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World Religions - Studying the religions of the world seems...

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Studying the religions of the world seems a formidable task for even the most persistent learner. This is due not only to the astounding number of different belief structures that may or may not be labeled as “religion,” but for many other reasons as well, such as where to draw the line between a religion and a cultural practice. For instance, most of the major religions in existence today originated in one particular geographical locale, and became a way of life for its followers. This of course brings into view another formidable question: is religion borne of culture, or vice versa? Hopefully by researching the basic ideas of the mainstream religions, we can achieve a better understanding of what the difference actually is between the two. Among many possible candidates, animism quite possibly was the original religion among early humans. Animism relates every living object with a “soul” of sorts. This seems to make sense with evolution, as many of our modern belief structures are much more complex, but still utilize this theory (suggesting they have evolved with us). In a case such as this, with many tribal groups holding similar belief structures, it may be safe to say that religion and culture were not yet two separate entities. Several of the subsequent religions shifted their views slightly, yet still retained their connection to culture. The Shakya prince Guatama, for example, introduced Buddhism, between the fifth and sixth century B.C.E. This was different than most religions of the time by being nontheistic and more of a personal spirituality. By reaching
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