No writings are sacred. Much authoritative Western nonreligious literature
draws from great minds of philosophy (e.g., Plato, Socrates, Spinoza,
Hume, Locke, Russell), from major contributors in science (Einstein, Darwin,
Huxley, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo) and from writings of actors in
Enlightenment era politics (Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine,
Jefferson, and Ethan Allen). The nonreligious have a tendency to be
voracious readers of all types of literature, including influential religious
Sacred are the teachings of the Buddha, handed down in a collection of
writings known as the “Three Baskets” (Tri-Pitaka) and comprising the
discourses of the Buddha, the rules of discipline for Buddhist monks and
nuns, and further knowledge—the “great teaching basket.” Three versions
survive: one in the Pali language (used by southern Buddhists), and two
Mahayana versions in Chinese and in Tibetan (used by northern Buddhists).
The Mahayana versions include later books not recognized as authoritative
by southern Buddhists.
The Bible is sacred scripture. It consists of the “Old Testament”—the books
of the Hebrew Bible—plus the “New Testament.” The books of the latter
were fixed circa 280 CE and are the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, letters
from writers such as Paul and James and the Book of Revelation.
There are many sacred books, of which the Bhagavad Gita and the
Upanishads are seen as the most important.
Seen as the infallible word of Allah is the Qur'an (Koran), which the Angel
Jibra'il dictated to Muhammad in the first part of the seventh century CE.
Muslims believe that the Qur'an was written by Allah before time began. Also
sacred, the sayings (including actions and silent approval) of the Prophet
Muhammad, the Hadith.
The Hebrew Bible has three parts: The Torah (Five Books of Moses), the
Prophets and the Writings such as Esther and the Psalms. The Torah
contains laws, doctrine and guidance on way of life, as well as accounts of
the early history of the Jewish people and their relationship with God.
The Guru Granth Sahib, a collection of writings and hymns by some of the
ten Gurus of Sikhism, plus material from Muslim and Hindu writers. It was
compiled mid-16th century and was made the eleventh and final Guru of
Sikhism at the death of the tenth Guru in 1708.
There are over 4000 books in the Taoist Canon, from the fourth century BCE
to the 14th century CE. Each school has its own favorites and many look
back to the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, compiled circa fourth century BCE, as
their initial source of inspiration.
DEIST Worldview (of historical interest)
Although not sacred to the Deists, the texts of Descartes and Newton
underlay the rational temper of their “religion of reason” and yielded the
mechanistic universe they perceived. Deistic context was one of Christianity,
with its Bible, but the Deists rejected revelation and the dogma and tenets of
the traditional religion. (David Hume’s Essay on Miracles was but one of
many of the reasoned attacks on Christian scripture.)
Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism