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Directions: Read the descriptions of each of the following
polytheistic religions and complete the graphic organizer and
the bottom of the page.
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that began in India and is the
world’s third largest religion. Within in the Hindu religion there
are hundreds of different Gods and Goddesses. Each deity (God)
has his or her own individual personality and powers.
Hindus follow a set of holy texts called the Vedas. The Vedas
layout the laws of Hinduism and were the basis for India’s social
It is from the Vedas that caste system originates. The Caste System
is a very strict social system based on birth and the type of work a
person does. The highest people in Hindu society are the Brahmins
(priests). At the bottom of the Caste System were the untouchables.
These people were considered to be unclean and were only allowed
to do certain types of jobs such as burying dead bodies. The caste
system was a rigid social structure, meaning that a person could
not move up in life.
Hindus believe in reincarnation, being reborn after you die.
Reincarnation is influenced by karma (your actions in this world
influence who you will be in your next life), and dharma (fulfilling
one's duty in life). A person who fulfills their dharma will be
reborn as something or someone positive. Very often this means
being reborn into a higher caste. However a person with bad karma
will be reborn in a lower caste.
A polytheistic religion that believes all things in a nature has a
living spirit. There is no one person who is considered the founder
of Animism and it developed simultaneously in different parts of
the world. Most traditional cultures that practice Animism have an
oral tradition of story telling, rather than a developed written code
Animism is the world’s oldest form of religion. Early humans
believed that nature created life and should be worshiped.
Animism has been practice all over the world. In South America,
Mayan’s and Aztec believed that the Sun was a living spirit that
demanded human sacrifice. Africans worshipped a number of
natural spirits including the spirits of dead ancestors and animals
Shintonism is a polytheistic and animistic religion found in Japan.
Japanese culture is heavily influenced by geography and nature.
The respect and preservation of nature is a major part of Shinto
Shinto’s worship many different spirits called Kami. Each Kami
represents a different aspect of the natural world. For example
there is river Kami and sun Kami. It is believed that these kami can
bring a person good fortune or punish people.
Ancestor worship is also an important part of Shinto belief. Shintos
believe that the spirits of their dead ancestors exsist in the real
world and can have an affect on a person’s life. A few times a year,
Shinto’s give an offering to their ancestors, which often includes a
bowl of rice and a class of tea.
Unlike many other religions there is no religious text or code of
laws in Shintoism. Traditions are passed down orally to each
Where did the What religious
religion begin? texts or codes
of law are
followed in
this religion?
List 3
beliefs of this