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Year 2 - N° 78 – October 19, 2008

Brasília, Distrito Federal (Brasil) 
FELIPE DARELLA - felipe.darella@gmail.com

Religions and the sublime principle of beneficence

We have many religions, but little religiosity. Christianity, nowadays, is the most popular religion, around 2 billion
 people, and is divided into three groups: Catholicism,
Orthodox and Protestantism

Jesus was the first social worker we had in History. Before the proposals of the modern psychological science, defended by renowned researchers, the Master, two thousand years ago, proved that the true happiness is not individual, but the sum of happiness of people we live with. Solidarity and beneficence are the chief foundations of living well. We talk about religion and label our belief; however, if we don’t help others, we’ll never get to spiritual maturity.

On Earth, there were many denominations showing the path of beneficence. Some of them joined together, while others fought themselves and the message, which showed the way to charity, was stuck for the lack of love among us.

We have many religions, but little religiosity. Christianity, nowadays, is the most popular religion, around 2 billion people, and is divided into three groups: Catholicism, Orthodox and Protestantism. The Christian movement is organized, first, in Jerusalem and is, at first, a movement inside Judaism. Later, Christians are persecuted by the Roman Empire. Situation changes in 313, when the emperor Constantine gave them freedom of religion. In 392, Christianity becomes the official religion of the Empire, and missionaries are sent too many parts of Europe to settle churches, occupying the whole continent. At the end of Middle Age, the European expansion takes Christianity to America and Asia. From the 19th century on the missionaries arrive, also, at Africa and East Asia, spreading the Gospel worldwide.

In this point of the text, we take a break to define briefly some religious points [i] and we start with Catholicism. The term is derived from the Greek katholikos (universal). The adoption of this name comes from the idea of a church that can be accepted and take the message everywhere, by everyone. It is associated with the expansion of the Roman Empire and the appearance of new kingdoms inside this one. Its diffusion is due to the development of the western civilization and the process of colonization of other peoples. Today, Catholicism has more than 1 billion of followers, nearly 18,7% of world population. Most of them (about 39%) are in Latin America. O Brazil being the first one. According to IBGE, 120 millions of Brazilians in 1991 were said to be Catholics (about 83% of the population).[ii] 

Protestantism began with the so-called Protestant Reform, started by Martin Luther 

From the Church of Rome, appears the Catholic Charismatic Renovation in the USA, in the 60’s, in disagreement with some norms of the Vatican. In this trail, is born, in the same decade, the Theology of Liberty, mainly in Latin America, where we single out the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, one of the founders of the movement. In his book “Jesus Christ Redeemer” (1972), Boff admits some Marxist theories in the analysis of third-world societies.

About Protestantism[iii], we know it began with the so-called Protestant Reform, started by Martin Luther, in the 16th century, when they break loose from the Catholic Church. Luther’s criticism to Catholicism started in 1517. The German defends that faith is the fundamental element for saving the individual and condemns the Sales of indulgence by the Church and the slackening of habits of the clergy at the time. Protestantism is divided into historical Protestantism, created at the Reform, and Pentecostal Protestantism, which started in the beginning of

the 20th century. It’s calculated that Protestantism has around 500 million followers all over the world. Brazil has the largest base of Protestants in South America, around 13 million people, according to a Datafolha poll in 1994.[iv]

Judaism is considered the first monotheist religion of mankind. Chronologically, is the first of the three religions originated from Abraham (the others are Christianity and Islamism). There are, currently, around 13.5 million of Jewish in the world, 4 million in Israel. In Brazil, according to IBGE, there were about 86 thousand in 1991. The Jewish Federation of the State of São Paulo says that, today, this number is of 110 thousand.[v]

Islamism is a monotheist religion based on the teachings of Muhammad, contained in the Islamic book, the “Qur'an” (of Arabic al-Qur’an, reading)[vi]. The world Islam means submit and express the submission to the will of Allah (God in Arabic). It is believed to have more than 1 billion of followers (18% of world population), especially in North Africa, Middle East and Asia. There are two factions of Islamism – Sunni Islam and Shia Islam. It is believed that 83% of Muslims follow Sunni Islam. For them, the spiritual authority belongs to the community as a whole. Shia Islam followers (16% of Muslims) believe in Ali, Fatimah’s husband, Muhammad’s

daughter. Their descendents would have the key to interpret the teachings of Islam. They are leaders of community and followers of the spiritual mission of Muhammad. The rivalry with Sunni Islam is tragically exaggerated, mainly after the Iranian revolution led by Ruhollah Khomeini.[vii] 

Spiritism is a religious doctrine based on the belief of existence
of the Spirit, regardless of the body

There are the principles of Hinduism, a set of concepts, doctrines and religious practices that started in India in 2000 b.C. They are based on Vedas[viii]. Its main characteristics are the polytheism and reincarnation. It’s believed that, today, there are more than one billion adepts.

