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Beyond Belief: Comparative worldviews

As most of you know, UFV is attended by students from a wide variety of religions and philosophies, each representing a different tradition and a different perspective on life’s mysteries. In this column, adherents to four of those perspectives – Christianity, Hinduism, Atheism, and Sikhism – will respond to some of the bigger questions leveled at the religious institution. This week’s question: in comparison with all other world religions, what makes yours unique?

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Date Posted: May 18, 2011
Print Edition: May 13, 2011

By Paul Esau (The Cascade) – Email

As most of you know, UFV is attended by students from a wide variety of religions and philosophies, each representing a different tradition and a different perspective on life’s mysteries. In this column, adherents to four of those perspectives – Christianity, Hinduism, Atheism, and Sikhism – will respond to some of the bigger questions leveled at the religious institution.

This week’s question: in comparison with all other world religions, what makes yours unique?

Christianity
Derrick Uittenbosch

Derrick Uitenbosch is a third year Criminology student. He is a leader of University Christian Ministries at UFV.

The knee-jerk response to this question is everything! But that’s not very helpful, so I’ll highlight a couple of the key components that are not found in any other religion.

First, while the idea that something has to be done for our bad actions is common to many religions, the Biblical response is completely different: you don’t have to do anything. Yep, that’s right. There’s nothing you have to do. In fact, there’s nothing you could do that would make any difference. That’s where God comes in and a little thing called grace. God knew we couldn’t do anything to completely make up for our bad actions, so he gracefully allowed us to get away scot-free by levelling the penalty against someone else, Jesus. We are given the choice to accept His grace and live in paradise without the penalty of our actions, without having to do anything ourselves.

Second, God is the ultimate authority and power over the universe. He is the king of creation and the creator of everything. He is perfect and all-knowing, omnipresent and omniscient, ever-loving and forgiving. At the same time, he is not inaccessible. We can talk to him anytime and anywhere we want to. In fact, this is exactly what he wants. God loves each and every one of us so much that he desires to have an intimate, personal, and loving relationship with you.

You are the apple of his eye, the crown of his creation, and the child he dearly loves. He is not a distant, disdainful, uncaring, unreachable God sitting off in the middle of nowhere. He is right here beside you, loving you, forgiving you, and sacrificing his son for you, even before you knew you needed him. No matter what you’ve done or where you are, God is still there, calling you by name, waiting for you to run back into his outstretched arms.

Hinduism
Sheetal Deo

Sheetal is a Philosophy student as well as on the Board for South Asian Peer Network Association (SAPNA) – an extension of the Centre of Indo-Canadian Studies

Hinduism is often inaccurately understood as a religion of multiple gods and goddesses, but Hinduism cannot be neatly packaged as a polytheistic religion, or any one of the other particular belief system labels. Over the years, the best way I have come to understand and explain this confusion is with the assistance of a utopian structure of government.

The multiple gods and goddesses that Hinduism is widely known for, predominantly the “trinity” Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, and their respective consorts, Parvati, Lakshmi, and Saraswati, are responsible for particular components of the universe: Shiva the destroyer, Vishnu the preserver, Brahma the creator, Parvati the goddess of power, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Saraswati the goddess of education. The list goes on, attributing a god or goddess to everything under the sun – including a sun god! Brahma the creator is not to be mistaken with the Brahman, another name for the Atman, or Supreme Being, the formless higher consciousness, to which our souls merge with liberation from their cycle of life(s) and death(s). The Brahman is understood as the formless authority that a government is established to preserve unspoken rights such as justice, freedom, respect, etc. And just as a nation has a prime minister and ministers of different departments – health, agriculture, education, etc. – so are the multiple gods and goddesses to be understood as respective authorities of their ministries. However, none are ‘above the Brahman,’ and each of these entities has a form and restrictions.

The Brahman is formless and unrestricted, boundless and all-pervasive, the embodiments of the properties attributed to our common understanding of “God.” This is why it is difficult to encompass Hinduism as a solely polytheistic religion and one of the reasons why Hinduism is unique.

Sikhism
Navpreet Parmar

Navpreet is an international student in his last semester of a BBA degree. He also is involved with the UFV Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies.

The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple.’ Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. The wisdom of these teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are practical and universal in their appeal to all mankind. All Sikhs are encouraged by their Guru (Guru Granth Sahib) to perform Seva or Selfless Service. This is not only good for their community relations but also for the moral uplifting of their person. You will find Sikhs engaged in free service in the Gurdwara: washing dishes, cleaning the floors, serving food, etc.

Moreover, Sikhism is founded on the principle of Sarbat da bhalla – working towards the “common good of all.” For Sikhs, this means reaching out to serve and uplift all of humanity as an expression of devotion to the Creator. Many other Sikh institutes, such as Guru-ka-Langar, Kirtan, Paath, etc., depend on the performance of Seva by many in the congregation. The principles of Seva underpin many Sikh values – such is the importance given to Seva in Sikhism.

I am completely sure that Sikhism is the only religion that offers a “free kitchen” everyday in every temple, no matter whether the temple is in Canada or Dubai, Italy or Norway. If you are hungry then you can come to the temple and eat. Our guru (saint) taught us that no person is different in terms of caste, colour, name, or race, so we should treat everyone equally. This means that everybody is invited to enjoy the fresh food, even in the three temples that we have in Abbotsford.

We are called Punjabi and Sikh for three things that we carry everywhere: our language (Punjabi), our religion (Sikhism), and our culture (Cloths, Food, and our Bhangra dance).

Atheism
Aaron Bayes

Aaron Bayes is the president of UFV’s Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Club.

Theism is a belief in a god. The prefix “a” means without, as in “without a belief in a god.” There is nothing more that must be said to have a complete definition of atheism. Do you know of any religions that can be described so quickly and neatly? Atheism is not a religion, just as “bald” is not a hair colour, and not collecting stamps is not a hobby. Here is why atheism is better than religion:

1. No central doctrine. No sacred text means no holy wars.

2. No guilt required! Many religions say you were a bad person before you existed, but how is that fair?

3. No resources wasted on ritual. Imagine if instead of mega-churches we had mega-hospitals with thousands of volunteers instead of parishioners.

4. We get a coherent picture of the universe. Evolution, geology, cosmology: these things all help us to understand how big and amazing the universe really is – and it’s much better than the worlds described in holy books.

5. Atheists can rely on medical science. Studies have shown time and time again, prayer has no effect on the sick. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself why god never cures amputees.

6. No need for faith! Faith is belief without evidence, even contrary to evidence.

7. Without a divine directive, atheists are left to take responsibility, and credit, for their actions. Our good deeds are done for their own sake, not for the reward or threat of heaven and hell.

8. Religion is dehumanizing. It tends to assume people are generally bad, and have no right to question the religious leadership. It tells people that they are chosen and better than others.

9. Sex! Religions are not known for enlightened perspectives on sex, they often forbid it altogether. Atheists can openly discuss the risks and benefits of sexual activity then make informed and unrestricted choices.

10. It’s not wrong. There are many religions in this world, all claiming to be the only true one. They can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.

11. No dark history! Major religions have inspired much violence. Atheists can be violent too, but not in the name of atheism.

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