Gathas- the first seven meetings were held to bring

Gathas- 17 hymns that Zoroaster wrote; part of the Yasnas
with the Yashts; contained in the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism;

Yasnas- part of the Avesta, the ‘bible’ of Zoroastrianism;
contains the Gathas and Yashts;

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Kabbalah- “the Act of Receiving”; also written as Qabbalah;
Jewish mysticism; believer tries to interact with God on a personal level;

Hasidism- Jewish mystical tradition in Ukraine; taught
that legal tradition had become too severe; emphasized rejoicing and dancing

Maimonides- Jewish philosopher; created a legal
commentary on Jewish law; created the ’13 principles of faith’;

Yom Kippur- – Jewish ‘Day of Atonement’; holiest day of the year for
Jewish faith; jews are not allowed to eat or drink, bathe, or have sex; instead,
they stay in a synagogue and pray “for forgiveness”

Predestination- taught in Christianity as the idea that
God has already chosen who he wants to “save”; the idea that humans really don’t
have free will/the ability to choose their destinies for themselves

Ecumenical Councils-
general council of leaders within the Christian church that come together to
vote/discuss matters of the church as a whole; the first seven meetings were
held to bring about the orthodoxy of the church;

Thomas Aquinas- Christian philosopher & poet; came up
with his own concepts of Latin theology; recognized by the Roman Catholic
church as its most important Western theologian.

Arianism- by Arius; if you mix something divine with
something not divine, the result will be less than divine, but more than not
divine; Christ is of a lesser nature than God the Father

Tafsir- science of explanation of the Quran; a specific interpretation of
the Quran;

Ummah- concept of Islamic community;

Ulama- religious scholars in Islam; considered to be the
highest authority on Islamic doctrine;

al-Gazhali- Islamic theologian and philosopher; a
‘renewer of faith’ (mujaddid in Arabic);

Sunnah- “prescribed way” or “habitual practice”; in Islam,
how Muslims should act in legal and social settings;

Qiblah- direction of the sacred shrine of the Ka’ba in Mecca, toward which
Muslims turn five times each day to pray;

Secularism- related to humanism; often seen as
anti-Christian; often considered by many religious communities to be the same
thing as atheism; the concept of looking at things with a non-religious ‘eye’

Scientism- scientology; by Ron Hubbard; started out as
dianetics, a form of psychotherapy that Hubbard created and then later put into
scientology; the idea of placing more emphasis on scientific facts that can be
proven, rather than religious belief;

Fundamentalism- Eastern Europe; solely Greek, because
that was the original language of the bible and the first practitioners; although
as we’ve seen in the US, many Christians can be called Fundamentalist simply by
adhering very closely to the original scripture/interpretation of the bible

Chinvat Bridge- the bridge that the dead cross in


Essays (30 points each; total 60 points). Answer all of the following
questions as thoroughly as possible. Your answers must be in two separate

1.      What
is the relationship of a religion to the political history of its times? Can a
religion ever be considered separately from such a political history? What is
the relationship of a religion to the state? Consider Judaism, Christianity, or

The relationship of religion and politics is a difficult
thing to explain, because I would consider the answer to be different depending
on what part of the world you’re in. However, what I can speak to is the
relationship between Christianity and the United States:

The original colonists of what would become the United
States were the Pilgrims, who sought shelter from religious persecution in
Europe. So, the original idea behind America was religion-related. Since that
time, many different religious groups have come and gone both from within the
US and from without. However, the sole religion that seems to ‘stick around’,
is Christianity. It’s constantly referenced in politics, whether it be from
large presidential elections, to small towns like the one I grew up in. The
southern states in particular tout America to be a ‘wholesome Christian nation’,
when in actuality, no-where in the governing documents of the US does it say
that America even has an official religion. There has been more and more
push-back towards the afore-mentioned idea that the US is entirely a Christian
nation, especially from the younger generations, like mine.


2.      How
do the religions deal with the paradox of human free will versus God’s omnipotence,
foreknowledge, and predetermination of all things? Has this ever been
satisfactorily resolved? Is it a crucial defect in the religious ideologies?

In Christianity, predestination is taught as the idea
that God “has a plan” for everyone. I’ve found that older Christians tend to
just go with this idea, that they really have no control over their lives. I
think perhaps it’s easier for them to think this way, rather than face the
reality of not really knowing what to do with themselves. When I became an
atheist, I was terrified. I had always been taught to just “listen for God” to
tell me what to do; I was never really given the “mental freedom” so-to-speak,
to consider what would make me personally happy.

In Islam, there are a few different groups that each
have different answers. Most groups that I’ve read about consider, much like
the Christians, that their God has a ‘predestination’ for everyone, that humans
have no free will and that their God dictates everything they do. Another group
believes that their God simply created the universe, and has no say over what
humans do. And finally, the Sunni believe that they do have some sort of free
will, but that their God knows what will happen in the end.

In Judaism, Maimonides, one of the most highly respected
Jewish philosophers, considered all people to have free will. He says that it
is within one’s own person to make themselves good or bad, and that
predestination from God does not exist.

I do not believe this paradoxical idea will ever truly
be resolved, as there are far too many people within each religion with too
many differing ideas. There were wars fought over differing ideas on religion,
and I do not doubt that there will be more to come. I believe it’s up to each
person to make peace with their individuality/free will within themselves.


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