Overview of Religion In this tutorial, you will learn about the religious experience in general and some of its variations around the world. The focus will be on the types of religious beliefs and religious leaders, especially in small-scale societies. An exploration of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other major religion is beyond the scope of this tutorial. The approach taken is that of cultural relativity — religious practices or beliefs are not evaluated in terms of their ‘correctness’ or ‘sophistication’ but, rather, in terms of their function within the societies that maintain them. What is Religion? A religion is a system of beliefs usually involving the worship of supernatural forces or beings. Religious beliefs provide shape and meaning to one’s perception of the universe.
In other words, they provide a sense of order in what might otherwise be seen as a chaotic existence. Religions also provide understanding and meaning for inexplicable events such as a loved one being killed in an earthquake or some other unpredictable force of nature. For most religious people, their beliefs about the supernatural are at the very core of their world views. Importance of Rituals Symbolic objects used in Christian rituals The performance of rituals is an integral part of all religions. Rituals are stylized and usually repetitive acts that take place at a set time and location.
They almost always involve the use of symbolic objects, words, and actions. For example, going to church on Sunday is a common religious ritual for Christians around the world. It usually requires the wearing of somewhat different clothing and interacting with others in a particular manner in a sacred location. At the heart of this experience is a sequence of traditional ritual acts that symbolically represent aspects of the life, teachings, and death of Jesus.
The Minangkabau ethnic group, also known as Minang (Urang minang in Minangkabau language), is indigenous to the highlands of West Sumatra, in Indonesia. Their culture is matrilineal, with property and land passing down from mother to daughter, while religious and political affairs are the responsibility of men (although some women also play important roles in these areas). Today 4 million Minangs ...
Maya Temple in Guatemala built on a high pyramid base to make it a sacred location Most religious rituals are performed in special places and under special conditions, such as in a dedicated temple or at a sacred spot. This is an intentional separation between the secular and the sacred. By being removed from the ordinary world, the sacred acts are enhanced for the believers — the separation makes the rituals more effective. Only allowing initiated people to participate in religious rituals also can have the same effect.
Religious ritual reinforces the basic tenets of religion. For instance, the ‘partaking of the host’ in the Catholic mass is a symbolic participation in the ‘last supper’ of Jesus and, by extension, an affirmation of the acceptance of his teachings. Rituals are often charged with high emotions. The exalted feelings people feel during rituals provide positive reinforcement for continuing them.
When rituals make people ‘feel good’, they reinforce the belief that the religion is the ‘correct’ one. Non-Religious Rituals Not all rituals are religious. Brushing your teeth every morning in the same place and in the same way is a non-religious ritual. Like religious rituals, it also can make you ‘feel good’, which reinforces your continuance of the practice. However, it rarely involves a belief in supernatural beings or forces. Children displaying their national flag — a powerful secular symbolic object Political ideologies and movements often have rituals that can be profoundly important, especially when they become the focus of nationalism.
Essay Question #5: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity Throughout the history of Japan, foreign religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism have been introduced. These three religions have had their share of successes as well as failures. However, the fates of these religions have completely different endings due to conflicting beliefs of religious men and the presence of ...
Communism and extreme nationalist movements in the 20 th century essentially became secular religions in some countries. They had their rituals, essentially sacred objects, and beliefs that provided meaning and order for millions of people. Even in democratic nations that are more international in their focus, there are often symbolic political objects and rituals connected with them. An example in the United States is the pledge of allegiance to the American flag every morning in public schools. The flag takes on a powerful meaning for which people have given up their lives despite the fact that it is only a piece of cloth with different portions dyed red, white, or blue. Psychological and Social Functions of Religion Religions fulfill psychological needs.
They help us confront and explain death. They help relieve our fears and anxieties about the unknown. Supernatural powers and beings may be appealed to or manipulated by people in times of crisis, as for example in praying to win a war or survive a fierce storm. Religions help ease the stress during life crises such as birth, marriage, serious illness, and death. It is not a coincidence that in most societies the ‘rites of passage’ that are performed to help people adjust to these often highly emotional transitions are strongly religious. We also get psychological relief from ‘divinely given’ moral codes.
They lift some of the burden of decision making from our shoulders in difficult situations because they tell us what is right and wrong. Knowing what to do without having to think deeply about it provides tremendous psychological relief. Formal North American Church wedding (religious ritual is central to this rite of passage) Religions also fulfill social needs. They can be powerful, dynamic forces in society. By reinforcing group norms, they help bring about social homogeneity.
They can provide a basis for common purpose and values that can help maintain social solidarity. A uniformity of beliefs helps bind people together and reinforces group identity. In most societies, religions play an important role in social control by defining what is right and wrong behavior. If individuals do the right things in life, they may earn the approval of the gods. If they do the wrong things, they may suffer supernatural retribution.
This essay is to assess the contribution of religion as a cause of social change and what it has cause throughout the years, some say that religion acts as a conservative force, other say it is a major contributor of social change and some like to take the middle ground on this topic. Religion to sociologist can be seen in two types of ways which is either a conservative force (keeping thing the ...
For instance, the most sacred text of Islam, the Koran, not only provides detailed lists of specific kinds of crimes and appropriate earthly punishments, but it also gives descriptions of how to do mundane tasks such as eating specific kinds of food. The sacred texts of religions usually set precedents for proper behavior in common situations. The Judeo-Christian Bible stories of Adam and Eve, Cane and Able, Noah, Job, Moses, Solomon, and even Jesus provide examples of how virtuous people should lead their lives. It does not matter whether the sacred stories or myths of a religion actually occurred in every detail — they are still illustrative of correct thought and behavior.