own making, or that the unrighteous remain dead. Some believe G-d will resurrect the righteous to live on earth after the Messiah comes to purify the world. Judaism generally focuses on strictly following G-d's commandments rather than on details of afterlife or rewards after death.
  • Why evil? Some believe that the original disobedience of Adam and Eve resulted not in sinfulness but in a change in man's nature to include an evil inclination, along with inclination toward goodness. Satan is an angel under G-d's complete control to tempt humans to test their faith. Many believe that wrongdoing results from G-d-given freewill plus the urge to satisfy personal needs, which could result in wrong choices.
  • Salvation: Salvation is achieved through faith and continual prayer to G-d, strict adherence to 613 divine commandments (Jewish Law), including dietary restrictions, to give to the poor, "love your neighbor as yourself," bring G-d's message to humanity by example (a responsibility of G-d's "Chosen People"). Confessions and repentances are expressed through Yom Kippur when one fasts, asks forgiveness from others and from themselves, and commits to do good deeds in the future.
  • Undeserved suffering: Sometimes it is believed that suffering is caused by a weakness in one's devotion to G-d. Generally, it is believed that G-d gave humans freewill to feel pleasure and pain, and His purpose in allowing deep suffering of the innocent must be good even if mysterious. G-d suffers along with the sufferer. Some Jews (e.g. Chasidic) believe that suffering is punishment for past life sins. Knowing why G-d allows suffering is not as important as knowing that G-d will punish the perpetrators.
  • Issues: Orthodox Judaism holds that human life begins upon first breath, and Jewish law requires abortion if necessary to save the mother's life prior to birth. But potential human life is regarded as valuable, and other reasons for abortion are generally regarded as unacceptable. Homosexual behavior is regarded as abominable. Roles for men and women are prescribed and traditional. Divorce is restricted in that only the man can choose to initiate a divorce (but with the wife's consent), although he can be compelled to do so by a rabbinical court in some circumstances.
    You might also enjoy taking these SelectSmart Judaism selector quizzes:
  • American Judaism -- Movements/Affiliations Selector,
  • Judaism Sect Selector, by "Jewboy."
  • Torah versus Talmud Judaism, by Kevin L. Wisneski
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Judaism 101



    REFORM JUDAISM


    Other belief system descriptions

    A main point of departure from Orthodox Judaism: Reform Judaism holds that Jewish law is changeable and symbolic .(Shares some views with Reconstruction and Renewal Judaism.)
  • Belief in Deity: Beliefs vary among adherents, including that of non-belief or questioning belief, and all are welcome and considered personal, but the official stance is that there is one God Almighty - Creator, all-powerful, ever-present, and all knowing -- formless, incorporeal spirit.
  • Incarnations: None, as only God is worshipped. Moses was the greatest of all prophets.
  • Origin of universe and life: Most believe that Genesis is to be understood symbolically. God created and controls all phenomena revealed by modern science.
  • After death: Reform Jews believe in the world to come and a messianic age (but no individual Messiah). Personal beliefs in the details of afterlife are diverse as there is no official position. Some believe in heaven and hell but only as states of consciousness, some believe in reincarnation, some believe God is all forgiving, and some may not believe in an actual afterlife. Regardless, Judaism generally focuses on living a virtuous life, rather than working toward reward after death.
  • Why evil? No original sin. Most often, Satan is interpreted symbolically to represent selfish desires that are inherent within all. God gave people free will, and people are responsible for their actions.
  • Salvation: The main emphasis is on living the kind of life that God commands which will surely be rewarded if there is an afterlife. Most believe God is forgiving of all; there is no hell to which some are condemned. Salvation is achieved through faith and prayer to God, good works, concern for the earth and humanity, and behavior that does no harm to others. The extent to which one follows Jewish Law is an individual decision.
  • Undeserved suffering: God gave humans freewill to feel pleasure and pain, and His purpose in allowing deep suffering of the innocent must be good even if mysterious. It is generally believed that God suffers along with the sufferer. More important than knowing why God allows suffering is to work to help those in need.
  • Contemporary Issues: Judaism holds that human life begins upon first breath, and Jewish law requires abortion if necessary to save the mother's life prior to birth. Most believe potential human life should never be terminated casually, but it is generally regarded as a personal decision especially within the first 40 days of pregnancy. Homosexuality: Homosexuals are God's creation, and Jewish instruction is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Reform (and Conservative) Judaism have a long history of support for homosexual rights.
    You might also enjoy taking these SelectSmart Judaism selector quizzes:
  • American Judaism -- Movements/Affiliations Selector,
  • Judaism Sect Selector, by "Jewboy."
  • Torah versus Talmud Judaism, by Kevin L. Wisneski
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism
  • Recommended Website: Union for Reform Judaism



    NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY


    Other belief system descriptions

    "New Age Spirituality," or New Age Movement, is an umbrella term for a wide range of personal and individual beliefs and practices influenced primarily by eastern religions, paganism, spiritism, metaphysics, alternative medicine. This description attempts to look at viewpoints generally held in common. Some integrate aspects of New Age thinking into their established religion or church.
  • Belief in Deity: God is the impersonal life force, consciousness, ultimate truth and reality, the incorporeal, formless cosmic order, personified within all people and matter - God is all and all are God.
  • Incarnations: Most believe there are no particular incarnations to worship as all in the universe are embodiments of God. Many of the world's prophets, including Jesus, are viewed as reincarnations of the Christ.
  • Origins of universe/life: The universe, life, and matter were not created by God but "are" God. The universe and life emerged out of the creative power of the eternal universal life force or energy.
  • After death: Most believe in continual rebirth - no death, as life is spirit. Some believe that our souls rest for a time before deciding on a new body (or bodies). Heaven and hell are not places but states of consciousness, self-imposed, due to ignorance of God as all. Many believe deceased loved ones exist as angels in a spirit world and can be contacted (usually through a psychic medium).
  • Why evil? No original sin and no Satan and no evil. Most believe people make "mistakes" when they are ignorant of the power of goodness, which is God, within themselves and others. Some believe evil is perpetuated through accumulation of past-life wrongs and spiritual ignorance. Negative energy, whether emanating from a segment of the population or all of humankind or from individuals, can lead to suffering and destructiveness.
  • Salvation: Salvation lies in the realization of oneness with the impersonal life force, thus unlocking one's healing potential. Loving spirits, souls, beings from outer space, living and deceased spiritual masters can guide and heal us, if our energy is open to this experience. Some believe that connection to the universal spirit can be heightened through methods that induce altered states of consciousness, e.g. deep hypnosis, long meditation, drugs; and connections facilitated through intercession, e.g. use of crystals, tarot cards, amulets, fortunetellers and psychics, channeling. Most believe the salvation of Earth and humanity will occur when a critical mass is reached, as people converge at once in celebrating their oneness with God and with each other. This will herald a New World Order or new Planetary Order, a oneness of civilization and one-world government, peace and harmony. Many believe that a newly evolved human is beginning to inhabit the Earth, clairvoyant and psychic children who will raise the entire planet's consciousness.
  • Undeserved suffering: Individual and group negative energy, and disharmony, such as fighting, pollution, pessimism, greed, jealousy, violence, hatred, and spiritual ignorance can lead to suffering of individuals, humankind, and the planet. Negative energy from one's past lives can result in suffering in this lifetime. Suffering is sometimes viewed as occurring for a specific purpose, perhaps to further spiritual growth and learn a life lesson, e.g. the death of a young child may occur because the parents need to learn not to take life for granted. Some see suffering as illusory in that it results from attachment to bodily pleasure and pain, while only the universal life force within, God, truly exists. Removing energy blockages are believed to reduce suffering.
  • Contemporary Issues: Abortion is generally not condemned, as there is no official doctrine. Generally adherents are supportive of a woman's right to choose abortion. Homosexuality is easily accepted -- a reflection, perhaps, of the egalitarianism of the New Age of Aquarius. Nature is appreciated and often revered as Mother Earth. Conventional Western medicine is often eschewed, sometimes entirely, in favor of alternative practices, including massage, essential oils, natural foods and supplements, chiropractory, Naturopathy, homeopathy, yoga, Qigong, prayer groups, energy healing devices, aura readings, chakra balancing, astrology, etc. More important than the scientific validity of these practices is how the person feels, along with testimonials from others, "intuition," however scientific backing is often cited.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: New Age Web Works
  • Recommended Website: Jeremiah Project, Seven Major Teachings of the New Age.



