World Religions, Essay Example
This course has not only improved my knowledge and understanding of individual religions but has also made me more aware of their similarities and differences. Despite different beliefs, all religions basically attempt to address two main questions, (1). Why we are here? (2). What happens after we die? Another thing I noticed is that all religions have evolved over the years and all religions have been ambiguous to some extent. Even religions that claim to have preserved their traditions and texts better than others have at least two segments within them if not more, who have difference of opinions. One other important thing I learnt from this religion is that one cannot underestimate the role religion plays in our daily lives and in global affairs, even when countries claim to exercise separation of church and the state such as the U.S.
I have also become less biased towards other religions and have realized that I often measured them on Christian principles. Now I have learnt that different religions have different values and assumptions and it is not possible to understand the actions of other religions’ followers, if we see them through the lens of Christian teachings. Religions are like cultures in this sense that we cannot compare any two cultures because they are built on different assumptions, values, and beliefs. Instead of comparing religions for superiority, a more objective approach for a scholar will be to see religions as diversity of beliefs in the same way as anthropologists view cultures. Anthropologists do not view any culture as superior or inferior to others but just appreciate the fact that the diversity of cultures makes the world an interesting place. One could say that religions lead to divisions but I think the problem is lack of understanding among the followers of different religions and education is the only solution to building cooperative relationship among them. I also believe in the power of education because I was shocked to learn the similarities between three faiths that are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and yet the conflicts among these religions are the most common in recent history.
One academic approach to the study of religion could focus on the motivations of the followers of different religion. People usually follow ideals because they expect a certain reward or want to avoid undesirable circumstances or events. Instead of judging religious people on the merit of their actions only, a better approach would be to understand the motives behind those actions. This approach will not only help outsiders better understand particular religions but also help insiders reform the corrupted beliefs or practices of their own religions. One example are the suicide bombers in the Middle East. Anyone is capable of understanding that suicide bombing is a foolish act but such a simple approach ignores that fact that suicide bombers are motivated by a belief that they will go straight to heaven. Even certain Muslim elements argue that suicide bombers are misguided because you can’t expect your way to heaven by harming innocent civilians. Thus, instead of condemning suicide bombers which will only lead to further rebellion, a better approach is to understand their motives and take steps to tackle the misguided beliefs that motivate these suicide-bombing candidates.
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