Daily life presents human beings with a multitude of questions that they have been attempting to answer since before they learned to write them down. How did we get here? Why are we here? Is there even a reason for our being here? What happens when we die? Why do we have to die? Why do bad things happen to good people? What is the difference between a good person and a bad person, anyway? While every religion-not to mention the many paths or denominations of those religions-has a different approach, they all strive to give their practitioners a sense of purpose and a way to better themselves.
First of all, what is religion? Examining it from a linguistic perspective, one will find the Latin roots re-, meaning “again,” and lig-, meaning “connect.” Consequently, the word literally translates as “to reconnect.” One could also consider the Latin term religio that referred to awe of the gods and concern for proper ritual. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary has an incomplete definition of religion-“the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” (“Religion.”) Additionally, as Molloy points out, the word “religion” is a Western concept and “spiritual paths” might be a better word when including beliefs from other cultures. (Molloy [Page 5])
According to Molloy, spiritual paths, to varying degrees manifest the following eight elements: a belief system, community, central myths, ritual, ethics, characteristic emotional experiences, material expression, and sacredness. (Molloy [Page 6])
During the weakening of the Roman Empire, a new king was born. Jesus Christ, who many contend to be the son of God, was born during the reign of Augustus Caesar. As Adler and Pouwels point out, the Romans were typically remarkably tolerant of opposing religions. However, they had no patience for Jesus of Nazareth’s claims to be the Messiah. (Adler and Pouwels [Page #139]) According to the Bible, Caesar even killed all the Jewish children born around the same time as Jesus in an attempt to thwart his impending “reign.” Their efforts to dissuade the Jesus’s followers failed even after his death, though. Christianity thrived under the Romans’ persecution, and the martyrs’ stories continue to be told today as inspiration for modern Christians.
Unlike the exclusive practices of Judaism, Christianity spread to the Gentiles and believers were not favored because of their lineage. This proved a wise move on the disciple’s part, as the Gentiles...