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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fishers of Men, oil on panel by Adriaen van de Venne (1614)
Various religious symbolsReligion is a human phenomenon that defies easy definition. It is commonly understood as a group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object (real or imagined), person (real or imagined), or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, or divine, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought. It is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system"[1] In the course of the development of religion, it has taken many forms in various cultures and individuals.
Occasionally, the word "religion" is used in the more restrictive sense of "organized religion" — that is, an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization).

1 Definition of religion
2 Etymology
2.1 From Relego
2.2 From Religare
2.3 From Res + legere
3 Development of religion
3.1 Religion as a social construction
3.2 Religions as progressively true
3.3 Religions as absolutely true
4 Demographics
4.1 Trends in adherence
4.2 Present day adherents
5 Religious belief
6 Related forms of thought
6.1 Religion and science
6.2 Religion, metaphysics, and cosmology
6.3 Esotericism and mysticism
6.4 Spirituality
6.5 Myth
6.6 Cosmology

Definition of religion
Hinduism is possibly the world's oldest existing religion. Shown here is a 1100-year-old Siva temple in IndonesiaThere are many definitions of religion, and most have struggled to avoid an overly sharp definition on the one hand, and meaningless generalities on the other. Some have tried to use formalistic, doctrinal definitions and others have tried to use experiential, emotive, intuitive, valuational and ethical factors.
Sociologists and anthropologists see religion as an abstract set of ideas, values, or experiences developed as part of a cultural matrix. Primitive religion was indistinguishable from the sociocultural acts where custom and ritual defined an emotional reality.
Other religious scholars have put forward a definition of religion that avoids the reductionism of the various sociological and psychological disciplines that relegate religion to its component factors. Religion may be defined as the presence of an awareness of the sacred or the holy. For example Rudolf Otto's "The Idea of the Holy," formulated in 1917, defines the essence of religious awareness as awe, a unique blend of fear and fascination before the divine. Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th century defined religion as a "feeling of absolute dependence."
The Encyclopedia of Religion describes religion in the following way:
"In summary, it may be said that almost every known culture involves the religious in the above sense of a depth dimension in cultural experiences at all levels — a push, whether ill-defined or conscious, toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life. When more or less distinct patterns of behaviour are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience — varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture."
(Winston King, Encyclopedia of Religion, p 7693)

Supplicating Muslim at the Masjid al-Haram. The pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is known as the hajj and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Devout Muslims believe it is a religious duty for all financially and physically able Muslims to travel to Mecca at least once.The etymology of the word "religion" has been debated for centuries. The English word clearly derives from the Latin religio, "reverence (for the gods)" or "conscientiousness". The origins of religio, however, are obscure. Proposed etymological interpretations include:

From Relego
Re-reading–from Latin re (again) + lego (in the sense of "read"), referring to the repetition of scripture.
Treating carefully–from Latin re (again) + lego (in the sense of "choose"–this was the interpretation of Cicero) "go over again" or "consider carefully".

From Religare
Re-connection to the divine–from Latin re (again) + ligare (to connect, as in English ligament). This interpretation is favoured by modern scholars such as Tom Harpur, but was made prominent by St. Augustine, following the interpretation of Lactantius.
To bind or return to bondage–an alternate interpretation of the "reconnection" etymology emphasizing a sense of servitude to God, this may have originated with Augustine. However, the interpretation, while popular with critics of religion, is often considered imprecise and possibly offensive to followers.

From Res + legere
Concerning a gathering — from Latin res (ablative re, with regard to) + legere (to gather), since organized religion revolves around a gathering of people.

Development of religion
Jerusalem is an ancient and sacred city of key importance to the three major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Pictured is the Temple Mount.Main article: Development of religion
There are a number of models regarding the ways in which religions come into being and develop. Broadly speaking, these models fall into three categories:
Models which see religions as social constructions;
Models which see religions as progressing toward higher, objective truth;
Models which see a particular religion as absolutely true;
The models are not mutually exclusive. Multiple models may be seen to apply simultaneously, or different models may be seen as applying to different religions.

Religion as a social construction
This group of models holds that religion is a social construction, rather than referring to actual supernatural phenomena, that is, phenomena beyond the natural world that we measure using the scientific method. Some of these models view religion as nonetheless having or having had a mostly positive effect on society, the individual, and civilization itself, and others view it as having or having had a mostly injurious or destructive effect. Many of these views have their origins in the field of the sociology of religion.
Models that view religion as a social construction include the "Dogma Selection Model," which holds that religions, although untrue in themselves, encode instructions or habits useful for survival, that these ideas "mutate" periodically as they are passed on, and they spread or die out in accord with their effectiveness at improving chances for survival. Another model is that religion is the "Opium of the Masses Model," which states, according to Bertrand Russell, that "[r]eligion in any shape or form is regarded as pernicious and deliberate falsehood, spread and encouraged by rulers and clerics in their own interests, since it is easier to control over the ignorant" (Wisdom of the West, ISBN 0517690411). Furthermore, the "Theory of Religion Model" states that religion arose from some psychological or moral pathology in religious leaders and believers.
Another theory states that spirit-based religions found in many indigenous tribes may originate in dreams. A dead person seen in a dream is, in some sense, not really dead, and so may be able to do good or harm. Some anthropologists see in this the origin of a belief in ghosts and in those religions in which ancestors are worshiped [2].

Religions as progressively true
Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, IsraelIn contrast to the above models, the following models see religion as "progressively true." Within these models religions reflect an essential Truth to one degree or another. The development of religion is therefore the course of religions aligning themselves more closely with the Truth.
Models which view religion as progressively true include the Bahá'í Prophecy Model which holds that God has sent a series of prophets to Earth, each of which brought teachings appropriate for his culture and context, but all originating from the same God, and therefore teachings the same essential message. The A Study of History Model holds that prophets are given to extraordinary spiritual insight during periods of social decay and act as "surveyors of the course of secular civilization who report breaks in the road and breakdowns in the traffic, and plot a new spiritual course which will avoid those pitfalls." Another model, the Great Awakening Model, states that religion proceeds along a Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, in cycles of approximately 80 years as a result of the interaction between four archetypal generations, by which old religious beliefs (the thesis) face new challenges for which they are unprepared (the antithesis) and adapt to create new and more sophisticated beliefs (the synthesis).

Religions as absolutely true
In the following models, religions are seen as absolutely and unchangingly True. They contrast with both the first group of models (which held religion to be false), and the second group (which held religion to develop over time)
Models which view a particular religion as absolutely true include the Jewish Model which holds that God relates to humanity through covenants; that he established a covenant with all humanity at the time of Noah called the Noahide Laws, and that he established a covenant with Israel through the Ten Commandments. The Ayyavazhi Model states that "All religions had their own truth on their own point and the one and same God himself incarnates in different parts and by destroying the evil forces, saved the people and thereby formed different scriptures; the Ayyavazhi models states currently the Akilattirattu Ammanai (scripture of Ayyavazhi) is currently the only living scripture and all others are dead. Exclusivist Models hold that one particular set of religious doctrines is the "One True Religion," and all others are false, so that the development of the True Religion is tied inexorably to one prophet or holy book. In this model, all other religions are seen as either distortions of the original truth or original fabrications resulting from either human ignorance or imagination, or a more devious influence, such as false prophets or the influence of another rival supernatural entity (such as Satan).


Trends in adherence
The Tirupati Hindu temple is the most visited religious shrine in the world and the second richest religious shrine after the Vatican.Since the late 19th century, the demographics of religion have changed a great deal. Some countries with a historically large Christian population have experienced a significant decline in the numbers of professed active Christians. Symptoms of the decline in active participation in Christian religious life include declining recruitment for the priesthood and monastic life, as well as diminishing attendance at church. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of people who identify themselves as secular humanists. In many countries, such as the People's Republic of China, communist governments have discouraged religion, making it difficult to count the actual number of believers. However, after the collapse of communism in numerous countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Eastern Orthodox Christianity has been experiencing considerable resurgence there.
Islam is currently the fastest-growing religion, and is nearly universal in many countries from western Africa to Indonesia, where there are close ties between government and religion. With the influx of Muslim immigrants to Western countries, Islam has grown in significance and in popular awareness even in countries where it is still a minority religion.
Hinduism is undergoing a revival, and many temples are being built, both in India and in other countries. In the Far East, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism are the religions with the largest number of adherents and have greatly influenced spirituality in the West, particularly in the United States. Among major world religions, Hinduism is fastest-growing religion in the United States.

Present day adherents
The following statistics show the number of adherents in all known approaches, both religious and irreligious worldwide. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are the largest world religions today. Approximately 75% of humanity belongs to one of these 4 religions. Christianity is the religion with the largest number of professed religious adherents, followed by Islam. The third-largest group of approximately 1 billion people adhere to irreligious approaches which include Humanism, Atheism, Rationalism, and Agnosticism. Hinduism with 900 million adherents is the third largest religion followed by 19 smaller groups of religious adherents. These figures are necessarily approximate: note that the figures in the following table total nearly 7 billion people, yet the world population was only 6.1 billion (2005). [3].

The largest religious gathering of humans on Earth[1]. About 70 million Hindus from around the world participated in Kumbh Mela in the Hindu holy city of Prayaga, India, which is also known as Allahabad.Christianity 2.1 billion
Islam 1.3 billion
Secular/Irreligious/Agnostic/Atheist 1.1 billion
Hinduism 900 million
Chinese folk religion 394 million
Buddhism 376 million, not including Chinese folk Religion (see also Buddhism by country)
Primal indigenous ("Pagan") 300 million
African traditional and diasporic 100 million
Sikhism 23 million
Juche 19 million
Spiritism 15 million
Judaism 14 million
Bahá'í Faith 7 million
Jainism 4.2 million
Shinto 4 million (see below)
Cao Dai 4 million
Tenrikyo 2 million
Neo-Paganism 1 million
Unitarian Universalism 800,000
Rastafari movement 600,000
Scientology 500,000
Zoroastrianism 180,000 to 250,000

In its Yoga stream, Hinduism is even more widespread all over the world with 20 million practitioners in the United States alone[4]. There are more than 100 million who practise Hinduism in Yoga form worldwide. After including them, Hinduism has around 1.4 billion followers worldwide.
Christianity encompasses many different denomiations but the statistics in the source for this document consider them all together for the purposes of analysis.
Shinto is a special case due to shrine-reporting versus self-reporting. Since the 17th century, there have been laws in Japan requiring registration with Shinto shrines. Because of this, 75-90% of all Japanese are listed on shrine rolls, greatly inflating the apparent number of adherents. When asked in polls, only about 3.3% of Japanese people identify themselves as "Shinto."[5] However, many who do not consider themselves "Shintoists" still practice Shinto rituals.
In ranking religious denominations, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest single denomination within Christianity, Sunni Islam within Islam, and Vaishnavism within Hinduism. It is difficult to say whether there are more Roman Catholics or Sunnis, as the numbers are roughly equal, and exact counts are impossible.

Religious belief
Main article: Religious belief
Religious belief usually relates to the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life. Alternately, it may also relate to values and practices transmitted by a spiritual leader. Unlike other belief systems, which may be passed on orally, religious belief tends to be codified. Religious beliefs are found in virtually every society throughout human history. They are a force for good, and, sometimes, ill in the world.

Related forms of thought

Religion and science
Science, particularly geometry and astronomy, was connected to the divine for most medieval scholars. The compass in this 13th century manuscript is a symbol of God's act of creation.Main article: The relationship between religion and science
Religious knowledge, according to religious practitioners, may be gained from religious leaders, sacred texts (scriptures), and/or personal revelation. Some religions view such knowledge as unlimited in scope and suitable to answer any question; others see religious knowledge as playing a more restricted role, often as a complement to knowledge gained through physical observation. Some religious people maintain that religious knowledge obtained in this way is absolute and infallible (religious cosmology). The particulars of religious knowledge vary from religion to religion, from sect to sect, and often from individual to individual.
The scientific method gains knowledge by testing theories by interaction with the world (checking it against facts or experiments) and thus only answers cosmological questions about the physical universe. It develops theories of the world which best fit physically observed evidence. All scientific knowledge is probabilistic and subject to later improvement or revision in the face of better evidence. Scientific theories that have an overwhelming preponderance of favorable evidence are often treated as facts.
Many early scientists held strong religious beliefs (see Scientists of Faith and List of Christian thinkers in science) and strove to reconcile science and religion. Isaac Newton, for example, believed that gravity caused the planets to revolve about the Sun, but credited God with the design. In the concluding General Scholium to the Principia Mathematica, he wrote: "This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." Nevertheless, conflict arose between religious organizations and individuals who propagated scientific theories which were deemed unacceptable by the organizations. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has historically reserved to itself the right to decide which scientific theories are acceptable and which are unacceptable. In the 17th century, Galileo was tried and forced to recant the heliocentric theory. The modern Roman Catholic Church accepts most common current scientific theories, to the extent that they can be shown not to conflict with the Church's doctrine.
Many theories exist as to why religions sometimes seems to conflict with scientific knowledge. In the case of Christianity, a relevant factor may be that it was among Christians that science in the modern sense was developed. Unlike other religious groups, as early as the 17th century the Christian churches had to deal directly with this new way to investigate nature and seek truth. The perceived conflict between science and Christianity may also be partially explained by a literal interpretation of the Bible adhered to by many Christians, both currently and historically. This way to read the sacred texts became especially prevalent after the rise of the Protestant reformation, with its emphasis on the Bible as the only authoritative source concerning the ultimate reality.[citation needed]
Symbol of AyyavazhiSome Christians have disagreed or are still disagreeing with scientists in areas such as the validity of Keplerian astronomy, the theory of evolution, the method of creation of the universe and the Earth, and the origins of life. On the other hand, scholars such as Stanley Jaki have suggested that Christianity and its particular worldview was a crucial factor for the emergence of modern science.
Proponents of Hinduism claim that Hinduism is not afraid of scientific explorations, nor of the technological progress of mankind. According to them, there is a comprehensive scope and opportunity for Hinduism to mold itself according to the demands and aspirations of the modern world; it has the ability to align itself with both science and spiritualism. This religion uses some modern examples to explain its ancient theories and reinforce its own beliefs. For example, some Hindu thinkers have used the terminology of quantum physics to explain some basic concepts of Hinduism such as the Maya or the illusory and impermanent nature of our existence.
The philosophical approach known as pragmatism, as propounded by the American philosopher William James, has been used to reconcile scientific with religious knowledge. Pragmatism, simplistically, holds that the truth of a set of beliefs can be indicated by its usefulness in helping people cope with a particular context of life. Thus, the fact that scientific beliefs are useful in predicting observations in the physical world can indicate a certain truth for scientific theories; the fact that religious beliefs can be useful in helping people cope with difficult emotions or moral decisions can indicate a certain truth for those beliefs. (For a similar postmodern view, see grand narrative).

Religion, metaphysics, and cosmology
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Religion and philosophy meet in several areas, notably in the study of metaphysics and cosmology. In particular, a distinct set of religious beliefs will often entail a specific metaphysics and cosmology. That is, a religion will generally have answers to metaphysical and cosmological questions about the nature of being, of the universe, humanity, and the divine.
Esotericism and mysticism
Man meditatingMysticism, in contrast with philosophy and metaphysics, denies that logic is the most important method of gaining enlightenment. Rather, physical disciplines such as yoga, starvation, self-strangulation, whirling (in the case of the Sufi dervishes), or the use of Psychoactive drugs such as LSD, lead to higher states of consciousness that logic can never hope to grasp.
Mysticism ("to conceal") is the pursuit of communion with, or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct, personal experience (intuition or insight) rather than rational thought. Mystics believe in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible through personal experience. They believe that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge.
Esotericism claims to be more sophisticated than religion, to rely on intellectual understanding rather than faith, and to improve on philosophy in its emphasis on techniques of psycho-spiritual transformation (esoteric cosmology). Esotericism refers to "hidden" knowledge available only to the advanced, privileged, or initiated, as opposed to exoteric knowledge, which is public. It applies especially to spiritual practices. The mystery religions of ancient Greece and the modern religion of Scientology are examples of Esotericism.

