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Beginning around 300 CE the world experienced a surge of religious zeal. In the West, Christianity flourished spreading with the boundaries of the Roman Empire. In India, Brahmanism transformed into a more formal system called Hinduism. Northern India and Central China’s code of ethics became Buddhism. And later, the Middle East would see the rise of a new monotheistic religion, Islam, which would spread dramatically throughout parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Religion offered people stability and purpose. Whether through the organized structure of the religion or the spiritual guidance each offered, followers found not only answers but also a prescription for a virtuous life. Just as their governments provided laws and consequences to create order and stability, so did the religions of the time. Each had texts that outlined the ideals, rituals for practice, and how to treat others. Regardless of the number of gods, evolution of the religion, or view of one’s existence (finite or infinite), these belief systems brought solace to many who had little other control in their lives.

But it wasn’t simply these qualities that spread the religions. Those who won the fortune of their governmental systems benefited most. Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam all reaped the rewards of powerful empires. Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica. The church adopted the same geographic boundaries as the government and subsequently the bishops became the leaders of the provinces. As the Empire spread, so did the religion. Similarly, Buddhism enjoyed expansion under the Tang Dynasty in China. The early Tang government utilized the knowledge of the Buddhist monks and reopened exchanges between China and India again. Islam, on the other had, was not adopted by an already existing governmental system. Instead it created its own empire to spread its beliefs. Through tolerance and education, Islam was able to spread throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.
It is important to note that Indigenous religions are less discussed than religions that produced written scriptures. Indigenous religions also have scriptures – they are just kept in different ways. Oral history and scriptures can be preserved through community practices.

Discuss the similarities and differences in belief systems of the major religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism).

How might those similarities and differences impacted their acceptance among groups as they looked to spread their ideals?
Why were some more successful at enlarging their boundaries and followers than others?
Where and how do Indigenous Religions enhance and/or augment our understanding of the “major” religions?

Please include 2 citations

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