    NEW THOUGHT


    Other belief system descriptions

    A term used for several different faith groups that emphasize God as Universal Mind, experiencing God's presence for practical purposes, such as healing and success. Related to Unity, Religious Science, Science of Mind, Divine Science, and Home of Truth. New Thought strongly influenced the founder of Christian Science.
  • Belief in Deity: There exists one God -- Universal Mind, creative intelligence, omnipresent --- principle (not a being), impersonal force which manifests itself personally, perfectly, and equally within all.
  • Incarnations: No particular incarnations, as God is within all equally. Some believe Jesus was exemplary of someone who fully realized his divine nature, and therefore is the "wayshower" (shows the way).
  • Origins of universe/life: The universe and all within it are expressions of God - the creative intelligence - with no beginning and no end.
  • After death: Some believe in continual rebirth as a gift from God so that all may become immortal, as was Jesus Christ, with each lifetime a preparation for the next. Others believe the individual soul merges with the universal spirit after death.
  • Why evil? No original sin and no Satan and no evil. People make "mistakes" due to ignorance of one's true nature as Perfect Mind and Love, which is God.
  • Salvation: Salvation lies in the realization of oneness with the impersonal life force, thus unlocking one's healing potential. Licensed practitioners counsel on spiritual healing for problems of the mind, body, and life. Some believe Jesus is the "wayshower" to salvation. Some believe that all, regardless of actions, will be saved by the grace of a loving and forgiving God. Most believe that spiritual awareness of God's omnipresence, that God is all and all are God, leads to personal and humanity's salvation. Many believe that repeated reincarnations are God's gift, each lifetime a preparation for the next, until "perfection" is reached, which is God.
  • Undeserved suffering: Suffering results from ignorance of one's true nature as Perfect Mind and ceases with complete realization that we all are one with God, the Universal Mind. One can heal personal suffering through New Thought practices, often with the assistance of New Thought practitioners.
  • Contemporary Issues: There is no official doctrine on abortion; therefore, abortion is not condemned.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: New Thought Movement Home Page
  • Recommended Website: New Thought Library, free New Thought books.