Buddhism is an ethical, religious and philosophical system, founded by the Hindu prince Siddhartha Gautama (563 b.C.?-483 b.C.?), Buddha, around VI b.C. It teaches how to overcome suffering and reach nirvana[ix] through mental discipline and a correct form of life.  Confucianism is another religious doctrine of the Western world, and, also, a philosophy, political ideology. It’s a legacy of literary tradition, based on the ideas of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 b.C.-479 b.C.). It remained as the official doctrine of China, for almost two thousand years, from the 2nd until the beginning of the 20th century. Currently, 25% of the Chinese population claim to live according to this doctrine. Outside China, Confucianism has about 6.3 million followers, mainly in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.[x] In Confucianism, there are no priests or churches. The five essential virtues are: love, justice, follow the rules of conduct, auto conscience of the Will of Heaven and disinterested sincerity. Only those who respect others are able to carry out their social duties.

Spiritism is a religious doctrine based on the belief of existence of the Spirit, regardless of the body, and its return to Earth for successive incarnations, until being perfect. Its main current is, for some, Kardec’s, formulated in 1857, with “The Spirits’ Book”, by the French professor, Allan Kardec (1804-1869), pseudonym of Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail. Spiritism claims that reincarnations allow the constant evolution of the spirit to make up for their previous mistakes. All faults can be repaired. There is no worldwide statistic about the number of followers of Spiritism. In Brazil, according to IBGE, around 1.6 million people said they were Spiritist in 1991. According to a poll released in 1994, by Datafolha, this number gets to 5.5 million.[xi] Currently, nearly 20 million of Brazilians have some bond with Spiritism.

The religions teach about the importance of beneficence. Spiritism says that “Out of charity there is no salvation”. The High Spirits warn us that without charity all religious faith is a useless worship; hope is nothing but a flower unable to bloom and philanthropy itself is a game of shiny words, in which the naked and hungry, the needy and sick used to perish uttering curses. 

Christ asks us cooperation for planting the Gospel that Spiritism teaches 

The Spirit Neio Lúcio says, in the last chapter of his book “JESUS AT HOME”, the following excerpt: "(...) after the last domestic service at the house of Peter, at the eve of embarking to the city of Sidon, the Master opened the book of Isaiah and commented on it wisely, and after the prayer he said: - Lord, help those who are happy despite being poor, miserable and alone.(...)Rise those who fell under the excess of material comfort ".[xii] (our highlight).

“In a beautiful apologue, says Rabindranath Tagore that a farmer, homebound, with the day’s harvest, noticed that, on the other way, a beautiful carriage, covered with stars. Amazed, in awe, he saw it pulling over, and along with it, he recognized the presence of the Lord of the World, who asked him something, anything...

What? – he said, astonished – the Lord of Life asking something from me, being a slave to the soil? Excited and silent, he went for his pocket and gave him a grain of his precious cargo. The Lord thanked and left. When, however, the poor man of the field realized, he noticed some glitter coming out of his pocket... The grain of wheat, from what he gifted the Lord, was back to the back, but in the shape of a grain of gold... Astonished, he said:

-Fool of me!... Why didn’t I give it all to the Lord of Life?  [xiii]..

Nowadays on Earth, when materialism compromises edifications of faith, in the way of men, we know that Christ asks us cooperation for planting the Gospel that Spiritism teaches. And, proposing this humble article to the kindness of Jesus, I say it out:

“-Oh! Lord!... I understand the meaning of your requests and the greatness of your munificence, but forgive me for little I am, if I can’t give you anything else!” [xiv]

The lesson is clear and expressive enough. That’s why, shall we reflect upon it, so that we don’t remain in the shadow of egoism, in the form of religious practice, just for the sake of etiquette.


[i] Cf. Almanaque Abril 98

[ii] idem

[iii] The name protestant is attributed, at the time, to the backers of the Reform who protest against the Diet (assembly summoned up by the kings) of Speyer (1529). The Protestant Church, also known as Evangelical, claims the re-approximation of Church with the primitive Christianity.

[iv] Cf. Almanaque Abril 98

[v] idem

[vi] Selection of diverse transcendental revelations received by Muhammad from 610 to 632.

[vii] Cf. Almanaque Abril 98

[viii] knowledge, in Sanskrit, set of sacred texts composed of hymns and rites

[ix] State of soul in total peace and tranquility

[x] Cf. Almanaque Abril 98

[xi] idem

[xii] Xavier, Francisco Cândido. Jesus at Home, Dictated by the Spirit Neio Lúcio, RJ: Ed. FEB, 2002

[xiii] Dedicatory by Ismael Gomes Braga in the book Letters and Chronicles, psychographed by Chico Xavier, dictated by the Spirit Irmão X, RJ: ed. FEB, 1966.

[xiv] Idem

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