Understanding World Religions


The simple purpose of this podcast is to help you become informed about the various religious beliefs that exist in the world today. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Christian and I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. However, I do have two degrees in Religion and with the knowledge of all these religions, I have chosen to be and remain a Christian.

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today — particularly when it comes to the “big three” religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict — along with doing much good down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don’t adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world’s religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.

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LISTEN: Transcendental Meditation (Understanding World Religions #42 with Daniel Whyte III)

Our quote for today is from Karl Menninger. He said, “It is doubtless true that religion has been the world’s psychiatrist throughout the centuries.”

In this our last podcast, we are completing our journey through Garry R. Morgan’s book, “Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day.”

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, “Transcendental Meditation”

Transcendental Meditation, popularly known as TM, typically would be considered a New Age religion. For its size and popularity, it will be covered in a brief chapter of its own.

The movement and related organizations were founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He was born in northern India in 1917 (some sources say 1911, others 1918) and earned a university degree in physics before renouncing worldly pursuits to become a disciple of Swa-mi Brah-ma-nan-da Sa-ra-swa-ti, better known as Guru Dev. Following Guru Dev’s death in 1953, Maharishi (a Hindi title meaning “great seer”) continued to meditate and reflect, including two years spent in a Himalayan cave. These meditations on Guru Dev’s teachings became the basis for TM.

Ma-ha-ri-shi Mahesh Yogi moved to the U.S. in 1958 and founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in Los Angeles. Although the initial response was small, the antiestablishment mood of American youth in the later 1960s produced an interested audience for his message of peace and tranquility. The Beatles began to follow him, even spending time at his ashram (meditation and training center) in India, and this publicity brought rapid growth. After a few years, there was a falling-out with the Beatles, especially John Lennon, who called Ma-ha-ri-shi “a lecherous womanizer.” (George Harrison continued to practice Hinduism; his former estate outside London is now a Hindu temple and retreat center.) The adverse publicity brought a decline in numbers, and in the early 1970s Maharishi returned to India.

LISTEN: New Age Religions (Understanding World Religions #41)

Our quote for today is from Edwin Lewis. He said, “A religion without the element of mystery would not be a religion at all.”

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan’s book, “Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day.”

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, “New Age Religions”

New Age is an umbrella term for a host of recent religious startups, most originating since 1970. The name comes from the expected dawning of a new age of human consciousness and development, often referred to as the Age of Aquarius from its connection to astrology. Although not original with her, Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy, considered by many the “bible” of New Age religions, did much to popularize the term.

There is no New Age “central headquarters” or mother organization. Most have developed independently of (sometimes in competition with) other, similar movements. They now exist in a vast network of autonomous groups held together by a few common beliefs.

New Age religions exhibit a wide variety of organizational variation as well. There are New Age churches with clergy, buildings, and regular services. Some practices, on the other hand, while based on the same core beliefs as other New Age faiths, may not seem connected to any particular organized religion at all. The use of crystals for physical healing and emotional improvement is one example. New Age books number in the thousands, and New Age bookstores everywhere in the West also offer products of many kinds to aid people in their quest for fulfillment. Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical works on reincarnation and other New Age topics have sold in the multimillions.

LISTEN: Neopagan Religions (Understanding World Religions #40)

Our quote for today is from George Washington. He said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan’s book, “Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day.”

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, “Neopagan Religions”

“The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot.” Thus proclaimed an I-694 billboard in a Minneapolis suburb a few years ago, sponsored by the Goddess Committee, Northern Dawn Council, Covenant of the Goddess. The growth of Neopagan religions in North America and Europe has been one of the most significant expressions of new religious movements since 1950. Many today use the word pagan to refer to nonreligious people or those whose behavior is considered unacceptable, but Pagan actually is an umbrella term for the ancient religions of pre-Christian Europe. These did not cease to exist after most Europeans converted, at least nominally, to Christianity, but they did go underground and were often viewed with suspicion, as they frequently are today. Neopagan religions are a revival and repackaging of these belief systems with some contemporary additions.

Wicca is the best known of this large family of contemporary religious movements, though there are many different groups. Druidism, Celtic religions, As-a-tru, the Green Circle, and the Circle of Awen are a handful of the many examples. The variety makes generalizing difficult, but a few themes do characterize most.

Jehovah’s Witnesses (Understanding World Religions #39)

Our quote for today is from Theodore Roosevelt. He said, “Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.”

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan’s book, “Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day.”

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, “Jehovah’s Witnesses”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for the door-to-door pairs who encourage people to join Bible studies and purchase Watchtower literature. They have produced more than thirty billion pieces of literature and spend over a billion hours annually distributing it. The Watchtower magazine is published in nearly two hundred languages and has a worldwide circulation that more than doubles that of Reader’s Digest.

Jehovah’s Witness theology is based on the writings of Charles Taze Russell, who, influenced by certain Adventist preachers as to the second coming of Christ, founded the Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence magazine in 1879. He wrote articles teaching that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874 and would establish God’s visible kingdom in 1914. Soon after, he established Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, the forerunner of the current Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. As they do today, Russell’s followers sold books, magazines, and other literature door to door.

Christian Science and Scientology (Understanding World Religions #37)

Our quote for today is an old Negro proverb: “Education without Salvation equals damnation.”

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan’s book, “Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day.”

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, “Christian Science and Scientology”

Once again, we’ll look at different faith systems with similar names in one episode, since sometimes these also are confused with each other.

The Church of Christ, Scientist is the official name of a movement (founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy) commonly referred to as Christian Science. The name is well known through the Christian Science Monitor, a respected newspaper, and through Christian Science Reading Rooms in major cities around the U.S. and in other countries. Christian Scientists claim to be one of Christianity’s denominations, with a faith based on the Bible. Indeed, their literature and official website contain frequent scriptural quotations, usually from the King James Version. Their interpretations, however, and their answers to ultimate questions, show a belief system substantially different from orthodox Christianity of any branch or denomination.

Scientology, widely known for the celebrities among its members, was started by L. Ron Hubbard in 1955. A moderately successful science-fiction author, Hubbard said, in 1949, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” Using his 1950 bestseller “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” as a foundation, that’s exactly what he did.