A Study In Beliefs

God: Faith Development
14-16 years, 16+ years
Anticipate Time
3 hours min
1, 2-5, 5-15, 15-30, 30
Confidence, Faith, Respect, Self Awareness, Tolerance


Pathfinders plan a weekend camp for one Hindu, one Muslim, one Buddhist, one New Age or Primitive Believer and one Bible-based Christian. Activities, menus and time for individual worship will be included

Through participation in this Pursuit, the Pathfinder will:

  1. Research the beliefs and practices of other religions
  2. Show respect for other faiths
  3. Organise activities to accommodate the faith of others

Scripture Focus

Memory Verse

James 1:25
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does.

Reflecting and analysing the belief systems of other faiths has always been effective in defining our own. Ellen White tells us “No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.” (‘Review and Herald’ December 20, 1892) It is the most robust, indestructible and formidable thing in the world and the greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it. This Pursuit actively encourages personal processing of our own faith and worldview.


Stimulus Activity

  1. Ask for a volunteer to leave the room. Form four groups with the remaining participants, and give each group a syllable from the word exegesis: ex-e-ge-sis. When the volunteer returns to the room, have each group sing their syllable to the tune of ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’, i.e. Group one would sing ex, ex, ex, ex, ex; Group Two: e, e, e, e, e; Group Three: ge, ge; and Group Four: sis, sis,sis. These groups all sing to the volunteer simultaneously, and the volunteer has to determine what the word is that is being sung. (This will be a challenge, given they have probably never heard of the word! It may be fun to first play the game with some simple words first. If it proves too tough, after a while, have each group sing a phrase of the song with their syllable in sequence)
  2. Discuss the meaning of the word ‘exegesis’ (explanation of a text).
    Ask the volunteer the following:

    • How easy was it to determine the message of the group?
    • Why was it difficult? (Everyone was shouting at once)
    • How is this like the religions of the world?
    • Are there many viewpoints being expressed at the same time? Why do you think this is?
    • How can we discern which voice we should tune into?
  3. Share the plan to do an ‘exegesis’ on different religions (Loose definition!). Discuss the importance of defining our beliefs, weighing them up in light of other worldviews and being able to relate to others with some informed insight, acknowledging where they are coming from.
  4. Ask the participants to try to identify 2 beliefs each of a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Primitive Believer (or New Age Believer) and a Bible Based Christian (Chances are, their knowledge will be sketchy.)
  5.  In an attempt to understand the religious and lifestyle practices of these religions, explain to the group that you are to host a weekend camp for young people from each of these faiths. Their job is to research these religions with the view to planning appropriate activities, menus, worship experiences which will make them feel comfortable (In some cases even clothing will need to be considered). Encourage the participants to research creatively, working with a partner if desired. Internet home pages, interviews with church leaders or representatives, visits to worship services and books will all provide valuable insights into their beliefs and practices. You may be able to gain some first-hand information from Pathfinders within your group who belong to these religions. Use the Table found at the top of the Appendix as a guide for gathering information on each of these major world religions. Ask Pathfinders to gather information and then summarise it in the table.
    NB. Absolute respect for the beliefs of others should be highlighted. (You will find some information in the Appendix to get you started.)
  6. If the two-day camp option is chosen, care should be taken to sustain the role-play element, allowing time for discussion with the group about ‘their’ world view and belief system. Again, at all times, respect for each of the group members is vital.


NB. It will be vitally important to accept the Pathfinder’s thoughts and opinions here without censure and judgement. Their faith development could well be in Westerhoffs‘Searching Faith’ stage where they are questioning, challenging and doubting their belief system. A reactionary response from an adult at this time could be detrimental to this process.

