Belief Systems

of the past and present

Peter Sylvester


Animism is a belief system that originated in Africa. An anthropologist by the name of Edward Tylor describes Animism as "the general doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general" in his book, Primitive Culture.

People who practice Animism worship their ancestors and also spirits of nature such as trees, animals, etc.

Animism has given culture a great respect for nature.

Some of the main beliefs of Animism are that all things living or not have a spirit. When practicing Animism, be respectful of anything that has a spirit.

There are no specific holy texts for Animism.

Masks play an important role in the practice of Animism. The masks are used in rituals, masked dances, sometimes even for entertainment.


Shintoism originated in Japan. It is very similar to the belief system of Animism. A practitioner of Shintoism has a great respect for the natural world and especially Emperors of the past. Emperors are considered very god-like.

In Shintoism, it is believed that spirits are living in all things. These spirits are known as Kami.

Shinto means "way of the gods."

In Shinto religion, there are many mythological people. One in particular is Amaterasu, who is the goddess of the sun. It is said that Amaterasu, with the help of her siblings, created the Islands of Japan.

There is no specific holy text for Shinto religion.


Hinduism began in India. It became a more popular religion during the reign of the Mauryian Empire.

Hinduism follows a holy text called Vedas.

Hinduism is the third largest religion practiced in the world.

It is hard for western cultures to classify Hinduism as a religion because of the tolerance of changes Hindus allow in their beliefs.


Reincarnation- the belief that 0ne's soul is born into another body or physical identity after the body dies.

Brahman- the universal spirit.

Karma- the total of one's deeds in a lifetime

Dharma- the acts or duties one's supposed to do during a lifetime


The belief of reincarnation inspired the Hindu people to behave well if they wanted their soul to move up in their next life.

The religion is the driving force behind the Caste System of India.


Lord Shiva- a supreme Hindu god.


The religion of Buddhism originated in India, but migrated to Southeast Asia and China, then on to Korea and Japan.

Buddhism is practiced in many parts of the world today, predominantly in Asian countries such as Vietnam, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka.

Buddhists believe that everyone suffers because of desires. In order to end suffering, you must stop desiring the things you do not need. If you need help ending desires, you follow the Eightfold Path. Following the Eightfold Path entails good behavior and judgment, which helps create a civilized culture.

The start of Buddhism is credited to an Indian Prince named Siddhartha Gautama. His Buddhist ideas weren't readily accepted in India, but advanced in Southeast Asian communities and China. From there, Buddhism made it to Japan and Korea.

There is no holy text book for Buddhist religion.


Began in the middle east, specifically in the area of the Fertile Crescent.

Judaism has a holy text called the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament.

A Jewish person is someone who was born from a Jewish mother or who converts their religion to Judaism.

Jewish people typically recite three prayers on a daily basis.

A practitioner of Judaism believes in one God, they obey only him. They believe in leading a good moral life and in return for that, God will send a Messiah to save them from their sins. With that faith in mind, the Jewish culture is encouraged to be moral. The Ten Commandments were also given as laws to guide behavior.

The Ten Commandments is generally as follows

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not bow down to any graven image.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy.

5. Honor thy Father and thy Mother.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's possessions.

Abraham was an important Jewish person who is considered to be the Father of Judaism, or the first Jewish person.


Taosim originated in China.

Someone who practices Taoism reads the holy text of the Tao De Ching.

Followers of Taoism follow the way of nature, therefore, they accept the things that they cannot change.

Lao-Tse is the founder of Taoism.

Taoism teaches the respect for all things natural in order to keep Yin and Yang balanced. Yin represents Earth and darkness while Yang represents Heaven and light. A balance between the two can be compared to night and day. The Yin and Yang symbols are often used as decorations on flags or stitched into clerical robes.

The concepts of Taoism have had a permanent impression on everything from art to medicine.

Taoists tend not to worry about politics or other political stresses.

Taoism is one of the three main belief systems of traditional China.

In philosophical terms, the meaning of Tao is that in virtue of which all things exist or happen.


The religion of Christianity began in the Middle East. Specifically, the Roman province of Judea, which was the old Jewish homeland of Israel. The early teachings of Christianity were spread by missionaries, the Roman Empire, and European people.

Christianity advanced throughout history quickly because of the easily adopted rules and beliefs.

Christians believe that there is one God and his son named Jesus Christ is a messiah. It is believed that Jesus came to Earth to forgive people of their sins and grant everlasting life in Heaven. Christians are expected to live good moral lives and treat each other fairly.

Christianity follows teachings from the Bible which is the Old New Testament.

A lot of Christians died for their faith during the holy wars of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

A Roman emperor by the name of Constantine converted to Christianity and issued toleration acts that ended Christian persecution that had been occurring for centuries.

Christians also followed the Ten Commandments that are a major part of Judaism as well.


This religion was started by a man named Confucius. This religion is directed toward the social interactions of people, such as politics and society. The religion started in China. Confucianism became the guiding philosophy of the Chinese culture for many generations. Confucianism uses Analects as holy text.


- A person should know their role in society, fulfill that role, and be content with it.

- Education is really important. Life would be better for the entire society if everyone was well educated.

- Government officials should be well trained for their positions. Enough for others to follow.

- Everyone should lead a good moral lifestyle.

The belief of knowing your place in society also applies to personal relationships. Fathers are superior to their sons, husbands are superior to their wives, older brothers are superior to their younger brothers, but a friend is a friend.

Nowadays, few people identify themselves as Confucians, but instead see Confucianism as a guideline for other beliefs.

In the country of South Korea, there has been a lot of criticism for Confucianism.


This religion was founded in Arabia in the city of Mecca.

A Muslim is someone who worships Islam.

Islam spread rather simply because Muslims conquered many lands and introduced their religion to these lands. Muslims were also tolerant of other cultures' traditions. Many people grew fond of the Muslim way.

Muslims use the Qu'ran as holy text.

Muslims are monotheistic and follow Allah. Muslims need to hold the teachings of the Qu'ran important and follow the Five Pillars of Faith which state that one must...

1) Attempt to make a holy trip to Mecca at least once

2) Pray five times each day

3) Go without food or drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan

4) Give to charity

5) Recite each day - "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet."

The laws of Islam are so important, that they often become the political laws of nature.

Islamic people believed that Mohammed is the Messiah who spread the word of God.

Islam is also called Muhammadanism.

A man named Gary Legenhausen, who was an American philosopher and writer converted to Islam.

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