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Sofia Perozzi

History 7
Period: 5
1/13/14
Belief Systems Essay

There are various religions and belief systems in this world. These have helped
shape our morals, thoughts and choices throughout history. These beliefs are passed
down from generation to generation and affect how you live your life and the decisions
you make on a daily basis. Whether you were raised as a Hindu, Buddhist or Confucian,
it affected the belief system you have. This belief system within a society creates a
unified, and organized environment that respects specific traits. When you share the
same beliefs, it creates an understanding of what is expected from other people within a
society. When societies honor and use these specific traits to decide between right and
wrong, or make any kind of important decision, it creates cohesion and togetherness.
Religion helps to define what traits are expected from people. The religions of
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism have taught their followers to be certain
qualities such as kind-hearted, respectful of their elders, selfless, and honest. Actions
that are taken by a citizen within a society influences and guides others toward those
same decisions. A belief system is important for a successful civilization because it
encourages unity, teaches citizens to have specific morals and values, and guides
others.

To better understand the role of belief systems within a civilization and how
they can influence the actions and decisions of a person, consider the following moral
dilemma:

"In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a
lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat
would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the
morally right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side
and drown. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the
captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. They, after all, would be the
one most likely to die anyways."
People of the Hindu religion, would most likely solve the moral dilemma, "The
Overcrowded Lifeboat" by opposing the captain's idea. Three of the main traits and
beliefs of the Hindu religion are Karma, nonviolence, and caring for one's soul. It would
be against their belief system to stand by the captain and agree with his idea to sacrifice
the weakest individuals. Sacrificing the lives of one or more of the physically incapable
individuals by sending them off the side of the boat, so they drown, would be both cruel,
barbaric, but most importantly violent and creating bad Karma. As stated by Frey,
"Hindus believe that all life forms have a soul, so Hindus respect all forms of life and
avoid doing them harm" (148). For precisely this reason, it would be against a person's
belief system. If they were to kill or allow a human to drown, then they might be the
recipients of a barbaric act in the future. Furthermore, Hindus also believe that souls
are rewarded for good deeds. Therefore, if they performed this task it would not be
caring for their own and others soul. If a Hindu person opposed the captain's idea,
which contrasts their religious beliefs of Karma, nonviolence, and caring for one's soul,
it would eventually create a safe environment and community because other Hindus
Sofia Perozzi
History 7
Period: 5
1/13/14
Belief Systems Essay
were taught the same ideals and believe the same things. This unity among a society
creates a long-lasting and successful civilization because the citizens agree on how
people should behave in certain situations. Anyone who might not agree and uphold
these Hindu traits would not be a good civilian or leader and therefore might not be
able to live happily and successfully in a Hindu society. Again, a person of the Hindu
religion who objected the captain's idea because of their main religious beliefs, which
are Karma, nonviolence, and caring for ones soul, prohibit them from murdering a
physically weak person.
A person whose belief system is from the religion of Confucianism would most
likely solve the moral dilemma of "The Overcrowded Lifeboat" by supporting the
captain's idea. The Confucian religion highly values respecting their elders. Assuming
the captain is older than most, controls the boat, and is also most likely from a higher
class of people, a Confucian would be inclined to agree with the captain's idea. For
example, Frey stated, "All people [Confucians] must respect and obey those above them.
In particular they must respect their elders" (208). While other values such as honesty
or kindheartedness would contradict the idea of sacrificing the life of another, their
religion believes that it is more important to respect their elders and the higher classes.
A Confucian person would concur of the captain's idea because of the fact that they
value a highly respected elder or wiser being. This agreement of their values and traits
creates a unified and successful society where everyone in the community has similar
opinions and morals. Though Confucians might object to sacrificing a frail person
because of it being an unkind act, the authority that an elder has would override this
decision.
After examining how these two different belief systems could affect our actions
in a completely different way, we can see how certain morals and values affect life and
death choices. Having rules or guidelines for what is acceptable behavior creates a
responsible, agreeable, and unified environment. If these people on the boat all had
different belief systems about what should be done or who should be cast overboard it
would create an unstable and chaotic environment. Perhaps they would start fighting
with one another and everyone on the boat could possibly die instead of just one or two
people. When societies and groups of people think in a similar manner, it creates unity.
Religion and various other teachings from the scriptures allow people to live in
harmony because they all agree with certain traits and values.