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Religious Studies and Theology

What is Religion?

There are multiple definitions of religion, and each definition depends on the faith of the person defining it. Over centuries this question has been asked, and irrespective of the answer given, no definition was categorized as wrong or right. The general definition of religion is individuals sharing the same beliefs with a feeling of particular meaning or purpose in their lives. Such a belief can come from within or outside themselves. The shared ideas are put into action in the form of worship because they are repeated regularly.

Religion is also defined as a system of practices, beliefs, and values that concern the sacred. It has a relationship with the supernatural powers and entities considered a crucial concern of all ordinary existence in human groups. The sociologists are not concerned with the competition claims relating to different religions; instead, they focus on analyzing the religion on how the articulation of religious practices and beliefs in society (Beyers, 2017). They also focus on studying how religious beliefs and practices affect the interaction between different people from diverse religious faiths and how they can cause riots and conflicts among these people.

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Reason for studying religion

There are several reasons why we study religion, and the primary one is that we research religion to understand other people and their cultures. Religion profoundly influences people’s behavior and shapes their culture because many believe it is most meaningful in life and truth. To understand the different conflicts in different countries like India, and Ireland, it is vital to first understand their religious beliefs and differences (Watts, 2017). Countries with diverse religious faiths have a constant conflict due to differences in opinions.

Studying religion increases people’s cultural awareness because religion and culture are two intertwined topics. Globally, people’s history is mainly impacted by the religious arts, religious beliefs, religious laws, religious institutions, and religious commitments. Understanding the critical concept of major religions in the world supports a more broadly educated citizen in every career one takes (Watts, 2017). This later leads to improvement in future job prospects. With diverse knowledge of cultures, an individual can comfortably work in any country with less stress.

Studying religion provides us with fast access to better reasonable answers to big life questions. Such questions include, “Where did we come from?” “Why are we here?” “Why is there suffering evil and death?” “And how can human beings save themselves from evil?” Religions have answered all these questions despite science’s efforts to explain some of them (Watts, 2017). Religion solves the questions that science could not solve.

Moreover, studying religion gives us a chance to grow. We can quickly expand our modern earthly viewpoint of the world. Understanding religion provides us with a broader view of what it means to be humans in the secular world (Watts, 2017). It additionally helps to understand religions when we put our religious beliefs in a more comprehensive perspective when we are spiritual.

Characteristics of Religion According to Joachim Wach

Theoretical

The theoretical characteristic of religion indicates that religion mainly involves the religious verbal side that explicates the belief method. It involves what people say concerning what they believe. The theoretical approach includes myths and doctrines. Myth is considered the original theoretical expression of religion. The myth consists of a story or narrative that gives people a vision of the world and their position in the world. Living myth is considered an s psychological truth, although all myths might not be accurate (Odak, 2021). On the other hand, doctrine justifies the variations in religion’s mythology. It explores different issues associated with the religions more intellectually as compared to the myth.

Sociological

Religion’s sociological expression indicates that religion is always social because we mainly learn from a social setting. People meet in worship places as social gatherings, making religion a system of social functions and relations (Watts, 2017). The different sociological types of faith mainly common in early modern and modern societies include the denominations or churches.

Practical

Practical characteristics of religion involve acting directly or doing something to access the sacred or holy atmospheres. People pray to access and worship to access the favor of their spiritual being. Additionally, people practice the act of sacrificing to please the spirit to ask for the blessing of getting forgiven or when in need of a particular request like bringing rain and ending calamities (Watts, 2017). Holy war and pilgrimage are additional examples of practical religions.

The phenomenology of religion

The term phenomenology in religion is mainly used in religious studies to designate the search for experiences in religious patterns or practices across the tradition and the methodology that portrays religion as a unique human experience that needs its field of study. Phenomenology is mainly used to explain the different things shared across several religions in the world (Gschwandtner, 2019). The various features of phenomenology include myth and sacred time, space, symbol, and sacrament.

The religious myth is mainly categorized as a story or narrative concerning the identity of certain religious groups, the human position in the world, and the world’s general nature. Some examples of the myth include the myths of transitions, the hero myth, and creation myths. Every religion has its myth that is closely related to other religions in the world. The sacred time and its manifestation in time are concentrated, meaningful and robust times. Examples of the religious holy times include Easter and Christmas celebrated by Christians, Ramadan celebrated by Muslims, Yom Kippur, celebrated by Jewish religion as the Day of Atonement, and TED (Gschwandtner, 2019). Sacred times are of two main kinds: periodic recurrence and Non-periodic recurrence. The period of recurrence indicates the restoration of powerful, original, and pure times of beginning in a religion. On the other hand, non-periodic repetition involves any time as a sacred time, such as fishing time, hunting time, and eating time.

