International Student Services hosts lecture to help Alamo College students learn about world religions.
By Ana Victoria Cano
Philosophy Professor Richard Schoenig discussed world religions Nov. 20 in the Oppenheimer Center for International Education Week.
Schoenig, whose lecture was hosted by International Student Services, explained it’s difficult to define the term religion.
Schoenig said there is a difference between what is called religion and what is called “like a religion.”
He said Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism are classified as religions; Worshipping the Dallas Cowboys, collecting stamps or being a vegetarian is not a religion.
Schoenig said religions have a two-world view of reality, and non-religions have a one-world view of reality.
The two worlds are natural and supernatural, he said.
Super is the Latin word meaning above — and literally that is what most religions think, that divine beings exist and that they are “up there,” Schoenig said.
Those divine beings include gods, angels and ghosts.
“The natural world is a realm of matter-energy and time-space,” Schoenig said.
Schoenig said non-religions just believe in the natural world; they don’t believe in the supernatural world because of the lack of evidence.
“Everyone agrees that the natural world exists,” he said. “What makes religion, religion is the postulation or the posting that there is another part of reality besides what is down here, and that is the supernatural world.”
He said some religions believe the supernatural word interacts with the natural world by means of incarnation, revelations or miracles.
Schoenig said the natural world interacts with the supernatural world by means of prayers, rituals, meditations and sacrifices.
“Atheism should be called a religion because it doesn’t entail that two-world view,” Schoenig said.
Schoenig said religions are found in virtually all societies and usually divided into two types: monotheistic and polytheistic.
He said “mono” means one in Greek; “theos” means god. Monotheistic religions believe in one god. Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism are the most common monotheistic religions.
Schoenig said “poly” is Greek for many. Polytheistic religions believe in many gods. The most common polytheistic religions are traditional Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto and primal/indigenous/tribal religions.
The non-theistic religions are religions without a god. Non-theistic religions include Theravada Buddhism, Brahmanic Hinduism, original Taoism and Confucianism.
“These religions don’t necessarily pose any persons in that supernatural realm,” Schoenig said.
Schoenig discussed the demographics and geography of religion. He said Christianity has the greatest number of members with 2.1 billion.
He said in North and South America, Europe, South Africa, North Asia and Australia, Christianity is the predominant religion.
Hinduism would probably grow as much as the population in India because it is mostly confined to India, Schoenig said.
“Islam is coming out fast on the outside,” he said. “If conditions continue … your grandchildren would no longer — if they are Christians — be the majority in the world. Muslims would have a larger number of people.”
He said Islam is prominent around central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Indonesia. Buddhism and Taoism predominate in China, and Hinduism predominates in India. In Mongolia the predominant religion is Buddhism.
Schoenig discussed Zoroastrianism’s influence on other religions.
Zoroastrianism is based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster. This religion believes Ahura Mazda is the god and creator of everything, according to Wikipedia.
Both Christianity and Islam have roots in Judaism, Schoenig said.
This influence started with the “Babylonian Exile” (587-539 BC), when king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea, destroyed Jerusalem and moved Judea’s elite to a ghetto near Babylon, Schoenig said.
“Before that, Judaism lacked a significant Satan figure, a resurrection of the body, much of a concern for life after earth, a real notion of heaven or hell, any reference to God’s plan to end the world, a day of final judgment and much mention of angels and demons,” he said. “After the Babylonian Exile Judaism had all of the above. Each became a vital part of Judaism by the time of Jesus, and then, in turn, an important part of Christianity, and then of Islam.”
Schoenig said all those tenets resulted from the interaction of people in Babylon.
He said worldwide Christianity is becoming “southernized.”
“Christianity is stagnant or slumping in the developed tier of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of the countries of Europe,” Schoenig said.
He said Christianity still does well in developing countries such as South and Central America, the Caribbean, in many parts of black Africa and the Philippines.
Christianity in the United States is maintaining due to immigration from southern-hemisphere countries, Schoenig said.