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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?

Confucianism: The Way of Propriety
Confucians aren't particularly interested in the divine or the afterlife.  They are more concerned with the here and now- with cultivating harmony and virtue. Confucianism tries to bring social order to a world that would otherwise be characterized by chaos. The answer is to be kind and honorable to each other, through rituals and etiquette.

Pictured: A statue of Confucius, who was born in 551 BCE.
The Full Interview on Confucianism
Taoism: The Way of Flourishing
Confucianism stresses decorum, learning and proper behavior.  Taoism, one of the other popular religions in China, emphasizes nearly the opposite.  Taoism says we should be spontaneous, natural and unconstrained - like water flowing down a river.  The problem is lifelessness, which is pushed onto us by social conventions. The goal, then, is flourishing: living life to the fullest.

The Full Interview on Taoism
Hinduism: The Way of Devotion
Stephen Prothero calls Hindusim an “over-the-top religion of big ideas, bright colors, soulful mantras, spicy foods, complex rituals and wild stories.”  The world’s oldest living religion, Hinduism is an attempt to escape the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. The goal is to free the soul from bondage, a path known as moksha, or release.

Pictured: An 18th century depiction of Ganesha, one of the most beloved deities in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses. 

The Full Interview on Hinduism