Belief systems in CONTEXT
Historians view religion in the context
of time and place.
For example: Buddhists in India in the 300s ce were
not the same as Buddhists in Southeast Asia in the
1800s c.e. though some of the core beliefs remained
Historians view religions as an
influence ON culture AND influenced BY
For example: Christianity changed Roman culture
and the Renaissance in Europe influenced
Belief systems as a study topic
Historians view religions as a
part of human experience
For example: 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
South Asia and spread elsewhere.
Confucianism is not judged as good or
bad, but understood in the ways it
influenced Chinese social classes, etc.
Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroa
strianism, Buddhism, Gree
k Rationalism, Daoism &
Belief Systems of the Classical
There is no recorded founder of
Hinduism – it is the oldest
institutional religion of the early
Judaism began in the Middle East
around the 1200s bce when it had
its own political empire.
First monotheistic religion-Based
on the belief that God is active in
the lives of humans
Daoism emerged in East Asia in the
600s to 300s BCE from the
teachings of Laozi and later
Zoroastrianism arose in Persia in
the 500s BCE from the teachings of
Zarathustra-Ideas about one god
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Siddhartha Gautama (the
Buddha), the founder of
Buddhism, was originally a Hindu
in the upperclass.
Buddhism emerged in South Asia
out of Hinduism starting in the 500s
Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of
Christianity, was a lower-class Jew
living in Roman controlled Middle
The Jesus movement became
Christianity with non-Jewish
converts based on the teachings of
the Apostle Paul.
Existence after Death
Hinduism and Buddhism – Existence is
cyclical until one breaks from the cycle
and becomes eternally spirit.
Judaism (some forms), Zoroastrianism, &
Christianity – Existence is linear; one
lives and then becomes eternally spirit.
Groups within Buddhism and Christianity
supported missionaries – men and
women who purposely took the message
of a religion into different regions.
Religions also spread through
conquest, along trade routes, and through
Buddhism spread from South Asia into East
and SE Asia.
Buddhism by the 500s ce was stronger in
areas where it spread than where it
How does this compare to Zoroastrianism?
How does this compare with Hinduism?
Judaism spread after the Romans exiled
Jews to new territories in Europe
Christianity spread into the Roman
Empire, into North and East Africa, and
Christianity by the 1200s was stronger
in areas where it had spread than in
where it originated.
Spread & CHANGE
As religions spread and new
interpretations arose – there were
changes, splits into different sects (or
groups), and new influences
The founders of Buddhism and
Christianity did not record their own
statements or life story.
Which belief systems are connected to
Vedas and Upanishads
Gospels & Epistles
Challenges to Society
Both Buddhism and Christianity, more
than the other belief systems, challenged
the social class system and women’s
Especially in the early centuries, these
religions appealed to lower classes and
Greek Rationalism…What’s up
Intellectuals abandoned mythology
Natural laws govern world
Humans can understand those laws
Power of Human Reason!
KEY ELEMENT-the way questions are asked
(argument, logic, questioning of received
Greek Rationalism…What’s up
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle
Constant questioning of assumptions
Applied rationalism to understanding human
behavior..Herodotus-the first historian (why
did the Persians and Greeks fight each
Influenced later Western Civs-knowledge
preserved by Byzantines and Islam