Global Essay Belief Systems

Global Essay Belief Systems-40
When China defeated the nomadic Xiongnu confederation and pushed Chinese military control northwest as far as the Tarim Basin (in the 2nd century BCE), Buddhism was known in Central Asia but was not yet widespread in China nor had it reached elsewhere in East Asia.Christianity was still more than a century in the future.

When China defeated the nomadic Xiongnu confederation and pushed Chinese military control northwest as far as the Tarim Basin (in the 2nd century BCE), Buddhism was known in Central Asia but was not yet widespread in China nor had it reached elsewhere in East Asia.Christianity was still more than a century in the future.The Greek colonies of Central Asia that had been left behind after the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great had, by the 1st century BCE, largely converted from Greco-Roman paganism to Buddhism, a religion that would soon use the Silk Road to spread far and wide.

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The peoples of the Silk Road in its early decades followed many different religions.

In the Middle East, many people worshiped the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pagan pantheon.

Daoism, in the strict sense of that term, connoting an organized religion with an ordained clergy and an established body of doctrine, would not appear in China for another three centuries.

Islam would be more than seven centuries in the future.

Others were followers of the old religion of Egypt, especially the cult of Isis and Osiris.

Jewish merchants and other settlers had spread beyond the borders of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea and had established their own places of worship in towns and cities throughout the region.Coming at last to China on our west-to-east survey of the ancient faith of the Silk Road, we find that rulers worshipped their own ancestors in great ancestral temples; they were joined by commoners in also worshiping deities of the earth, the four directions, mountains and rivers, and many others.There was, as yet, in China no official state cult of Confucius, no Buddhism, and no organized religious Daoism.Elsewhere in the Middle East, and especially in Persia and Central Asia, many people were adherents of Zoroastrianism, a religion founded by the Persian sage Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE.It posited a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness; its use of fire as the symbol of the purifying power of good was probably borrowed from the Brahmanic religion of ancient India.Buddhism’s essential message—that earthly life is impermanent and full of suffering, but that the painful cycle of birth, death, and rebirth can be ended through Buddhist faith and practice—had wide appeal, and its universalism enabled it to cross boundaries of space, language, and ethnicity with ease.The arrival of Buddhism in China was officially noted by the imperial court in the mid-1st century CE, and the faith spread in China thereafter, helped by both official and private support for the building of temples and monasteries.That is, they either actively seek to recruit new members to the faith from outside the current membership group, or they do not.In the former case, ethnicity, language, color, and other physical and cultural differences are taken to be of relatively small importance compared with the common humanity of all believers, and the availability of the faith (and its particular canons of belief, forms of worship, and promises of salvation) to all humans everywhere.The dynamics of the spread of beliefs along the Silk Road involves a crucial, though little-remarked, difference between two fundamental types of religions.Generally speaking, religions are either proselytizing or non-proselytizing.

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