Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Similiarities in early religions

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When many of us think of Judeo-Christian religion (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) or its practices, adjectives such as love, compassion, and/or inclusion come to mind. However, ironic as it is, religious groups and their divisions are oftentimes at the crux of many violent and conflicting exchanges throughout their notable and sacred history.

Judaism, the oldest of these religions dating back to 000 B.C.E., has been wrought with turmoil. After falling under control of the Egyptians, God remembered his Covenant with the Hebrew people and led their exodus from Egypt through Moses. After establishing the kingdom of Israel, under the great king David, the Jewish people began to stray from their covenant with God. This led to the end of the Kingdom of Israel, beginning with the Babylonian exile in 587 B.C.E., where all the important figures were captured.

Ezra was a Hebrew priest and scribe living in Babylonian exile. The task presented to him was to make the Jewish people renew their covenant relationship with God. This became known as the second founding of Judaism. The next few centuries were stormy for the Jews culminating with them falling under Roman control in 6 B.C.E. This led to a division among the Jewish people into three groups, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the forerunners of Rabbinic Judaism. The most important event during this time was the Great Diaspora, the scattering of the Jews. This shattered the heart of Judaism, the temple and the Jewish community in Jerusalem.

Christianity, which has Jewish roots, was formed when Jewish history split. The most important figure in their history is Jesus born 4 B.C.E. They believed that Hebrew scripture was a prelude to Jesus. Jesus led a short, tragic life ending in 0 B.C.E., with his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. The people who still followed Christ considered themselves Jews, but other Jews considered them an erring sect worshipping a false prophet and persecuted them. This led to the spread of Christianity as they were dispersed to other lands where they continued to spread the word.

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Islam believes that Jesus was just a prophet and that Mohammed was the final and complete prophet. They believe the same history as the Christians but they follow Ishmael instead of Isaac. God picked Arabia as holy land because it had a new people, it was centrally located between Byzantine and Persian empires (allowing easy spread of word), and because the spoke Arabic (only true way to read word). Mecca was established as the holy city. The Moslem people had many in house fights after the death of Mohammed in 6 B.C.E.

The similarities and closeness in time of these three traditions help to explain why they have problems co-existing. By each religion believing that there is only one true way, they cannot accept other variation or themes. Spreading the word and establishing holy lands oft times lead to violence. If the God of your religion told you to establish this place as the holy land but there where already a people present, if they would not convert to your word then physical force would be necessary to overcome them. And some internal uprisings have to be dealt with violently to subdue.

The establishing of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire led to many conflicts with the Jewish tradition. By becoming a Christian state the Roman Empire had to put down the Jewish tradition.

The Medieval era and the fall of the Roman Empire led to many invasions of the land. The early challenges were met, but the later invasion, particularly the Muslims, took their toll. The Muslims expanded into the world of Christendom. They did not force the Christians to convert to Muslim but the Christians still revolted. This led to the four Christian crusades against the Muslims. The first of these crusades was a success, but each subsequent crusade was a failure. The Muslims held their own and kept control of the land they had previously conquered from the Christians.

Although these early conflicts are considered religious issues, upon further examination they appear to be more political than religious. In the modern world the spreading of new religion, or even already established ones, does not involve any force. Using force makes these battles more political than anything. And once these ancient lands where conquered, the people were forced to follow the laws of the people and not just the laws of their God. An example being, you couldn’t live in a land that followed Christian religion and consider yourself to be Muslim. The different traditions eventually saw the errors of their ways and this ceased to be the case, but not before some violent and sometime tragic events had unfolded.

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