Historians view religion in the context of time and place. Religions’ main beliefs may not “change”, but how people interpret those religions does change.
Buddhists in India in the 300s ce were not the same as Buddhists in Southeast Asia in the 1800s ce.
Historians view religions as an influence ON culture but also influenced BY culture .
Christianity changed Roman culture and the Renaissance in Europe influenced Christianity.
RELIGION as a study topic
Historians view religions as a part of human experience
Hinduism is not judged as right or wrong in its beliefs or practices, but interpreted in how it influenced human history as it started in India and spread elsewhere.
Which religions are the most important?
Largest or “most influence” based on historians’ interpretation?
Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam “get the most ink”
Polytheism – belief in many gods; each god represents aspects of nature or life
Rain god, war god, goddess of fertility
Some Comparisons In Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, & Christianity Religions of the Classical Period
There is no recorded founder of Hinduism – it is the oldest institutional religion of the 4 classical religions.
Judaism began in the Middle East around the 1200s bce when it had its own political empire.
Abraham is considered its founder.
First monotheistic religion
Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), the founder of Buddhism, was originally a Hindu in the upperclass.
Buddhism emerged in India out of Hinduism starting in the 500s bce.
Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity, was a lower class Jew along with his first followers living in Roman controlled Middle East.
The Jesus movement became Christianity with non-Jewish converts.
Groups within Buddhism and Christianity supported missionaries – men and women who took the message of a religion into different regions.
Religions also spread along trade routes.
Buddhism spread from India into East and SE Asia.
Buddhism by the 500s ce was stronger in areas where it spread than where it originated.
Christianity spread into the Roman Empire, into North and East Africa, and beyond.
Christianity by the 1200s was stronger in areas where it spread than in where it originated.
Judaism spread after the Romans exiled Jews to new territories in Western and Eastern Europe after several rebellions against Roman rule in the 1 st century c.e. (the Jewish temple was also destroyed).
Spread & CHANGE
As religions spread and new interpretations arose – there were changes, splits into different sects (or groups), and new influences
Existence after Death
Hinduism and Buddhism – Existence is cyclical until one breaks from the cycle and becomes eternally spirit.
Judaism (some forms) and Christianity – Existence is linear; one lives and then becomes eternally spirit.
Challenges to Society
Both Buddhism and Christianity, more than Judaism and Hinduism, challenged the social class system and the status of women.
Especially in the early centuries, these religions appealed to lower classes.
The founders of Buddhism and Christianity did not record their own statements or life story.
The interpretation of texts was a main basis for different groups or sects to separate in each religion.