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Key Issue #2
Variations in Distribution of Religions (1)
Several major geographical differences btwn
Universalizing & Ethnic religions.
Locations WHERE the religions originated
Processes by which they DIFFUSED from their
place of origin to other regions
Types of PLACES that are considered holy &
calendar dates
Attitudes toward modifying the physical
Origin of religions
• Origin of Universalizing religions
have precise places of origins
based on events in the life of a specific person
• Origin of Ethnic religions (Hindu religion)
unknown/unclear origins,
not tied to any 1 historical individual
Origin of Christianity
• Founded on teachings of Jesus
– Born in Bethlehem (4 CE)
– Crucified in Jerusalem (30 CE)
• Resurrection provided people with hope for
CE = the Common Era or after year 1 (used to be AD)
BCE= Before the common era or before year 0
(used to be BC)
Origin of Islam
• Same narrative as Judaism & Christianity
Adam as 1st man
God of Abraham
Descendants of Abraham (wife: Hagar
son Ishmael)
• Muhammad (570CE) descended from Ishmael;
had a revelation from the Angel Gabriel;
wrote the Koran w/ God’s inspiration
Origins of Buddhism
• Founder: Siddhartha Gautama (563 BCE)
– Basic Idea: life is about Pain & Suffering
– Goal: Achieve enlightenment as Siddhartha
Origin of other Universalizing Religions
Sikhism: Guru Nanuk (founder)
500 yrs ago
traveled widely
Baha’i: est. in Iran 1900s by The Bab
Baha’u’llah claimed to be the
messenger of God anticipated by
The Bab
Origin of Hinduism (Ethnic)
• No originating founder (Krishna?)
• 6th c. BCE = word origin of Hindu or “India”
• Earliest written records 1500 BCE
• Artifacts date back to 2500 BCE
Diffusion of religions
• Diffusion of universalizing religions:
radiate from a hearth & diffuse along
distinctive paths
• Lack of diffusion of ethnic religions
Typically stay CLUSTERED
Diffusion Processes :
relocation=migration (missionaries);
expansion= snowballing effect;
hierarchical=key leader
contagious= fast sweeping
Diffusion of Universalizing Religions
Each of the three main universalizing religions diffused widely from its hearth.
Diffusion of Christianity
Christianity diffused from
Palestine through the Roman
Empire & continued diffusing
through Europe after the fall of
Rome. It was later replaced
by Islam in much of the
Mideast and North Africa.
Diffusion TYPE?
Diffusion of Islam
Islam diffused
rapidly and widely
from its area of origin
in Arabia. It
eventually stretched
from southeast Asia
to West Africa.
Diffusion of Buddhism
Buddhism diffused
gradually from its
origin in
northeastern India
to Sri Lanka,
southeast Asia, and
eventually China
and Japan.
Shintoism & Buddhism in Japan
Since Japanese can be both Shinto and Buddhist, there are many areas in
Japan where over two-thirds of the population are both Shinto and Buddhist.
Judaism: ethnic exception
• Spatial distribution of Jews differs from other
ethnic religions.
Practiced in MANY countries; not just its origin
Variations in Distribution of Religions (2)
• Holy places
– Holy places in universalizing religions
usually relevant to the life/lives of founder(s),
widely distributed, not necessarily related to the
– Holy places in ethnic religions
less widespread distribution; derived from
distinctive physical environment of its hearth.
Cluster usually due to their connection to the
physical geography of a particular place
– Pilgrimage may be part of either.
Holy Sites in Buddhism
Most holy sites in Buddhism are locations of important events in Buddha’s
life and are clustered in northeastern India and southern Nepal.
Bodh Gaya,
Mecca, Islam’s
Holiest City
Makkah (Mecca) is the
holiest city in Islam and
the site of pilgrimage for
millions of Muslims each
year. There are
numerous holy sites in
the city.
Makkah during the Haj Pilgrimage
The Ka’ba stands at the center of the Great Mosque (al-Haran al Sharif) in Makkah.
Hindu Holy
Hierarchy of Hindu holy
places: Some sites are
holy to Hindus throughout
India; others have a
regional or sectarian
importance, or are
important only locally.
Hindu: Ritual Bathing in the Ganges River
Hindu pilgrims achieve purification by bathing in the Ganges.
• Ethnic religions differ from universalizing religions
in their understanding of relationships between
human beings & nature.
• These differences derive from distinctive
concepts of COSMOGONY: a set of religious
beliefs concerning the origin of the universe.
• MORE LIKELY TO Connect the physical environment
with religious principles
– Heaven & Earth
The Calendar
Universalizing and Ethnic religions have
different approaches to the calendar
– The calendar in ethnic religions
• Typically has a more clustered distribution; partly b/c
holidays are based on the distinctive physical
geography of the homeland.
– The calendar in universalizing religions
• Major holidays relate to events in the life of the founder
rather than the changing seasons of 1 particular place
Jewish Calendar
• Major holidays based on events in
the agricultural calendar of the
religious homeland
• Rosh Hashanah (New Years)
• Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
both in Autumn
• Pesach (Passover)
Harvest season (1st seasons fruit)
Significant in some ethnic religions
Winter solstice – shortest day & longest night of the year
(Dec. 21)
Summer solstice – longest day & shortest night of the year
– (June 21)
Universalizing Religions & the Calendar
• Islam uses a lunar calendar so holy days vary as
the calendar varies.
30 yr cycle has 19 years with 354 days & 11 years with 355 days
This results in seasonal changes of holy days.
• Christianity commemorates Christ’s resurrection
on the first full moon following the spring equinox
in late March. Not all observe Easter on the same day,
because not all use the same calendar (Orthodox use the Julian
Key Issue #3:
Organization of Space
• Places of worship
– Christian worship
– Places of worship in other religions
• Sacred space
– Disposing of the dead
– Religious settlements
– Religious place names
• Administration of space
– Hierarchical religions
– Locally autonomous religions