The sacred space phenomenology feature involves the manifestation of sacred as space. Any individual has their sacred time constructed in the world, therefore, giving time and space is required. For instance, the holy space includes Christian cathedrals, Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, and mount Olympus and Shasta. Symbols portray anything in religion beyond itself. Anything can be a symbol of anything in religion, including events, activities, experiences, promises, and objects (Gschwandtner, 2019). There are categories of religious signs or most profound symbols that are multivalent, meaning they have several meanings in them at one time.

In the olden days, religious symbolism has a specific cultural potency and significance in what was identified as axial civilization. For instance, in the monotheism religion of Judaism, Islam unity and transcendence, Christianity, and the implicit eschatology became cultural forces with an intergalactic chronological discussion (Gschwandtner, 2019). Classic fertility is a symbol that contains multiple meanings. Several other characters include the ascension and sky symbols, water symbolism, stone and stones symbolism, vegetation symbolism, and solar and lunar symbolism.

Sacraments’ phenomenology of symbols comprises any action, sign, or symbol to connect human beings with the sacred. They pull humans’ most intense life experiences fully into their lives and help move them beyond the holy world (Gschwandtner, 2019). Examples of the experiences include parenthood, failure, childhood, and death. The sacrament’s primary measure consists of the Roman Catholic Church sacrament, yoga, a type of Tibetan Buddhist meditation.

Psychological Factors in the Development of Religion

The psychology of religion is the field within general scientific psychology to understand the procedures that mediate human religiousness in all its disparities. The topics in religion psychology range from the micro to macro, which include processes of brains involved in the experiences that a person may deem sacred, spiritual, religious, and factors associated with complicated and individual religious social behaviors. These topics have common psychological areas reflecting diverse analysis levels in learning personality, development, motivational, cognitive, and emotional (Ferrer, 2017). There are four principal psychological factors in the development of religion.

The first factor of social-psychological factor involves teaching influence and different social pressures. This factor includes the indoctrination of religion in childhood, making a statement about accepting it without believing its truth. This is seen in the belief children have because their parents believe in the same (Ferrer, 2017). Therefore, children develop the belief from their parents to be religious in their lives.

The second psychological factor is personal religious experiences. The other world’s goodness, beauty, and harmony experiences can at times deepen the entire world’s illuminating light in someone’s life, making the world too beautiful for them, and leading to religious development. Moral conflict is so painful that it is shaped by faith when making decisions (Ferrer, 2017). Additionally, the religious mystical or emotional experience induced by meditative or spiritual disciplines and ritual practices comprises the direct sacred experience or direct vision developing a religion in humans.

The third factor is unmet needs. Religion can develop in humans due to their need to seek universal needs like love, companionship, security, safety, and reassurance about their death. Over the decades, people were drawn to different religions due to the need to fulfilling their unmet needs (Ferrer, 2017). Some religions promise prosperity, which is every person’s desire, therefore attracting more people to it. Additionally, people develop beliefs based on factors that lead to solving their issues.

The last factor that leads to the development of religion is the intellectual experience. The beliefs and attitudes of a religion can be mainly influenced by intellect. Intellectual abilities of an individual influence what they believe in. There is always a belief to rationalize every religious myth to make sense (Ferrer, 2017). Intellects develop deep thoughts about a particular religion before they join it.

Conclusion

Religion has multiple definitions, and each of them is meaningful according to the people who developed it. Faith belief can be a result of internal or external influences in human life. Religion is known to be a system of beliefs, practices, and values that are sacred. People study religion for different reasons, including understanding other people and their culture, getting access to reasoned considerations of life questions, and growing. Religion determines people’s life because it involves personal relationships with the sacred world.

References

Beyers, J. (2017). Religion and culture: Revisiting a close relative. HTS Theological Studies73(1), 1-9.

Ferrer, J. N. (2017). Participation and the mystery: Transpersonal essays in psychology, education, and religion. Suny Press.

Gschwandtner, C. M. (2019). What is phenomenology of religion?(part i): The study of religious phenomena. Philosophy Compass, 14(2), e12566.

Odak, S. (2021). Theoretical perspectives on religion, conflicts, and peace. In Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. Springer Cham (pp. 327-397).

Watts, F. (2017). Psychology, religion, and spirituality. Cambridge University Press.

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