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A Journey of Religious Understanding through Humanities Courses

China is renowned for its strict government regulation and supervision of religious activities. The Chinese education system has no introduction to relevant teaching about religion. Therefore, having been born and worked in China, my understanding of the stories and doctrines of different religions is quite limited. My only fragmented memories consist of moments in my childhood when my mother would take me to temples to bow before the Bodhisattva and instances where I was taken by older relatives to churches for mass without comprehending the significance of these ceremonies. Upon completing Chapter 4 on world religions, I came to the realization that this was my first thorough study and understanding of the three major world religions, including Buddhism.


From Abraham becoming the bond between God and the Hebrews (Fiero 96) to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt back to Canaan and receiving the Ten Commandments from Jehovah on Mount Sinai (Fiero 97), these stories lay the foundation for Hebrew faith and are essential components of the Hebrew Bible. With the advent of Jesus, his teachings emphasized the significance of the inner spirit behind the Hebrew Bible and its rituals. He underscored faith and compassion and cautioned against the perils of wealth and worldly temptations. The Roman authorities viewed him as a threat, leading to his crucifixion. Ultimately, the event of Jesus's resurrection three days later became the cornerstone of Christian faith (Fiero 101-102). What intrigues me here is why the emergence, execution, and resurrection of Jesus became the central doctrine of Christianity. What did Jesus do to become a target for both the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities of the time?

I spent some time in the scriptures, and the following are the clues I have gathered. In Matthew 23, it is written: "You hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside, they are full of greed and self-indulgence." (Bible Gateway Passage: Matthew 23). Jesus leveled a series of accusations against the Pharisees and scribes, branding them as hypocrites. In the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus overturned the tables of the vendors who were trading animals for sacrifices, "he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." (Bible Gateway Passage: John 2:13-17). Jesus declared this an act of desecration against the temple. These actions by Jesus challenged the economic interests and authority of the religious leaders of the time. These stories of Jesus reflect his fearlessness against powerful figures, his commitment to truth, his pursuit of justice, and his determination to challenge authority. They also underscore his adherence to and quest for the true meaning and value behind doctrines. Jesus' actions are worth learning from and reflecting upon for everyone. I believe this is also one of the reasons why Jesus is at the heart of the formation of Christianity.

Different religions have unique paths to prosperity and development. The Hebrews firmly believed in their covenant with God, and establishing the Hebrew state and its two temples had a significant role in the growth of Judaism. However, compared to Christianity and Islam, Judaism's geographic presence is confined to what is now the region of Israel. Furthermore, Judaism is deeply tied to the Jewish ethnicity, so it hasn't spread far from its origin. 

The flourishing and spread of Christianity had more factors at play compared to Judaism. Initially and most importantly, after Jesus' death, his follower Paul disseminated Christianity throughout Asia Minor and Europe, preaching to non-Jews. Many of Paul's epistles also form a significant portion of the New Testament (Fiero 101-102). Moreover, the Roman Emperor Constantine positioned Christianity as the state religion, solidifying its status and accelerating its spread within the empire (Fiero 104). Christian Monasticism also played a pivotal role in the growth of Christianity. Monks in monasteries undertook essential tasks like writing, illustrating, and preserving historical and literary works (Fiero 105). Furthermore, Christian architecture, art, and music significantly facilitated the dissemination of Christianity. 

Compared to Judaism, trade and economics were pivotal in the spread and development of Islam. Muslims utilized economic opportunities to conquer foreigners and exempted converts to Islam from the poll tax (Fiero 117). When Muslims traded salt with Africa and used the Silk Road for commerce with the East, they also introduced Islam to those regions (Fiero 117).

When it comes to symbolism, I'd think of the cross for Christianity and the Crescent and Star for Islam, which is also featured on the Turkish flag. For Judaism, the textbook mentions the menorah as a symbol (Fiero 98), and I'd also think of the Star of David on the Israeli flag. Symbolism is crucial in religion. For instance, the cross in Christianity represents Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, which is central to Christian doctrine. In everyday life, I can easily identify a Christian religious building by the cross prominently displayed on top of it. In my opinion, the simpler and more meaningful a logo is, the more easily it's remembered by people. You might forget the U.S. State Department's emblem, but the bitten apple icon sticks in your mind forever. Religious symbolism operates similarly. The Christian cross simplifies and embodies the core doctrines of Christianity. For non-believers, this visual symbol aids in quickly grasping the essence of Christian beliefs, yet for Christians, this emblem may represent their collective identity.

Works Cited

Fiero Gloria K. Landmarks in Humanities. Fifth ed. McGraw Hill 2021.

“Bible Gateway Passage: Matthew 23 - New International Version.” Bible Gateway,

www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NIV. Accessed 02 Oct.

2023.

“Bible Gateway Passage: John 2:13-17 - New International Version.” Bible Gateway,

www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+2%3A13-17&version=NIV.


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