    SCIENTOLOGY


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: Belief in Deity: Scientology considers the belief in a God or gods as something personal and therefore offers no specific dogma. The nature of the Supreme Being is revealed personally through each individual as s/he becomes more conscious and spiritually aware. There exists a life energy or force (Theta) beyond and within all.
  • Incarnations: There are no particular human incarnations of God as the universal life force (Theta) is inherent in all. All humans are immortal spiritual beings (thetans) capable of realizing a nearly godlike state through Scientology practices.
  • Origin of universe/life: All is manifestation of the universal spirit, which is all that actually exists.
  • After death: Rebirths continue until one consciously confronts all pre-birth, current life, and previous life traumas and realizes one's true nature as a "thetan," immortal spirit -- transcending matter, energy, space, and time. Achieving this state enables the spirit to escape the cycle of birth and death, to operate independently of the physical universe, and become one with God.
  • Why evil? Painful experiences and harmful acts in one's pre-birth, current, and past lives become imprinted in the reactive mind and lead to irrational behavior. Departures from rational thought and untrue ideas ("aberrations") can result in wrongdoing.
  • Salvation: Salvation is achieved through the practices and techniques of Scientology, the ultimate goal of which is to realize one's true nature as an immortal spirit, a Thetan. The path to salvation, or enlightenment, includes achieving states of increasingly greater mental awareness -- Pre-Clear, Clear, and ultimately Operating Thetan. An Operating Thetan is a spirit who can control matter, energy, space, time, thought and life. Practitioners ("Auditors") are regarded as ministers and counselors who assist others to achieve self-enlightenment. Utilizing a device called an 'E-Meter,' Auditors help others to identify their pre-birth, current, and past life disturbances, which are obstacles to happiness and spiritual enlightenment that need to be revealed and released, often cathartically, in order to become Clear.
  • Undeserved suffering: Suffering occurs as part of the spirit's entrapment here in the physical universe. Only when the individual is aware of his spiritual nature can he identify his barriers within the universe and overcome them, rising out of a lower state and into a higher state of happiness and freedom.
  • Contemporary Issues: Scientology has founded and supports many social programs, which are based on founder L. Ron Hubbard's principles, particularly in the areas of drug abuse and crime rehabilitiation, opposing what they regard as the abuses of conventional psychiatry. Scientology strongly favors the use of their methodology for spiritual/mental healing over the use of conventional treatment. Their stance on elective abortion appears to be liberal. Their current stance on homosexual behavior appears accepting, provided that Scientology's ethical standards are met. Based on the belief that you cannot free yourself spiritually without working to free others, Scientologists persistently introduce others to Scientology, often offering free 'stress tests' using a device called an 'E-Meter' to passersby during street fairs.
    Try this related visitor-created selector quiz:
  • Scientology Resource Selector
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion -- Scientology



    NEO-PAGAN


    Other belief system descriptions

    A community of faiths bringing ancient pagan and magickal traditions to the modern age -- including mostly Wicca but also Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, neo-Native American, etc. Neo-Pagan is an umbrella term for various and diverse beliefs with many elements in common. (See Pagan Path Selector below) Some Neo-Pagans find no incongruence practicing Neo-Paganism along with adherence to another faith, such as Christianity or Judaism.
  • Belief in Deity: Some believe in a Supreme Being. Many believe in God and Goddess - a duality. Many believe there are countless spirit beings, gods and goddesses, in the cosmos and within all of nature - God is all and within all; all are one God. The Great Mother Earth, or Mother Nature, is highly worshipped. Divinity is immanent and may become manifest within anyone at any time through various methods.
  • Incarnations: No human incarnations are worshipped in particular, as all of nature and the universe are considered embodiments of God and Goddess, or of gods and goddesses, worthy of respect, reverence or worship.
  • Origin of universe/life: Generally there is no conflict between observations revealed through science and Neo-Pagan beliefs on origins of the physical universe and of man. Many believe in a supreme intelligence that created a duality of God/Goddess who then created a spirit world of gods and goddesses as well as all of the universe and nature.
  • After death: Many believe in reincarnation, after some rest and recovery in the "Otherworld." There is generally no concept of hell as a place of punishment, but some believe wrongdoing can trap the soul in state of suffering after death. Some (Wicca) believe the soul joins their dead ancestors who watch over and protect their family. Some believe that life energy continues in some, if unknown, form. Some believe in various spiritual resting places. Many say we don't or can't know what happens after death.
  • Why evil? "Evil" is imbalance. Most believe there is no evil but rather that people sometimes make mistakes. Wrongdoing results when we forget we are one with the universal spirit.
  • Salvation: The concept of "salvation" is essentially irrelevant; rather the belief that people can attain spiritual balance and harmony with each other and Nature. The path includes group ceremonies, dances, songs/chants, prayers, meditation, trance, altered states of consciousness, the metaphysical, magic, invoking or evoking deities or spirits, Tantric practices. Intercessors are commonly used: psychics, seers, shamans, tarot, Oui-Ja Board. Ethical choices are influenced by belief in rebirth and karma - that one is rewarded or punished within this or after this lifetime for one's choices, and an ethical code to do no harm.
  • Undeserved suffering: Most do not believe in Satan or any spirit Being as the cause of suffering. Some believe in karma, that choosing to live a life of wrongdoing and pain will naturally result in suffering in this or later lifetimes. Many view suffering as a result of spiritual imbalance in one's life or on the planet or in the universe. The focus is generally on healing suffering rather than answering definitively why it exists.
  • Issues: Abortion choice is supported by many, but beliefs about abortion range from "pro-life" to "pro-choice." Views on divorce, homosexuality, and gender equality are generally very supportive of human differences, equality, and personal choice. Many believe that involvement in community action, especially regarding environmental concerns, is integral to the belief in human interdependence and worship of the Earth Mother. Many promote strict nonviolence to humans and animals.
    You might also enjoy taking these SelectSmart.com selector quizzes:
  • Pagan Path Selector
  • Wiccan Tradition Selector
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • Recommended Website: neopagan.net -- Isaac Bonewits' Homepage
  • Recommended Website: LunaSea's Neo-Pagan Pages



    SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST


    Other belief system descriptions

  • Belief in Deity: There is a Trinity of the Father, the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty.
  • Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God's only incarnation and is God.
  • Origin of universe and life: The biblical Book of Genesis is inerrant. Most hold that although the universe and our planet are ancient, God created the ordered world and all life forms in less than seven, literally twenty-four hour, days, less than 10,000 years ago -- not as claimed by modern science.
  • After death: Death results in unconsciousness. At any time now, Jesus Christ will return to raise to heaven all the righteous dead and living, resurrect and destroy the wicked and Satan here on earth, and then return the righteous to a paradisiacal earth for eternity with God.
  • Why evil? Original sin -- all people are inherently sinners, prone to evil and subject to Satan's temptations.
  • Salvation: Salvation is only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. But, faith must be exhibited through action: Baptism (full immersion)is performed at age of accountability for those "born again" and is regarded as a demonstration of belief, a symbol of union with Christ and forgiveness of sins, and reception of the Holy Spirit. The faithful will obey God's commandments, acknowledge and repent their sins, observe the Sabbath on Saturday, adhere to church moral laws, restrictions, and sacraments, including baptism and communion, care for their body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Living life as simply and naturally as possible away from stressful influences is encouraged. Some modes of entertainment (theater, billiard rooms, dance halls, saloons, most television, movies, etc.) are avoided. Home schooling is recommendeded, or nongovernment church schools.
  • Undeserved Suffering: Some suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality originating from Adam and Eve's disobedience to God, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, Satan pervades the earth, causing pain and suffering. Many believe that suffering is God's design to test, teach, or strengthen belief in Him; the greater the suffering of innocent believers, the greater will be their reward after life.
  • Issues: Abortion has moral consequences and should only be performed for the most serious reasons. The church acknowledges compelling reasons for a woman to choose abortion, e.g. threat to the life of the woman, rape/incest, extreme congenital abnormalities, etc. After counseling, the final decision is regarded as her own -- she is not to be coerced or condemned. Homosexuality is forbidden. Gender equality and womens rights are promoted, but women are not permitted at the highest levels of the church hierarchy and are generally regarded as subordinate to men. Marriage is permanent and divorce only permitted on grounds of adultery/fornication,or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, or physical violence. Remarriage is only permitted if one's spouse committed adultery/fornication. Working for peace is encouraged by the SDA church as a Christian value. Many SDAs refuse combat status in the armed forces, and the church urges strict control of semi- and automatic assault weapons. The church supports community activities for equal rights and justice, antipoverty, education, and the direct provision of health care facilities. The church operates a world-wide network of schools and health care institutions.
    Special thanks to Pastor Bob Helm of the Huntingburg and Tell City Seventh-day Adventist Churches, Indiana, for his help in ensuring the accuracy of this description.
    You might also enjoy this SelectSmart.com selector quiz:
  • Christian Denomination Selector.
    RECOMMENDED LINKS:
  • Books on Religion & Spirituality from Amazon.com
  • Recommended Website: Adventist World Church Official Website
  • Recommended Website: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance All information Copyright © 2013 SelectSmart.com