Main article: Spirituality
Hinduism emphasizes that every living being is an eternally existing, individual spirit. While changing its body at every moment, this soul passes from one form of body to another. (Image copyright BBTI)Members of an organized religion may not see any significant difference between religion and spirituality. Or they may see a distinction between the mundane, earthly aspects of their religion and its spiritual dimension.
Some individuals draw a strong distinction between religion and spirituality. They may see spirituality as a belief in ideas of religious significance (such as God, the Soul, or Heaven), but not feel bound to the bureaucratic structure and creeds of a particular organized religion. They choose the term spirituality rather than religion to describe their form of belief, perhaps reflecting a disillusionment with organized religion (see Religion in modernity), and a movement towards a more "modern" — more tolerant, and more intuitive — form of religion. These individuals may reject organized religion because of historical acts by religious organizations, such as Islamic terrorism, the marginalisation and persecution of various minorities or the Spanish Inquisition.
Mohandas Gandhi, who was born a Hindu, wrote the following about religion in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth

"Thus if I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects were pressingly visible to me. If untouchability could be a part of Hinduism, it could but be a rotten part or an excrescence. I could not understand the raison d'etre of a multitude of sects and castes. What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired Word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran? As Christian friends were endeavouring to convert me, so were Muslim friends. Abdullah Sheth had kept on inducing me to study Islam, and of course he had always something to say regarding its beauty."
He then went on to say:
"As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality. Man, for instance, cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side."
He also said the following about Hinduism:
"Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being... When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita."
Later in his life when he was asked whether he was a Hindu, he replied:
"Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew."
Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism (1469) was once asked who is superior Hindu or Muslim to which he replied if they don't practice what their religion preaches both may cry as none is superior. Guru Nanak said,"there is only one universal creator"

The word myth has two main meanings:
A traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon;
A person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.
Ancient polytheistic religions, such as those of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia, are categorized under the heading of mythology. Religions of pre-industrial peoples, or cultures in development, are similarly called myths in the anthropology of religion. The term "myth" can be used pejoratively by both religious and non-religious people. But by defining another person's religious stories and beliefs as mythology, one implies that they are less real or true than one's own religious stories and beliefs. Joseph Campbell often made the statement "Mythology is popularly defined as 'other peoples' religions'...but actually religion is misinterpreted mythology".
The term myth in sociology, however, has a non-pejorative meaning. There, myth is defined as stories that are important for the group whether or not it is objectively or provably true. Examples include the death and resurrection of Jesus, which, to Christians, explains the means by which they are freed from sin, as well as being ostensibly a historical event. But from a mythological outlook, whether or not a death and resurrection actually occurred or not is unimportant. Instead, the symbolism of a death to an old "life" and the start of a new "life" is more important than the religious dogma of the actual historical authenticity.

Main articles: Religious cosmology, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Esotericism, Mysticism, Spirituality, Mythology, Philosophy of Religion
Humans have many different methods which attempt to answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and our place in it (cosmology). What is reality? How can we know? Who are we? Why we are here? How should we live? What happens after we die? Religion is only one of the methods for trying to answer one or more of these questions. Other methods include science, philosophy, metaphysics, esotericism, and mysticism. Many people use more than one of these methods.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spirituality Portal
In Hinduism, spiritual goals and personal experience (self-realization) through yoga and meditation are seen as the ultimate way to attain God (Moksha) and are inseparable from the religion. Artwork © courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book TrustSpirituality is, in a narrow sense, a concern with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, concerning as it does eternal verities regarding Man's ultimate nature, is often contrasted with the temporal or the worldly. The central defining characteristic of spirituality is belief in a supernatural realm of existence, opposed to materialism, which posits that only the material world truly exists. As with some forms of religion, the emphasis of spirituality is on personal experience with that supernatural realm. It may be an expression for life perceived as higher, more complex or more integrated with one's worldview, as contrasted with the merely sensual.

1 The spiritual and the religious
2 Directed spirituality
3 Spirituality and personal well-being
4 The Spiritual and Science
5 Spiritual traditions and communities

The spiritual and the religious
An important distinction needs to be made between spirituality in religion and spirituality as opposed to religion.
In recent years, spirituality in religion often carries connotations of the believer's faith being more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of established religions. It also can connote the nature of a believer's personal relationship or "connection" with their god or belief system, as opposed to the general relationship with the Deity understood to be shared by all members of that faith.
Those who speak of spirituality as opposed to religion generally believe that there are many "spiritual paths" and that there is no objective truth about which is the best path to follow. Rather, adherents of this definition of the term emphasize the importance of finding one's own path to whatever-god-there-is, rather than following what others say works. The best way to describe this view is: the path which makes the most sense is the correct one (for oneself). Many adherents of orthodox religions who consider spirituality to be an aspect of their religious experience are more likely to contrast spirituality with secular "worldliness" than with the ritual expression of their religion.
Others of a more New Age disposition hold that spirituality is not religion, per se, but the active and vital connection to a force, spirit, or sense of the deep self. As cultural historian and yogi William Irwin Thompson put it, "Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization." (1981, 31)

Directed spirituality
One aspect of 'Being spiritual' is goal-directed, with aims such as: simultaneously improve one's wisdom and willpower, achieve a closer connection to Deity/the universe, and remove illusions or false ideas at the sensory, feeling and thinking aspects of a person. The 'Plato's cave' analogy in book VII of The Republic is one of the most well known descriptions of the spiritual development process, and thus, an excellent aid in understanding what "spiritual development" exactly entails.
Others say that spirituality is a two-stroke process: the "upward stroke" is inner growth, changing oneself as one changes his/her relationship with God, and the "downward stroke" is manifesting improvements in the physical reality around oneself as a result of the inward change. Another connotation is that change will come onto itself with the realization that all is oneself; whereupon the divine inward manifests the diverse outward for experience and progress.

Spirituality and personal well-being
Spirituality, according to most adherants, is an essential part of an individual's holistic health and well-being.
Due to its broad scope and personal nature, however, spirituality can perhaps be better understood by highlighting key concepts that arise when people are asked to describe what spirituality means to them. Research by Martsolf and Mickley (1998) highlighted the following areas as worthy of consideration:
Meaning – significance of life; making sense of situations; deriving purpose.
Values – beliefs, standards and ethics that are cherished.
Transcendence – experience, awareness, and appreciation of a "transcendent dimension" to life beyond self.
Connecting – increased awareness of a connection with self, others, God/Spirit/Divine, and nature.
Becoming – an unfolding of life that demands reflection and experience; includes a sense of who one is and how one knows.

The Spiritual and Science
Analysis of spiritual qualities in science is bedeviled by the imprecision of spiritual concepts, the subjectivity of spiritual experience, and the amount of work required to translate and map observable components of a spiritual system into empirical evidence. Nevertheless, certain connections have been made. Prominent scientists such as Niels Bohr, David Bohm and Anton Zeilinger have articulated spiritual consequences of quantum physics. The yearly fora between physicists (including Zeilinger) and the Dalai Lama, one of which has been published under the title of The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, are exemplary explorations of the overlaps between these areas.
Rudolf Steiner and others in the anthroposophic tradition have attempted to apply scientific methodology to the study of spiritual phenomena to shape a spiritual science. This is not an attempt to redefine natural science, but to explore inner experience, especially our thinking, with the same rigor as we apply to outer (sensory) experience. The scientific criteria of intersubjectivity and repeatability have, however, rarely been met here.
Ken Wilber is another modern figure attempting to unite science and spirituality. He has proposed an integral theory of consciousness.

Spiritual traditions and communities
Bahá'í Faith
Catholic Spirituality
Christian Science
Christianity (Holy Spirit, Pentecostalism)
Esoteric Christianity
Feminist spirituality
Hinduism, Hare Krishna
Islam, Sufism
Judaism, Kaballah
Neo-confucianism, Taoism
New Age, New Thought, Spiritualism, The Dances of Universal Peace
Paganism, Neopaganism, Modern Gallae
Religious Science
Surat Shabda Yoga
Unitarian Universalism

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Michelangelo's depiction of God in the painting Creation of the Sun and Moon in the Sistine Chapel
Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, one of the manifestations of the ultimate reality or God in HinduismThis article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. See deity, god (male deity) or goddesses for details on polytheistic usages. See Names of God for terms used in other languages or specific faiths. See God (word) for the etymology and capitalization of the term. See God (disambiguation) for non-religious meanings.
God denotes the deity believed by monotheists to be the sole creator and ruler of the universe. Conceptions of God can vary widely, despite the use of the same term for them all.
The God of monotheism, pantheism or panentheism, or the supreme deity of henotheistic religions, may be conceived of in various degrees of abstraction: as a powerful, human-like, supernatural being, or as the deification of an esoteric, mystical or philosophical category, the Ultimate, the summum bonum, the Absolute Infinite, the Transcendent, or Existence or Being itself, the ground of being, the monistic substrate, that which we cannot understand, etc. The more abstract of these positions regard any anthropomorphic mythology and iconography associated with God either sympathetically as mere symbolism, or unfavourably as blasphemous.
Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. The question of the existence of God classically falls under the branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, but is also one of the key discussions taking place within the field of the philosophy of religion.

1 Names of God
2 History of monotheism
3 Theology
4 Conceptions of God
4.1 Abrahamic conceptions
4.1.1 Biblical definition of God
4.1.2 Kabbalistic definition of God
4.1.3 Islamic concept of God
4.1.4 Negative theology
4.1.5 God as unity or Trinity
4.1.6 Binitarianism
4.2 God in Sikhism
4.3 Conceptions of God in Hinduism
4.4 The Ultimate
4.5 Aristotelian definition of God
4.6 Modern views
4.6.1 Process philosophy and Open Theism
4.6.2 Christian Monism
4.6.3 Posthuman God
4.6.4 Extraterrestrials
4.6.5 Phenomenological definition
4.6.6 The Rosicrucian conception of God
4.7 Parodies of God and religion
4.7.1 The Pastafarian explanation of God
4.7.2 The Invisible Pink Unicorn
5 Notes and references

Names of God
YHWH, the name of God or Tetragrammaton, in Phoenician (1100 BC to AD 300), Aramaic (10th Century BC to 0) and modern Hebrew scripts.For more details on this topic, see Names of God.
The noun God is the proper English name used for the deity of monotheistic faiths. Different names for God exist within different religious traditions:
Allah is the unique name of God used in Islam, and also by most non-Muslim Arabs. ilah, cognate to northwest Semitic El, is the generic word for a god (any deity), Allah contains the article, literally "The God". Also, when speaking in English, Muslims often translate "Allah" as "God". One Islamic tradition states that Allah has 99 names while others say that all good names belong to Allah.
Ayyavazhi asserts Ekam, (The Ultimate Oneness) as supreme one and Ayya Vaikundar the Incarnation of Ekam. There are also several separate lesser gods who were all later unified into Vaikundar.
Yahweh Hebrew: 'YHVH' (????), and Jehovah are some of the names used for God in various translations of the Bible (all translating the same four letters - YHVH). El, and the plural/majestic form Elohim, is another term used frequently, though El can also simply mean god in reference to deities of other religions. Others include El Shaddai, Adonai, Amanuel, and Amen. When Moses asked "What is your name?" he was given the answer Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, which literally means, "I am that I am," as a parallel to the tetragrammaton YHWH. See The name of God in Judaism for Jewish names of God. Most Orthodox Jews, and many Jews of other denominations, believe it wrong to write the word "God" on any substance which can be destroyed. Therefore, they will write "G-d" as what they consider a more respectful symbolic representation. Others consider this unnecessary because English is not the "Holy Language" (ie, Hebrew), but still will not speak the Hebrew representation written in the Torah, "yih-yah", aloud, and will instead use other names such as "Adonai" (my lord) or the euphemism "Hashem" (literally The Name").
In early English Bibles, the Tetragrammaton was rendered in capitals: "IEHOUAH" in William Tyndale's version of 1525. The King James Version of 1611 renders YHWH as "The Lord", also as "Jehovah", see Psalms 83:18; Exodus 6:3.
Elohim as "God" (with the plural suffix -im, but always used with singular agreement); often used to present the Holy Trinity
The Holy Trinity (meaning the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit/"Holy Ghost") denotes God in almost all mainstream Christianity. Arab Christians will often also use Allah to refer to God.
God is called Igzi'abihier (lit. "Lord of the Universe") or Amlak (lit. the plural of mlk, "king" or "lord") in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Jah is the name of God in the Rastafari movement.
The Maasai name for "God" is Ngai, which occurs in the volcano name Ol Doinyo Lengai ("the mountain of God").
The Mi'kmaq name for "God" is Niskam.
Some churches (United Church of Canada, Religious Science) are using "the One" alongside "God" as a more gender-neutral way of referring to God (See also Oneness).
Ishvara is the term used for God among the Hindus. In Sanskrit, it means the Supreme Lord. Most Hindus worship the personal form of God or Saguna Brahman, as Vishnu, Shiva, or directly as the Supreme Cosmic Spirit Brahman through the Gayatri mantra. A common prayer for Hindus is the Vishnu sahasranama, which is a hymn describing the one thousand names of God. Ishvara must not be confused with the numerous deities of the Hindus. In modern Hindi, Ishvara is also called Bhagavan.
Baquan is a phonetical pronunciation for God in several Pacific Islander religions.
Buddhism is non-theistic: Instead of extolling an anthropomorphic creator God, Gautama Buddha employed negative theology to avoid speculation and keep the undefined as ineffable. Buddha believed the more important issue was to bring beings out of suffering to liberation. Enlightened ones are called Arhats or Buddha (e.g, the Buddha Sakyamuni), and are venerated. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being that has chosen to forego entering into nirvana to help others to become enlightened, though there is no reason for there to only ever be one, and no reason that any ordinary human may not become a bodhisattva. Buddhism also teaches about the devas or heavenly beings who temporarily dwell in states of great happiness.
Jains invoke the five paramethis: Siddha, Arahant, Acharya, Upadhyaya, Sadhu. The arhantas include the 24 Tirthankaras from Lord Rishabha to Mahavira. But Jain philosophy as such does not recognize any Supreme Omnipotent creator God.
Sikhs worship God with these common names Waheguru Wondrous God, Satnaam (True is Your Name), Akal (the Eternal) or Onkar (some similarity to the Hindu Aum). When reciting these names, devotion, dedication and a genuine appreciation and acceptance of the Almighty and His blessings is essential if one is to gain anything by the meditation. Just mechanical reciting of the words brings little advantage to the devotee. Help of the Guru is essential to reach God.
In Surat Shabda Yoga, names used for God include Anami Purush (nameless power) and Radha Swami (lord of the soul, symbolized as Radha).
The Bahá'í Faith refers to God using the local word for God in whatever language is being spoken. In the Bahá'í Writings in Arabic, Allah is used. Bahá'ís share some naming traditions with Islam, but see "Bahá" (Glory or Splendour) as The Greatest Name of God. God's names are seen as his attributes, and God is often, in prayers, referred to by these titles and attributes.
Zoroastrians worship Ahura Mazda.
To many Native American religions, God is called "The Great Spirit", "The Master of Life", "The Master of Breath", or "Grandfather". Other similar names may also be used.

