1. What is a religion? You’ve read our textbook author’s definition; use that definition as a starting point to go further.
The word “religion” is such a broad word that to this day there is no one definition that can satisfy all religions. For the time being, it is better to simply be open to many possible definitions, without embracing any single one. Different people especially in different religions will all have a difference in opinion when trying to use very few words to define religion. The traditional definition of religion is a system of belief that involves worship of a God or gods, prayer, ritual, and a moral code.
Religion is important to many people because it gives them something to believe in. Religion helps human deal with their mortality. As human beings, we look to religion for answers to life’s unexpected or unknown questions such as death, pain, afterlife, or rebirth. Religion has a way of helping us deal with death and offers comfort.
Religion also helps us be creativity and express ourselves through music, dance, and art. It gives us a sense of viewing life as something beautiful and lively. People who have a religion usually are more happy knowing that they life can reflect something of the supernatural that they do not understand. Through art, we get to express how we are feeling on the inside. Many people use music, dance, and art to show others what they cannot express through words. Religion gives them a sense of confident.
2. Discuss some of the characteristics that religions have in common.
Some characteristics that religions have in common are: belief system, community, central myths, ritual, characteristic emotional experiences, material expression, and sacredness. Not all religions will consist of all elements but rather some of these characteristics are commonly accepted. Many believe in a worldview were all things in the universe and human being has a place in it. Humans need of belonging helps them seek out for a community where they can belong too and share their ideals and practices. Many religions have this so people can rely on one another.
Other characteristics that are shared in religions are passed down from generations to generations through stories or reenactment of major events in the religious group. Each religion has its own myth that is central to the religion. Not only are myths passed down but rituals as well. These beliefs are enacted and made real through ceremonies. Also, ethics are passed down which are set guidelines for the group of people; these are viewed as being revealed through a supernatural realm.
Religions also allow people to express themselves emotionally and give a sense of inner peace that cannot come from outer resources. Material expression allows religions to make use of astonishing variety of physical elements. Each religion has a source of sacredness that is distinctive from the ordinary. Ceremonies express the distinction through different language, clothing, and architecture. Each tradition exhibit most of these characteristics but for those who practice them will manifest them in different ways and at different times.
3. In addition to characteristics in common among religions, there are some patterns with regard to beliefs, world views, etc., that are exhibited by most religions. Discuss these patterns.
There are three different patterns that we look for to see similarity and difference among religions. The first pattern is views of the world and life. Religions must offer answers to life’s great questions that are asked. All questions are the same, but the answers very depending on the religion. Because of the great variety of worldview each answer is different and must be examined close to get a better understanding of why it is the way it is. Some religion view the universe as being created by a Creator while others believe it has no beginning and no ending. Some view nature as the realm of evil where it needs to be overcome. Others believe that humans are called to shape it. Each view differs from religion to religion.
The second pattern is the focus of beliefs and practices. There are three concepts that are practiced, although one may be more dominant than the other depending on the purpose of importance. Sacramental orientation emphasizes carrying out rituals and ceremonies regularly and correctly as the path to salvation. Some believe that correct ritual influences the processes of nature. Prophetic orientation implies that a human being may be an important intermediary between the believer and the sacred. This is prominent in Judaism, Protestant Christianity, and Islam. Mystical orientation seeks union with something greater such as God, nature, the universe, or reality as a whole. Upanishadi Hinduism, Daoism, and some Buddhism stress the importance of this.
The third pattern is the view of male and female. As human being the role of men and women are very important and religion has had much to say about the roles of men and women on earth and in the divine realm. Today many influential religions consider the male as dominate; the sacred and full-time religious specialists are usually males. Although this may not be completely true, in the past, female divinities once played an important role in many culture and religion.
4. Having discussed in last week’s Discussion Board postings your own reasons for taking this World Religions course, discuss some of the benefits of studying the major religions of the world cited by our textbook author.
Studying the different religions around the world allows for a better understanding of each religion and helps educate and improve one’s experience of other related subjects. When studying other religion it allows insights into the religious traditions such as values, relationships, personalities, and human creativity. Not only that but it gives the outsiders an appreciation for the things that are not obvious to the insider.
Other benefits include insight into everyday life. Religions influence everyday life in many ways. Many people use religion for moral issues, on buildings, comic strips. The study of religion with help a person recognizes the religious influence everywhere. For someone who has no religion or is on their religious quest, understanding and studying the many different religions will help them find a place to belong too. Knowledge of the different religion will aid a person in their journey of life.
Short Answer Questions:
5. What is the origin and meaning of the word “religion”?
The origin of the word “religion” comes from the Latin roots re-, meaning “again,” and lig-, meaning “join” or “connect.” The translation would then mean “to join again,” or “to reconnect.” This word suggests the joining of our natural, human world to the sacred world.
6. What is the meaning of “sacred”?
Sacred is a God or gods that is set apart because of its holiness. These deities are considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion.
7. Define and contrast monotheism and polytheism.
Monotheism is the term that means a belief in one God. Those who believe in God believe that He is all powerful, pure spirit, and not fully definable in words. Polytheism on the other hand means worship of or believing in many coexisting gods. These multiple gods may be fairly separate entities, each in charge of an aspect of reality, or they may be multiple manifestations of the same basic sacred reality.
8. Define and contrast atheism and agnosticism.
Atheism is the denial of the existence of any God or gods. Agnosticism is to argue that the existence of God cannot be proven.
9. How are symbols used in religion?
Symbols are important in religion because religions are so varied in their teachings and in conflict with each other that symbols help express truth. Symbols are fairly concrete, ordinary, and universal that represents and helps human beings intensely experience something of greater difficulty.
10. What is a sacrament? Give two or three examples of sacraments in a religion with which you are familiar.
A sacrament is a religious rite or act seen as way of receiving God’s grace. In some mysterious way God uses physical things to bring about spiritual changes and give His grace. As a Christian, a few sacraments that we hold are: baptism, communion, and fasting. These are all important in receiving God’s grace.
11. Contrast linear and cyclical time in the study of religion.
Linear time place an emphasis on creation, religions that believe in this is Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, time is very important. Linear time means moving in a straight line from the beginning of the universe to its end. In cyclical time, the universe simply moves through endless changes, which repeat themselves over grand periods of time. Buddhism believes time is cyclical and is not as crucial because ultimately the universe is not moving to a final point.