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HANDOUT 3: Christianity Fact Sheet

Founded/Created: 30 CE (crucifixion of Jesus)

Adherents: 2.1 billion — 1.13 billion Catholics; 225 million Orthodox; 970 million Protestants

Ranking: First; the most populous religion on earth. Catholicism alone would be second, behind Islam

Prophets: Jesus of Nazareth, called Jesus Christ

Texts: Holy Bible, a collection of books organized as Hebrew and Christian Scripture 

Clergy: The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church; the Patriarch of Constantinople is the head of the Orthodox Church; Protestant denominations do not have comparable heads. Catholic and most Protestant denominations are typically but not universally hierarchical. Training, advancement, and selection/assignment of clergy vary widely among denominations.

Symbols: Cross, crucifix

Terms and Fundamental Precepts:

Jesus is Divine, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior—belief among traditional Christians in Jesus being the true Son of God, whose sacrifice made possible human salvation

Trinity—doctrine of one God in three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not taught by Jesus but introduced by the Church in the third century CE. Historically, Unitarians were those who believed in the divinity of Jesus but rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, averring instead the unity of God

Virgin Birth—doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, became pregnant through an act of God, without her ever having sexual relations

Resurrection—doctrine of Jesus's return to life three days after his crucifixion and death

Easter—festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Ascension—festival celebrating the physical rising of Christ's body to heaven, forty days after the resurrection

Pentecost—festival fifty days after Jesus' resurrection (ten days after Ascension) when the Holy Spirit descended into the disciples who preached in tongues (the language of whoever they were talking to, whether they knew the language before or not) and baptized thousands of new believers in one day

Eucharist, Communion, Lord's Supper—sharing of bread and wine, in worship, symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus Christ

Reformation—16th century events in Western Europe in with the Christian Church split into Catholic and Protestant denominations

Martin Luther—German monk and reformer who launched the Protestant Reformation in 1517

The Pope—Head of the Catholic Church. There has been a continuous succession of Popes since the Apostle Peter

Papal Infallibility—Roman Catholic doctrine that the Pope is incapable of error or deception in religious matters. Papal infallibility is considered a gift of God

Saints—(in Catholicism) people who led exceptionally holy lives and are believed to have performed miracles are canonized by the Catholic Church. Catholics pray to saints, especially Mary, mother of Jesus, as well as to God and Jesus

Intercessory Prayer—prayer which requests divine action or intervention. Catholics believe saints as well as God and Jesus respond to intercessory prayer

Satan/the Devil—the malevolent entity who seeks to lead humans astray and separate them from God

Sin—transgression of divine law, especially consciously

Confession—process whereby a Catholic confesses sins to a priest, expresses remorse, is assigned penance, and is absolved (forgiven) of the sincerely confessed sins

Grace—the freely given favor and love of God, especially the gift of forgiveness for sin. In Catholic and other Christian doctrine, humans are born with sin, and need God's grace to achieve salvation

Shared with Unitarian Universalism:

  • Concept that individuals are responsible for their behavior
  • Belief in the equal worth of every person
  • Importance of treating others well, as one wishes to be treated
  • Actively working to relieve suffering of the less fortunate
  • In Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: UUA Publications, 1993), many readings and hymns are from the Christian tradition.

Unitarian Universalist Christians:

Unitarianism and Universalism both started as Christian faiths. Most of the founding figures of Unitarian Universalism considered themselves Christian, although by definition at odds with traditional Christianity. Universalists—by not believing in eternal hell—and Unitarians—by not believing in the Trinity—were and are not considered Christian by doctrinaire Christians. See the UU Christian Heritage page.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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