The World's Religions and Cultures | Teen Ink

The World's Religions and Cultures

November 19, 2014
By BrandonDonohue, Kihei, Hawaii
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BrandonDonohue, Kihei, Hawaii
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Favorite Quote:
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever" - Mahatma Gandhi


Author's note:

Originally this was a piece of work assigned by one of my teachers, but I found myself enjoying writing the book. I think what really helped with this was 

 
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Italy, known for its rich heritage, culture, and especially religion; most people associate Catholicism with Italy. The percentage of Italians that are Roman Catholic is currently 88% as of a consensus made in 2010.  This means that about 48,700,000 of the 57,000,000 people in Italy are Roman Catholics. A possible reason for Italy's high percentage of Roman Catholics is that up until 1984, it was law that students attended religious education. Without a doubt, religion ties into their everyday life and their heritage. Although such a high percentage are Roman Catholics, only about a third of Italians attend mass on a regular basis.
Italians have been Roman Catholics for thousands of years. In fact, some of the first Catholics date back to this very country. It is not much of a surprise that such a high percentage of the population are Roman Catholic. There is even a country within Italy which has been the headquarters of the Catholic Church since the Medieval times. This is The Vatican City, and it currently has a population of 842 people, including the current pope. The area of the country is roughly 110 acres, and resides within the confines of the city of Rome.
Although Roman Catholicism is currently the dominant religion in Italy, other forms of religion are slowly coming into it. With both legal and illegal immigration in Italy, there are more and more non-catholics come in from North Africa, South Asia, and Albania, most of which are mainly Islamic. In the present and recent past, we have seen good relations between different religions. Italy believes in religious freedom, but the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to influence Italian politics. This is of course a huge controversy in Italy, especially for those who do not have the same beliefs. Nonetheless, there is not much that these other less dominant religious groups can do, as the Catholic Church rules everyday life in Italy. It is even often said that the main religion in Italy is Catholic, but the main country for Catholics is Italy.

India, the second biggest country by population in the world, is a land full of culture and rich history. It is also the birthplace of four very prevalent religions in history: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Three-fourths of the people within India, about 937,500,000, describe themselves as adherents of Hinduism, the longest continuous faith in recorded history. Hinduism is a religion with various gods and goddesses. The concept of this religion is that humans and animals after death come back down to earth to live many times in different forms.
The other religions in India play a pretty big role in everyday life as well, as the next three biggest religions have over 40 million followers. Since before the Eighteenth Century, India has been associated as a land of religion. As the Eighteenth Century went on, more and more people around the world (especially Europeans), came to India as a spiritual release from the material life. It is still common for people to go to India for the same reasons, but has died a little bit over the years because of the other religious growing populations.
Mahatma Gandhi, a person impossible not to talk about when it comes to religion and India, was the leader of India’s independence movement against British rule. Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy of passive resistance gave him great respect from millions of people around the world and earned him one of the biggest follower base in the world at the time. His religious tribute to the world started when he immigrated to South Africa in the years after World War 1. Known for his very disciplined lifestyle, he would almost always dress in loincloth and shawt; he was an extremely devout Hindu. Gandhi gained many of his followers through his selflessness and sympathetic actions. One of these actions were hunger strikes, which were used to protest the oppressions of India's poorest class. Hinduism has played such an influential part of India’s cultural, heritage, and lifestyle, and it shows that one person can make a difference.

China is the most populated country in the world, and at one point was the world’s biggest country. However those times are long gone, the religions that were founded are still around today. One of these religions is Buddhism, a which was brought to China almost 2,000 years ago. The religion was widely accepted amongst the Chinese people and was split into three different sections: Han, Tibetan, and Southern Buddhism. Buddhism didn’t only bring a different religion, it brought over an entirely different culture and impacted China permanently and indefinitely.  
The religion impacts three major cultural aspects: art, literature, and ideology. You can see these impacts through many poems in China, which are written about Buddhism; there are also many Buddhist stone statues, which shows its huge influence on China. Buddhism is now arguably the most important and influential religion in the country. The population for Buddhists in China is currently at approximately 472,360,000, and continues to grow day by day. Currently, there are 13,000 temples and 178,000 monks in mainland China, which shows the sheer mass and power of the Buddhist population.
According to Buddhism, all of our problems and suffering comes from our negative state of mind, while happiness and good fortune come from positive state of mind. Siddartha (founder of Buddhism) taught methods to get past a negative state of mind, and guaranteed that through those methods, one would have everlasting peace and happiness. These methods are said to work for anyone, regardless of country or age, and can be passed down to others to enjoy the same benefits. Meditation, one thing commonly associated with Buddhism, is when one tries to understand the workings of their own brain. Buddhism is peaceful and reaches worldwide, and will always play a key role in everyday life in China and the world.

