7.2 Origin and Diffusion of Religions PPT

The Origins and
Diffusion of
They Who
Goeth Around
Getteth around
Origin of Religions
Universalizing Religions
Ethnic Religions
Universalizing religions have precise
places of origin and are based on the
life events of one man.
Ethnic religions have unknown or
unclear origins and are not tied to
historic individuals.
Origins of Universalizing Religions
Founded on the teachings of Jesus, who
was born in Galilean Bethlehem between
8 and 4 BCE.
Catholicism was ordered by Constantine
when he converted in 312 AD.
Orthodoxy dates to the 5th century CE
and rivalry between Rome and
Constantinople. The split solidified in
1054 when the Roman pope condemned
the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Protestantism originated with the
Reformation and Martin Luther in 1517.
Islam traces its origins to that of Judaism
and Christianity with the Bible.
Muhammad, born in Mecca (Makkah) in
570 AD received revelations from God
(Allah in Arabic) in 610. Muslims
Codified the revelations of God through
Muhammad in al Qur’an.
The division between the two main
branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia,
originated in a disagreement over
leadership after Muhammad’s death in
632. Shia Muslims supported
Muhammad’s cousin, Ali.
Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563
BCE in Lumbini in present day Nepal
near the border with India.
In about 528 BCE, Siddhartha was said
to have found a spiritual path to
Nirvana and became “The Buddha,”
the awakened or enlightened one.
Theravada is the original form, the
Mahayana Buddhism split from it
about 2000 years ago.
Zen, another branch of Buddhism
began in China in the 7th century.
Origins of Ethnic Religions
Again, ethnic religions have unknown or unclear origins and are not tied to a specific founder.
For Example:
The origins of Hinduism in India are
The oldest manuscripts date to 1500 BCE,
but the oldest artifacts date to 2500 BCE.
Hinduism grew and developed over time
from the interaction of the Harappan,
Aryan and the Dravidian cultures.
Diffusion of Religions
Universalizing Religions
Ethnic Religions
Universalizing religions tend to diffuse
from single, specific hearths and
spread through a combination of
relocation, hierarchical and contagious
Ethnic religions are often tied to the
physical landscape and seasons of a
hearth and so remain highly clustered
in the hearth region.
Diffusion of Universalizing Religions
The three largest universalizing religions are each based on the life of a key individual.
Each has a hearth in Asia (Buddhism in India, Christianity in Israel, Islam in Saudi
Followers of each migrated, preaching the message of the religions to people well
beyond the hearth.
Diffusion of Buddhism
Buddhism did not diffuse rapidly from its
hearth but later began to spread through a
combination of hierarchical and relocation
In 257BCE, Asoka, the emperor of the
Magadhan empire, converted to Buddhism
and declared his empire as Buddhist.
Asoka also sent Buddhist missionaries to
neighboring territories… Sri Lanka,
Kashmir, the Himalayas, Burma, and
elsewhere in India.
In the first century AD, Buddhist merchants
moved along trading routes and
introduced Buddhism to China.
Widespread conversions began there in
the 4th century.
Buddhism spread from China to the Koreas
in the 4th century and from the Koreas to
Japan in the 6th century.
Diffusion of Buddhism
Christianity spread through a combination of relocation, hierarchical and contagious diffusion from its hearth in ancient Israel.
In 1st century AD Paul of Tarsus and other
missionaries began spreading Christianity
along the Roman Empire’s protected sea
and road routes.
While missionaries moved from city to city,
the converts they left behind after
establishing churches spread Christianity
within the Roman empire through
contagious diffusion in their communities.
Christianities survival was set through
hierarchical diffusion when the Roman
Emperor Constantine converted in 313 CE.
His successor, Theodosius then proclaimed
it the official religion of the empire in 380.
Diffusion continued for centuries in a blend of the three methods. It diffused into Eastern Europe through the conversion of various kings.
After 1500 it diffused with English colonialism into the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
In those places, various indigenous groups converted or intermarried.
The branch of Christianity that dominates in a place reflects the branch of the Christians who colonized or later migrated there.
Diffusion of Christianity
Diffusion of Christianity
Diffusion of Islam
By the time of Muhammad’s
death, Islam had diffused over
much of the Arabian Peninsula by:
Relocation diffusion:
Muhammad’s Hijrah from Mecca
to Medina
Hierarchical Diffusion:
Muhammad’s defeat of Mecca
Contagious Diffusion: conversions
from person to person.
After Muhammad’s death, Muslim armies conquered Palestine, the Persian Empire and much of India. While Islam does not
force converts, many indigenous peoples did convert or intermarry to align with the new rulers.
Armies also moved across northern Africa and then crossed the starit of Gibraltar into Spain. Muslims controlled much of
present day Spain until 1492.
