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Religion is the adherence to codified beliefs and rituals that generally involve a faith in a spiritual nature and a study of inherited ancestral traditions, knowledge and wisdom related to understanding human life. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to faith as well as to the larger shared systems of belief.

In the larger sense, religion is a communal system for the coherence of belief—typically focused on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, traditions, and rituals are often traditionally associated with the core belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy. Religion can also be described as a way of life.

The development of religion has taken many forms in various cultures. "Organized religion" generally refers to an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion with a prescribed set of beliefs, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization). Other religions believe in personal revelation and responsibility. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system," but is more socially defined than that of personal convictions.

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Selected article

The Chinese character 道 (pinyin Dào, Wade–Giles Tao4) "Way".
Taoism (sometimes written as and actually pronounced as Daoism (dow-ism)) is the English name for: Dao Jia (philosophical tao) philosophical school based on the texts the Tao Te Ching (ascribed to Laozi (Lao Tzu) and alternately spelled Dào Dé Jīng) and the Zhuangzi; a family of organized Chinese religious movements such as the Zhengyi ("Orthodoxy") or Quanzhen ("complete reality") sects, which collectively trace back to Zhang Daoling in the late Han dynasty; and a Chinese folk religion.

The English word "Taoism" is used to translate the Chinese terms Daojiao (道教 "teachings/religion of the Dao") and Daojia (道家 "school of the Dao"). The character Tao 道 (or Dao, depending on the romanisation scheme) means "path" or "way", but in Chinese religion and philosophy it has taken on more abstract meanings. The compound Daojiao refers to Daoism as a religion; Daojia refers to the activity of scholars in their studies. It must be noted that this distinction is itself controversial and fraught with hermeneutic difficulty. Many scholars believe that there is no distinction between Daojia and Daojiao, and that the distinction is propagated by people who are not familiar with Taoism.

Selected picture

Shroud of Turin
Credit: Secondo Pia

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is an ancient linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. The image can not be seen on the shroud with the naked eye and for several centuries the shroud had been displayed without it. The image was first observed in 1989 on the reverse photographic plate when amateur photographer Secondo Pia was unexpectedly allowed to photograph it. Some believe it is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb. Skeptics contend the shroud is a medieval hoax or forgery.

Selected religious figure or deity

Standing Buddha sculpture, ancient region of Gandhara, northern Pakistan, 1st century CE, Musée Guimet.
Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit सिद्धार्थ गौतम, Pali Gotama Buddha) was a spiritual teacher from ancient India and the historical founder of Buddhism. He is universally recognized by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha of our age. The time of his birth and death are uncertain; most modern historians date his lifetime from 563 BCE to 483 BCE, though some have suggested a date about a century later than this.

Gautama, also known as Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”), is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules were summarized after his death and memorized by the saṅgha. Passed down by oral tradition, the Tripiṭaka, the collection of discourses attributed to Gautama, was committed to writing about 400 years later.

Did you know...

  • ...that the word, Christian, only appears three times in the Bible?
  • ...that the Qur'an is believed by Muslims and traditional Islamic scholars to have remained unchanged since its revelation?

On this day...

Selected quote

Bhagavad Gita 11:32 - Sanskrit
The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you, all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.
Bhagavad Gita, 11:32

Selected scripture

Rigveda manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century
Hindu scripture, which is known as "Shastra" is predominantly written in Sanskrit. Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and relevant Hindu texts. Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: Śruti – that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (i.e. tradition, not revelation). The Vedas constituting the former category are considered scripture by all Hindus. The post-Vedic Hindu scriptures form the latter category; the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are notable epics considered scripture by many sects. A sort of cross-over between the religious epics and Upanishads of the Vedas is the Bhagavad Gita, considered to be revealed scripture by almost all Hindus today. The Puranas are a vast literature of stories and allegory. Eighteen are considered to be Mahapuranas, or Great Puranas, and thus authoritative references on the Gods and Goddesses, religious rites and holy places (most of which are in the Indian subcontinent, known as Bharat).

Hindu texts are typically seen to revolve around many levels of reading, namely the gross or physical, the subtle, and the supramental. This allows for many levels of understanding as well, implying that the truth of the texts can only be realized with the spiritual advancement of the reader.

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