Also known as "A Brief History of Major World Religions" or "The History of Major World Religions in a Nutshell"
Copyright © Deep Spirits
First came Hinduism, a long long time ago... some say around 2100 BCE, others say before recorded history!
Hindus like to read the Vedas, the Agamas and other scriptures.
Hindiusm has many denominations which could almost be considered separate religions, but the four main denominations of Hinduism are Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.
The teaching of Hinduism tells us that all souls ultimately realize the truth. It is a peaceful religion, without a hell or damnation, and it accepts all spiritual paths.
Each soul is free to find its own path.
Hindus believe in the Golden Rule ('One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self.'), in a Supreme Being ( who is the Creator & Unmanifest Reality), in the divinity of the Vedas and the Agamas, in karma (the law of cause and effect) and in reincarnation.
There is a lot of mystery around the date of origin of Judaism, but one possibility is around 1400 BCE.
The founder of Judaism was, according to some, Moses, according to other sources it was Abraham. Neither can ben proven archeologically. From a historical standpoint Judaism began hundreds of years later.
Jews enjoy reading the Torah, the Talmud, the Zohar, and other texts.
Jews are divided into several denominations, the most prominent being Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism.
The teaching of Judaism tells us that there is one God, known as Yahweh, that Jews are the chosen people, and that strict obedience to the Torah is the path to God's kingdom.
Jews believe in Golden Rule ('That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.'), in one God and Creator, prophets, the Heaven, Hell and the Day of Judgment and in duty of the family to make their home a house of God.
At the latest around 700 BCE, but possibly before, Shinto was born!
There isn't a single historical founder of Shinto (or Shintoism).
Shintoists like reading Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and Nihon Shoki.
Shinto is divided into two groups: State Shinto and Sect Shinto (with 13 denominations). Many Shintoists are also Buddhists, which is regarded as complementary.
The teaching of Shintoism tells us that it is necessary to be loyal to one's ancestors, the Kami, in order to achieve a place among them; in this life the stress is on truthfulness and purification.
Shintoists believe in the coexistence of a spirit world, in purification rituals and in nature's sacredness.
Around 500 BCE, so only two hundred years later came Buddhism!
The founder of Buddhism was Gautama Buddha, the 'Enlightened One'.
Buddhists enjoy reading the Tipitaka, Mahayana Sutras and other scriptures.
The three main Buddhist schools are Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
The teaching of Buddha tells us that reaching nirvana is the goal, understanding and applying the Four Noble Truths, along with progressive meditation and other spiritual practices, is the path that ends the suffering.
Buddhist believe in Golden Rule ('Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.'), in dharma (the Way), karma (the chain of cause and effect), the sanga (a community of seekers) and in reincarnation.
Around the same time, so 500 BCE, Jainism was born as well!
The founder of Jainism was Mahavira, the 'Great Hero'.
Jains like to read the Jain Agamas and Siddhantas.
Jainism has two sects: the Digambara (saints should wear nothing except a loincloth and salvation is not possible for women in their current reincarnation) and the Svetambara (saints may wear clothes, women can attain salvation).
Jainism tell us that souls have no beginning and no end, God doesn't matter, God just is. What matters is that one becomes Paramatman, a perfected soul.
Jains believe in the Golden Rule, in worshipping spiritual lineage (of the 24 Tirthankaras), karma (life is sacred, even unintentional killing creates karma), ascetism and in reincarnation.
Once again around 500 BCE, Taoism was born!
The founder of Taoism was Lao-Tzu, the sage.
Taoists like to read the Tao Te Ching book of wisdom, which is one of the shortest scriptures ever written.
Taoism is mainly a philosophy and a mystical tradition, which today has numerous sects and interpretations.
Before anything else Taoism tells us that one must discover the Tao, or the Way, for oneself. Nobody can be explained what the Tao is. By understanding oneself, one understands the universe as well.
Taoists believe in the Golden Rule, in wu-wei ('non-doing', or 'effortless effort'), oneness of all creation and that we are the microcosm for the universe.
When else but around 500 BCE... Confucianism was born!
The founder of Confucianism was a wise philosopher called Confucius.
Confucianists like to read the Analects, the Doctrine of the Mean, the writings of Mencius and the Great Learning.
Confucianism is only a philosophy, and followers may have other religious affiliations additionally to being Confucianists. It is not an exclusive belief system.
Confucianism tells us that self-cultivation is the first step, cultivated through education and knowledge, and benevolent love the greatest virtue.
Confucianists believe in Golden Rule ('Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.'), in politeness as a norm of behaviour, and in knowledge.
Roughly half a millenium later in the mid 1st century CE Christianity emerged.
Traditionally Jesus of Nazareth is seen as the founder of Christianity.
Christians like to read the the Bible (Old and New Testaments).
The three main Christian denominations are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant, with thousands of additional, mainly Protestant, denominations.
Christianity tells us that there is one God, and that all humans are born as sinners and salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ, the Savior and God's son.
Christians believe in Golden Rule ('And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.'), in the value of love, faith, and charity, in an immortal soul, in God the Father and creator of the universe, in the Holy Trinity, in Heaven, Purgatory or Hell, in the existence of Satan, and also in the historical accuracy of the Holy Bible.
Around 600 years later, the year 610 CE marks the beginning of Islam.
The founder of Islam is Muhammad.
Muslims like to read the the Koran and the Hadith.
The two main denominations within Islam are Sunni Muslims, which is the largest group, and the Shi'a.
Islam tells us that there is one God, called Allah; that we must submit to the will of Allah, and that there is no difference between a secular and a religious life.
Muslims believe in Golden Rule ('Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.'), in Allah as the Supreme Creator, in the Five Pillars of Islam (1. praying, 2. giving of alms, 3. fasting during the Ramadan, 4. pilgrimage to Holy Mecca, 5. profession of faith), direct communion with God, in truthfulness in all circumstances, in an immortal soul, in the Last Judgment.
Almost a millenium later, around 1500 CE Sikhism was founded!
The founder of Sikhism is Guru Nanak.
Sikhs like to read the Adi Granth ('the First Book') and the Dasam Granth.
Sikhism tells us that all humans are equal, regardless of race or gender, that in order to accomplish moksha (a union with God and release into God's love), the soul needs to be cleansed, the ego conquered, and the wandering mind stilled.
Sikhs believe in the Golden Rule ('Whom should I despise, since the one Lord made us all.'), in waheguru (the Supreme God and Creator), in faith, love, devotion and purity, and in gurus as spiritual guides.
The Bahá'í Faith was born in the middle of the 19th century CE!
The founder of the Bahá'i Faith is Bahá'u'lláh - 'Glory of God'.
Bahá'ís like to read the Kitáb-i-Aqdas ('the Book of Laws') and the Kitáb-i-Íqán ('The Book of Certitude'), The Hidden Words and other texts.
Bahá'í Faith tells us that all the divine messengers like Abraham, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, come from the same source, that humanity is in the process of collective evolution, and that it is time for the spiritual unity of all humankind.
Bahá'ís believe in the Golden Rule ('Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.'), in God (who is almighty, unknowable and the source of all existence), in universal divine messengers and in unity, equality and harmony.