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Portfolio Reflection: Faith Traditions and Their Influence on History

Albert Einstein said, “The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in

our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our

actions can give beauty and dignity to life.” Einstein lived hundreds of years after the Hellenic

Greek Civilization, the Medieval Era, and the Rise of Islam. It’s not surprising that his wise

words apply to those times as much as they do now. Many individuals that lived during these

eras help to prove Einstein’s point. After studying numerous civilizations of the ancient world,

my role as an amateur historian has allowed me to learn from my ancestors. Applying the

knowledge I have learned will help me to act more responsibly for the betterment of modern

society, especially as it relates to religion, morals, and traditions.

In my opinion, Alexander the Great was one of the most influential persons of his time.

He was able to build an empire nearly from scratch and defeat the Persians, a rival that the

Greeks before him have tried and failed to defeat. Just before his invasion of Persia, he visited

the old city of Troy to pay respects to the mythical warrior of Achilles. This was mostly because

of his shear fascination of the old works of Homer, but he also believed that it would aid him in

the battle to come (Fitzwilliam 2004). This shows that religion, namely Greek Mythology,

influenced Alexander the Great. History allows us to see the role that unfamiliar religions have

allowed people like Alexander the Great to “cope with the world around them” (McNeill).

Religious beliefs continue to allow believers to cope, just as they did in ancient times. Alexander

the Great wasn’t the only leader and historical figure that relied on faith for inspiration.

Constantine’s influence also had an enormous impact on humanity from a religious

perspective. You can clearly see that religion heavily affected his decision making. Specifically,
he rejected any usage of old rituals brought by the old Roman beliefs. Furthermore, he believed

that his soldiers should put a Christian standard on their shields if they wanted to win against his

military rival, Maxentius. Obviously, it’s uncertain whether this act changed the outcome of

Constantine’s victorious battle against his rival. At the time, however, it seemed like a sign

from God that He was on their side (Rodriquez 2015). Constantine also helped spread

Catholicism throughout the world by making it an official religion. Although some teachings of

the Catholic Church seem to have become obsolete, one thing that has stayed true throughout

the ages has been its promotion of education. In the Church’s eyes, science and mathematics are

just as important to study as the liberal arts, specifically history (Perry). STEM is a driving

force in education today. A better option would be for students to be taught using the Catholic

philosophy of a well-rounded education (Perry). The Catholic tradition isn’t the only religion

that influenced society as a whole.

Muhammad was the prophet that was divinely inspired by Allah (God in Arabic) to share

the message of Islam several hundred years ago. The leadership, strength and humility he

expressed during his lifetime was and continues to be an inspiration to countless followers..

Unfortunately, there seems to be a huge misunderstanding regarding the message of Islam.

This is just one of the reasons it’s so important to understand history (Postma). As far as

western society goes, most people are not exposed to any of the history, beliefs, or traditions

relating to Islam. It is not discussed to the degree that Judaism and Christianity are. This lack

of understanding caused and continues to cause misinterpretation of the faith to the point where

most people are unfairly critical of Muslims and Islam in general (CrashCourse 2012). Being

knowledgeable is an antidote to fear of what is not understood.

No one can argue that Alexander the Great, Constantine, and Muhammad weren’t

significant actors on the world history stage. Alexander was an early leader that was influenced

by the early Greek mythology and tradition. Constantine help spread and legitimize Catholicism

throughout Europe. Several hundred years after Christianity’s birth, Muhammad brought a new,

and often misunderstood religion into the world’s faith traditions. This semester has enlightened

me on the connections between many aspects of the past and how faith has influenced the world

as a whole. Religion has been used as both a unifying and dividing factor for thousands of years.

As history moves forward, this more than likely will continue to be the case.