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Why is religion hard to define?
It encompasses many different things, therefore it is difficult to come up with a definition that isn't too narrow or to broad.
What are some common themes between different definitions of religion?
- Themes of:
- -taking positions on topics
How long have people been trying to define religion?
Hundreds of years.
What is comparative religion?
The study of different religions and their differences and similarities.
Who founded the academic study of comparative religion?
Friedrich Max Muller of Germany (1823-1900).
What are the three perspectives on religion?
Materialist, Functionalist and Faith.
What does the materialistic perspective argue?
The materialistic perspective argues that there is no supernatural world (the only reality is the material world), and that humans invented religion. Religion comes from the poor/oppressed in society who can't change their situations, and deities/gods are just projections of people's fears/wishes/desires.
Who supports the materialistic perspective on religion?
Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx.
What does the functionalist perspective argue?
The functionalist perspective argues that religions are found across the world because they're useful.
Religion gives people meaning & purpose and maintain bonds/societal groups.
It helps people to live longer and be healthier.
Religion exists because the material world doesn't meet all of our needs (answering questions, provides strength and support).
What did Emile Durkheim argue about the functionalist perspective on religion?
Emile argued that religion holds society together. This is useful to people.
What does the faith perspective argue?
The faith perspective argues that there is a reality beyond humans that some people experience, and religion exists to explain these occurrences.
What did Rudolf Otto (theologist) argue about the faith perspective?
He argued that spiritual experiences attract people to religion and make them want to create/take part in one.
What is the Ultimate Reality?
The Ultimate Reality is the ideal state of being/obtaining connection to the Divine.
Depending on the religion, the Ultimate Reality can be a god, nature, or another figure.
What is theism?
The belief that people have personal connections with a sacred being who is (or is a part of) the Ultimate Reality.
What are some examples of theistic religions?
Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
What is nontheism?
The belief that there is no personal divine being, but a "way" or "unity."
What is an example of nontheism?
Some forms of Taoism are nontheistic.
What is atheism?
The belief that there is no deity/divine being. Atheists may believe there is no reality beyond the material world.
What is agnosticism?
The belief that it's impossible for humans to know whether or not the diving/Ultimate Reality really exists.
What is pantheism?
The belief that the universe is God; there is no creator or personal god, but God is seen in the world & universe. Many pantheists view nature as sacred. "God is the whole."
What is panentheism?
The belief that there is a God and that its existence is made up of every part of nature, and beyond. "The whole is in God."
What is monotheism?
The belief in one God/supreme being.
What are some examples of monotheism?
Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
What is polytheism?
The belief in multiple deities.
What is an example of polytheism?
The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece.
What is Henotheism?
The acknowledgement of a single God, but also the possibility of other Gods.
What is monolatristicism?
The belief that there are many Gods, but only one is worshiped consistently.
What is an example of a monolatristic religion?
Some scholars believe that ancient Israel had monolatristic practices before becoming monotheistic as time passed.
What are some common elements between religions?
Beliefs, rituals, symbols, myths and prayer.
What are beliefs?
Ideas that a person holds to be true. Religious beliefs are ideas about the divine, supernatural, Ultimate Reality, etc.
What are rituals?
Repeated, worshipful actions often taken place at set times/places, possibly including special symbols or objects. Often reinforce beliefs/values, bringing participants closer to the religion, the divine, and each other.
What are symbols?
Images that stand for something or represent some information (e.g. ideas, beliefs). Have significant meaning & are often surrounded with strong emotion.
What are some examples of religious symbols?
- - The Wheel of Darma (Buddhism)
- - The Cross (Christianity)
- - Yin and Yang (Taoism)
What are myths?
Stories based on the symbols and beliefs of the religion, often striving to answer big questions or reiterating religious values. Can be taken in a variety of ways.
What did Joseph Campbell argue?
A religion's myths serve multiple purposes:
1. Give followers a sense of wonder about the divine. A sense of awe can draw people in.
2. Establish an ethical code.
3. Help followers get through dramatic life events.
What is prayer?
A religious practice with the purpose of bringing humans into contact/communication with the divine/supernatural. May be individual or communal and can take many different forms.
What are some examples of how prayer is practiced between different religions?
1. Some Native Americans see dance as a form of prayer.
2. Quakers remain silent during prayer.
3. Hindus may chant mantras.
How long has "prayer" existed?
Thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans used highly ritualized forms of prayer, with an exchange with the gods often including sacrifice.
What beliefs is prayer based on?
1. The belief that one can communicate with a deity/supernatural realm.
2. Belief that the divine wants to communicate with them.
3. Belief that prayer can affect them or their circumstances.
What are some positive aspects to religion?
1. It helps to answer big questions, improving quality of life for people.
2. Provides ethical/moral system for society, defining right and wrong.
3. Brings people together & strengthens bonds.
What are some negative aspects to religion?
1. Can create divisions in society (superiority).
2. Can contain the idea that only their religion is true, leading to discrimination, oppression & violence.
3. Can discourage alternative thought/belief in other areas of life or sources (including scientific evidence).