Pilgrimage of the Faithless will examine the six major religions of the Earth, with a minimum of three months spent exploring each religion. Each of the religions are complex bodies of thought, with multiple denominations, interpretations, and variations in belief. As such, I acknowledge the project will only ever be able to touch its toes in the water of the religions’ complexities. However, it will take every effort to get as close to the heart of the religions as it can, while aiming to acquire a better understanding of each faith for outsiders such as myself. This includes living as member of multiple denominations of each faith.
Pilgrimage of the Faithless shall explore the religions chronologically, in the order in which most scholars consider them to have been founded.
Hinduism is widely considered to be the oldest major religion on Earth, with its early origins in the Vedic period between 1900 and 1400BC. It is a polytheistic family of belief systems with no founder, prophet, creed, or ruling ecclesiastic institution. Because of this, it is perhaps the most complex and varied religion on Earth.
Most Hindus believe that deities can take many forms, these make up one universal spirit called Brahman. Hindus aim to live in accordance with the dharma, a harmonising force for virtuous living. My journey into Hinduism will start in the ancient, holy city of Varanasi, then work its way through India and up into the mountains of Nepal.
Next my journey will take me to through Judaism, the oldest monotheistic religion. In Israel and New York City, I hope to become closely acquainted with orthodox Judaism, reformative Judaism, and Hasidic Judaism. The founding of Judaism revolves around the story of Moses and his freeing of the Israelites from slavery. The Jewish holy book, the Torah, talks of the coming of the prophet, and Jews are still waiting for his/her arrival.
The Jewish relationship with god is that of a covenant; God created the world, but also forms a personal, individual relationship with every Jew that worships him. God continues his work in the world, affecting nearly all that occurs.
Buddhism differs from the other major faiths in that most followers do not worship a deity. Its focus is on morality, meditation, and wisdom. Most Buddhists believe in karma, a cosmic force that provides positive rewards for positive actions and negative rewards for negative ones. For many, this works in tandem with reincarnation, the idea that living beings have a soul, which travels through different bodies in a cycle of rebirth.
In Myanmar and Japan, I hope to explore Theravada, Mahayana, and Zen Buddhism, and their differing paths towards enlightenment.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion. Like Judaism and Islam, it is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. While there is only one God in Christianity, he takes three forms, the Father, the Holy-Ghost, and the Son – Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the primary prophet of Christianity, Christians believe that before being crucified, Christ performed miracles while preaching kindness, forgiveness, and love.
Christianity’s influence cannot be understated. There are thousands of denominations that could be explored, but the journey shall focus largely on Catholicism and Protestantism. While the exact countries are still to be decided upon, the project will most likely visit Italy and a Latin American country.
Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam traces its routes back to Abraham. Islam accepts Jesus as a prophet but rejects the idea that he was the son of God. Instead their primary prophet is Mohammad. Mohammad, they claim, was God’s final messenger, and passed on the literal word of God which was recorded in the Muslim holy book, the Quran. Muslims see the Quran as divine revelation, an absolute truth.
Alongside the Quran, Muslims take guidance from Hadith, historical accounts of Mohammad’s life, these are used as guidance for the ways in which people should live. In addition, there is the Sharia, Islamic ‘Law’ based upon the Quran and Hadith. Islam has three major interpretations, Sunni, Shia, and the mystical Sufi. If possible, the trip will explore each of these three denominations in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
Sikhi, religion of lions and princesses. Sikhi (colonially known as Sikhism) is the youngest of the world’s major faiths. It is focused around the Punjab region of India where its holiest site, the Golden Temple, stands to this day. Sikhi was founded in an area dominated by Hindus and Muslims, it was founded partly as a rejection of the caste system. Sikhi claims to promote three primary values: human rights, equality, and tolerance. Sikhi has had ten Gurus, who act as guides for their followers. The first of whom was Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhi.
Sikhi will be the final religion explored by the project, allowing Pilgrimage of the Faithless to finish in the country in which it started, India.
Humanism is not a religion, and as such it will not be explored in the same way as the other faiths. Humanism rejects the supernatural and focuses on promoting rationality, compassion, and kindness. I consider myself to be a humanist, and I hope that through the journey, followers will also be able to learn a bit more about the way humanists view the world.