A Detailed Explanation of Religion
Many of the ideas and words used by the principal religions are explained below.

For a detailed explanation of the Christian Religion, click here
Why & How?
Picture, Planet Earth
Since humanity has been able to think, people have asked fundamental questions, "Where did the world come from?" "Who are we?" "Why are we here?" Generally, science answers the questions of 'how?' - the 'Big Bang', atoms, molecules, evolution - but religion answers the questions of 'why?' - God made us to be in relationship with him. (Return to top)

Different religions answer the 'why' in different ways, but most say the idea that the universe came about merely because of chance is unlikely. Most religions accept the concept of evolution, but they also accept that a 'Supreme Being' caused it all to start. Even if it did happen by chance, we're still left with the question, "Where did matter come from in the first place - and why? (Return to top)
Spiritual & Physical
Picture, Man and Woman
Many people suggest that as well as the physical aspects of existence - space, time, matter - there's a spiritual aspect that can't be described, but its presence can be felt. It's what gives us our innermost and distinctive being - it's what makes us, us. It gives us consciousness and intelligence. (Return to top)

Many also argue that this spiritual aspect is eternal - it lasts forever, unlike our physical body which has a limited life, then dies. Some think that on the death of the physical body, this spiritual aspect returns to where it came from (heaven?), others think that it's reincarnated into another body (human or animal) to begin the cycle of life and death again (re-incarnation). (Return to top)
Picture, Different Religions
No-one can prove God exists, but equally no-one can prove he doesn't either. Evidence for God exists in many ways but much has been gathered in the Christian Holy Book called 'The Bible'. The first part, the 'Old Testament', is an account of God's early revelation of himself to humanity and the development of his relationship with his 'chosen people', the Hebrews, so most of it was written in Hebrew. (Return to top)

The second part, called the 'New Testament', is an account of the life and teaching of Jesus and the formation of the first Christian churches. Jesus was the way God chose to make reconciliation between himself and humanity for our disobedience of his rules, that disobedience we call 'sin'. The overall title 'Bible' is Greek and just means 'Books'. (Return to top)

Each book is named after its author or its principal content, eg: the first book is called 'Genesis' which is Greek for 'Beginnings' - the beginning of the universe, of humanity and of faith in the one true God. (Return to top)
A Supreme Power - God
Finger Pointing from a Cloud
We read in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, how God created heaven and earth. It's amazing, considering how long ago that book was written, that if you take the 'days' of creation described in the Bible to be epochs of history, the story is remarkably accurate compared to our modern knowledge. (Return to top)

Science tells us it all began with a 'Big Bang' and has been expanding outwards ever since. Initial gases condensed into stars and planets and the many elements from which everything is made. It's so simple and yet so complex that it couldn't all have happened by chance, there must be a design, and if there's a design then there must be a designer - that's whom we call 'God'.
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The Soul
Picture, Blured Image
Many religions teach that people have a spiritual aspect which is separate from the body and mind, and call this the 'Soul'. This is usually considered the most important part of a person as it's usually considered to have a direct connection with the 'absolute' or God. In many religions, the Soul is considered as immortal (it never dies), see 'Spiritual and Physical' above. (Return to top)
Picture, Parachutist
Many people throughout history have experienced the presence of God with them through their life, or at a specific event such as a difficult moment in their life. Most can't say exactly how they knew he was there, but they found the experience calming, strengthening, or otherwise helpful. Only a very few hear an actual voice – and others are sceptical of those who say they have! However, it's not unusual for those who've asked God for something in prayer to find that prayer has been answered – although not always in the way they'd expected. (Return to top)

As a result of their experience or logical thinking, many people believe that God really exists. When you believe something is true but can't prove it, then its said that we believe it 'in faith'. (Return to top)
Picture of people in a church
The answer to 'Why creation?' begins with God himself - Jesus showed us that God isn't like the Old Testament view, a God of wrath extracting his due from erring humanity, God does want justice, yes... but tempered with a caring love, since he himself is the epitome of love (For evidence, see 'The  Holy Trinity'). (Return to top)

God didn't need to create people because he needed to form a loving relationship with us – that would have made him less than perfect before he did it. He made people because his love is so great it overflows and he wants to share it. It's because this force of love is so fundamental that both our ancestors and us are forced to seek its source and give it its worth - 'worth-ship'. If they don't acknowledge God, then many people direct that basic force into 'worship' of other things instead, like money or possessions.
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Prayer and Meditation
Prayer consists of giving praise and thanks to the supreme being and/or asking for things which the believer wants and which they believe the supreme being can provide. Different religions pray in different ways - some teach that you must sit or kneel to pray, others teach that you must stand up, still others believe that you should cover yourself with a shawl or scarf. (Return to top)

Some teach that prayer is mainly a formal process using prescribed words and procedures which must be said by the priest, others that it can be informal too, so allow for the believer to say their own words either in 'private' prayer on their own or when gathered together for 'public' prayer in a place of worship. Some pray by closing their eyes and cupping their hands, others by prostrating themselves on the ground, and yet others accept any time or position is appropriate and the posture is irrelevant as it's the intention of the person praying that matters. (Return to top)

Meditation and contemplation are sometimes seen as special forms of prayer. Meditation involves creating an aura of stillness to remove any barrier between yourself and the supreme being, allowing the person praying to concentrate more intently on that being. Contemplation is like meditation, but the mind is cleared of all thought to remove any obstacle to communication with the supreme being. (Return to top)
Picture, Open Book
'Scripture' is derived from the Latin word 'scriptura' and just means 'writings' and is the name given to the text of any religion's Holy Book. In some religions the Holy Book is a collection of thoughts or teaching from the founder, in others its a collection of accounts said to have been dictated by the supreme being or through their messenger, whilst for others its thought to have been written by humans but under the influence of the supreme being, so it reflects that being's wishes or commands. (Return to top)
Picture, A Priest
In some religions the priest is seen as a necessary intermediary between the supreme being and 'ordinary' people, whilst in others 'ordinary' people have direct access to the supreme being themselves. (Return to top)

Priests are usually people ordained ('set apart') for religious duties. Many religions have priests who have public duties such as leading worship and teaching about the religion as well as providing care for the followers. Most religions provide their priests with a special form of dress to help identify them as such. (Return to top)

In some religions priests are only selected from certain social classes or groups, in some they may be only male or only female, whilst in some religions they can be from any group or any gender. (Return to top)
Denominations & Sects
Picture, a Large SectA Moonies Sect
mass wedding
Many religions have divided over the centuries into different sub-groups, usually where one or more aspect of that religion has come to be regarded by some of the followers as more or less important, eg: Orthodox and Liberal Jews, Catholic and Protestant Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims. In some cases the sub-group has divided still further, such as Protestant Christians into Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. (Return to top)

A division that remains true to generally accepted beliefs, but puts one aspect ahead of others, is termed a ‘Denomination’. If the division adopts beliefs or practices which are contrary to generally held or 'orthodox' beliefs, then it's known as a ‘Sect’. (Return to top)
Signs & Symbols
Fish Logo
Picture, Icthus Fish
Picture, Wooden Cross
Many religions have one or more symbols that are used to depict the religion itself, or some particular aspect of it. The symbol has sometimes come about by common usage or sometimes been carefully thought out, usually based on some aspect of that religion's belief or teaching. The principal symbols for three main religions are: (Return to top)

Christian: An early symbol was the fish (still in use use today). It was selected because there are many references to fish in the Gospel, eg: Jesus selected fishermen as his first followers and said "I will make you fishers of men"
(Matthew 1:16-17). The fish symbol may be used plain, or with the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ in the shape, pronounced "Ichthys" which is the Greek word for "Fish". Translated into English, they represent the first letter of the Greek words "Iēsous Khristos Theou Huios, Sōtēr" which mean "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour". However, the most common Christian symbol quickly became the Latin cross, because it was on that shape that Jesus was crucified - a very important element in Christian belief. (Return to top)
Picture, Menorah
Picture, Star of David
Judaism: An early symbol is a candelabra or lamp-stand called a 'Menorah' with 7 arms (9 arms for special festivals). In the early Hebrew scriptures, God is said to have instructed the prophet Moses to make such a lamp-stand for his sanctuary. (Exodus 25:31). A more familiar symbol is the six-pointed star commonly known as 'The Star of David' made up of two overlapping triangles. The Star of David is said to have been included on the shield used in battle by the great Jewish king, David. (Return to top)
Islamic Arc & Star
Islamic Graphics
Islam: Many associate the crescent moon and star with Islam, indeed many Islamic States have this symbol on their flag. In fact it's much older than Islam and comes from the pagan world before Islam was created. It was the symbol on the flag of the city of Byzantium (modern Istanbul) and was adopted by Muslims when they conquered that city. As Islam spread, so the symbol spread and came to be recognised as a symbol of that faith. However, many Muslims reject the symbol because of it's pagan origin and prefer no symbol at all, or a plain flag with no markings but coloured black or white or green. Islam doesn't permit images of living creatures, so geometric shapes are a common Islamic image. (Return to top)