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World Religions 101
August 14, 2014
Stephen Prothero gives us a crash course on eight of the world's spiritual traditions—what they believe, where they come from, and how they’re different from each other. Each segment poses two basic questions: what is the problem that religion defines as central in the world, and what is the solution?

Islam: The Way of Submission
The word "Islam" in Arabic means both "peace" and "submission." The problem that Islam wants to solve is pride--the sense that we can get  along on our own without God. The solution is submission to Allah, through techniques like praying five times a day, and saying the Shahada, the testimony of faith that "there is no God but God."
The Full Interview on Islam
Judaism: The Way of Exile and Return
Judaism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic traditions, tracing its beginnings to more than three thousand years ago. For Jews, humanity's great problem is exile--we have become distant from God, and distant from our community. The solution is return, through storytelling and law. 
The Full Interview on Judaism
Buddhism: The Way of Awakening
Buddhism is a tradition that almost resembles psychotherapy in its analysis of human suffering and its focus on mental discipline. Buddhists value insight gained from personal experience, not faith or belief, and there is no concept of God. The 2,500-year old tradition is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or “the awakened one," who preached that we can overcome our suffering through techniques like chanting and meditating, and by realizing the true nature of reality.
The Full Interview on Buddhism
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Christianity: The Way of Salvation
You might think you already know what Stephen Prothero is going to say in the fourth part of our series on the world's major religions. But if you think you know the most popular religion in the United States, think again. It's always changing, expressed in a "dizzying diversity" of interpretations and practices. For Christians, the problem is sin, and the solution is salvation.
The Full Interview on Christianity
Yoruba Religion: The Way of Connection
The Yoruba religion is a tapestry of myths, magic, spirits, and secrets. Prothero calls it "a tradition about hanging onto tradition," a way for people scattered by the African diaspora to connect to their common origins. The gods of Yoruba are more like super-powerful humans, with their own personalities, stories, and tastes in music. And they're often wonderfully mischievous. Yoruba religion teaches that our problem is disconnection; the solution is to reconnect ourselves to a larger divine power, through fortune telling, sacrifice, and spirit/body possession.

Pictured: Babalu Aye, the Orisha of illness.
The Full Interview on Yoruba