The term religion can bring up mixed emotions in people. Many people have different religious views and their traditions usually follow that religion. Religion is very vast and there are many different forms, views, traditions, and beliefs within each religion. Certain religions are monotheism, some are polytheism, and others are pantheism. Each religion encourages relationships with the divine, sacred time, sacred space or the natural world, and relationships with others.
Relationships with the divine
According to Molloy (2010), “All religions are concerned with the deepest level of reality, and for most religions the core or origin of everything is sacred and mysterious” (p 7). Each religion often calls the sacred by name such as Divine Parent, Great Spirit, the Divine, and the Holy to name a few (Molloy, 2010). Monotheism is a term that means belief in one God (Molloy, 2010). Polytheism is the belief in many Gods or Goddesses; the multiple Gods may be separate or a multiple manifestation of the same sacred reality (Molloy, 2010). Pantheism is the belief that the sacred as being discoverable within the physical world, in other words nature itself is holy (Molloy, 2010). Recently there are people who tend to deny the existence of any God or gods which is described as atheism (Molloy, 2010).
Relationship with Sacred Time
According to Molloy (2010), “Our everyday lives go on in ordinary time, which we see as moving forward into the future. Sacred time, however, is the time of eternity”(p 43). Many people have different names for this measurement of time such as the Artic people refer to it as “distant time”, Australian aboriginals refer to it as “dream time”(Molloy, 2010). Although there are many different names for sacred time they all refer to the time of eternity and each religion has a different theory on sacred time. Some people believe that sacred time is cyclical and returns to its origins for renewal. Others feel that by recalling and ritually reliving the deeds of the gods and ancestors (Molloy, 2010).
Indigenous religions even structure their daily lives to conform to mythical events in sacred time which creates a sense of holiness in their daily lives (Molloy, 2010). Certain religions strongly encourage a relationship with sacred time and others tend to not worry about sacred time. Christianity for instance knows that someday Christ will return to earth however most Christians do not center their lives on waiting for this day. However some Christians live everyday as if it will be the day He returns and strive to be worthy in His eyes when that day does come.
Relationship with Sacred Space or the Natural World
Just like ordinary time there is also ordinary space. Sacred space refers to the doorway in which the other world of gods and ancestors can contact us and we can contact them (Molloy, 2010). Sacred space is often considered the center of the universe where powers and holiness are strongest; where we can go to renew our own strength (Molloy, 2010). In certain native religions sacred space is a mountain, great volcano, or other striking natural site. In Australian aboriginal religions Uluru (Ayers Rock) is their sacred center (Molloy, 2010). Sacred space can also be constructed into a certain shape, special building, or a boundary. For some religions, sacred space is often in the form of a church where people go to worship, pray, and learn about God; some churches are even built extremely tall to be “closer” to God.
What should we study in order to properly understand religions? What attitude should we have when we study the religions of others? How can researchers be objective? These are just some of the complex questions that researchers should ask before attempting to study religions. Some of the issues in the first century included inability to travel, incomplete scriptures, or the translation they depended on were not accurate (Molloy, 2010). One of the main critical issues when studying religion is forming a prior opinion that can create a bias on the research. If a Buddhist is studying Christianity his opinion could be bias because of his own personal opinions on religion or a preference of his own beliefs versus the other.
Religion is sometimes defined as to join again. According to the common dictionary the word religion is defined as “a system of belief that involves worship of a God or gods, prayer, ritual, and a moral code” (Molloy, 2010 p 5). Within each religion there are specific beliefs, traditions, and values. Many religions encourage the relationships with the divine, sacred time, sacred space or the natural world. It is also crucial to identify critical key issues when studying religions. Whether someone worships one God, many gods, goddesses, or denies any existence of God or gods it is important to look inside each religion with an open mind.
Molloy, M. (2010). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.