Monday, January 17, 2011

Pacific Religions (New Idea Post 1)

Well it's been quite some time since my last post. I have learned quite a bit since my last posts. Both about myself and about all kinds of other topics. I have also come up with a new idea of blogs to post. I recently picked up a book on the religions throughout the world. My plan is to find whatever time I can and read sections of this book and write about the religions I learn about. This will both give me and my readers some knowledge that hopefully they never knew.

Well on to the first post: Religions of the Pacific

Alright well I wanted to start off in a more simple way, by reading the shortest chapter. This way I could see how well this all worked out. I didn't feel like reading the 100+ page section on Christianity just to end up getting bored with it and not wanted to post anything on it. Anyway, so this section was split into 4 different regions of people. Indonesia, Australia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. The group each seemed quite different considering their close proximity.

These groups were each originally written about by foreigners, who tended not to be worried about being objective. Thus, the stories from the past can hardly be very trustworthy. And the groups themselves had no way of writing their ideas and beliefs considering they had no written language. So the few ideas which are in this book came from more recent researchers and writers who tried to get ideas down from the older generations before they are gone forever.

Each of these groups has a very different idea of the world around them. The Indonesians believe in a Mother Earth and a Father Sky. These beings are married and eventually separate. This marriage though, results in the major crop of the area, rice. They also believe that the earth is inhabited by both humans and spirits. They believe in a cosmic order which must remain in balance, and in order for this to happen all humans, spirits and animals must behave correctly. All groups in Indonesian culture believe in an afterlife.

Australian groups themselves believe different ideas. South-eastern Australian believe that a male supreme being lives in the sky, while northern Australians believe in a Mother Earth figure. There is also a Rainbow Snake, which can be either male or female, associated with rain and water. The Rainbow Snake is believed to be the first creator. The Australians are very bound to nature, their religion is a for of Totemism. They are a non-materialistic people. They believe that the spirit exists before birth and survives after death. However, contrary to several Western religions, they do not believe in heaven or hell, the spirit just remains on the land.

Melanesian people believe in ancestor-spirits who can affect the lives of their living descendants. The people of Melanesia also believe in magic and even practice sorcery. Sometimes premature deaths and suicides cause suspicion of sorcery. If the person is not paid-back the spirit will not be able to journey on to its final destination.

Polynesian people belief in a god creator who made the cosmos from an original void (parallel to Big Bang Theory?). Then the Earth and Sky (similar to Indonesian belief) created lesser gods who in turn created humans and now preside over human concerns, like warfare and forests (much like other ancient belief systems). There are also lesser spirits and ghosts and demons on this earth. The living Polynesians trace their family line back to the land of Hawaiki where the spirits of the dead return to rest. The chief has direct access to the spiritual power of god.

Unfortunately many of these beliefs have been either replaced or at least tainted with other Western religions, like Christianity, Hinduism, and others. So there is very little pure Nativism left in the Pacific.

I think about these religions, well at least as much is presented by the editor and I see similarities between Catholicism and even the science that I follow. It is pretty intriguing, at least to me, just how similar people are. I mean the people who live on islands in the Pacific with relatively little outside contact, and people in the center Europe thousands of years ago, and the people who have been industrializing for hundreds of years; all these groups have ideas that all, minus a few details, sound really similar. I can't wait until I get to the more in-depth sections of Christianity and Islam and Judaism just to see what minute details I can find which are different from one another.

Well I suppose, to avoid internet plagiarism I should probably post the book information and give them their due credit.

"The Penguin Handbook of the World's Living Religions", edited by John R. Hinnells, Penguin Books, 2010