While Christians regained Western Europe, Muslims moved into southeastern Europe and Turkey. Muslim missionaries also
spread Islam to parts of Subsaharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Diffusion of Islam
Diffusion of Islam
Diffusion of Ethnic Religions
Most ethnic religions have little, if any diffusion. First, the religions lack missionaries devoted to converting others.
Second, ethnic religions are often tied to the landscape and the seasons of its hearth region.
Finally, spread of universalizing religions (Christianity and Islam) comes through converting members of ethnic religions.
African Religions
East and
The universalizing religion my supplant the local, ethnic religion or
mingle with it.
In East and Southeast Asia, Buddhism has spread and mingled with
local ethnic religions.
In some parts of Africa, Christianity dominates and reflects the
colonizers branch (Catholicism in Guinea from the Spanish, Lutheran
in Namibia from the Germans).
In Japan, the Shinto first resisted the spread of Buddhism, then
embraced it. Through syncretism, Buddhist monks took over the
management of Shinto shrines and Buddhist deities were
incorporated into the Shinto Pantheon.
In other places, through syncretism, Christianity incorporates ritual
aspects of the local ethnic religions.
There are several thousand unique African Christian Churches.
Christianity and Islam are exclusive religions that require
singular adherence to them and them alone.
Conversely, Hindu migrants moved to Mauritius and maintained
their religion (52% Hindu, 28% Christian, and 175 Muslim).
Mauritius had no original indigenous population.
Many ethnic religions (and Buddhism) are non-exclusive religions
so adherents can practice aspects of multiple religions.
Diffusion of Judaism (an exception)
Despite its status as an ethnic religion and
despite its close ties to the place and seasons
of historic Israel, Judaism has diffused widely
over the world. (see world map)
World map of Judaism
After Romans burned the temple in 70AD,
many Jews migrated in a movement called the
diaspora to Europe, Northern Africa and Asia.
Jews lived among other nationalities, often as
guest populations without official citizenship.
They lived in isolated communities (ghettos)
and retained their religious practices while
sometimes adopting cultural practices of their
As a result of the holocaust at the hands of the
Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, many Jews left
Europe and spread to the Americas.
Holy Places
Universalizing Religions
Universalizing religions often endow with holiness
cities and other places associated with the founders
These places need not be near one another and are
not tied to any particular physical environment.
Ethnic Religions
Ethnic religions often have holy places closely
associated with the geography and seasons of
their hearths.
Holy Places: Buddhism and Islam
Eight places are particularly holy in Buddhism as they are associated with
the life of the Buddha:
1) Lumbini (birth place)
2) Bodh Gaya (place of enlightenment)
3) Sarnath Deer Park (first sermon)
4) Kusinagara (parinirvana place)
5) Sravasti (ascension to heaven)
6) Samkasya (second ascension to heaven)
7) Rajaghra (taming the elephant)
8) Vaisali (prediction of death)
The most important holy sites for Islam are:
Mecca (birthplace of Muhammad)
Medina (first city to adopt Islam)
Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca, contains al Ka’ba
and the well of Zemzem)
One of the five pillars of Islam states that all
Muslims who are able should make a
pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ka’ba at least
once in their lives.
Ethnic Holy Places: Hinduism
Hinduism is highly tied to the geography of India.
Remember: ethnic religions tend to remain clustered and concentrated in a small area because
their system is often inextricably linked to the local landscape and seasonal shift.
Presence in and interaction with the land is so integral to the religion, it often is not possible to
practice it outside the hearth land.
While Hinduism stresses meditation, tirtha (a pilgrimage to a holy site) also helps to further
one on the path to moksha.
Holy sites are often tied in some way to one of the manifestations of Brahman (God).
Some sites are universal in their appeal to all Hindu, while others are significant only at the
local level.
One universally important site is the Ganges river. Many Hindu make pilgrimages to bathe in
its waters.
Environmental Perception
Recall from chapter 4 that environmental perception is the way that a culture will
observe, interpret and react to the natural environment.
Universalizing Religions
Ethnic Religions
Universalizing religions often maintain that God
gave the Earth to humans who are free to bend it
to their wills.
Ethnic religions often have a more reverential
relationship with the land and do not alter it as
URs usually don’t incorporate natural events into
their cosmogony.
ERs often incorporate nature events and forces
into their cosmogonies.
The Calendar
Universalizing and ethnic religions also handle the notion of sacred time differently.
Universalizing Religions
Major holy days (sacred time, i.e. holidays) in
universalizing religions tend to relate to events
in the life of the founder, not to events in the
physical landscape.
Ethnic Religions
Major holy days in ethnic religions tend
often correspond to natural events in the
physical landscape like the changing of
seasons or the key points in local
You should know:
(lunar calendar, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha)
You should know:
(19 month, 19 day calendar established by the Bab)
(Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Sukkot,
(Christmas and Easter)
In General
(summer solstice, winter solstice)
(Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death)

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