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HANDOUT 1: Indigenous Religions Fact Sheet

Emerged: As early as three million years ago in China, Japan, Australia, various regions in Africa, and Southeast Asia (Hinduism is explored in Workshop 4.)

Adherents: 420 million (not including Hinduism)

Ranking: Fifth, behind Christianity, Islam, Atheism/Agnosticism, and Hinduism

Prophets: There are legendary, mythical figures in each, but no prophets

Texts: None; oral tradition

Symbols: Vary by faith, but all are tied to the natural world: feathers, bones, stones, mountains

Imagery: Vary by faith, but all are tied to the natural world: animals, birth, fire, water, religious ceremonies

Terms and Fundamental Precepts:

Oral traditions. Indigenous religions begin in societies without written language.

Not patriarchal. Indigenous religions honor all life equally, and give homage to the creative force that brought them into being, which force they characterize as female.

Close to the earth. Indigenous religions recognize their interconnectedness with all of nature, live with the natural rhythms of nature.

Ideal is the source. Unlike some later religions which look ahead to the perfection of humanity, aboriginal religions see the time of creation as being perfect and their task to recreate that time of innocence and perfection. Humans have a lesser level of understanding than animals because they arrived later and are therefore farther from the source.

Spirits imbue all living things ...including all animals and plants. The reason the paper is never cut in traditional origami (Japanese paper folding) is to honor the spirit of the tree that gave its life for the paper.

Shared with Unitarian Universalism:

  • Recognition of the interconnectedness of all life
  • Value for the natural world
  • Concept that the force that gives life is shared among living things
  • Commitment to being nonsexist and valuing everyone's qualities and contributions.

In Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: UUA Publications, 1993), Readings 481, 495, 518, 520, 526, 551, 614, and 682 and Hymn 366 come from Native American traditions.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

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