History of monotheism
Main article: Monotheism
The religions that are monotheistic today are often thought of as having been of relatively recent historical origin — although efforts at comparison are usually beset by claims of most religions to being very ancient or eternal. Eastern religions, especially in China and India, that have concepts of panentheism, are notably difficult to classify along Western notions of monotheism vs. polytheism. Attempting to compare the two is much like asking how many sides a circle has when comparing to a square, in that it makes no sense.
In the Ancient Orient, many cities had their own local god, though this henotheistic worship of a single god did not imply denial of the existence of other gods. The Hebrew Ark of the Covenant is supposed (by some scholars) to have adapted this practice to a nomadic lifestyle, paving their way for a singular God. Yet, many scholars now believe that it may have been the Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Empire that was the first monotheistic religion, and the Jews were influenced by such notions (this controversy is still in debate)[1].
The innovative cult of the Egyptian solar god Aten was promoted by the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenophis IV), who ruled between 1358 and 1340 BC. The Aten cult is often cited as the earliest known example of monotheism, and is sometimes claimed to have been a formative influence on early Judaism, due to the presence of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. But even though Akhenaten's hymn to Aten offers strong evidence that Akhenaten considered Aten to be the sole, omnipotent creator, Akhenaten's program to enforce this monotheistic world-view ended with his death; the worship of other gods beside Aten never ceased outside his court, and the older polytheistic cults soon regained precedence.
Other early examples of monotheism include two late rigvedic hymns (10.129,130) to a Panentheistic creator god, Shri Rudram, a Vedic hymn to Rudra, an earlier aspect of Shiva often referred to by the ancient Brahmans as Stiva, a masculine fertility god, which expressed monistic theism, and is still chanted today; the Zoroastrian Ahuramazda and Chinese Shang Ti. The worship of polytheistic gods, on the other hand, is seen by many to predate monotheism, reaching back as far as the Paleolithic. Today, monotheistic religions are dominant, though other systems of belief still exist.
Theologians attempt to explicate (and in some cases systematize) beliefs; some express their own experience of the divine. Theologians ask questions such as, 'What is the nature of God?' 'What does it mean for God to be singular?' 'If people believe in God as a duality or trinity, what do these terms signify?' 'Is God transcendent, immanent, or some mix of the two?' 'What is the relationship between God and the universe, and God and humankind?'[citation needed]
It is also important to note that most major religions hold God not as a metaphor, but a being that influences our day-to-day existences. This is to say that people who have rejected the teachings of such religions typically view God as a metaphor or stand-in for the common aspirations and beliefs all humans share, rather than a sentient part of life; whereas organized religion tends to believe the opposite.
Theism holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal, and is personal, interested and answers prayer. It holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and in some way present in the affairs of the world. Catholic theology holds that God is infinitely simple and is not involuntarily subject to time. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, although this belief raises questions about God's responsibility for evil and suffering in the world. Some theists ascribe to God a self-conscious or purposeful limiting of omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence. Open Theism, by contrast, asserts that, due to the nature of time, God's omniscience does not mean he can predict the future. "Theism" is sometimes used to refer in general to any belief in a god or gods, i.e., monotheism or polytheism.
Deism holds that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world beyond what was necessary for God to create it. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and does not literally answer prayers or cause miracles to occur. Common in Deism is a belief that God has no interest in humanity and may not even be aware of humanity.
Monotheism holds that there is only one God, and/or that the one true God is worshipped in different religions under different names. It is important to note, however, that monotheists of one religion can, and often do, consider the monotheistic god of a different religion to be a false god. For instance, many Christian fundamentalists consider the God of Islam (Allah) to be a false god or demon. However, theologians and linguists argue that "Allah" is merely the Arabic word for "God," and not the literal name of a specifically Muslim God (this is more clearly shown by the fact that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews refer to God as "Allah" with no problem whatsoever). To Muslims, the Bible is a holy scripture and Jesus is a Holy Prophet, so Islam is considered a continuation of Christianity. Many Jews consider the messiah of Christianity (Jesus) to be a false god and some monotheists (notably fundamentalist Christians) hold that there is one triune God, and that all gods of other religions are actually demons in disguise (as in 2nd Corinthians 11 verse 14). Eastern religious believers and liberal Christians are more likely to assume those of other faiths worship the same God as they, just under a different name and/or form. Muslims believe that Jesus, although the Messiah and one of the holy Prophets, is not the son of God, because relating God to any partners or spouses or offspring is considered blasphemy and apostasy.
Pantheism holds that God is the universe and the universe is God. Panentheism holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe. The distinctions between the two are subtle, and some consider them unhelpful. It is also the view of the Liberal Catholic Church, Theosophy, Hinduism, Ayyavazhi, some divisions of Buddhism, and Taoism, along with many varying denominations and individuals within denominations. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, paints a pantheistic/panentheistic view of God - which has wide acceptance in Hasidic Judaism, particularly from their founder The Baal Shem Tov - but only as an addition to the Jewish view of a personal god, not in the original pantheistic sense that denies or limits persona to God.
Dystheism is a form of theism which holds that God is malevolent as a consequence of the problem of evil. Dystheistic speculation is common in theology, but there is no known church of practicing dystheists. See also Satanism.
Nontheism holds that the universe can be explained without any reference to the supernatural, or to a supernatural being. Some non-theists avoid the concept of God, whilst accepting that it is significant to many; other non-theists understand God as a symbol of human values and aspirations.
Most believers allow for the existence of other, less powerful spiritual beings, and give them names such as angels, saints, Djinni, demons, and devas.
Relation of God to the Universe - Catholic Encyclopedia article
Conceptions of God
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Abrahamic conceptions

16th century Christian view of Genesis: God creates Adam (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel)Judaism, Christianity and Islam see God as a being who created the world and who rules over the universe. God is usually held to have the properties of holiness (separate from sin and incorruptible), justice (fair, right, and true in all His judgments), sovereignty (unthwartable in His will), omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), omni benevolence (all-loving), omnipresence (present everywhere at the same time), and immortality (eternal and everlasting). He is also believed to be transcendent, meaning that He is outside space and outside time, and therefore eternal and unable to be changed by earthly forces or anything else within His creation.
Jews, Christians and Muslims often conceive of God as a personal God, with a will and personality. However, many rationalist philosophers felt that one should not view God as personal, and that such personal descriptions of God are only meant as metaphors, as it was widely viewed that God's transcendence meant that He could not act in the lives of ordinary people.
In Eastern Christianity, it remains essential that God be personal; hence it speaks of the three persons of the Trinity. It also emphasizes that God has a will, and that God the Son has two wills, divine and human, though these are never in conflict. However, this point is disputed by Oriental Orthodox Christians, who hold that God the Son has only one will of unified divinity and humanity (see Miaphysitism). The personhood of God and of all human people is essential to the concept of theosis or deification.
Biblical definition of God
God according to the Bible is characterized not just as Creator, but also as the "Heavenly Father". God "defines" himself several times in the Bible.
The Torah (which would later be incorporated into the Christian or Protestant Old Testament) characterizes God by these attributes: "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7)
Even earlier in that same book, God reveals what is to become his people's intimate name for him, Yahweh, YHWH or Jehovah, meaning "I am who I am", "I will be what I will be". Moses asks God in Exodus 3:13 who he should say has sent him, if the Egyptians ask for God's name. This self-definition expresses God's dependable nature, faithfulness and worthiness of trust of his people. It is shortened to "I Am"; this name is probably the derivative for the name Lord Almighty (often written LORD), the Hebrew sounding similar. Jesus was nearly stoned for blasphemy in John 8:58-59, for applying this phrase to himself, and therefore claiming to be God.
The Torah contains no systematic theology: No attempt is made to give a philosophical or rigorous definition of God, nor of how God acts in the world. It does not explicitly describe God's nature, exemplified by God's assertion in Exodus that "you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live". Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible are the words omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent used to define God in a systematic sense.
Although Scripture does not describe God systematically, it does provide a poetic depiction of God and His relationship with people. According to the Biblical historian Yehezkal Kaufmann, the essential innovation of Biblical theology was to posit a God that cares about people, and that cares about whether people care about Him. Some people believe that the Bible should be viewed as humanity's view of God, but theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel described the Biblical God as "anthropopathic", which means that one should read the Bible as God's view of humanity, and not as humanity's view of God.
Similarly, the New Testament contains little systematic theology: little or no philosophical or rigorous definition of God is given, nor of how God acts in the world; however John's gospel states: "God is light" (John 1:5), before he states: "God is love" (John 4:8) and: "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24). The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presents a more grim side of the deity when he states: "For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29).

The New Testament provides an implicit theology as it teaches that God interacted directly with people, in the person of Jesus, and that he subsequently sent the Holy Spirit. In this view, God becomes someone that can be seen and touched, and may speak and act in a manner easily perceived by humans, while also remaining transcendent and invisible. This may appear to be a radical departure from the concepts of God found in Hebrew Bible. Most Christians believe the New Testament's statements regarding the nature of God can be directly codified into the doctrine of the Trinity.
Kabbalistic definition of God
Mainstream Orthodox Judaism teaches that God is neither matter nor spirit. They teach that God is the creator of both, but is himself neither. But if God is so different from his creation, how can there be any interaction between the Creator and the created? This question prompted early Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) to envision two aspects of God, (a) God himself, who in the end is unknowable, and (b) the revealed aspect of God who created the universe, preserves the universe, and interacts with mankind in a personal way. Kabbalists believe that these two aspects are not contradictory but complement one another, similar to a creation inside a person's mind.
This view has been developed further in Hasidic and anti-nomian circles, however. Kabbalah teaches that in order to create the physical universe, God "withdrew," and created the universe within the space from which "He" contracted("Zimzum"). It is taught in the Zohar that God, at the beginning of creation, shattered ten ?????? ("sephiroth") or ???? ("kaylim" or "vessels") scattering their fragments throughout the universe. (Physicist-theologian Gerald Schroeder makes a correlation between this view and Big Bang theory in Genesis & The Big Bang.) The sephiroth — represented by the so-called ?? ???? ("Etz Hayim" or "Tree of Life") — are comprised of different vessels embodying various emanations of God's being.
With this in mind, the Kabbalist Isaac Luria, explained that all creation contained ????? ("nitzutz" or "holy sparks") — the remnants and shards of the sephiroth/kaylim which God had shattered — and offered a theological purpose known as ????? ???? ("Tikkun Olam" or "rectifying the world") which states that humanity's duty is to recognize the holy sparks inherent in all creation and to elevate them by performing ????? ("mitzvot"), otherwise regarded as the fulfilment of Biblical obligations. This view gave rise to the concept of panentheism in Judaism: The notion that God is inherent in all things, and is corroborated by the Jewish principle ???? ?????? ("b'tzelem Elohim" or "in the image of God"), inferring that all humanity is created with God inherent. The concept derives from Genesis 9:6 (serving as a Biblical proof-text for the position), "For in the image of God He made man." Thus, suggested Luria, by doing mitzvoth directed towards our fellow human being, we recognize the nitzutz within them, and thus sanctify and elevate their inherent Godliness.
This notion is exemplified rather well by a Jewish nursery school song
Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere. Up, up, down, down, right, left, and all around. Here, there, and everywhere, Hashem is truly there.
Over time, this view evolved into the belief that all of creation and all of existence was in fact God itself, and that we as humanity are unaware of our own inherent Godliness and are grappling to come to terms with it. The standing view in neo-Hasidism, currently, is that there is nothing in existence other than God. I.e., all being is God. As it is stated in the ancient Kabbalistic incantation, ??? ??? ?????? ("Ain od milvado") — "There is nothing but God." Thus, it has become understood that God used God's self to form the universe. Rather than a contraction and the creation of something "other" in the void which God created, it is as though God punched a doughnut-hole in God's self and used the remaining "munchkin" to form all of creation.
This paradigm shift is well documented by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a Lubavitch Hasidic rabbi and founder of Jewish Renewal and its neo-Hasidic progeny, in his book Wrapped In A Holy Flame:[citation needed]

I'd like to say we are in the shift to the place where everything is God, pantheism. The understanding that has come from mysticism and from people on the cusp of periods moving from past to present, people talking about primary experience, is that the body and the soul cannot be separated. It shouldn't be that they should be fighting one another, that you have too get rid of one in order to get the other. We want Wholeness, a holistic understanding, now. I believe that people are moving from theism to pantheism. There are some who don't like the word pantheism, the idea that God is everything. They prefer the word panentheism, which means that God is in everything. I, however, don't think that the distinction is real. What was the objection that people had to pantheism, God is everything? "Are you going to tell me that the excrement of a dog is also God?" And the answer to this would be —"Yes." What is wrong with that? It is only from the human perspective that we see a difference between that and challah. On the sub molecular level, on the atomic level, they all look the same. And if you look from a galactic perspective, what difference is there between one and the other? So if "God is everything," why are you and I here? Because we are the appearance of God in this particular form. And God likes to appear in countless forms and experience countless lives. If you would have mentioned this point of view when theism was dominant, you might have been killed. The theists would complain, "What you are saying is that there are no differences anymore? Does that mean that everything is right, everything is kosher? Where are the differences?" And those are good questions. We are not so far advanced yet that we can explain all these things, but deep down, the deepest level of the pattern is that God is everything. So it's not that God created the world but that God became the world.
Another progenitor of neo-Hasidism, Rabbi Arthur Green, further describes the evolution of pantheistic thought in the Hasidic world, as well, in his book Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology
Islamic concept of God
Main article: Islamic concept of God
Allah (Arabic allahu ????) is the Arabic word for "God", and is used by Arabic-speaking Muslims, Chistians and Jews and Mizrahi Jews alike.

Negative theology
Main article: Negative theology.
Some Jewish, Christian and Muslim Medieval philosophers, including Moses Maimonides and Pseudo-Dionysius, as well as many sages of other religions, developed what is termed as Apophatic Theology or the Via Negativa, the idea that one cannot posit attributes to God and can only be discussed by what God is not. For example, we cannot say that God "exists" in the usual sense of the term, because that term is human defined and God's qualities such as existence may not be accurately characterized by it. What we can safely say is that it cannot be proven empirically or otherwise that God is existent, therefore God is not non-existent. Likewise God's "wisdom" is of a fundamentally different kind from limited human perception. So we cannot use the word "wise" to describe God, because this implies he is wise in the way we usually describe humans being wise. However we can safely say that God is not ignorant. We should not say that God is One, because we may not truly understand his nature, but we can state that there is no multiplicity in God's being.
The reason that this theology was developed was because it was felt that ascribing positive characteristics to God would imply that God could be accurately described with terms that were used to describe human qualities and perceptions. As humans cannot truly comprehend what kind of wisdom an eternal transcendent being might have, or what infinity might be like, we cannot in fact know or characterize His true nature. It is beyond human ability and would only mislead people.
The same path is known in Hindu tradition as Neti neti, literally "not this nor that".

The proponents of this theory often experienced meditation which they viewed as the only effective way of having a personal relationship with God. It involved trying to reach beyond the words commonly used to describe Him and His more ineffable characteristics, and to comprehend in a mystical manner the truths about Him which could not be achieved through religious language. Thus many sages and saints of both monotheistic and other traditions experienced mystical trances, or raptures and stated they were unable to describe God or their visions fully.

