The Most Influential Religions of the World
Religion has a strong influence in every country in which it is practiced. All around the globe, there are many religions that people have independently chosen to follow. Religion influences the way of life and has an invisible hand that dictates much control in the course of the history of the country and the development of its culture. While it is true in some countries religion is imposed on their citizens, in other cultures exists freedom to choose whichever religion their heart chooses to follow. However, if we reviewed all these religions, this paper would not be able to provide adequate information to explain everything. That is why I would like to delimit this essay in just exploring the main religions, or rather, the most influential ones, that exists across the world.
Let us begin with Hinduism, which is a pluralistic religion in most of its existence. The term Hindu was originally sindhu¸ which was the Sanskrit word for river. Sindhu was mispronounced by the Persians as Hindu, the Muslims in A.D. 712 also used the term Hindu to distinguish the people who do not hold the same religion as theirs, and the Christians termed Hindu those whom they thought were native pagan people in that place. This delineation became the beginning of calling the land Hindustan, and likewise, the religion was called `Hinduism. Although we can see that the origin of the word Hindu was quite negative and given by foreign people, through the influence of Basham, Buitenen, and Doniger cultures, it has become one of the most influential religions especially in South East Asia. There was no specific founder and place of origin and historians have not found any adequate explanations for its existence. This was mainly because Hinduism was concerned more about the things beyond this world than historical accounts (Bass, 2004). Because of its wonderful belief and origin, as of the moment, there are many countries that adhere to Hinduism as either their main or minor religion. According to the survey done by Russell Ash (1997), the countries with the highest proportion of Hindu practicing citizens are Nepal with 89% of their population, India with 79%, Mauritius with 52%, Guyana with 40%, Fiji with 38%, Suriname with 30%, Bhutan with 25%, Trinidad and Tobago with 24%, Sri Lanka with 15%, and Bangladesh with 11%. Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, USA, South Africa, and United Kingdom, also contribute a large amount to the number of Hindus in the world. Buddhism, another well known eastern religion is also considered as an offspring of the Hindu religion. Buddhism was originally founded by Siddharta Gautama, also known as Buddha, in India.
There are only speculations and mythical explanations about the life of Buddha but nothing accurate was written about his life story. Buddha was supposedly born around 560 B.C., in northern India, as a son of a wealthy ruler Suddhodana. Knowing that his son was destined to live the life of a monk in the near future to do powerful things, he sheltered him from the outside world and kept him inside their palace, so that Siddharta would be his successor, just like as he wanted. But when Siddharta got the chance to go out, destiny took its course and the four signs unfolded before him: an old man, a dying man, a funeral, and a beggar. These signed moved him to live a contemplative life, leaving his family behind, he was lead to a Bodhi tree and he swore to not leave his position until he has found the true wisdom. He then was enlightened through the help of the gods and attained nirvana. He then opted to teach people about the way to enlightenment, and his efforts paid off because of the creation of the Buddhist tradition. Now, Buddhism is the largest religion in the East, influencing countries such as India, Japan, Korea, China, and other South East Asian nations. Buddhism is also continually becoming influential in Western countries such as United States, which...
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