Reflection / Interpretation
  • What surprising discoveries did you make in your research?
  • What inconsistencies did you find in your study?
  • What strong evidence did you uncover which supports certain beliefs?
  • Which religion, in your view, is the most convincing?
  • Which religion touched your heart the most?
  • Which belief systems didn’t seem to take theory to practice (as in lifestyle practices)? Which did the most? Is this a logical progression? Should religion enter my private life?
  • What does the presence or absence of an emphasis on lifestyle practices say about the religion?
  • Which religion delivers the clearest understanding, to your way of thinking, of why the world is the way it is?
  • Which religions offer hope for the future?
  • How have you grown by doing this Pursuit?
  • To what extent has your understanding about your own faith been helped?
  • How has this Pursuit reinforced your faith in your own religion?

NB. Leaders, while being greatly respectful of all other religions, show your enthusiasm about the terrific advantages of our belief system so our Pathfinders see our position in a balanced, positive light. 


Appendix A
Religions of the World

Aspects of Religion for Summary Comment

World Religions
Prophets or Divine Beings
View of God
View of man
Belief about heaven
Salvation – How does one become saved?
Sacred Writings
Common characteristics of Believers
Method of Worship
Goals of Believers


The additional information below is taken from: The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 2.Compiled by Steven Cory. Copyright 1986, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press. Used by permission. Found at http://wri.leaderu.com/

Appendix B



It is very clear from the Bible’s own testimony and that of Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets that Scripture is to be regarded as the authoritative word of truth on all matters of basic doctrine. The following is a list of just the most significant verses that support the Word of God’s claim to authority.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-I 7).

See also Exodus 24:12, 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6, 19:7-8; 111:2-8; 93:5; 119; Proverbs 30:5; Daniel 10:21; Mark 12:24, 13:31; John 8:31–32; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:23-25; and 2 Peter 1:20-21.



Buddhism arose out of atheistic strands of Hinduism current in India in the sixth century BC Gautama, called the Buddha (“Enlightened One”), is said to have discovered that both the life of luxury and the life of extreme asceticism were of no use in gaining spiritual freedom; thus he propounded the “Middle Way.” His teaching, however, was to undergo many transformations.

Buddhism became a great missionary religion and eventually all but died in its native India. The Mahayana school, which developed a grandiose cosmology and a pantheon of semi-deities, is to be found in China, Korea, and Japan; the Therevada school, which is more austere, flourishes in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Burma, and southeast Asia. Zen is technically a Mahayana sect but has closer affinities with Therevada. All have their proponents in the West.



During the fourth century B.C. Aryans–the same people that developed Greek culture–conquered much of present-day India. Their pantheon of gods, similar to that of the Greeks, combined with indigenous Indian traditions of meditation to form a loose combination of beliefs and practices that came to be known as Hinduism. “Orthodox” Hindus can be either pious worshipers of a god or atheists, self-negating ascetics or men of the world.

Hinduism had never been a missionary religion until the twentieth century and is largely limited to India and groups of emigrant Indians.

Advaita Vedanta, which believes in complete identity between the inmost self and the impersonal, ultimate God, is the most common form of Hinduism in the West. Jainism probably represents the most ancient, pre-Aryan elements of Hinduism. The Sikh religion attempts to unite elements of Hinduism and Islam.



In the seventh century A.D. Muhammad–thought to be the last prophet in a line that includes Abraham, Moses, the biblical prophets, and Jesus–founded a strict, monotheistic religion in reaction to the polytheism and lawlessness of the existing Arab culture. Within a century Islam had conquered an area greater than the Roman Empire at its height. Today Islam is almost the sole religion of all Arab countries and has major communities in Africa as well.

Muslims reject the title “Muhammadanism,” for Muhammad is thought to be only a carrier of the truth and not divine in any way.

The Koran, for the most part a series of short teachings, is intensely revered by Muslims as the final word of God, the culmination of what was only begun in the Bible. The word Islam refers to the peace that comes from surrender to God.

Shi’ites believe that religious leaders should also be political rulers, whereas the majority of Muslims, the Sunnites, believe in a separation of the two realms. Sufis form the mystical branch of Islam, teaching an arduous path of self-denial culminating in union with God.