God as unity or Trinity
Muslims, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses and a small fraction of other nominal Christians are unitarian monotheists. The vast majority of Christians have been and still are Trinitarian monotheists.
Unitarian monotheists hold that there is only one "person" (so to speak), or one basic substance, in God. Some adherents of this position consider Trinitarianism to be a form of polytheism.
Trinitarian monotheists believe in one God that exists as three interdependent persons who share the same substance/essence; the Christian version of this is called the Trinity. The Hindu version Trimurti, differs from Christianity in holding that God has three aspects, though shown as anthromorphs. Trinitarians hold that the three persons of God have the same purpose, holiness, and sovereignty, and therefore each can be worshipped as God, without violating the idea that there is only truly one God to which worship belongs. The Smarta denomination of Hinduism also hold that belief and believe that worship of any aspect of God is equivalent. Although not a perfect analogy, the other denominations of Hinduism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism would be considered unitarian monotheistic faiths.
Ayyavazhi says Ayya Vaikundar is the unity of Ekam, Narayana and a human. (See:Ayyavazhi Trinity)
Mormons believe that there are three separate divine personages (i.e., beings). One of these personages is a spirit without a body referred to as the "Holy Ghost". The other two personages are beings with perfected or glorified (often called celestial) bodies referred to as Heavenly Father (or less commonly "Elohim") and his son, Jesus Christ. They believe that through the mercy of Jesus Christ and by following their religion's teachings, humans are eligible to become gods (sometimes phrased as "become like Heavenly Father") at some point after death and resurrection; this is also called Exaltation.
Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is both God the Father and God the Son, made manifest in human flesh as the reincarnation of Jesus, while the Holy Spirit is seen to dwell within all believers (of Rastafari), and within all people (believed by some).
Hasidic Jews hold that there are ten Sefirot (emanations) of God. Each of these are more distinct than a characteristic, but less distinct than a separate personage.
Monism is the metaphysical position that all is of one essential essence, substance or energy. Monism can be inclusive of other interpretations of God.
Dualism is the idea of two, nearly equal divine entities, one being the good God, and the other being an evil god, or Satan. All beings are under the influence of one side, or the other, if they know it or not. Zoroastrianism is an example of dualism.
Binitarianism: A view within Christianity that there were originally two beings in the Godhead, the Father and the Word that became the Son (Jesus the Christ). Binitarians normally believe that God is a family, currently consisting of the Father and the Son. Some binitarians believe that others will ultimately be born into that divine family. Hence, binitarians are nontrinitarian, but they are also not unitarian. Binitarians, like most unitarians and trinitarians, claim their views were held by the original New Testament Church. Unlike most unitarians and trinitarians who tend to identify themselves by those terms, binitarians normally do not refer to their belief in the duality of the Godhead, with the Son subordinate to the Father; they simply teach the Godhead in a manner that has been termed as binitarianism.
"The word “binitarian” is typically used by scholars and theologians as a contrast to a trinitarian theology: a theology of “two” in God rather than a theology of “three”... it is accurate to offer the judgment that most commonly when someone speaks of a Christian “binitarian” theology the “two” in God are the Father and the Son...A substantial amount of recent scholarship has been devoted to exploring the implications of the fact that Jesus was worshipped by those first Jewish Christians, since in Judaism "worship" was limited to the worship of God" (Barnes M. Early Christian Binitarianism: the Father and the Holy Spirit. Early Christian Binitarianism—as read at NAPS 2001). Much of this recent scholarship has been the result of the translations of the Nag Hammadi and other ancient manuscripts which were not available when older scholarly texts (such as W. Bousset's Kyrios Christos, 1913) were written.
Although some critics prefer to use the term ditheist or dualist instead of binitarian, those terms suggests that God is not one, yet binitarians believe that God is one family.

God in Sikhism
Main article: God in Sikhism
The Sikhs believe in one God who is the God of all the peoples of the World; the Creator; has existed from the beginning of time; never dies and will survive forever. He/She is genderless; without form; fearless; without enemies; self sufficient; not subject of the cycle of birth and death; All Powerful; etc - Gods qualities are too many for people to narrate.
Many names are used for God:- Waheguru - The Wonderful Lord; Satnam - Thy True Name is TRUTH . Malik - Master; Karta Purakh - The Creator, etc
Below are the main qualities that Sikhism attributes to God:
Only God is worthy of worship and meditation at all times
He is the Creator but also the Destroyer
God is Compassionate and Kind
With His Grace, He comes to dwell within the mind and body
Blessing us with His Grace, the Kind and Compassionate All-powerful Lord comes to dwell within the mind and body. (SGGS Page 49)
He is merciful and wise
The Cherisher Lord is so very merciful and wise; He is compassionate to all. (SGGS Page 249)
He is the ultimate Protector of all beings
The Lord is kind and compassionate to all beings and creatures; His Protecting Hand is over all. (SGGS Page 300)
Only with His Will can pain, poverty, disease and hardships be removed from ones life.
O Nanak, God has been kind and compassionate; He has blessed me. Removing pain and poverty, He has blended me with Himself. ||8||5|| (SGGS Page 1311)
God is everywhere
Nanak is attuned to the Love of the Lord, whose Light pervades the entire Universe. (SGGS Page 49)

Conceptions of God in Hinduism
Aum. Found first in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism, Aum has been seen as the first manifestation of the unmanifest Brahman (the single Divine Ground of Hinduism) that resulted in the phenomenal universeThe Sanskrit word for God, that is used most commonly, is Ishvara (IAST: isvara IPA: / i??v?r? /, originally a title comparable to "Lord" or "Excellency" < from the roots isa, lit., powerful/supreme/lord/owner, + vara, lit., choicest/most excellent). Hindus believe that Ishvara is only One. This must not be confused with the numerous deities of the Hindus known as devas, are said to number up to 330 million. Deva may be translated into English as "god" (sic), "deity", "demi-god", "angel" or any celestial being or thing of high excellence, and hence is venerable. The word is, in fact, cognate to Latin deus "god".
The Vedantic school of Hindu philosophy also has a notion of a Supreme Cosmic Spirit called Brahman, pronounced as / br?h m?n /. Brahman is (at best) described as that infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, transcendent and immanent reality that is the divine ground of all existence in this universe. Brahman is actually undescribable. It is at best, "Sat" + "Chit" + "Ananda", ie, Infinite Truth, Infinite Consciousness and Infinite Bliss. Brahman may be called as God, or better, as Godhead or the Supreme Cosmic Spirit.
A major branch of Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, served as the fertile grounds from which one of the first monistic philosophies of God was developed. According to Advaitins, Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality in this world, and everything else is an illusion. They believe that Maya is that complex illusionary power of Brahman which causes the Brahman to be seen as the distinct material world. When a human being tries to know the attributeless Brahman with his mind, under the influence of Maya, Brahman becomes God (Ishvara as described as above). God is Brahman with Maya. He is Saguna Brahman or Brahman with positive attributes. He is one and unique. He is omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal, independent, creator of the world, its ruler and also destroyer. He is eternal and unchangeable. He rules the world with his Maya. However, while God is the Lord of Maya and she (ie, Maya) is always under His control, living beings (jiva, in the sense of humans) are the servants of Maya (in the form of ignorance). This ignorance is the cause of the unhappiness and sin in the mortal world. While God is Infinite Bliss, humans are miserable. God (Ishvara) always knows the unity of the Brahman substance, and the Mayic nature of the world. There is no place of a Satan or devil in Hinduism, unlike Abrahamic religions. Advaitins explain the misery because of ignorance. God or Ishvara can also be visualized and worshipped in anthromorphic form like Vishnu, Krishna or Shiva. The Advaita Vedanta philosophy continues with the view that once one becomes aware of the unity of being of Godhead, he will then be able to see beyond the illusions of division and separation from Godhead, and recognize his or her own inherent unity with the Brahman. See Advaita Vedanta.
In the two largest branches of Hinduism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism, it is believed that Ishvara and Brahman are identical, and God is in turn anthromorphically identified with Shiva or Vishnu. God, whether in the form of Shiva or Vishnu has six attributes. However, the actual number of auspicious qualities of God, are countless, with the following six qualities being the most important.
The number six is invariably given, but the individual attributes listed vary. One set of attributes (and their common interpretations) are:
Jñana (Omniscience), defined as the power to know about all beings simultaneously;
Aishvarya (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara), which consists in unchallenged rule over all;
Shakti (Energy), or power, which is the capacity to make the impossible possible;
Bala (Strength), which is the capacity to support everything by will and without any fatigue;
Virya (Vigor), or valour which indicates the power to retain immateriality as the supreme being in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations; and
Tejas (Splendor), which expresses his self-sufficiency and the capacity to overpower everything by his spiritual effulgence; (cited from Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, by Swami Tapasyananda.)
A second set of six characteristics are
Jñana (Omniscience),
Vairagya (Detachment),
Yashas (Fame),
Aishvarya (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara),
Sri (Glory) and
Dharma (Righteousness).
Other important qualities attributed to God are Gambhirya (grandeur), Audarya (generosity), and Karunya (compassion).
Chanted prayers, or mantras, are central to Hindu worship. Many mantras are from the sacred Vedas, and in Sanskrit. Among the most chanted mantras in Hinduism are the Vishnu sahasranama (a prayer to Vishnu that dates from the time of the Mahabharata and describes him as the Universal Brahman), Shri Rudram (a Vedic hymn to Rudra, an earlier aspect of Shiva that also describes Him as Brahman) and the Gayatri mantra, (another Vedic hymn that initially was meant as a prayer to the Sun, an aspect of Brahman but has other interpretations. It is now interpreted as a prayer to the impersonal absolute Brahman).
The followers of Shaktism like to conceive the divine power of the Ishvara as a female goddess, the divine mother called Devi or Durga. Another famous hymn, Lalitha Sahasranama, describes the 1000 names of Devi, worshipped as God the Divine Mother.
It is important to add that in Hinduism (Sanatana Dharama) God is considered the Supreme Being, and many views of God range from panentheism to dualism to monism and monotheism. His appearance, in its entirety, cannot be comprehended by the common man. His appearance with form is only a manifestation of certain characteristics. The various forms of God or deities which apparently give Smarta Hinduism a character of polytheism, are regarded as mundane manifestations of One Brahman or Ishvara, only to facilitate his devotional worship.
Ayyavazhi prefers almost a similar theory to Advaita Vedanta. However, Kashmir Shaivism, one notable Saivite branch disagrees and focuses on panentheism. Furthermore, it rejects the Mayan illusion theory by stating that if God is real, then His creation must be real and not illusory.
In Hinduism there are two principal methods of worship:
To worship God through meditation on a deity (murti).
To worship God without deity worship.(eg. non-anthromorphic symbols such as linga, saligrama, Ayyavazhi, or through meditation)
The early Upanishads presented the conception of the Divine Teacher, guru on earth. Indeed, there is an understanding in some Hindu sects that if the devotee were presented with the guru and God, first he should pay respects to the guru since the guru had been instrumental in leading him to God. Hence many gurus have the epithet of Bhagwan, a term often confused with God.

Hari Bhakti Vilasa mantra ( 4.344)
Prathamam tu gurum pujya tatas caiva mamarcanam
Kuran siddhim avapnoti hy anyatha nisphalam bhavet
One does not directly worship one's God. One must begin by the worship of the Guru. Only by pleasing the Guru and gaining his mercy, can one offer anything to God. Thus, before worshiping God, one must always worship the Guru.
See also Guru.
The Ultimate
Arguably, Eastern conceptions of The Ultimate (this, too, has many different names), except for Shaivism and Vaishnavism, which do focus on a personal God, are not conceptions of a personal divinity, though certain Western conceptions of what is at least called "God" (e.g., Spinoza's pantheistic conception and various kinds of mysticism) resemble Eastern conceptions of The Ultimate. Christian theologian Paul Tillich, in the first volume of his Systematic Theology defines God as being that factor about which we have, in his language, ultimate concern. In this view, true self, zero, God, or the Absolute all have legitimate grounds to be called the Ultimate.
Aristotelian definition of God
Main article: Aristotelian view of God.
In his Metaphysics, Aristotle discusses meaning of "being as being". Aristotle holds that "being" primarily refers to the Unmoved Movers, and assigned one of these to each movement in the heavens. Each Unmoved Mover continuously contemplates its own contemplation, and everything that fits the second meaning of "being" by having its source of motion in itself, moves because the knowledge of its Mover causes it to emulate this Mover (or should).
Aristotle's "unmoved mover" is very unlike the conception of God which one sees in most religions. It has been likened to a person who is playing dominos and pushes one of them over, so that every other domino in the set is pushed over as well, without the being having to do anything about it. This differs to the interpretation of God in most religions, where he is seen to be personally involved in his creation.
Aristotle's definition of God attributes perfection to this being, and as a perfect being can only contemplate upon perfection and not on imperfection, otherwise perfection would not be one of his attributes. God, according to Aristotle, is in a state of "stasis" untouched by change and imperfection.
In the 18th century, the French educator Allan Kardec brought a very similar conception of God during his work of codifying Spiritism.
Modern views
Process philosophy and Open Theism
Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947).
Open theism, a theological movement that began in the 1990s, is similar, but not identical, to Process theology.
In both views, God is not omnipotent in the classical sense of a coercive being. Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God and creatures co-create. God cannot force anything to happen, but rather only influence the exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. Process theology is compatible with panentheism, the concept that God contains the universe (pantheism) but also transcends it.
God as the ultimate logician - God may be defined as the only entity, by definition, possessing the ability to reduce an infinite number of logical equations having an infinite number of variables and an infinite number of states to minimum form instantaneously.

Christian Monism
Within the body of Christian belief, the only well-known developed system of monism is found within the recently developed (1975) teachings of the book known as A Course In Miracles (ACIM). The philosophical system of ACIM presents what appears to be a unique synthesis of Hindu monistic Advaita Vedanta teachings, blended with the early Christian teaching of the universal-fatherhood-of-God belief. In this philosophy God retains the traditional Christian role of an All loving, all forgiving Father, as portrayed in the Christian allegory of the Prodigal Son, yet God is also attributed with the qualities of complete oneness with all of mankind. The apparent contrast between the existence of this oneness with God, and the common belief in human separation from God, is explained by the belief that man's apparent separation from God is a mere illusion, an illusion that can be overcome by gaining a full understanding of, and by adopting an unfailing practice of, the dynamics of Christian forgiveness.
Posthuman God
Similar to this theory is the belief or aspiration that humans will create a God entity, emerging from an artificial intelligence. Arthur C. Clarke, world-renowned science fiction author, said in an interview, "It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him." Clarke's friend and colleague, the late Isaac Asimov, postulated in his story "The Last Question" a merger between humanity and machine intelligence that ultimately produces a deity capable of reversing entropy and subsequently initiates a new Creation trillions of years from the present era when the Universe is in the last stage of heat death. In Frank Herbert's science-fiction series Dune, a messianic figure is created after thousands of years of controlled breeding.
Another variant on this hypothesis is that humanity or a segment of humanity will create or evolve into a posthuman God by itself; for some examples, see Christian transhumanism, technological singularity, and omega point.
Some comparatively new belief systems and books portray God as extraterrestrial life. Many of these theories hold that intelligent beings from another world have been visiting Earth for many thousands of years, and have influenced the development of our religions. Some of these books posit that prophets or messiahs were sent to the human race in order to teach morality and encourage the development of civilization. (See e.g. Rael). Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, suggested that life on Earth originated far away because of what he considered to be a miniscule timeframe allotted by scientists for the emergence of life on Earth.
Phenomenological definition
The philosopher Michel Henry defines God in a phenomenological point of view. He says: "God is Life, he is the essence of Life, or, if we prefer, the essence of Life is God. Saying this we already know what is God, we know it not by the effect of a learning or of some knowledge, we don’t know it by the thought, on the background of the truth of the world ; we know it and we can know it only in and by the Life itself. We can know it only in God." (I Am the Truth. Toward a Philosophy of Christianity).
This Life is not biological life defined by objective and exterior properties, nor an abstract and empty philosophical concept, but the absolute phenomenological life, a radically immanent life which possesses in it the power of showing itself in itself without distance, a life which reveals permanently itself.

