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Introduction to Religious Studies Prof. Felix Just, S.J. Western Religions Overview. Faith and Belief. Nouns: “faith; trust, confidence” Confidence in someone/something: She has faith in her doctor. A belief in a supernatural power: Have faith! He lost his faith.

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faith and belief
Faith and Belief
  • Nouns: “faith; trust, confidence”
    • Confidence in someone/something:She has faith in her doctor.
    • A belief in a supernatural power:Have faith! He lost his faith.
    • A religious system or institution: The Christian faith. The Jewish faith.
  • Verbs: “to believe; to have faith, to trust” (trans. & intrans.)
    • To accept something as real or true: I believe this story.
    • To affirm a statement or assertion: I believe (that) she will come soon.
    • To grant someone veracity or trust: I believe you; I believe in you.
    • To assert the value of something: I believe in democracy.
    • To have spiritual or religious faith. I believe.
faith and believing
Faith and Believing
  • Word Derivations (from Latin):
    • fides = “faithfulness, firmness”; fidere = “to trust”
      • Cf. English: fidelity; infidel; confident, etc.
    • credere = “to believe”; credo = “I believe”
      • Cf. English: credible, credence, incredulous, credit, etc.
  • Scripture Texts on Faith/Believing:
    • Judaism: Gen 15:5-6; Josh 24:14-15
    • Christianity: Heb 11:1; John 3:16
    • Islam: Qur’an 10:99-100; 8:2-4
types of belief in god s lots of isms
Types of Belief in God(s) – lots of “isms”
  • Theism, Atheism
  • Agnosticism, Gnosticism
  • Deism, Pantheism
  • Polytheism, Paganism/Heathenism
  • Henotheism, Monotheism
  • Trinitarianism (vs.Tri-Theism)
  • Others?
  • Hint:Learn these in pairs or groups of similar terms.
types of belief in god i
Types of Belief in God (I)
  • Theism
    • Belief in the existence of a God or any gods
    • The generic term, of which other –isms are subcategories
  • Atheism
    • The opposite: Belief that God and/or gods do “not exist”
  • Agnosticism
    • “Not knowing” whether God exists; overall non-belief
  • Gnosticism
    • A religious system that believes salvation comes through “knowledge” (Gk. gnosis) of one’s divine origin and destiny
types of belief in god ii
Types of Belief in God (II)
  • Deism
    • Belief that God created the world, but no longer influences it
      • Based on 18th-century rationalism (e.g. Thomas Jefferson)
  • Pantheism
    • Belief that divinity is “everywhere” / in “everything” (Gk. pan)
      • Whole universe is divine; but there is no “God” apart from the world
  • Polytheism
    • Belief in the existence of “many” (Gk. poly) gods
      • Egyptians & Mesopotamians: many gods, often in animal form
      • Greek & Romans: large family of gods, on Mount Olympus
types of belief in god iii
Types of Belief in God (III)
  • Monotheism
    • Belief in the existence of “only one” (Gk. monos) God
      • What others call “gods” are at most spirits, but not divine
    • Jews and Muslims believe in one God:
      • God is an indivisible unity; “no associates or partners”
    • Christians believe in one God, who is a “Trinity”
      • One divine “nature” in three divine “persons”
        • Father (Creator), Son (Jesus), Holy Spirit
      • “Trinitarianism” = “Trinitarian Monotheism”
        • not the same as “Tri-theism” (belief in 3 different gods)
types of belief in god iv
Types of Belief in God (IV)
  • Henotheism
    • Allegiance to “one” (Gk. hen) god over the others
      • All nations have their own “gods”; “Our god is better than your gods”
      • Assumes polytheistic worldview, but monotheistic worship
  • Paganism / Heathenism
    • All religions outside of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
      • Popular connotation is negative: unbelievers, hedonists, etc.
      • Academic meaning is neutral: all non-monotheistic religions
identifying god titles names
Identifying God (Titles & Names):
  • Generic Titles:
    • God / god, Deity, Divine Power, El, Elohim, Allah, etc.
    • Father, Mother, Creator, Lord, King, etc.
  • Proper Names:
    • Jewish: YHWH (Yahweh? Jehovah?); Ya/Ja
    • Mesopotamian: Asherah, Baal; Ishtar, Marduk, Tiamat, etc.
    • Egyptian: Aten, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Ra, Seth, Thoth, etc.
    • Greco-Roman / Olympian: Zeus=Jupiter; Athena=Diana; etc.
talking about god philosophically
Talking about God (Philosophically):
  • God is Absolute (positive & negative):
    • ALL: omnipotent (all powerful); omniscient (all knowing); omnipresent (everywhere); omni-benevolent (all merciful)
    • NOT: invisible (not seen); immutable (unchanging); immortal (not dying); infinite (not limited); etc.
  • Language is Limited (analogies & opposites):
    • God is transcendent (beyond) & immanent (internal)
    • So God-talk is possible, but always analogical / inadequate
    • Both/And Approach:via positiva & via negativa
classifying world religions
Classifying World Religions:
  • Major Categories:
    • “Eastern” & “Western” & “Local” & New” Religions
  • Best term for Judaism, Christianity, Islam:
    • "Religions of the Book"?
    • "Monotheistic Religions"?
    • "Religions of Abrahamic Origin"?
    • "Religions of Judaic Origin"?
    • "Religions of Near Eastern Origin"?
    • Advantages & Drawbacks of each of these?
the three western religions and their sub branches
The Three Western Religions (and their sub-branches)
  • Judaism (ca. 15 Million)
    • Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist
  • Christianity (ca. 2.1 Billion)
    • (Eastern) Orthodox: Greek; Russian; Armenian; etc.
    • (Roman) Catholic: Latin, Byzantine, and other “rites”
    • (Western) Protestant: many “churches/denominations”
  • Islam (ca. 1.3 Billion)
    • Suni; Shi’ite; [ Sufi ]
the three western religions religion members adj book founder leaders
The Three Western Religions(religion / members / adj. // Book // founder, leaders):
  • Judaism / Jews / Jewish
    • TaNaK (Hebrew Bible, esp. Torah)
      • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) -- 2nd mill. BC/BCE
      • Moses, David, prophets, priests, kings
  • Christianity / Christians / Christian
    • Bible (Old Testament & New Testament)
      • Christ Jesus -- 1st century AD/CE
      • Peter & Paul, apostles, evangelists, bishops
  • Islam / Moslems / Muslim & Islamic
    • Qur’an (or Koran)
      • Prophet Muhammad -- 7th century AD/CE
      • Caliphs ("successors"), Imams ("leaders")
summary review
Summary / Review
  • Types of Belief in God (“-isms”)
    • Theism vs. Atheism vs. Agnosticism
    • Deism vs. Pantheism
    • Polytheism & Paganism
    • Henotheism vs. Monotheism (and Trinitarianism)
  • Western / Monotheistic Religions:
    • Common Core: Faith/Belief in One God!
    • Differences: Judaism / Christianity / Islam?