Primitive religion is the beliefs and practices of people who lack writing and have a simple, material culture. Apparently it has existed since the beginnings of mankind.

It is the religion of man without divine guidance, trying to make his peace with the terrifying and mysterious powers of nature. It can be said that primitive man lays bare the basic character of all men because he is stripped of the material benefits that often mask our need for God.

Probably most of the human race through the ages has adhered to primitive religion. It is still widely practiced today in its pure form among preliterate peoples; in addition, many members of major religions (including Christianity) partake of primitive thought and practice to varying degrees.

In the West there is now a great interest in primitive religion. Many think that modern secular man needs to recover primitive man’s participation in the cycles of nature as well as his sense of the sacred.

Because primitive religion has developed over every continent among peoples who have no contact with each other, it is amazing that many basic similarities exist among primitive religions.

Views of God



But the Lord is the true God–He is the living God and the everlasting King (Jeremiah 10:10).

And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me(Isaiah 45:22).

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12).

For even if there are so called gods whether in heaven or on earth as indeed there are many gods and lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:5-7).

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

God is love (1 John 4:8-9).

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (James 1:17).



There is no absolute God in Buddhism, although many have interpreted Buddhism as a search for God. The Buddha did not deny the existence of God outright but said that the question of His existence “tends not to edification.” That is, those seeking enlightenment need to concentrate on their own spiritual paths themselves rather than relying on an outside support.

The Buddha did not claim divinity or even a divine source for his teachings. He saw himself as only an example to fellow monks and compared his teachings to a raft that should be left behind once the other side of the river has been reached.

Many Buddhists believe the existence of suffering and evil in the world is evidence against belief in God.

Although belief in an ultimate God is opposed by nearly all Buddhists, the Mahayana school developed notions of the Buddha as still existing for the sake of men and propounded the existence of many semi-divine beings, who came to be represented in art and have been revered in ways very similar to worship of Hindu gods.



Many gods or incarnations of gods are worshipped by Hindus. Chief among them are Shiva, a fierce figure representing both the creative and destructive sides of divinity as well as the ideal of yogic meditation, and Vishhnu, who incarnates himself many times through history in order to bring the message of salvation to man. Vishnu’s incarnations (or avatars) include Rama, a benevolent king, and Krishna, an impetuous, violent, and erotic figure. The gods are sometimes amoral; their freedom from the usual restraints necessary to humans is often celebrated, and they are often represented with sexual imagery. Many lesser cults worship a complex variety of gods, all of whom are usually seen as manifestations of the one supreme being, Brahman.

Brahman is seen by many Hindus as a personal, loving God who desires the salvation of all men. More usually, however, he is described as a supreme, impersonal being completely above all creation and uninvolved with life on earth.



Allah means “the God”– indicating the radical monotheism of Islam. “We shall not serve anyone but God, and we shall associate none with Him” (Koran 3.64). Any division of God is rejected, including the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

The majesty and might of Allah is often portrayed in the Koran, and it is emphasized that his purposes are always serious. Justice is Allah’s most important feature for Muslims.

Allah is also merciful and compassionate, but that mercy is shown mainly in his sending messengers who proclaim the truth of man’s responsibility to live according to Allah’s dictates.



Primitive peoples believe in a large number of gods, each reigning over a family, clan, village, or certain localities such as a river or a mountain. That belief has been called henotheism, meaning close adherence to a certain god while recognizing the existence of others. (The sailors in the book of Jonah, for example.)

Most primitives do believe in one supreme, “high” God, who is the first source of all existence. But that God is usually considered too distant to be concerned with the affairs of men.

Primitive men are thus left to deal with local gods who are generally lacking in mercy and love. Their ways are not always predictable, and primitive men are usually concerned either to appease their anger or to gain material favors from them.

The gods are generally connected in some way with dead ancestors. That is, they relate to the tribe or clan and support the customs that have in the past kept the group functioning.

Views of Man


Man and the Universe

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

Thou alone are the Lord. Thou hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. Thou dost give life to all of them (Nehemiah 9:6).