The Rosicrucian conception of God
Main article: The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception
The Western Wisdom Teachings present the conception of The Absolute (unmanifested and unlimited "Boundless Being" or "Root of Existence", beyond the whole universe and beyond comprehension) from Whom proceeds the Supreme Being at the dawn of manifestation: The One, the "Great Architect of the Universe", Whose three aspects are Power, the Word, and Motion. From the threefold Supreme Being proceed the "seven Great Logoi" Who contain within Themselves all the great Hierarchies which differentiate more and more as they diffuse through the six lower Cosmic Planes. In the Highest World of the seventh (lowest) Cosmic Plane dwells the God of the Solar Systems in the Universe. These great Beings are also threefold in manifestation, like the Supreme Being; their three aspects are Will, Wisdom and Activity.
According these Rosicrucian teachings, in the beginning of a Day of Manifestation a certain collective Great Being, God, limits Himself to a certain portion of space, in which He elects to create a Solar System for the evolution of added self-consciousness. In God there are contained hosts of glorious Hierarchies and lesser beings of every grade of intelligence and stage of consciousness, from omniscience to an unconsciousness deeper than that of the deepest trance condition. During the current period of manifestation these various grades of beings are working to acquire more experience than they possessed at the beginning of this period of existence. Those who, in previous manifestations, have attained to the highest degree of development work on those who have not yet evolved any consciousness. In the Solar system, God's Habitation, there are seven Worlds differentiated by God, within Himself, one after another. The mankind's evolutionary scheme is slowly carried through five of these Worlds in seven great Periods of manifestation, during which the evolving virgin spirit becomes first human and, then, a God.

Parodies of God and religion
The Pastafarian explanation of God
Main article: Flying Spaghetti Monster
In a parody of religious belief, Bobby Henderson defines Him as a Flying Spaghetti Monster. The followers of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) call themselves Pastafarians. Canonical beliefs of FSM set forth by Henderson are:
An invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe, starting with a mountain, trees and a "midgit" [sic].
Global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct consequence of the decline in numbers of pirates since the 19th Century.
All evidence pointing towards evolution was intentionally planted by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The FSM tests Pastafarians' faith by making things look older than they really are.
Pastafarian heaven includes, at least, one beer volcano and one stripper factory.
The Invisible Pink Unicorn
Main article: Invisible Pink Unicorn
The Invisible Pink Unicorn is an internet phenomenon originating in the usenet group alt.atheism, intended to parody the many subjectively contradictory claims made by theists about the existence and nature of deities. "Her" primary characteristics (invisibility and pinkness) are intentionally in conflict, and her "physical" manifestation (as a unicorn) is, as a well-known mythical concept, critically reflective upon theistic beliefs.

Notes and references
Harris interactive, While Most Americans Believe in God, Only 36% Attend a Religious Service Once a Month or More Often
Pew research center, The 2004 Political Landscape Evenly Divided and Increasingly Polarized - Part 8: Religion in American Life
BBC, Nigeria leads in religious belief
Pickover, Cliff, The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience, Palgrave/St Martin's Press, 2001. ISBN 1-403-96457-2
Miles, Jack, God: A Biography, Knopf, 1995, ISBN 0679743685 Book description.
Armstrong, Karen, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ballantine Books, 1994. ISBN 0434024562
Sharp, Michael, The Book of Light: The Nature of God, the Structure of Consciousness, and the Universe Within You. Avatar Publications, 2005. ISBN 0973855525. free as eBook
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951). ISBN 0226803376
AnonymousGod's Existence Boon to Scholars.

For more information on God, please visit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about Jesus of Nazareth. For other uses of the term, see Jesus (disambiguation).
Jesus (8-2 BC/BCE — 29-36 AD/CE),[1] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity. In this context, he is known as Jesus Christ, where Christ is a Greek title meaning "Anointed" which corresponds to the Hebrew term "Messiah".
The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Most scholars in the fields of biblical studies and history agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher from Galilee who was regarded as a healer, was baptized by John the Baptist, was accused of sedition against the Roman Empire, and on the orders of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was sentenced to death by crucifixion.[2] As the Gospels were not written immediately after his death and there is little external documentation, a small minority of scholars question the historical existence of Jesus.[3]
Christian views of Jesus (an area of study known as Christology) are both diverse and complex. Most Christians are Trinitarian and believe that Jesus is simultaneously the Son of God and God made incarnate, sent to provide salvation and reconciliation with God by atoning for the sins of humanity. Nontrinitarian Christians adopt various other interpretations regarding the divinity of Jesus. Most Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, crucified and buried in a tomb[4], resurrected on the third day of death, and ascended into Heaven where he resides with God the Father until the Second Coming. Most Christians also believe that Jesus performed miracles and fulfilled biblical prophecy.
In Islam, Jesus (Arabic Isa) is considered one of God's most beloved and important prophets, a bringer of divine scripture, and also the Messiah. Muslims, however, do not share the Christian belief in the crucifixion or divinity of Jesus. Islam teaches that Jesus is alive in heaven and will return to the earth as Messiah in the company of the Mahdi once the earth has become full of sin and injustice.
Topics related to Jesus
Jesus and Christianity

Names and titles
Non-religious aspects

Perspectives on Jesus

Religious views
New Testament
Historians' view
Jesus in popular culture

Dramatic portrayals
This box: view • talk • edit

1 Chronology
2 Life and teachings based on the Gospels
2.1 Genealogy and family
2.2 Nativity and childhood
2.3 Baptism and temptation
2.4 Ministry
2.5 Arrest, trial, and death
2.6 Resurrection and Ascension
3 Historicity
3.1 Forensic reconstructions of Jesus' day to day life
3.2 Historicity of the texts
3.3 Possible earlier texts
3.4 Questions of reliability
3.5 External influences on gospel development
4 Religious perspectives
4.1 Christian views
4.1.1 Trinitarian views
4.1.2 Nontrinitarian views
4.1.3 Messianic Jewish view
4.1.4 Other views arising from early Christianity
4.2 Islamic views
4.3 Judaism's view
4.4 Hinduism's views
4.5 Other views of Jesus
5 Cultural impact of Jesus
6 Notes

Suggested years of Jesus'
birth and death based on
Gospel interpretations
c. 8 BC Birth (earliest)
c. 4 BC <Herod's death>
c. 6 CE Birth (latest)
<Quirinius' census>
c. 26/27 <Pilate governor>
c. 27 Death (earliest)
c. 36 Death (latest)
c. 36/37 <Pilate removed>
Main article: Chronology of Jesus
The most detailed accounts of Jesus' birth are contained in the Gospel of Matthew (probably written between 65 and 90 AD/CE)[5] and the Gospel of Luke (probably written between 65 and 100 AD/CE).[6] There is considerable debate about the details of Jesus' birth among even Christian scholars, and few scholars claim to know precisely either the year or the date of his birth or of his death. Based on the accounts in the Gospels of the shepherds' activities, the time of year depicted for Jesus' birth could be either spring or summer. However as early as 354 Roman Christians celebrated it following the December solstice in an attempt to replace the Roman festival of Saturnalia (or more specifically, Sol Invictus). Before then, Jesus' birth was generally celebrated on January 6 as part of the feast of Theophany, also known as Epiphany, which commemorated not only Jesus' birth but also his baptism by John in the Jordan River and possibly additional events in Jesus' life. The traditional celebration of Jesus' birth is at Christmas.

In the 248th year of the Diocletian Era (based on Diocletian's ascension to the Roman throne), Dionysius Exiguus attempted to pinpoint the number of years since Jesus' birth, arriving at a figure of 753 years after the founding of Rome. Dionysius then set Jesus' birth as being December 25 1 ACN (for "Ante Christum Natum", or "before the birth of Christ"), and assigned AD 1 to the following year — thereby establishing the system of numbering years from the birth of Jesus: Anno Domini (which translates as "in the year of our Lord"). This system made the then current year 532, and almost two centuries later it won acceptance and became the established calendar in Western civilization due to its further championing by the Venerable Bede.

However, based on a lunar eclipse that Josephus reports shortly before the death of Herod the Great (who plays a major role in Matthew's account), as well as a more accurate understanding of the succession of Roman Emperors, Jesus' birth would have been some time before the year 4 BC/BCE. Having fewer sources and being further removed in time from the authors of the New Testament, establishing a reliable birth date now is particularly difficult.

The exact date of Jesus' death is also unclear. Many scholars hold that the Gospel of John depicts the crucifixion just before the Passover festival on Friday 14 Nisan, called the Quartodeciman, whereas the synoptic gospels (except for Mark 14:2) describe the Last Supper, immediately before Jesus' arrest, as the Passover meal on Friday 15 Nisan; however, a number of scholars hold that the synoptic account is harmonious with the account in John.[7] Further, the Jews followed a lunisolar calendar with phases of the moon as dates, complicating calculations of any exact date in a solar calendar. According to John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew, allowing for the time of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate and the dates of the Passover in those years, his death can be placed most probably on April 7, 30 AD/CE or April 3, 33 AD/CE.[8]

Life and teachings based on the Gospels
Main article: New Testament view on Jesus' life
Major events in Jesus' life in the Gospels
Sermon on the Mount
Appointed 12 Apostles
Money Changers
Olivet discourse
Last Supper
Great Commission

Genealogy and family
Main articles: Genealogy of Jesus, Desposyni
The Gospels give two accounts of Jesus' genealogy in the male line through his legal father Joseph (Matthew 1:2-16; Luke 3:23-38). Both accounts trace his line back to King David and from there to Abraham. These lists are identical between Abraham and David, but they differ between David and Joseph. Matthew starts with Solomon and proceeds through the kings of Judah to the last king, Jeconiah. After Jeconiah, the line of kings terminated when Babylon conquered Judah. Thus, Matthew shows that Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of Israel. Luke's genealogy is longer than Matthew's; it goes back to Adam and provides more names between David and Jesus.
Joseph appears only in descriptions of Jesus' childhood. With Jesus commending Mary into the care of the beloved disciple during his crucifixion (John 19:25-27), it is likely that he had died by the time of Jesus' ministry.[9] Both Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 tell of Jesus' relatives. Mark 6:8 reports that those hearing Jesus asked "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? are not also his sisters here with us?" (translation according to the Roman Catholic Douai Bible [1]). The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, mentions at 1:19 that "But other of the apostles I saw none, saving James the brother of the Lord" (translation according to the Roman Catholic Douai Bible [2]). The first-century Jewish historian Josephus also describes James the Just as "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ" (translation of William Whiston [3]) though this passage has been suggested as an interpolation (See Josephus on Jesus). The Greek word adelphos in these verses is often translated as brother in many Bible translations. However, the word can refer to any familial relation, and most Catholics and certain other Christians, citing later revelations concerning the perpetual virginity of Mary, contend the correct translation of adelphos is kinsman or cousin.

The Gospel of Luke records that Mary was a relative of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:36), though the exact relationship is unspecified.

Nativity and childhood
Main articles: Nativity and Child Jesus

Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van HonthorstAccording to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea to Mary, a virgin, by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke gives an account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her that she was chosen to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). Catholics call this event the Annunciation. According to Luke, an order of Caesar Augustus forced Mary and Joseph to leave their homes in Nazareth and come to the home of Joseph's ancestors, the house of David, for a census. After Jesus' birth, the couple had to use a manger for a crib because there was no room for them in the town's inn or family guest room (depending on which translation from Greek is used) (Luke 2:1-7; "inn" may be "guest room", see Luke 22:11). According to Luke 2:18-20, an angel spread the word of Jesus' birth to shepherds who came to see the newborn child and subsequently publicized what they had witnessed throughout the area (see The First Noël.) Matthew also tells of the "Wise Men" or "Magi" who brought gifts to the infant Jesus after following a star which they believed was a sign that the Messiah, or King of the Jews, had been born.

Jesus' childhood home is stated in the Bible to have been the town of Nazareth in Galilee, and aside from a flight to Egypt in infancy to escape Herod's Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:13-23) and a short trip to Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30), all other events in the Gospels are set in ancient Israel. Luke's Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52) is the only event between Jesus' infancy and adult life mentioned in any of the canonical Gospels, although New Testament apocrypha fill in the details of this time, some quite extensively.

Baptism and temptation
Main articles: Baptism of Jesus and Temptation of Jesus
Ary Scheffer's The Temptation of ChristThe Gospel of Mark begins with the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, which Biblical scholars describe as the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. According to Mark, Jesus came to the Jordan River where John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing people in the crowd. After Jesus had been baptized and rose from the water, Mark states Jesus "saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:10-11). Luke adds the chronological details that John the Baptist had begun preaching in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, c. 28 AD/CE (Luke 3:1) and that Jesus was about thirty years old when he was baptized (Luke 3:23). Matthew adds to the other accounts by describing an attempt by John to decline the baptism, saying that it is Jesus who should baptize John. Jesus insisted however, claiming that baptism was necessary to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).
Following his baptism, according to Matthew, Jesus was lead into the desert by God where he fasted for forty days and forty nights. It was there that he was tempted by Satan. In all, he was tempted three times. Each temptation was rejected by Jesus with scripture from the book of Deuteronomy. Following the Temptation, Jesus called his first disciples (Matthew 4:12-22).

Main articles: Ministry of Jesus, Sermons on the Mount and on the Plain, Appointed Twelve Apostles, Transfiguration
The Baptism of Christ, by Piero della Francesca, 1449.The Gospels state that Jesus is the Messiah,[10] "Son of God",[11] and "Lord and God" [12], sent to "give his life as a ransom for many" and "preach the good news of the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:45, Luke 4:43, John 20:31). The Gospels also state that Jesus performed various miracles, including healings, exorcisms, walking on water, turning water into wine, and raising several people, such as Lazarus, from the dead (John 11:1-43).
The Gospel of John describes three different passover feasts over the course of Jesus' ministry. This implies that Jesus preached for a period of three years, although some interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels suggest a span of only one year. The focus of his ministry was toward his closest adherents, the Twelve Apostles, though many of his followers were considered disciples. At the height of his ministry, Jesus attracted huge crowds numbering in the thousands, primarily in the areas of Galilee (in modern-day northern Israel, though he was unsuccessful in his hometown: Mark 6:4-6) and Perea (in modern-day western Jordan). Jesus led what many believe to have been an apocalyptic following.
Some of Jesus' most famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), which contained the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. During his sermons, he preached against anger, lust, divorce, oaths and revenge. Some aspects of Jesus' teachings were traditional, but other aspects were untraditional. He advocated and adhered to the Law of Moses (Luke 10:25-28; John 8:55). According to Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus stated, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." However, Jesus also expounded on Mosiac Law and taught a "new command." (John 13:34; John 15:10-14) Jesus advocated, among other things, turning the other cheek, love for one's enemies as well as friends, and the need to follow the spirit of the law in addition to the letter (Matthew 5).

Judaea and Galilee at the time of JesusJesus often used parables, such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), and the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9). His teachings centered around unconditional self-sacrificing God-like love for God and for all people (Matthew 22:34-40). He also preached about service and humility, the forgiveness of sin, pacifism, faith, and attaining everlasting life in "The Kingdom of God."

Jesus also debated with other religious leaders. He disagreed with the Sadducees because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23-32). The relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees is more complex. Although Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-28), he also dined with Pharisees (Luke 7:36-50), taught in their synagogues (Mark 1:21), specified their teachings to his followers (Matthew 23:1-3), and counted Pharisees such as Nicodemus among his disciples (John 7:50-51).

