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1 Introduction

Based from what we have seen, religion, in one form or the other has always been integral part of man’s life in the past, and there is no reason to believe that it will not be the same in the future or, at least, within a reasonable future.

On the other hand we have seen that religion, or better, our perception of religion, has changed quite a lot. If we limit our analysis to the last three thousand years we see that initially –that is from 1000 BC to the beginning of the Christian era- man’s spirituality was best expressing itself in the so-called “Mystery Schools”. In those Mystery Schools, people were introduced to religion through a process of initiation that took place in a multitude of local groups loosely linked to a given Mystery. However their teaching was not similar to what classical religions are teaching today. Myths, legends, and tradition were more important that doctrine. The Jewish faith is an exception in the sense that it was already a religion before 1,000 BC. However, at the beginning, even the Jewish religion was based on myths, tradition and legends as can still be seen in the Old Testament.

The so-called world religions became important during the Christian era, although most of them originated before that time:

  • Judaism, the religion of the Jews, is the expression of a religious and ethnic community, a way of life as well as a set of basic beliefs and values. Abraham, the founder of Judaism, is believed to have lived in the mid-20th century BCE (Before the Common Era)
  • Christianity defined as the religion of Jesus Christ initiated around 30 AD according to the Gospels
  • Islam, a major world religion belonging to the Semitic family, was proposed by the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the 7th century AD
  • Buddhism is a religion and philosophy founded by Siddhartha Gautama in northeast India during the period from the late 6th century to the early 4th century BC
  • Shintoism derives from the Yayoi culture, which originated in the northern area of the island of Kyushu in Japan in about the 3rd or 2nd century BC
  • Behind all forms of Taoism stands the figure of Lao-tzu, the author of the classic text known as the Lao-tzu, or the Tao-te Ching (“Classic of the Way of Power”). The first mention of Lao-tzu is found in the Chuang-tzu (4th–3rd century BC). In it Lao-tzu appears as a senior contemporary of Confucius (6th–5th century BC) and a renowned Taoist master, a curator of the archives at the court of the Chou dynasty (c. 1111–255 BC) and a mere mortal
  • Confucius, in the 6th–5th century BC, proposed a way of life that was later followed by the Chinese people for more than two millennia. Confucianism has sometimes been seen as a religion and sometimes as a philosophy