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:40).

And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).


Man and the Universe

Both the beginning and the ultimate nature of the world are left unexplained by the Buddha–once again, those questions are not helpful to consider. The Mahayana school speculates unsystematically about a vast series of heavens, sort of half-way houses on the road to nirvana. But in the end even those heavens are illusory. Mahayanist teaching at least implies that the powers of the universe will see to it that all creatures will eventually find salvation.

Buddhism does begin with an analysis of the world of appearances and especially of man. As with Hinduism, Buddhism sees the cycle of reincarnation as shot through with pain, largely because life is characterized by impermanence.

The Buddha added the notion that all creatures, including man, are fictions: there is really no “self,” only a series of occurrences that appear to be individual persons and things. Once the so-called person is broken down into his component parts and his different actions and attitudes analyzed during the course of time, it is seen that there is really nothing holding it all together. (The question of how there can be both reincarnation and striving for salvation without a self has occupied Buddhist philosophy from the start.) The notion of no self is difficult, and much effort is spent trying to grasp it fully.


Man and the Universe

The material universe is not the creation of a personal God but is rather a sort of unconscious emanation from the divine. As such it is (1) beginningless, and some would say endless, and (2) unreal, an illusion because the only true reality is Brahman. Hindus believe that the universe “pulsates,” recurrently being destroyed and recreated over periods lasting about 4 billion years. The world is seen as a huge series of repeated cycles, each cycle being nearly a copy of the last.

Man is compelled to play a part in this gigantic, illusory, and wearisome universe. Each human soul is also beginningless and has gone through a series of reincarnations. Hinduism “solves” the problem of the existence of suffering and evil in a fairly neat manner: all present suffering, it says, is exactly deserved, being the paying back of one’s karma, the accumulation of deeds done in past lives–and all present evil will be exactly repaid in the form of suffering in future lives. As a result traditional Hinduism often has not paid much attention to relieving the suffering of people, although social reform movements have arisen in the last century.

Life is seen as basically painful, full of distress that is only temporarily masked by earthly pleasures. But underlying the unreality and misery, the human soul is identical with supreme Brahman, who has no part of this sorry universe.


Man and the Universe

Muslims see the universe as created by the deliberate act of a personal, omnipresent God. The universe is not considered an illusion in any way and is basically good, being given for the benefit of man. Muslim respect for the world order led to the development of sciences in Arab countries long before developments in Europe.

Muhammad did not produce miracles but simply proclaimed the message of Allah. Thus the presence of God in the world is seen not through supernatural signs but through the wonderful order of nature and the one great miracle, the Koran. Muslims generally do not expect miraculous deliverance from suffering in this life but believe that good deeds will be rewarded in the next life.

Man is considered a sort of vice-regent, in charge of creation under the authority of God. His purpose–and the goal of Islam–is to make a moral order in the world.

Man is endowed with taqwa, a sort of divine spark manifested in his conscience that enables him to perceive the truth and to act on it. Conscience is thus of the greatest value in Islam, much as love is the greatest value to Christians.

But Islam is in no way pantheism. Man may cultivate his taqwa and so live according to the way of Allah, or he may suppress it. Man thus deserves or is undeserving of God’s guidance.


Man and the Universe

Because of their lack of technology and scientific understanding, primitives trust that the universe is in control of the gods.

Droughts, illnesses, and death pose great threats to primitive man, and his religion provides him to a certain degree with a feeling of security and a sense of control.

It is thought that ancestors and the gods associated with them control human destiny, handing out rewards and punishments for actions that help or hinder the group. Usually those gods and ancestors are themselves as mysterious and fearsome as the natural world.

Like Hinduism and Buddhism–and unlike Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–the primitive world view is cyclical. There is no purpose to history; various ages repeat themselves with no final goal. That view arises from observation of the natural cycles of nature. Often primitives believe that only through their own ritual actions will the world order be maintained.