Jesus often met with society's outcasts, such as the publicani (Imperial tax collectors who were despised for extorting money), including the apostle Matthew; when the Pharisees objected to meeting with sinners rather than the righteous, Jesus replied that it was the sick who need a physician, not the healthy (Matthew 9:9-13). According to Luke and John, Jesus also made efforts to extend his ministry to the Samaritans, who followed a different form of the Israelite religion. This is reflected in his preaching to the Samaritans of Sychar, resulting in their conversion (John 4:1-42).

All four Gospels record Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the end of his ministry. This was during the Passover Feast (15 Nisan - in the Spring) according to John 12:12-19. The Hosanna shout and the waving of palm fronds were ordinarily part of the feast of Sukkoth (15 Tishri - Autumn), but appear to have been moved by the followers of Jesus to Passover, perhaps because of their Messianic association.

Arrest, trial, and death
Main articles: Jesus and the Money Changers, The Last Supper, Arrest, Trial, Passion, Crucifixion, Harrowing of Hell
Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man!"), Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus of Nazareth to the people of JerusalemAccording to the Gospels, Jesus came with his followers to Jerusalem during the Passover festival where a large crowd came to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" (quoting Psalms 118:26; John 12:13-16). Following his triumphal entry, Jesus created a disturbance at Herod's Temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers operating there (John 2:13-17). Later that week, he enjoyed a meal, possibly the Passover Seder, with his disciples before going to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus' crucifixion as portrayed by Diego VelázquezWhile in the garden, Jesus was arrested by Roman soldiers on the orders of the Sanhedrin and the high priest, Caiaphas (cited later in Matthew 26:65-67). The arrest took place clandestinely at night to avoid a riot, because Jesus was popular with the people at large (Mark 14:2). According to Luke, Judas Iscariot, one of his apostles, betrayed Jesus by identifying him to the guards with a kiss. By John's account, Jesus identified himself to the guards with the words, "I am he." (John 18:4-6) Another apostle (identified as Simon Peter in John 18:10) used a sword to attack one of the captors, cutting off his ear, which, according to Luke, Jesus immediately healed (Luke 22:51). Jesus rebuked Peter, stating "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew 26:52). After his arrest, Jesus' apostles went into hiding. The high priests and elders asked Jesus, "Are you the Son of God?", and upon Jesus' reply of "You say that I am."(Luke 22:70-71) Jesus was condemned for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin. The high priests then turned him over to the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate, based on an accusation of sedition for claiming to be King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:12).
While before Pilate, Jesus was questioned "Are you the king of the Jews?" to which he replied, "It is as you say." According to the Gospels, Pilate personally felt that Jesus was not guilty of any crime against the Romans, and since there was a custom at Passover for the Roman governor to free a prisoner (a custom not recorded outside the Gospels), Pilate offered the crowd a choice between Jesus of Nazareth and an insurrectionist named Barabbas. The crowd chose to have Barabbas freed and Jesus crucified. Pilate washed his hands to display that he himself was innocent of the injustice of the decision (Matthew 27:11-26). All four Gospels say Pilate then ordered Jesus to be crucified with a charge placed atop the cross (known as the titulus crucis) which read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." (The titulus crucis is often written as INRI, the Latin acronym.) According to Matthew and Mark, his last words were "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is Aramaic for "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (taken from Psalm 22); according to John, "It is finished"; and according to Luke, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." Luke states that all the multitudes who had witnessed Jesus' crucifixion were sorrowful (Luke 23:48).
According to all four Gospels, Jesus died before late afternoon, and the wealthy Judean Joseph of Arimathea, according to Mark (Mark 15:42-46) and Luke (Luke 23:50-56) a member of the Sanhedrin, received Pilate's permission to take possession of Jesus' body, placing it in a tomb. According to John, Joseph was joined in burying Jesus by Nicodemus, who appears in other parts of John's gospel (John 19:38-42). The three Synoptic Gospels tell of an earthquake and of the darkening of the sky from twelve until three that afternoon.

Resurrection and Ascension

A 16th century painting of the resurrection of Jesus by Matthias Grünewald.Main articles: Resurrection of Jesus, Great Commission, Ascension, Prophecy of Second Coming
According to the Gospels, Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.[13] The Gospel of Matthew states that an angel appeared near the tomb of Jesus and announced his resurrection to the women who had arrived to anoint the body. According to Luke it was two angels, and according to Mark it was a youth dressed in white. The sight of this angel had apparently left the Roman guards unconscious (Matthew 28:2-4). (According to Matthew, the high priests and Pharisees, with Pilate's permission, had posted guards in front of the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen by Jesus' disciples.) Mark states that on the morning of his resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. John states that when Mary looked into the tomb, two angels asked her why she was crying; and as she turned round she initially failed to recognize Jesus until he spoke her name.

The Acts of the Apostles tell that Jesus appeared to various people in various places over the next forty days. Hours after his resurrection, he appeared to two travellers on the road to Emmaus. To his assembled disciples he showed himself on the evening after his resurrection. According to John, during one of these visits, Jesus' disciple Thomas initially doubted the resurrection, but after being invited to place his finger in Jesus' pierced side, said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Thereafter, Jesus went to Galilee and showed himself to several of his disciples by the lake and on the mountain. These disciples were present when he returned to Mount Olivet, between Bethany and Jerusalem. Although his own ministry had been specifically to Israel,[14] Jesus sent his apostles to the Gentiles with the Great Commission and ascended to heaven while a cloud concealed him from their sight.[15] According to Acts, Paul of Tarsus also saw Jesus during his Road to Damascus experience (Acts 9:1-19.). Jesus promises to come again to fulfill the remainder of Messianic prophecy.[16]

This 11th century Greek image of Jesus is one of many in which a sun cross halo is used. Such depictions are characteristic of Eastern Orthodox iconography.[edit]
Forensic reconstructions of Jesus' day to day life
Main articles: Historical Jesus, Cultural and historical background of Jesus
Most scholars agree the Gospels were written shortly before or after the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans. Examining the New Testament account of Jesus in light of historical knowledge about the time when Jesus was purported to live, as well as historical knowledge about the time during which the New Testament was written, has led several scholars to reinterpret many elements of the New Testament accounts. Many have sought to reconstruct Jesus' life in terms of contemporaneous political, cultural, and religious currents in Israel, including differences between Galilee and Judea; between different sects such the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots;[17] and in terms of conflicts among Jews in the context of Roman occupation.
The Gospels record that Jesus was a Nazarene, but the meaning of this word is vague.[18] Some scholars assert that Jesus was himself a Pharisee.[19] In Jesus' day, the two main schools of thought among the Pharisees were the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai. Jesus' assertion of hypocrisy may have been directed against the stricter members of the House of Shammai, although he also agreed with their teachings on divorce (Mark 10:1-12).[20] Jesus also commented on the House of Hillel's teachings (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a) concerning the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34) and the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).
Other scholars assert that Jesus was an Essene, a sect of Judaism not mentioned in the New Testament.[21] Still other scholars assert that Jesus led a new apocalyptic sect, possibly related to John the Baptist,[22] which became Early Christianity after the Great Commission spread his teachings to the Gentiles.[23] This is distinct from an earlier commission Jesus gave to the twelve Apostles, limited to "the lost sheep of Israel" and not including the Gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10).
Of special interest has been the names and titles ascribed to Jesus. According to most critical historians, Jesus probably lived in Galilee for most of his life and he probably spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. The name "Jesus" is an English transliteration of the Latin (Iesus) which in turn comes from the Greek name (??s???). Since most scholars hold that Jesus was an Aramaic-speaking Jew living in Galilee around 30 AD/CE, it is highly improbable that he had a Greek personal name. Further examination of the Septuagint finds that the Greek, in turn, is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (??????) or the shortened Hebrew/Aramaic Yeshua or Jeshua (????). As a result, scholars believe that one of these was most likely the name that Jesus was known by during his lifetime by his peers.[24]
Christ (which is a title and not a part of his name) is an Anglicization of the Greek term for Messiah, and literally means "anointed one". Historians have debated what this title might have meant at the time Jesus lived; some historians have suggested that other titles applied to Jesus in the New Testament (e.g. Lord, Son of Man, and Son of God) had meanings in the first century quite different from those meanings ascribed today: see Names and titles of Jesus.

Historicity of the texts
See also: Historicity of Jesus
Most modern Biblical scholars hold that the works describing Jesus were initially communicated by oral tradition, and were not committed to writing until several decades after Jesus' crucifixion. The earliest extant texts which refer to Jesus are Paul's letters, which are usually dated from the mid-1st century. Paul wrote that he only saw Jesus in visions, but that they were divine revelations and hence authoritative (Galatians 1:11-12). The earliest extant texts describing Jesus in any detail were the four New Testament Gospels. These texts, being part of the Biblical canon, have received much more analysis and acceptance from Christian sources than other possible sources for information on Jesus.

Many other early Christian texts have surfaced detailing events in Jesus' life and teachings, though they were not included when the Bible was canonised due to a belief that they were pseudopigraphical, not inspired, or written too long after his death, while others were suppressed because they contradicted what had become the Christian orthodoxy. It took several centuries before the list of what was and wasn't part of the Bible became finally fixed, and for much of the early period the Book of Revelation was not included while works like The Shepherd of Hermas were.

The books that didn't make it into the final list have since become known as the New Testament apocrypha, and the chief amongst them, heavily suppressed by the Church as heresy and only rediscovered in the 20th Century, is the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of logia - phrases and sayings attributed to Jesus without a narrative framework. Other important apocryphal works that had a heavy influence in forming traditional Christian beliefs include the Apocalypse of Peter, Protevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and Acts of Peter. A number of Christian traditions (such as Veronica's veil and the Assumption of Mary) are found not in the canonical gospels but in these and other apocryphal works.

Possible earlier texts
Some texts with even earlier historical or mythological information on Jesus are speculated to have existed prior to the Gospels,[25] though none have been found. Based on the unusual similarities and differences (see synoptic problem) between the Synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke, the first three canonical gospels — many Biblical scholars have suggested that oral tradition and logia (such as the Gospel of Thomas and the theoretical Q document) probably played a strong role in initially passing down stories of Jesus, and may have inspired some of the Synoptic Gospels.
Specifically, many scholars believe that the Q document and the Gospel of Mark were the two sources used for the gospels of Matthew and Luke; however, other theories, such as the older Augustinian hypothesis, continue to hold sway with some Biblical scholars. Another theoretical document is the Signs Gospel, believed to have been a source for the Gospel of John.[26] There is little consensus concerning how and when any of these documents were circulated, if they existed at all.
There are also early noncanonical gospels which may predate the canonical Gospels, although few surviving fragments have been found. Among these are the Unknown Berlin Gospel, the Oxyrhynchus Gospels, the Egerton Gospel, the Fayyum Fragment, the Dialogue of the Saviour, the Gospel of the Ebionites, the Gospel of the Hebrews, and the Gospel of the Nazarenes. While the earliest surviving manuscripts and fragments of these texts are dated later than the earliest surviving manuscripts and fragments of the canonical Gospels, they are probably copies of earlier manuscripts whose precise dates are unknown.

Questions of reliability
As a result of the several-decade time gap between the writing of the Gospels and the events they describe, the accuracy of all early texts claiming the existence of Jesus or details of Jesus' life have been disputed by various parties. However, most scholars accept many details of the Gospel narratives.[27] The authors of the Gospels are traditionally thought to have been witnesses to the events included. After the original oral stories were written down, they were transcribed, and later translated into other languages. Several Biblical historians have responded to claims of the unreliability of the gospel accounts by pointing out that historical documentation is often biased and second-hand, and frequently dates from several decades after the events described.
The Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution brought skepticism regarding the historical accuracy of these texts. Although some critical scholars, including archeologists, continue to use them as points of reference in the study of ancient Near Eastern history[28] others have come to view the texts as cultural and literary documents, generally regarding them as part of the genre of literature called hagiography, an account of a holy person regarded as representing a moral and divine ideal. Hagiography has a principal aim of the glorification of the religion itself and of the example set by the perfect holy person represented as its central focus.
Some say that the Gospel accounts are neither objective nor accurate, since they were written or compiled by his followers and seem to exclusively portray a positive, idealized view of Jesus, whilst others point to the lack of contemporary non-Christian sources. Those who have a naturalistic view of history generally do not believe in divine intervention or miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus mentioned by the Gospels. One method used to estimate the factual accuracy of stories in the gospels is known as the "criterion of embarrassment", which holds that stories about events with embarrassing aspects (such as the denial of Jesus by Peter, or the fleeing of Jesus' followers after his arrest) would likely not have been included if those accounts were fictional.

External influences on gospel development
See also: Historicity of Jesus and Historical Jesus

An image in one of the oldest parts of the vatican portraying Jesus as the mythical Sol InvictusMany scholars, such as Michael Grant, do not see significant similarity between the pagan myths and Christianity. Grant states in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels that "Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths, of mythical gods seemed so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit."[29]

However, some scholars believe that the gospel accounts of Jesus have little or no historical basis. At least in part, this is because they see many similarities between stories about Jesus and older myths of pagan godmen such as Mithras, Apollo, Attis, Horus and Osiris-Dionysus, leading to conjectures that the pagan myths were adopted by some authors of early accounts of Jesus to form a syncretism with Christianity. A small minority, such as Earl Doherty, carry this further and propose that the gospels are actually a reworking of the older myths and not based on a historical figure.While these connections are disputed by many, it is nevertheless true that many elements of Jesus' story as told in the Gospels have parallels in pagan mythology, where miracles such as virgin birth were well-known. Some Christian authors, such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, account for this with the belief that such myths were created by ancient pagans with vague and imprecise foreknowledge of the Gospels; in other words the pagans gave prophectic attributes of the Christ as shown in the Jewish Torah and Prophets to their particular deity.

Religious perspectives
Main article: Religious perspectives on Jesus
Jesus has an important role in two religions: Christianity and Islam. Most other religions, however, do not consider Jesus to have been a supernatural or holy being. Some of these religions, like Buddhism, do not take any official stance on Jesus' life. Judaism rejects claims of his divinity and of his being the Mashiach.

Christian views
Main article: Christian views of Jesus
Jesus Carrying the Cross as portrayed by El Greco - Domenikos Theotokopoulos, 1580The nature of Jesus is the central issue of Christology. The theological concept of Jesus as Christ was refined by a series of seven ecumenical councils between 325 and 787 AD/CE. While most Christians believe that the councils were guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, some Christians question one or more of the councils. Restorationists reject all the councils and seek to restore what they believe was the original Christian faith.
Different Christians also have different interpretations of Jesus' family members mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Eastern Christianity, following Eusebius, believes that they were "Joseph's children by his (unrecorded) first wife." Roman Catholicism, following Jerome, believes that they were Jesus' cousins, which the Greek word for "brother" or "relative" used in the Gospels would encompass. Both beliefs are based on the tradition that Mary remained a perpetual virgin[30], thus having no biological children before or after Jesus. Most Protestants believe that these family members were the biological children of Mary and Joseph.

