Thematic Essay On Belief Systems Powerpoint


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Unit I: The Ancient World – Civilizations and Belief Systems (4000 BC – 500 AD)

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Unit II and III:  (~500 A.D. to 1200 A.D.)

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home> units >unit 1>The emergence and spread of belief systems

E. The emergence and spread of belief systems.

  1. Place of origin and major beliefs
    1. Animism—African
    2. Hinduism
    3. Buddhism
    4. Chinese philosophies (Confucianism, Daoism)
    5. Judaism
    6. Christianity
    7. Islam
    8. Legalism
    9. Shintoism
    10. Jainism
  2. Expansion of Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, and Buddhism

Focus Questions

  • How did the fundamental beliefs and ideas of the religions, philosophies, and belief systems affect different areas of the world?
  • How do these belief systems affect peoples lives today?
  • In what ways are Christianity, Islam and Judaism systems similar and different?
  • How did the religions that emerged in this period unite the peoples of diverse political and ethnic identities?
  • How did religions such as Buddhism and Islam foster cultural exchanges throughout Afro-Eurasia?
  • How did the expansion of Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, and Buddhism encourage the encounter and exchanges of peoples, goods, and ideas?
  • What role did missionaries, traders, and conquerors play in the spread of religions?
  • What individuals and groups are associated with the major religions of the world?
  • What holy books or texts are associated with the major religions of the world?
  • How did a culture’s belief system impact its arts?
  • How did Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam affect gender status, gender roles, and the development of patriarchal societies?

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ancestor worship monasticism
animism monk
bishops monotheism
brahmans mosque
caliph nun
calligraphy Passover (Pesach)
Chanukah (Hanukah) patriarchy
church polytheism
civil service examination priests
covenant prophets
deity rabbi
diaspora Ramadan
five basic human relationships reincarnation
(Confucianism)Rosh Hoshanah
Five Pillars of Faith (Islam) sabbath
Four Noble Truths shamans
gender roles Sharia
gender status Shiite
groit sudras
imams Sunni
karma synagogue
kosher laws temples
legalis Ten Commandments
Mandate of Heaven untouchable
matriarchy yin-yang
messiah Yom Kippur

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Helpful Hints

  • Use the Turning Points to stimulate classroom discussion about world religions (c. 1500 through c. 4 BC).
  • Note: Be cautious when using the term animism. Some scholars regard the term as derogatory.
  • When analyzing major world religions and philosophies, it may be best to suspend a strict adherence to chronology in favor of comprehensively exploring belief systems as a theme. On the other hand, you may teach this subject in its historical context. This study involves learning about the important roles and contributions made by individuals and groups. It is important to make linkages to the past.
  • Read selections from the holy books of the major religions.
  • Use web/diagrams, comparison charts, and various graphic organizers to illustrate links between religious denominations, such as:
    Religion / Philosophy Place of Origin and Founder Beliefs Sacred Holy Texts and Writings Impact on Society Traditions and Values






















  • For a printable version of this graphic organizer, see Global Religions, Belief Systems, and Philosophies.
  • Visit three houses of worship.
  • Incorporate primary sources (e.g., Ten Commandments, Koran, Analects, Vedas, Torah) and develop a comprehensive document-based question essay to evaluate your students' understanding of the religions/philosophies/belief systems unit.

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Resources for Teachers (Books/Articles, Visuals/Music)

American Academy of Religion. 1995. The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.

Barnes, Trevor. 1999. The Kingfisher Book of Religions: Festivals, Ceremonies, and Beliefs Around the World. New York: Kingfisher.

Bowker, John, ed. 1997. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bowker, John, ed. 2002. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bowker, John. 1997. World Religions. New York: DK Publishing.

Breuilly, Elizabeth. 2005. Religions of the World: The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions and Festivals. New York: Facts on File.

Brown, Stephen F. and Khaled Anatolios. 2002. Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. New York: Facts on File.

Cohen, Robin. 1997. Global Diasporas. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Doniger, Wendy ed.1999. Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of World Religions. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Farrington, Karen. 2002. Historical Atlas of Religions. New York: Checkmark Books.

Frankfort, Henri. 2000. Ancient Egyptian Religion. New York: Dover Publications.

Grun, Bernard. 1979. The Timetables of History. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gordon, Matthew. 2001. Islam. New York: Facts on File.

Hartz, Paula. 1999. Zoroastrianism: World Religions. New York: Facts on File.

Hartz, Paula. 2004. Taoism. New York: Facts on File.

Hartz, Paula. 1997. Shinto. New York: Facts on File.

Haskins, James. 1973. Religions. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Hitchcock, Susan Tyler, and John L. Esposito. 2004. Geography of religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk. Washington, D. C.: National Geographic.

Hoobler, Thomas and Dorothy Hoobler. 1993. Confucianism. New York: Facts on File.

Kallen, Stuart A. 2002. Shinto. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books.

Kitagawa, Joseph. 2002. Religious Traditions of Asia. London: Routledge Curzin.

Lau, D. C., trans. 1988. Confucius: The Analects. New York: Penguin Books.

Lugira, Aloysius M. 1999. African Religion. New York: Facts on File.

Morrison, Martha A. and Stephen F. Brown. 2002. Judaism. New York: Facts on File.

Netzley, Patricia. 2002. Buddhism. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books.

Rogers, Perry M. ed. 2002. "The Spiritual and Philosophical Bases of Early World Civilizations." In Aspects of World Civilization, Volume I – Problems and Sources in History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. 1993. Sikhism. New York: Facts on File.

Slavicek, Louise Chipley. 2001. Religions of the World-Confucianism. San Diego: Lucent Books.

Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. 2001. Hinduism. New York: Facts on File.

Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. 2002. Buddhism. New York: Facts on File.


1996. Eastern Wisdom. Henry Holt and Company.

2003. Understanding World Religions. VHS (6) Wynnewood, PA: Schlessinger Media.

1998. Pillars of Faith. VHS (4). Kultur Films International, Inc.

1997. Jerusalem, Within These Walls. VHS. National Geographic Video.

1993. The Long Search. DVD and VHS (6). Ambrose Video Publishing.

1998. Beyond the Veil - The Many Faces of Islam. VHS (3). Mundovision, Ltd.

From Jesus to Christ. VHS (4). Frontline.


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Editor's Note: All state examinations are aligned to the New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies and Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum. The chart below specifies where these alignments have occurred (from June 2000 to the present).

Core Curriculum: Global History and
Geography Regents:
  1. Place of origin and major beliefs
    1. Chinese philosophies (Confucianism, Daoism)

January 2004 DBQ, Change (Individuals Who Have Changed History)


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