Many primitives report that they follow customs and rituals without knowing why; tradition simply tells them that it has worked in the past.


Salvation and Life after Death


Salvation and the Afterlife

Turn to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:22).

And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him though He is not far from each one of us–for in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:26-28).

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:6).

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3:21-22).

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:28-29).

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Jesus said to them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).


Salvation and the Afterlife

Buddhism sees ignorance rather than sin as the roadblock to salvation. That is, the belief that the world and self truly exist, keeps the illusory wheel of existence rolling–only destruction of that belief will stop the mad course of the world.

Its doctrine is summed up in the Four Noble Truths: (1) life is basically suffering, or dissatisfaction; (2) the origin of that suffering lies in craving or grasping; (3) the cessation of suffering is possible through the cessation of craving; and (4) the way to cease craving and so attain escape from continual rebirth is by following Buddhist practice, known as the Noble Eightfold Path.

Original Buddhist teaching and the Therevada place emphasis on the individual monk working through self-control and a series of meditative practices that progressively lead him to lose a sense of his grasping self.

The Mahayana school began with the insight that the ideal of the monk striving only for his own salvation was selfish and did little for the majority of men. Mahayanists eventually came to posit a vast number of Buddhas and bodhisettvas, “heroes of the faith” who reached the point of nirvana but refused to enter it until the rest of mankind was brought along with them. To varying degrees they can graciously grant aids to salvation to those who petition them.

Nirvana literally means “blowing out,” as with the flame of a candle. That is, nothing can be said about it except that it is a transcendent, permanent state.


Salvation and the Afterlife

The final goal of salvation in Hinduism is escape from the endless round of birth, death, and rebirth. That can mean an eternal resting place for the individual personality in the arms of a loving, personal God, but it usually means the dissolving of all personality into the unimaginable abyss of Brahman.

Four yogas, or ways of reaching such salvation, are described: (I) jnana yoga, the way of knowledge, employs philosophy and the mind to comprehend the unreal nature of the universe; (2) bhakti yoga, the way of devotion or love, reaches salvation through ecstatic worship of a divine being; (3) karma yogo, the way of action, strives toward salvation by performing works without regard for personal gain; and (4) raja yoga, “the royal road,” makes use of meditative yoga techniques. Raja yoga is usually viewed as the highest way, but for the majority of people, who cannot become wandering monks, the other ways are considered valid.

Most Hindus consider that they have many incarnations ahead of them before they can find final salvation, although some sects believe that a gracious divinity will carry them along the way more quickly.


Salvation and the Afterlife

The Koran rejects the notion of redemption; salvation depends on a man’s actions and attitudes. However, tauba (“repentance”) can quickly turn an evil man toward the virtue that will save him. So Islam does not hold out the possibility of salvation through the work of God but invites man to accept God’s guidance.

The final day of reckoning is described in awesome terms. On that last day every man will account for what he has done, and his eternal existence will be determined on that basis: “Every man’s actions have we hung around his neck, and on the last day shall be laid before him a wide-open book” (17.13).

Muslims recognize that different individuals have been given different abilities and various degrees of insight into the truth. Each man will be judged according to his situation, and every man who lives according to the truth to the best of his abilities will achieve heaven. However, infidels who are presented with the truth of Islam and reject It will be given no mercy.

The Koran has vivid descriptions of both heaven and hell. Heaven is depicted in terms of worldly delights, and the torments of hell are shown in lurid detail. Muslims disagree as to whether those descriptions are to be taken literally or not.


Salvation and the Afterlife

Often primitive religions teach that a messiah will some day come and bring in a reign of peace and prosperity for the tribe. Hopes for salvation generally relate to the group and to this world.

There is little doctrine concerning the next life. A primitive man expects to merge with his ancestors in another world when he dies, but that other world is not vividly described, and it often is seen as just as full of trouble and confusion as this world.

Salvation is thus piecemeal, relating to specific worldly distresses. It is not felt that a state of grace can be reached in any final way: there will always be new problems. Sacrifice–most often blood sacrifice of animals–is the usual means of atonement.