Trinitarian views
Most Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate and a member of the Holy Trinity, distinct and yet of the same being as God the Father and the Holy Spirit.[31] They believe Jesus is the Son of God, and also the Messiah. Following John 1:1, Christians have identified Jesus as "the Word" (or Logos) of God. Most also believe that Jesus' miracles and resurrection are additional proof that he is God. Most trinitarian Christians further believe that Jesus has two natures in one person: that he is fully God and fully human, a concept known as the hypostatic union. However, Oriental Orthodoxy professes a Miaphysite interpretation, while the Assyrian Church of the East professes a form of Nestorianism.
Paul of Tarsus wrote that just as sin entered the world through Adam (known as The Fall of Man), so salvation from sin comes through Jesus, the second Adam (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Most Christians believe that Jesus' death and resurrection provide salvation not only from personal sin, but from the condition of sin itself. This ancestral or original sin[32] separated humanity from God, making all liable to condemnation to eternal punishment in Hell (Romans 3:23). However, Jesus' death and resurrection reconciled humanity with God, granting eternal life in Heaven to the faithful (John 14:2-3).
Most Christians accept the New Testament presentation of the Resurrection as a historical account of an actual event central to faith. Belief in the resurrection is one of the most distinctive elements of Christian faith; and defending the historicity of the resurrection is usually a central issue of Christian apologetics. Conservative Christian scholars such as Gary Habermas, F.F. Bruce, Norman Geisler and William Lane Craig believe that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead and that he was raised in spiritual body.[33] Some liberal Christians such as John Shelby Spong and Tom Harpur, do not believe that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, or that he still lives bodily.

Nontrinitarian views
Some Christians profess various nontrinitarian views. Arianism, denounced as a heresy by the early Church, taught that Jesus is subordinate to God the Father.[34] Binitarians believe that Jesus is God, although a separate being from God the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force. Unitarian Christians believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, and merely human.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) maintains that Jesus is the very same as Yahweh of the Old Testament. The single Godhead consists of three distinct personnages: God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. 3 Nephi 11:8 (part of the Book of Mormon) records that the resurrected Jesus visited and taught some of the inhabitants of the early Americas after he appeared to his apostles in Jerusalem. Mormons also believe that an apostasy occurred after the death of Christ and his apostles. They believe that Christ and Heavenly Father appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 as part of a series of heavenly visits to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ necessary due to the apostasy. See also Jesus in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jehovah's Witnesses view the term "Son of God" as an indication of Jesus' importance to the creator and his status as God's "only-begotten (unique, one and only) Son" (John 3:16), the "firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15), the one "of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things" (Romans 11:36). Most Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus to be Michael the Archangel, who became a human to come down to earth.[35] See also Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus.

Messianic Jewish view
Messianic Jews hold that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah. Strictly speaking, all Messianic Jews are Christians, but the term generally means those Jews who believe Jesus to be the Messiah but still hold to and practice many Jewish traditions and occasionally Jewish law.
A prominent group of Messianic Jews is Jews for Jesus.

Other views arising from early Christianity
The Ebionites, an early Jewish Christian community, believed that Jesus was the last of the prophets and the Messiah. They believed that Jesus was the natural-born son of Mary and Joseph, and thus they rejected the Virgin Birth. The Ebionites were adoptionists, believing that Jesus was not divine, but became the son of God at his baptism. They rejected the Epistles of Paul, believing that Jesus kept the Mosaic Law perfectly and wanted his followers to do the same. However, they felt that Jesus' crucifixion was the ultimate sacrifice, and thus animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Therefore, some Ebionites were vegetarian and considered both Jesus and John the Baptist to have been vegetarians.[36] Shemayah Phillips founded a small community of modern Ebionites in 1985. These Ebionites identify as Jews rather than as Christians, and do not accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
In Gnosticism, Jesus is said to have brought the secret knowledge (gnosis) of the spiritual world necessary for salvation.[37] Their secret teachings were paths to gnosis, and not gnosis itself. While some Gnostics were docetics, most Gnostics believed that Jesus was a human who became possessed by the spirit of Christ during his baptism.[38] Many Gnostic Christians believed that Christ was an Aeon sent by a higher deity than the evil demiurge who created the material world. Some Gnostics believed that Christ had a syzygy named Sophia. The Gnostics tended to interpret the New Testament as allegory, and some Gnostics interpreted Jesus himself as an allegory. Modern Gnosticism has been a growing religious movement since fifty-two Gnostic texts were rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.
Marcionites were 2nd century Gentile followers of the Christian theologian Marcion of Sinope. They believed that Jesus rejected the Jewish Scriptures, or at least the parts that were incompatible with his teachings[39]. Seeing a stark contrast between the vengeful God of the Old Testament and the loving God of Jesus, Marcion came to the conclusion that the Jewish God and Jesus were two separate deities. Like some Gnostics, Marcionites saw the Jewish God as the evil creator of the world, and Jesus as the savior from the material world. They also believed Jesus was not human, but instead a completely divine spiritual being whose material body, and thus his crucifixion and death, were divine illusions. Marcion was the first known early Christian to have created a canon, which consisted of ten Pauline epistles, and a version of the Gospel of Luke (possibly without the first two chapters that are in modern versions, and without Jewish references),[40] and his treatise on the Antithesis between the Old and New Testaments. Marcionism was declared a heresy by proto-orthodox Christianity.

Islamic views
Main article: Islamic views of Jesus
In Islam, Jesus (known as Isa, Arabic: ????), is considered one of God's most-beloved and important prophets and the Messiah.[41] Like Christian writings, the Qur'an holds that Jesus was born without a biological father to the virgin Mary, by the will of God (in Arabic, Allah) and for this reason is referred to as Isa ibn Maryam, a matronymic (since he had no biological father). (Qur'an 3:45, 19:21, 19:35, 21:91) In Muslim traditions, Jesus lived a perfect life of nonviolence, showing kindness to humans and animals (similar to the other Islamic prophets), without material possessions, and abstaining from sin.[42] Similarly, Islamic belief also holds that Jesus could perform miracles, but only by the will of God. [43] However, Muslims do not believe Jesus to have divine nature as God nor as the Son of God. Islam greatly separates the status of creatures from the status of the creator and warns against believing that Jesus was divine. (Qu'ran 3:59, 4:171, 5:116-117). Muslims believe that Jesus received a gospel from God called the Injil that corresponds to the Christian New Testament, but that some parts of it have been misinterpreted, misrepresented, passed over, or textually distorted over time so that they no longer accurately represent God's original message to mankind (See Tahrif).[44]

Muslims also do not believe in Jesus's sacrificial role, nor do they believe that Jesus died on the cross. In fact, Islam does not accept any human sacrifice for sin (See Islamic conceptions of atonement for sin for further information). Regarding the crucifixion, the Qur'an states that Jesus' death was merely an illusion of God to deceive his enemies, and that Jesus ascended bodily to heaven.[41] (Qur'an 4:157-158.) Based on the quotes attributed to Muhammad, some Muslims believe that Jesus will return to the world in the flesh following Imam Mahdi to defeat the Dajjal (an Antichrist-like figure, translated as "Deceiver"). [45] Muslims believe he will descend at Damascus, presently in Syria, once the world has become filled with sin, deception, and injustice; he will then live out the rest of his natural life. Sunni Muslims believe that after his death, Jesus will be buried alongside Muhammad in Medina, presently in Saudi Arabia. [46] However, the sects of Sunni and Shi'ite Islam are divided over this issue.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement (accounting for a fairly small percentage of the total Muslim population) believes that Jesus survived the crucifixion and later travelled to Kashmir, where he lived and died as a prophet under the name of Yuz Asaf.[47] Mainstream Muslims, however, consider these views heretical.

Judaism's view
Main article: Judaism's view of Jesus
Judaism considers the idea of Jesus being God, or part of a Trinity, or a mediator to God, as heresy.(Emunoth ve-Deoth, II:5) Judaism also does not consider Jesus to be the Messiah primarily because he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies of the Tanakh, nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah.[48]
The Mishneh Torah (an authoritative work of Jewish law) states:
Even Jesus the Nazarene who imagined that he would be Messiah and was killed by the court, was already prophesied by Daniel. So that it was said, “And the members of the outlaws of your nation would be carried to make a (prophetic) vision stand. And they stumbled” (Daniel 11.14). Because, is there a greater stumbling-block than this one? So that all of the prophets spoke that the Messiah redeems Israel, and saves them, and gathers their banished ones, and strengthens their commandmends. And this one caused (nations) to destroy Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant, and to humiliate them, and to exchange the Torah, and to make the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God. However, the thoughts of the Creator of the world — there is no force in a human to attain them because our ways are not God's ways, and our thoughts not God's thoughts. And all these things of Jesus the Nazarene, and of (Muhammad) the Ishmaelite who stood after him — there is no (purpose) but to straighten out the way for the King Messiah, and to restore all the world to serve God together. So that it is said, “Because then I will turn toward the nations (giving them) a clear lip, to call all of them in the name of God and to serve God (shoulder to shoulder as) one shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3.9). Look how all the world already becomes full of the things of the Messiah, and the things of the Torah, and the things of the commandments! And these things spread among the far islands and among the many nations uncircumcized of heart. (Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12.)[49]
Reform Judaism, the modern progressive movement, states For us in the Jewish community anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate. (Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #68).[50]
According to Jewish tradition, there were no more prophets after 420 BC/BCE, Malachi being the last prophet, who lived centuries before Jesus. Judaism states that Jesus did not fulfill the requirements set by the Torah to prove that he was a prophet. Even if Jesus had produced such a sign, Judaism states that no prophet or dreamer can contradict the laws already stated in the Torah (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)[51]
Hinduism's views
Hindu beliefs in Jesus vary. Some believe that Jesus was a normal man, or even purely a fable. Many Hindus see Jesus as a wise guru or yogi who was not God and claim that he was a devotee of Krishna, whom they consider as "The Father", an incarnation of Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu Trinity. Some suggest that Jesus spent his "lost years" learning Hinduism in India, and that he returned to India after surviving crucifixion.[52] Some Hindus believe that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was the reincarnation of Jesus.[53] Many in the Surat Shabd Yoga tradition regard Jesus as a Satguru. Swami Vivekananda has praised Jesus and cited him as a source of strength and the epitome of perfection.[54] Paramahansa Yogananda taught that Jesus was the reincarnation of Elisha and a student of John the Baptist, the reincarnation of Elijah.[55] Mahatma Gandhi considered Jesus one of his main teachers and inspirations for Nonviolent Resistance, saying "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."[56]
Other views of Jesus
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) regard Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God -- and a testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is viewed by the Mormons as another testament of Jesus Christ, although this book is rejected by Christian denominations. The most significant event of the Book of Mormon is the visitation of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites around 34 AD, shortly after his ministry in Jerusalem.[57] Mormons believe that for nearly 200 years after Jesus' appearance at a temple in the Americas, the land was filled with peace and prosperity because of the people's obedience to Jesus' commandments. [58]
Christ visits the Americas painting from the LDS Conference CenterA few Buddhists regard Jesus as a great bodhisattva who dedicated his life to the welfare of human beings. Buddhists often note parallels between the teachings of Jesus and Gautama Buddha preaching, specifically with the notion that they both taught love and compassion. Some Buddhists also interpret Jesus through Zen Buddhism, sometimes basing their perspective on the koan-like (and gnostic) Gospel of Thomas.[59]
The Bahá'í Faith considers Jesus to be one of many "Manifestations" (or prophets) of God, with both human and divine stations. While some Bahá'í views of Jesus agree with Christian views, Christians do not accept the Bahá'í view of Jesus.[60] Mandaeanism regards Jesus as a deceiving prophet (mšiha kdaba) of the false Jewish god Adunay, and an opponent of the good prophet John the Baptist, although they do believe that John baptized Jesus.

The New Age movement entertains a wide variety of views on Jesus, with some representatives (such as A Course In Miracles) going so far as to trance-channel him. Many recognize him as a "great teacher" (or "Ascended Master") similar to Buddha, and teach that Christhood is something that all may attain. At the same time, many New Age teachings, such as reincarnation, appear to reflect a certain discomfort with traditional Christianity. Numerous New Age subgroups claim Jesus as a supporter, often incorporating contrasts with or protests against the Christian mainstream. Thus, for example, Theosophy and its offshoots have Jesus studying esotericism in the Himalayas or Egypt during his "lost years."

There are others who emphasize Jesus' moral teachings. Garry Wills argues that Jesus' ethics are distinct from those usually taught by Christianity.[61] The Jesus Seminar[62] portrays Jesus as an itinerant preacher (Matthew 4:23), who taught peace (Matthew 5:9) and love (Matthew 5:44), rights for women (Luke 10:42) and respect for children (Matthew 19:14), and who spoke out against the hypocrisy of religious leaders (Luke 13:15) and the rich (Matthew 19:24). Many humanists, atheists and agnostics empathize with these moral principles. Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers that many consider to have been a deist, created a "Jefferson Bible" for the Indians entitled "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" that included only Jesus' ethical teachings.

Cultural impact of Jesus

Michelangelo's Pietà shows Mary holding the dead body of Jesus.See also: Images of Jesus, Dramatic portrayals of Jesus, and Jesus in popular culture
According to most Christian interpretations of the Bible, the theme of Jesus' preachings was that of repentance, forgiveness of sin, grace, and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus extensively trained disciples who, after his death, interpreted and spread his teachings. Within a few decades his followers comprised a religion clearly distinct from Judaism. Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire under a version known as Nicene Christianity and became the state religion under Constantine the Great. Over the centuries, it spread to most of Europe, and around the world.
Jesus has been drawn, painted, sculpted, portrayed on stage and in films in many different ways, both serious and humorous. In fact most medieval art and literature, and many since, were centered around the figure of Jesus. A number of popular novels, such as The Da Vinci Code, have also portrayed various ideas about Jesus. Many of the sayings attributed to Jesus have become part of the culture of Western civilization. There are many items purported to be relics of Jesus, of which the most famous are the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo.
Other legacies include a view of God as more fatherly, merciful, and more forgiving, and the growth of a belief in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus and his message have been interpreted, explained and understood by many people. Jesus has been explained notably by Paul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and more recently by C.S. Lewis.
For some, the legacy of Jesus has been a long history of Christian anti-Semitism, although in the wake of the Holocaust many Christian groups have gone to considerable lengths to reconcile with Jews and to promote inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect. For others, Christianity has often been linked to European colonialism (see British Empire, Portuguese Empire, Spanish Empire, French colonial empire, Dutch colonial empire); conversely, Christians have often found themselves as oppressed minorities in Asia, the Middle East, and in the Maghreb

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Devil is the name given to a supernatural entity, who, in most Western religions, is the central embodiment of evil. This entity is commonly referred to by a variety of other names, including Satan, Asmodai, Beelzebub, Lucifer and/or Mephistopheles. In classic demonology, however, each of these alternate names refers to a specific supernatural entity.

Raising the devilSome scholars believe that the notion of a central supernatural embodiment of evil, as well as the notion of angels, first arose in Western monotheism when Judaism came into contact with the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. Much like classical monotheism, Zoroastrianism has one supreme God, and an evil spirit who chose to be evil, locked in a cosmic struggle where both are more or less evenly matched, though from the beginning Ahura Mazda's triumph is foretold; making Zoroastrianism an ethical dualism. Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord"), also later known as Ormazd in Middle Persian, is the God of light, or Truth, and Angra Mainyu ("Evil Spirit"), also later known as Ahriman in Middle Persian, is the primeval Spirit of darkness, or the Lie. In a final battle between the forces of good and evil, human souls will be judged in a fiery ordeal of molten metal where the good will pass through as if it were warm milk and those who chose evil will be purified and all will be reunited in the new perfected world. Accordingly, humans are urged to align themselves with Ormazd and his Yazatas ("angels") and to shun His adversary who is the ruler of darkness and his demons, so that they may facilitate the final renovation (Frasho-kereti).
Christianity views Satan as an angel cast from heaven by God, for being prideful, deceitful, and the tempter: all strikingly similar to the story of Ahriman.

