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Analyzing Religion, Essay Example

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In order to determine whether Earth is a religious planet or not, I will be specifically looking for some of the elements common to most religions. First of all, I will try to find out what worldview is held by the people I meet, i.e. the origins of life, the purpose of life, the reality and role of nature etc. I will also try to find out whether people have verbal or oral traditions and if they do have, do they consider them to be true or just fictional accounts. I will also be interested in the moral and ethical values of the societies and what are their sources/inspirations. Similarly, I will learn about the history of the traditions and rituals prevalent in the society. Understanding how people interpret events that occur in their life or in the societies will also help me determine the religious inclination of the society (College of the Holy Cross).

I observed that people consider their respective gods, the creator of the universe as well as all forms of life and most people also believe they will return to their creator after death. This was an example of worldview being shaped by religions. I also encountered stories almost in every religion which the followers held to be true and many stories had supernatural elements such as the story of Noah’s Ark in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the story of Virgin Mary in Christianity and Islam. This was an example of oral traditions that were inspired by religions and which followers held to be true despite their mythological nature. I also observed that people often attributed successes and failures in their lives to their respective gods instead of taking personal credit or accepting mistakes. Similarly, followers of many religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism etc. also interpreted natural disasters such as draughts or earthquakes as a sign of their god’s anger or displeasure.

As I observed religions on earth, I realized that religions performed several functions. First of all, they gave identities to their followers. Many people often described their religious affiliations as an important part of who they are. Many religions had sacred meeting places where followers would often gather on regular basis and form a sense of community. Examples of such places are Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques, Christian Churches, and Jewish Synagogues. I also felt that religion provided strong psychological support to their religion. Many followers claimed that their respective religions help them survive difficult times and make them emotionally stronger. Religions also helped individuals form ethical and moral values and exerted strong influence in political arena. I witnessed religious influence in politics, even in relatively liberal countries. Thus, religious continues to be a force that has been shaping the course of history on earth. Many military conflicts had one or both parties that were motivated by their religious convictions. Religions also act as a body of law because they provide guidance regarding different aspects of life and even suggest specific punishment if prescribed rules are violated.

One way to understand religion is to view it as a culture rather than just a belief system because it doesn’t only shape the beliefs of its followers but most aspects of their lives. Cultures are the product of lifestyles adopted by the members of the societies including beliefs, traditions, and food and religious influence can be seen in almost every single aspect of life that also forms part of culture. Religion could also be viewed as a philosophy because it gives answers to its followers to many questions often raised by philosophers such as the reality of life, the nature of the world, and the purpose of life. To the followers, religion is sometimes comprehensive body of knowledge which touches upon all fields including science, thus, it is not uncommon for religious individuals to oppose scientific theories.

References

College of the Holy Cross. (n.d.). Eight Elements of Religions. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from http://college.holycross.edu/projects/himalayan_cultures/2011_plans/sshmitt/images/Elements.pdf

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