Surrey SACRE

Key Religious Beliefs


This section contains a summary of the key beliefs of the six major religions covered in the Surrey Agreed Syllabus.

  • Key Beliefs
    Please select a religion below to see the key beliefs. 
  • Christianity

    The foundational belief for Christians is in God, the Creator of the world, who is revealed to people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christians believe in God as Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    For Christians, the Bible is the revelation of God's relationship to humanity. It shows the inability of people to keep this 'covenant' with God, despite being given laws, teachings and prophets. The result of their disobedience was 'sin' (wrong doing) which separated them from God. The New Testament shows how God came in the person of Jesus Christ, to restore this broken relationship. Jesus was rejected and killed. Christians believe that his suffering and death, as a willing sacrifice, followed by his resurrection from the dead, destroyed the hold of death on the human race and brought about the possibility of a restored relationship with God.

    The New Testament is of particular importance to Christians. It consists of 27 books and includes descriptions of the life and teaching of Jesus and the writings of some of the first Christians. These books provide Christians with authoritative guidance for their lives. The lives of some Christians, since the events of the Bible, are also regarded by many as exemplary.

    Historically, there has been a variety of interpretations of the core beliefs of the Christian faith, so that there are now many different denominations and traditions. These include the Church of England, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches and Free Churches which include Afro-Caribbean, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker, the Salvation Army, and United Reformed. Christians come from a wide range of races, nationalities and cultures.

    Worship and practice varies considerably among Christians.

    However, most Christians meet regularly with others, often in a church. Most churches include a service in which bread and wine are shared together. This has been an important tradition ever since Jesus ate with his disciples, saying of the bread, 'This is my body', and of the wine, 'This is my blood'. In such churches the practice of Baptism is the normal prelude to membership.

  • Judaism

    “Jews believe that God is One and that He is the Creator of the world who cares for all His Creation. They believe their special relationship with God is expressed in the 613 Mitzvot (laws). Jews also believe that God's special relationship with all humanity is expressed through obedience to the seven Noachide laws.

    The Torah, which was revealed by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai, is the central core foundation of Jewish life. The Torah sets out practical rules and guidance (including the Ten Commandments) for all aspects of daily individual, family and community life. Together with the Oral Law, set out in the Talmud, and described in Halakhah, the Torah remains the basis of belief the written Torah forms the First Five books of the Tenakh (Bible). The New Testament is not part of Jewish religious teaching.

    The Jewish people are very family-orientated, and this is reflected both in the celebration of weekly Shabbat, festivals throughout the Jewish year and a proud tradition of caring institutions. Shabbat and festivals are celebrated both in the home and in the synagogue.

    Much of Jewish history is connected with the struggle for Israel and identity as a people. The Tenakh describes this early history from the Creation. It contains key events such as the Exodus (the escape from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses), the building of a portable sanctuary in the desert, and the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, and the Jews were exiled to Babylonia. Re-settlement and the rebuilding of the Temple commenced about 70 years later.

    In 70 CE the Romans destroyed the second Temple, and over many centuries the Jews were dispersed throughout the world. Since 1948, the foundation of the State of Israel has provided a beacon of hope for a people nearly destroyed by the Nazis in Hitler's Germany. The Holocaust and the systematic murder of 6,000,000 Jewish men, women and children is a permanent reminder of the evils of racism.

    There is a resurgence of Jewish life and culture in many parts of the world. The future of Judaism will be ensured through the Jewish family, education and Torah study, thus enhancing Jewish continuity.”

  • Islam

    Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and is based on the Oneness of Allah and the role and status of the Prophet Muhammad * as an example to humankind. This is expressed in the declaration of faith 'There is no god except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah'. A person becomes a Muslim not by race, nationality or culture, but by professing belief in that statement and by reflecting it in the practice of the Islamic way of life.

    Muslims believe that Allah sent many Messengers and Prophets to whom He revealed His divine guidance. These included Ibrahim Abraham (peace be upon him), Musa - Moses (peace be upon him), Isa- Jesus (peace be upon him) and the final Prophet Muhammad, who was born in Makka, Arabia in 570 CE. When he was 40 years old, Muhammad began receiving revelations through the angel Jibra'il - Gabriel. These continued over the next 23 years of his life and were recited and proclaimed by him to his companions.

    These revelations were learned by heart and dictated to scribes. The completed revelation, the Qur'an, gives detailed guidance on how humankind should behave, in terms of moral conduct and family relationships as well as the treatment of animals and the natural world. Whatever the language of the Muslim, the Qur'an is recited in the Arabic language of its revelation.

    The Islamic way of life encompasses all aspects of a person's daily existence. Islam can best be described as a state of peace attained through willing obedience to Allah's divine guidance. Muslims strive to achieve this by following all the Qur'anic injunctions regarding behaviour and worship, for example the five daily times of salah (prayer), fasting during Ramadan, acts of charity and constant consciousness of their relationship with Allah.

