Faith reference

This glossary will help you to learn more about the wide range of faiths in your community.

Bahá'í

The Bahá'í faith was founded about 150 years ago by Bahá'u'lláh. He announced Himself as the one promised by the Báb, a young man who proclaimed the imminent appearance of the Messenger of God awaited by all the peoples of the world. Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time. Bahá'u'lláh taught that there is one God whose successive revelations of his will to humanity have been the chief civilising force in history. The Bahá'í belief in one God means that the universe and all creatures and forces within it have been created by a single supernatural being. The Baha’i sacred texts include writings from Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.

Summarised from: Bahá'í International Community (2012), The Bahá'í Faith – The international website of the Bahá'ís of the world.

Buddhism

Buddhism began in northern India about 2,500 years ago with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a royal prince who became the Buddha. The Buddha did not claim to be a god and did not expect to be worshipped as one. He was an extraordinary person who became enlightened and realised the truth about how things really are. He then spent his life teaching people the path Enlightenment so that they could free themselves from suffering and find happiness. Buddhists can worship on their own at home, or in a group at a temple or a monastery. Buddhist worship is often called puja, an Indian word for showing respect. Together with making offerings to the Buddha, reciting passages from sacred texts such as the Tipitaka and sutras is an important part of Buddhist worship.

Summarised from: Adiccabandhu and Ganeri, A. (2006), Buddhist Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

Christianity

Christianity began in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago. Christians follow the teachings of a man called Jesus. They call him Christ, which means ‘someone chosen by God’. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God who took on human form in order to save people from their sins. During his life on earth, Jesus taught people about God’s love for them and showed them how to live according to God’s wishes. Christians believe that Jesus died by being crucified, but that he came back to life again. His Resurrection shows that death is not the end but the start of a new life with God. The Bible is the name that Christians give to their scriptures. Many Christians go to church to take part in a service that includes prayers, hymns, readings from the Bible and a sermon.

Summarised from: Ganeri, M. and Ganeri, A. (2006), Christian Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

Hinduism

Hinduism goes back at least 4,000 years to ancient India. Many Hindus prefer to call their religion sanatana dharma which means ‘eternal teaching’. They believe that this teaching applies to everyone, at all times and in all places. Hindus believe that beyond the material world we live in is something called Brahman (spirit), which is unchanging and eternal. Hindus believe in one God but also in many deities who represent God’s different forms and qualities. Most Hindus regularly visit the mandir or temple to take part in puja, which means ‘worship’ or ‘giving honour’. Many of the prayers used by Hindus come from the sacred texts, the oldest of which are called the Vedas. Other important texts are the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita, which means ‘the Song of the Lord’.

Summarised from: Das, R. and Ganeri, A. (2006), Hindu Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

Islam

Islam was revealed to humanity by the last and greatest prophet, Muhammad, who lived in Saudi Arabia about 1,400 years ago. Muslims believe that Allah is the one true god who created the world and everything in it. Allah gave the Qur’an, the sacred book of Muslims, to Muhammad so that Islam could never be changed again. Islam means ‘submission’ or ‘obedience’ in the Arabic language. Islam teaches that it is only by submitting one’s will to Allah that one can attain peace in this life and the life hereafter. Muslims believe that Allah calls everyone to worship through ibadah, which means being in the service of Allah. Muslims believe that praying with others in a mosque or masjid will bring greater blessings and help to build up a stronger community spirit.

Summarised from: Ibrahim, M. and Ganeri, A. (2006), Muslim Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

Judaism

Judaism began when God chose a man called Abraham to be the father of the Jews. According to the Torah, the Jewish holy book, Abraham was the leader of a group of nomadic people, called the Hebrews, who lived in the Middle East some 4,000 years ago. Jews believe in one God who created the world and continues to work in the world, affecting everything that people do. They believe that God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to guide and care for the Jews, providing they kept the laws which God had given to them, loved God and led holy lives.

For Jews, praying is a way of communicating and spending time with God. Many Jews visit a synagogue to worship as praying with others is an important way of showing that they are part of the Jewish community.

Summarised from: Gorsky, J. and Ganeri, A. (2006), Jewish Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

Paganism

Paganism describes a group of contemporary religions based on a reverence for nature. These faiths draw on the traditional religions of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community. Some groups concentrate on specific traditions or practices such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods. Most Pagans share an ecological vision that comes from the Pagan belief in the organic vitality and spirituality of the natural world.

Due to persecution and misrepresentation it is necessary to define what Pagans are not as well as what they are. Pagans are not sexual deviants, do not worship the devil, are not evil, do not practice 'black magic' and their practices do not involve harming people or animals.

In the 2011 census just under 57,000 people in England and Wales identified themselves as pagan.

Reproduced from the BBC web page Paganism at a glance, apart from census figures.

Sikhism

Sikhism began about 500 years ago in the Punjab region of northwest India. At a time when there were many conflicts between the main religions, a holy man called Nanak introduced a new religion which taught equality and tolerance. He became the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, or holy teachers. Sikhs believe in Ik Onkar which means ‘one God’. They believe that God exists in everyone and everything in the universe, and that, therefore, everyone and everything is equal. A gurdwara, meaning ‘the door of the Guru’, is a place where Sikhs meet to worship. Any place where the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, has been installed can be called a gurdwara. Worshipping together is important for Sikhs because it shows that everyone is equal and part of one family.

Summarised from: Singh, R. and Ganeri, A. (2006), Sikh Prayer and Worship. London: Franklin Watts.

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