1 Etymology
2 Concept of the devil in world religions
2.1 Christianity
2.2 Islam
2.3 Judaism
2.4 Hinduism
2.5 Ayyavazhi
2.6 Buddhism
3 Names of the devil
3.1 The original names
3.2 Further development
3.3 In Christian tradition
4 The devil in literature
5 The devil in music
6 The devil in film and television
7 The devil in video games
8 Bibliography

The English word devil derives via Middle English devel and Old English deofol and Latin Diábolus, from Late Greek Diabolos, meaning, slanderer, from diaballein, to slander: dia-, across + ballein, to hurl. The term devil can refer to a greater demon in the hierarchy of Hell.
In other languages devil may be derived from the same Proto-Indo-European root word for deva, which roughly translates as "angel". However, a "deva" or "diva" is not a devil.

Concept of the devil in world religions

Christianity understands the Devil in the context of the Old Testament, as the "Satan" (or "adversary") in the story of Job. Unlike Manichaeism which teaches a coeval dualism, Christians see the devil as a corrupted or fallen angel, an angel in authority before the Creation who fell because of pride and because he waged a war against God. In popular thought he is identified with "Lucifer", a title which appears in the Latin translation of Isaiah's prophecy against the King of Babylon, and with Ezekiel's prophecy against the King of Tyre.
Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, said:
"An angel or any other rational creature considered in his own nature, can sin; and to whatever creature it belongs not to sin, such creature has it as a gift of grace, and not from the condition of nature. The reason of this is, because sinning is nothing else than a deviation from that rectitude which an act ought to have; whether we speak of sin in nature, art, or morals. That act alone, the rule of which is the very virtue of the agent, can never fall short of rectitude. Were the craftsman's hand the rule itself engraving, he could not engrave the wood otherwise than rightly; but if the rightness of engraving be judged by another rule, then the engraving may be right or faulty." (ST I.63.1, italics added)
Commonly-quoted Bible-texts are:
"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." (Revelation 12:7-9)
The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you — all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones — all those who were kings over the nations. They will all respond, they will say to you, "You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us." All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star [KJV, "Lucifer"], son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: "Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?" (Isaiah 14:9-17. In popular thought this is held to be a dual prophecy about the King of Babylon and Satan, though most scholars deny the application to Satan.)
The epic poem by John Milton, Paradise Lost, has a stylized depiction of the devil that influenced C. S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters and Space Trilogy), and the J. R. R. Tolkien characters Melkor and Sauron.

Main article: Iblis
In Islam the Devil is referred to as Iblis, also called the Shaitan (a word referring to evil devil-like beings). According to the Qur'an, God (called Allah in Islam) created the Devil out of "smokeless fire", while he created man out of clay. The primary characteristic of the Devil, besides hubris, is that he has no power other than the power to cast evil suggestions into the heart of men.
According to the verses of the Qur’an, the Devil's mission until the Qiyamah or Resurrection Day (yaum-ul-qiyama) is to deceive Adam's children (mankind). After that, he will be put into the fires of Hell along with those whom he has deceived. The Devil is also referred to as one of the Djinns (genies), as they are all created from the smokeless fires. The Qur'an does not depict Shaitan as the enemy of Allah, for Allah is supreme over all his creations and Iblis is just one of his creations. Unlike the Zoroastrian beliefs, all good are from Allah himself and only he can save humanity from the evils of his universe and his creations. All bad deeds are done by our choice. Shaitan's single enemy is humanity. He intends to discourage humans from obeying God. Thus, humankind is warned to struggle (jihad) against the mischiefs of the Shaitan and temptations he puts them in. The ones who succeed in this are rewarded with Paradise (jannath ul firdaus), attainable only by righteous conduct.

He was expelled from the grace of Allah when he failed to pay homage to Adam, the father of all mankind. He claimed to be superior to Adam, on the grounds that man was created of earth unlike himself. Even the other angels showed a degree of suspicion when Allah informed them about the creation of man as the regent (caliph) of all things on Earth, but they ultimately prostrated before Adam to show their homage. However, Iblis, adamant in his view that man is a worthless being, never bowed his head before any other than Allah. This caused him to be expelled by Allah, a fact that Iblis blamed on humanity. Initially, the Devil was successful in deceiving Adam, but once his intentions became clear, Adam and Eve repented to Allah and were freed from their misdeeds and forgiven. Allah gave them a strong warning about Iblis and the fires of Hell and asked them and their children (humankind) to stay away from the deceptions of their senses caused by the Devil. (For a more detailed account, see (Iblis or Shaitan.)

In Hebrew, the biblical word ha-satan means adversary or obstacle, or even "the prosecutor" (recognizing that God is viewed as the ultimate Judge).

In the book of Job (Iyov), ha-satan is the title, not the proper name, of an angel submitted to God; he is the divine court's chief prosecutor. In Judaism ha-satan does not make evil, rather points out to God the evil inclinations and actions of humankind. In essence ha-satan has no power unless humans do evil things. After God points out Job's piety, ha-satan asks for permission to test the faith of Job. The righteous man is afflicted with loss of family, property, and later, health, but he still stays faithful to God. At the conclusion of this book God appears as a whirlwind, explaining to all that divine justice is inscrutable with human intellect. In the epilogue Job's possessions are restored and he has a second family to "replace" the one that died.

There is no evidence in Torah, or in the books of the Prophets and other writings, to suggest that God created an evil being. In fact, the Book of Isaiah, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Deuteronomy all have passages which God is credited for creating both the good and the evil of this world.

The Hebrew word for evil used above is usually translated as 'calamity', 'disaster' or 'chaos'.

In contrast to the Christian traditions and Islam, Hinduism does not recognize any central evil force or entity such as the Devil opposing God but does recognize that different beings (e.g., asuras) and entities can perform evil acts and cause wordly sufferings. [1] Prominent asura is Rahu whose characteristics are similar to Devil's.
However, Hindus, and Vaishnavites in particular, believe that Vishnu incarnates to destroy evil when evil has reached its maximum. (see avatar.) Additionally, the problem of evil is mostly explained by the concept of Karma.

Ayyavazhi, officially an offshoot of Hinduism, in Tamil Nadu (a southern state in India with Dravidian heritage), believes in a Satan-like figure, Kroni. Kroni, according to Ayyavazhi is the primordial manifestation of evil and manifests in various forms of evil, i.e., Ravana, Duryodhana, etc., in different ages or yugas. In response to such manifestation of evil, believers, in Ayya-Vazhi religion believe that God, as Vishnu manifests in His avatars, Rama, Krishna, to destroy evil. Eventually, the Ekam with the spirit (the spirit taken by Narayana only for incarnating in the world) of Narayana incarnates in the world as Ayya Vaikundar to destroy the final manifestaion of Kroni, Kaliyan.
Kroni, the spirit of Kali Yuga is said to be omnipresent in this age and that is why one of the reasons, followers of Ayya Vazhi, like most Hindus, believe that the current yuga, Kali Yuga is so degraded.

A "devil"-like figure in Buddhism is Mara.

Names of the devil

The original names
Originally, only the epithet of "the satan" or "the adversary" was used to denote the character in the Hebrew deity's court that later became known as "the Devil". The article was lost and this title became a proper name: Satan. There is no unambiguous basis for the Devil in the Torah, the Prophets, or the Writings.
Zechariah 3:1--"And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and ha-satan standing at his right hand to resist him." This reading has since been erroneously interpreted by some to mean Satan, "the Devil", but such is not the case. The Hebrew Bible views ha-satan as an angel ministering to the desires of God, acting as Chief Prosecutor.
The tempter: Matthew 4:3--"And when the tempter came to him." None escape his temptations. He is continually soliciting men to sin.
In Matthew 10:25, Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, and openly in Luke 11:18-19 there is an implied connection between Satan and Beelzebub (originally a Semitic deity called Hadad, and referred to as Baal-zebul, meaning lord of princes) Beelzebub (lit. Lord of the Flies) has now come to be analogous to Satan.
The wicked one: Matthew 13:19--"Then cometh the wicked one." Matthew 6:13; 1 John 5:19. This title suggests that Satan is one who is wicked himself. Abrahamic religions generally regarded sin as a physical manifestation of opposition to God, and therefore evil; dissent only comes from the topic of 'where does sin come from?'
In John 12:31 and John 14:30 Satan is called Prince of this World (Rex Mundi); this became a nickname for him.
In 2 Corinthians 6:15 the Devil is referred as Belial. "What agreement does Christ have with Belial?"
Peter 5:8--"Your adversary the devil." By adversary is meant one who takes a stand against another. In the Christian worldview, Satan is the adversary of both God and humanity.
The Devil, diabolos: This name is ascribed to Satan at least 33 times in the Christian scriptures and indicates that Satan is an accuser or slanderer (Rev. 12:9).
The Dragon or The Old Serpent: These epithets are used extensively in the Book of Revelation.
The Beast (Revelation 13:1-18) is a term John the Evangelist used to refer to a "puppet" of the dragon's (Satan); this name appears several times in the book of Revelation, and it became another nickname for Satan.
Abaddon or Apollyon: Referred to in Revelation 9:11, commonly interpreted as the name of Satan in Hebrew and Greek respectively. However, the actual Abaddon mentioned in the Book of Revelation is the name of an angel "holding the key to the Abyss", so the original text does not originally point to Satan.
There are some who erroneously claim that the word 'devil' is from 'd'evil' -'of evil.' Some also believe that because the word 'evil' itself is 'live' spelt backward, the word originated through the nature of evil being "against living things," or the antithesis of life itself. Both claims are false, as the words are etymologically derived from pre-existing languages.

Further development
When the Bible was translated into Latin (the Vulgate), the name Lucifer appeared as a translation of "Morning Star", or the planet Venus, in Isaiah 14:12. Isaiah 14:1-23 is a passage largely concerned with the plight of Babylon, and its king is referred to as "morning star, son of the dawn". This is because the Babylonian king was considered to be of godly status and of symbolic divine parentage (Bel and Ishtar, associated with the planet Venus).

While this information is available to scholars today via translated Babylonian cuneiform text taken from clay tablets, it was not as readily available at the time of the Latin translation of the Bible. Thus, early Christian tradition interpreted the passage as a reference to the moment Satan was thrown from Heaven. Lucifer became another name for Satan and has remained so due to Christian dogma and popular tradition.

The Hebrew Bible word which was later translated to "Lucifer" in English is ???? (transliterated HYLL). Though this word, Heilel, has come to be translated as "morning-star" from the Septuagint's translation of the Scriptures, the letter ? in Hebrew often indicates singularity, much as the English "the," in which case the translation would be ? "the" ??? "yell," or "the wailing yell."

Later, for unknown reasons, Christian demonologists appeared to designate "Satan", "Lucifer", and "Beelzebub" as different entities, each with a different rank in the hellish hierarchy. One hypothesis is that this might have been an attempt to establish a hellish trinity with the same person, akin to the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but most demonologists do not carry this view.

Sitanel: A mixture of 'Sitan' (honest) and 'el' (god).
samael: Again, a name thought to have been the personal name of satan before he fell from heaven.
satanael: A nickname for the devil most commonly used by non-authodox christians. It is the result of the marriage of the name "satan" and the suffix "ael", a term found very commonly on the end of an angel's name.
In Christian tradition
Christian tradition differs from that of Christian demonology in that Satan, Lucifer, Leviathan and Beelzebub all are names that refer to "the Devil", and Prince of this World, The Beast and Dragon (and rarely Serpent or The Old Serpent) use to be elliptic forms to refer to him. The Enemy, The Evil One and The Tempter are other elliptic forms to name the Devil. Belial is held by many to be another name for the Devil. Christian demonology, in contrast, does not have several nicknames for Satan.

It should be noted that the name Mephistopheles is used by some people to refer to the Devil, but it is a mere folkloric custom, and has nothing to do with Christian demonology and Christian tradition. Prince of Darkness and Lord of Darkness are also folkloric names, although they tend to be incorporated to Christian tradition.
The medieval Cathars identified the devil with the demiurge of older gnostic and Neoplatonic tradition. Earlier sects believed the Old Testament Yahweh was, in fact, the devil, based partially on ethical interpretations of the Bible and partially on the beliefs of earlier gnostic sects (such as the Valentinians) who regarded the god of the Old Testament as evil or as an imperfect Demiurge. Early Gnostics called the Demiurge Yao, the Aramaic cognate to the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (Yahweh). Moreover, modern research into Ugaritic texts revealed that the names of the Jewish god were the same as earlier gods worshipped in the same region; Yahweh is cognate to Ugaritic Yaw who was the Semitic deity of chaos, evil, and world domination.

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A church building (or simply church) is a building used in Christian worship. See also altar, altar rails, apse, confessional, chapel, dome, lych gate, nave, narthex, pew, pulpit, sanctuary.
== Origins of Christian places of worship == The Church is People, redeemed by Jesus Christ. The Church can meet in a cafeteria, in a school building, in a church building designed for that purpose, in houses or wherever they choose to gather. The architecture of Christian worship space grew out of the regular meetings of the followers of Christianity in private houses (see 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phm. 1:2) and synagogues (Acts 18:4), and occasionally in catacombs when necessary. When either the size of the community outgrew the space or the complexity of the uses of the space outpaced the architectural adaptation of houses, buildings began to be built specifically for worship, in general following the norms of Roman public buildings (read more at Basilica). This became much more feasible and common when Constantine stopped the Roman persecution of Christians by issuing the Edict of Milan in 313. Whether this is a scriptural example to be followed or man's own deviation from early example is questionable.

1 In the first century
2 Early examples of church architecture

In the first century
The first Christians were, like Jesus, Jews resident in Israel who worshiped on occasion in the Temple in Jerusalem and weekly in local synagogues. Temple worship was a ritual involving sacrifice, occasionally including the sacrifice of animals in atonement for sin, offered to Yahweh until Jesus became the final sacrificial offering on Calvary. The New testament includes many references to Jesus visiting the Temple, the first time as an infant with his parents.
The early history of the synagogue is controverted, but it seems to be an institution developed for public Jewish worship during the Babylonian captivity when the Jews did not have access to the Jerusalem Temple for ritual sacrifice. Instead, to give a rough summary, they developed a daily and weekly service of readings from the Torah or the prophets followed by commentary. This could be carried out in a house if the attendance was small enough, and in many towns of the Diaspora that was the case. In others more elaborate architectural settings developed, sometimes by converting a house and sometimes by converting a previously public building. The minimum requirements seem to have been a meeting room with adequate seating, a case for the Torah scrolls, and a raised platform for the reader and preacher.
St Martha's, in Tarascon.Jesus himself participated in this sort of service as a reader and commentator (see Gospel of Luke 4: 16-24) and his followers probably remained worshippers in synagogues in some cities. However, following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70, the new Christian movement and Judaism increasingly parted ways. The Church became overwhelmingly Gentile sometime in the second century.
For the history of how services take place within a church, see worship or do a search on any particular religious denomination that you might be interested in. Á
Early examples of church architecture
The Syrian city of Dura-Europos on the West bank of the Euphrates was an outpost town between the Roman and Parthian empires. During a siege by Parthian troops in A.D. 257 the buildings in the outermost blocks of the city grid were partially destroyed and filled with rubble to reinforce the city wall. Thus were preserved and securely dated the earliest decorated church and a synagogue decorated with extensive wall paintings. Both had been converted from earlier private buildings.
The church at Dura Europos has a special room dedicated for baptisms with a large baptismal font.
A common architecture for churches is the shape of a cross (a long central rectangle, with side rectangles, and a rectangle in front for the altar space or sanctuary). These churches also often have a dome or other large vaulted space in the interior to represent or draw attention to the heavens. Other common shapes for churches include a circle, to represent eternity, or an octagon or similar star shape, to represent the church's bringing light to the world. Another common feature is the spire, a tall tower on the "west" end of the church or over the crossing.

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