Israel, the first and only Jewish state, was re-established in 1948 as the historic home of the of Judaism. Even with complete freedom of religion, the majority of the Israeli population favors Judaism In fact, in 2005, 76.1%(6,080,000) of the population was Jewish. Judaism is the most ancient of the three predominant religions in Israel. Israel is also the birthplace of many historical sites, such as Jerusalem, Hebron, and The Temple Mount.
So what exactly is Jerusalem to the Jewish people? Well first off, for the past 3,000 years, Jerusalem has connected the people with hope and meaning in Jewish life. One major belief in Judaism is that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the Written and Oral torah. The very basic foundation of the Jewish religion is made up from the Ten Commandments.
A major holiday in Judaism is Hanukkah, which is similar to Christmas in Christianity. It is an eight day celebration in dedication of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The celebration of the Holy Temple started 2,100 years ago, when Seleucids ruled the lands and tried to get rid of the people of Israel. However, against all odds, a small group of dedicated Jewish people fought this army and retook the Holy Temple. They dedicated this to the service of God. Judaism is a historical and very important religion to everyday life in Israel and the people it connects to, and has some of the most devoted followers.

Many people (especially in America) think of war and violence when they hear “Afghanistan.” But really, Afghanistan is a very religious and culturally thick country. Afghanistan is so religiously oriented that it has the highest concentration of one religion within a country in the world. The main religion within Afghanistan is Islam, and it has a huge influence on everyday life in the country. It plays such a big role, in fact, that family status depends on concepts from the Islamic religion.
Islam is a monotheistic religion characterized by the acceptance of God, and that Muhammad was the last prophet of God.. The Islamic practices follow five pillars: faith, prayer, fasting, alms, and pilgrimage. A famous proverb that many muslims follow is that “If anyone harms (others), God will harm him, and if anyone shows hostility to others, God will show hostility to him."
Religious observances completely affect everyday and every season. For example, every Friday there are communal prayers, which are not mandatory but typically are attended. Mosques are usually located in the middle of a muslim community. However, a mosques isn’t only a place of worship, but also a shelter for guests, a location for meetings, a place to gossip, and things in that manner; typically it is also a place where schools and festivals are held. It is almost impossible for Islam not to affect someone, as almost all kids will attend a mosque school sometime in their childhood. This usually converts the children to Islam, which is why this religion has such a successful growth rate. Also, for most kids this will be the only formal education they will ever receive.

The dominant religion in Japan is Shinto, which an outstanding 80% of the population practices.  The religion connects the people from present-day Japan to its ancient past. Shinto is an ancient religion, founded sometime around 660 BCE. However it does not have a formal founder or scriptures like other religions do (e.g. Catholicism with the Bible, Islam with the Quran, etc.). Shinto gods are called Kami; they are spirits that take forms and concepts of things that are important to life. These concepts that are important to everyday life are things like wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers, and fertility.
Humans supposedly become Kami after death, and are highly respected by their family as an ancestral Kami. Sometimes the Kami of important or extraordinary people are enshrined. One of the more important Kami in the Shinto religion is the Sun goddess, Amaterasu. In the Shinto religion there is also no good or bad, rather it is thought that all people are made good, and evil is caused by evil spirits. Shinto shrines are where many people do their worshipping and are the homes of the Kami. Many shrines are celebrated to show the Lami the outside world.
Unlike many religions, priests can be both male or female; they can also get married and have children, and typically live on the grounds of a shrine. Shinto today is typically practiced by praying at home or by visiting shrines. There is a huge range of talismans that are available at shrines to support good health, success in business, safe childbirth, and even good exam performance. Shinto is meant to help the people and will always be there for the people that believe in it and follow it.

The United States of America is often referred to as the “melting pot of the world.” A national “melting pot” is a collection of different religions and cultures that coexist in order to create a harmonious whole. America is a culturally rich country with over 50 different religions within it, although most Americans practice Christianity. Within the United States, about 70% of people are Christian, about 15% are non-religious, and the rest vary from Jewish to Islamic.
America has not always been a multi-religious country however, and we can actually still see some of this today. An example of this are the muslim people that live in America. A lot of these people are looked at different and bullied every day. The reason behind this is that many people today connect the muslim people to the 911 attack. Even though there are laws protecting people to practice whatever religion they want, they aren’t always enforced to their capability. But regardless of some disagreements or fights, America is a land where anybody, with any religion, can prosper and live their life as they please.



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