    An important part of Muslim community life for men and women in Europe is the Mosque. Friday is the day for congregational worship, but many Muslims attend the Mosque daily.

    * After the name of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims say or write, 'Salla-llahu alaihi wa sallam' (peace and blessings of Allah upon him).

  • Hinduism

    “Hinduism is a Western term that refers to the diverse religious and cultural traditions stemming from the Vedas, the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. Followers themselves often prefer the term 'Sanatan Dharma', thus indicating belief in universal and everlasting truths. The tradition, therefore, has no clearly definable beginning, although scholars date it back further than 4,000 years. Hinduism, we can state with certainty, has no single founder or single creed.

    Nevertheless, there are a number of beliefs and concepts which are widely accepted. Practically all Hindus believe in the doctrine of reincarnation, whereby the eternal soul (atman) transmigrates through different species, from one body to another. This operates according to the law of action and reaction, commonly called 'the law of Karma'. The aim of human life, for most Hindus, is liberation from the cycle of birth and death through union with the Supreme (Brahman).
    Hindus believe that God is one, depicted either as the all pervading world soul or as the Supreme Person. The Supreme, however conceived, is worshipped in (or through) a variety of forms, but principally three: Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti (the goddess). Especially popular amongst British Hindus today are Rama and Krishna, two of the incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu.

    Worship regularly takes place in the home as well as in the Mandir (temple). Families usually have a shrine devoted to particular deities in a room set aside for puja. Strong family structures are valued, although a feature of Hinduism is its emphasis on celibacy and asceticism, especially in later life. The system of four stages of life, together with four social classes by occupation, is called Varnashrama Dharma - the basis of the Hindu social system.

    In the United Kingdom today there are at least 400,000 Hindus, originating mainly from Gujarat and Punjab and often coming via East Africa. The many Mandirs throughout the country serve as social and community centres, as well as places of worship. Although social and religious trends are changing with successive generations, the Hindu community is preserving its ancient heritage while applying its values to life in modern Britain.”

  • Buddhism

    Buddhism is a path to liberation from the bondage of greed, anger and delusion, the cessation of which is known as Nirvana. The path consists of morality in the form of the precepts that guide the Buddhist towards compassion for all living things, and meditation that leads one to recognise the causes of suffering and to abandon them. This in turn leads to wisdom, which is the knowledge of things as they truly are.

    The founder of Buddhism was Siddattha Gotama, an Indian prince of the 6th century BCE, who left his life of luxury when faced with the suffering that affects us all. He set out to find its cause and its cure. In stark contrast to his earlier luxurious life, he adopted severe ascetic practices that, in the end, showed him that the true way lies in being compassionate to oneself without being indulgent - the Middle Way. He finally realised Enlightenment, or Nirvana, and spent the remaining 40 years of his life teaching others. Siddattha Gotama is the supreme example for Buddhists, but he is not regarded as a god. They believe that all beings have the potential to realise Enlightenment as he did. He emphasised that his teaching, summarised as The Four Noble Truths, should not be accepted blindly and that everyone must tread the path for themselves.

    All Buddhists take refuge in the Three Treasures: the Buddha as teacher and embodiment of the potential found within us all, the Dhamma (the Buddha’s teaching), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community).

    As Buddhism spread throughout the Far East and the teachings developed, many different traditions and schools evolved.  Buddhism became a major influence in India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan Thailand, Tibet, Burma and many other countries. Buddhism is now growing rapidly in western countries.  There are presently more than 250 Buddhist organisations (including monasteries and temples) operating in the United Kingdom. These embrace all of the major traditions of Buddhism.

  • Sikhism

    Sikhism stresses belief in One God, for all humanity, who looks to actions rather than people's religious labels. Guru Nanak, the founder, also taught the complete equality of men and women everywhere, and the importance of service to others.

    Guru Nanak was followed by nine other Gurus. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, decreed that there would be no more living Gurus and that the Guru Granth Sahib (sacred scriptures) should be read for future guidance. The Guru Granth Sahib is therefore treated with great respect, both in the gurdwara and in the home.

    Sikhs, like Hindus, believe in 'Samsara', the cycle of rebirth or reincarnation, through which one strives to achieve union with God.
    Sikhs are encouraged to be formally confirmed into their faith through an initiation ceremony known as Amrit. This was started by Guru Gobind Singh who gave Sikhs a distinctive uniform- the five Ks. These are kesh (uncut hair), kangha (a comb), kirpan (a sword), kara (a wristband) and kachera (short trousers).

    The gurdwara functions not only as a place of worship, but as a community centre, demonstrating Sikhs' commitment to the poor. Belief in the equality of men and women is shown by the sharing of all responsibilities within the gurdwara, and by the shared meal (langar) which is open to people of all races and all creeds.

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