Temporary escapes into the realm of “sacred time” (or “dream time”) are possible. Through reenactments of mythological events primitive men mystically participate in the actions of gods and ancestral heroes. In that way they inject a sense of meaning into a chaotic world.

The unenviable position of man without God is seen clearly in primitive man, who can only flee for short periods of time from a terrifying and purposeless existence.




I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:8).

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5).

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24-25).

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

For such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers (John 4:23).

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully (Psalm 24:3-4).

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…Iet us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19, 22).

For through Him we…have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).

You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15) .

Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (1 Chronicles 16:24-25).

Sing praise to the Lord, you his holy ones, and give thanks to His holy name (Psalm 30:4).

To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever(Ephesians 3:21).

And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:16).

I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God (Psalm 100:1-3).

Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way (Psalm 2:12).

God highly exalted Him…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me and every tongue shall give praise to God” (Romans 14:11).

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever (Revelation 5:13).



In most cases what looks like worship before a statue or image is really a sort of paying respects. The Buddha is revered as an example of a saintly life and as the one who brought the teachings of Buddhism; Buddhists are taught that they must themselves overcome the obstacle of ignorance.

Meditation in Buddhism can focus on one’s breathing (important because it is halfway between voluntary and involuntary action), one’s own attitudes (as in Mindfulness meditation, in which one tries to be clear at all times as to one’s true motives for every action), a neutral object, or a bodhisattva. In each case the purpose is to divest oneself of craving and sense of self.

In some sects it is believed that a bodhisattva can transfer his merit to a supplicant and so aid him to nirvana. In those cases the Buddhist becomes very much like a worshiper petitioning God for grace and mercy.



Hindus have a magical and legalistic notion that one can acquire spiritual “points” through contact with all manner of holy objects and persons; that is by and large the Hindu notion of grace. At least among the uneducated an image of a family god is kept in the house, and villages generally have their local icon as well. Animals such as cows, monkeys, and snakes are revered. Certain rivers–the Ganges in particular–are thought holy, and bathing in them is thought to improve one’s karma.

Even among more intellectual Hindus certain portions of scriptures are memorized and chanted, sacred stories are acted out in plays and songs, and gods are prayed to in an ecstatic manner. Holy men are highly revered, and in serving them Hindus hope that some of their holiness will rub off and aid them to salvation.



Muhammad is not worshiped: only God is. Because of strict rules against depictions of human forms in art there is a strong impetus against idolatry or saint-worshiping in Islam. Allah is extolled in hymns that depict his power and majesty. But even Allah cannot be ultimately leaned on for salvation, because salvation is man’s responsibility. Thus his guidance, in the form of words rather than persons, is emphasized.

For that reason the Koran is revered as perhaps no other book. It is probably the most memorized book in the world.

Acts of worship in Islam are embodied in the “five pillars”: A Muslim must (1) recite the basic creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet”; (2) recite prayers in praise of Allah five times daily while facing Mecca; (3) give money to the poor; (4) fast for one month a year; and (5) make a pilgrimage at least once during his lifetime to Mecca, the city where Allah revealed the Koran to Muhammad.



Worship also has the purpose of binding members of the community together, of giving them a sense of common purpose. (When people from different tribes with different gods meet, they usually speak in terms of the “high” god.)

Totemism, the use of certain animals, plants, and even human artifacts such as skulls to contact the spiritual realm, is common. Idolatry in a strict sense–believing that an image or animal actually is a god–is rare. Most often such worship is symbolic.

Fasting, self-mortification, and drugs are used to attain states of trance. The purpose is sometimes to obtain communication from the world of spirits and at other times actually to participate in the life of the god, to “be” the god for a short period of time.

Each group usually has at least one “holy man,” who regularly makes journeys to the land of the gods and heroes for the good of the community.

Power, rather than justice, love, or mercy, most often characterizes the object of worship.