Presentation on theme: "What is Religion?. Statue of Gomateshvara."— Presentation transcript:
What is Religion?
Statue of Gomateshvara
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.... By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” --Christianity: Holy Bible: Hebrews 11:1, 3.
“This day have those who disbelieve despaired of your religion, so fear them not, and fear Me. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.” --Islam: Holy Koran 5:3
“Zilu asked how to serve the spirits and gods. The master [Confucius] said: ‘You are not yet able to serve men, how could you serve the spirits?’ Zilu said: ‘May I ask you about death?’ The Master said: ‘You do not yet know life, how could you know death?’” --Confucianism: The Analects 11:12.
Indifferent to all sensual delights, Mahavira cheerfully wandered from place to place, speaking very little. In the winter he would meditate in the shade, and in the summer he would expose himself to the blazing heat of the sun. Thoroughly purifying himself, disciplining his mind, body and speech, Mahavira became completely calm and equanimical.” --Jainism: from the Acaranga-sutra and the Kalpa- sutra.
“Abdu’l-Baha said: ‘... All God’s prophets have brought the message of love. None has ever thought that war and hate are good. Every one agrees in saying that love and kindness are best.” --Baha’i: “The Universal Love” by Abdu’l-Baha.
The Christian religion often speaks of faith. Is faith the central attitude of religion? What does the word faith really mean?
The Baha’i religion claims to bring together all religions and claims that God meant all religions to teach love and peace. Do you think this is so, given what religions do and say in the world? If someone does preach war or hatred, can we conclude he or she is not really religious?
Mahavira is praised in Jainism as a “Tirthankara” who purified himself by self-denial and self-inflicted pain. The statue of Gotamesvara, another Tirthankara, shows a saint who stood still and did nothing until vines grew up around his body. Does this kind of withdrawal seem like “purity” of religion? Why or why not?
Imagine Pentecostal Christians praying with their hands raised up high and a Muslim man reading the Holy Koran. Could both of these be “worship”? If God himself has “perfected” religion for us, as in the quote from the Holy Koran, maybe the Pentecostals are sincere enough, but sincerely wrong in the manner in which they are worshipping God. How does that strike you? Does this contradict what you know or have been taught?
Compare both Pentecostal worshipers and the reader of the Holy Koran to the moral activity of Mother Teresa. All of them are “doing something” with their religion, but perhaps Mother Teresa seems more morally active, rather than just performing some ritual. Does her “activity” seem to you more properly religious? What is the relationship between religion and morality?
Apparently, Confucius thinks that concerns about spirits or the afterlife are relatively unimportant. Does such an idea make you think Confucius could not have been really teaching religion? Does religion have to be about gods or spirits or the afterlife?
What is Religion? Etymology (from Cicero): –relegere: to read over again –religare: to bind (cf. ligament, obligate) Oxford English Dictionary –“A particular system of faith and worship” –“Recognition on the part of human beings of some higher unseen power as having control of one’s destiny; the general mental and moral attitude resulting from this belief, with reference to its effect upon the individual or the community; personal or general acceptance of this feeling as a standard of spiritual and practical life.” –“Devotion to some principle; strict fidelity or faithfulness; conscientiousness; pious affection or attachment.”
Types of Definition monothetic--containing one thesis or proposition polythetic--containing a variety of criteria functional--pertaining to functions
What is Religion? Ritual: Anthony F.C. Wallace: Religion is a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers for the purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of state in [humankind] or nature.
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. --Amos 5:21-24.
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct Feeling This moment of self-awareness does not accompany our involvement with any object in the world or the world as a whole because these relationships are always reciprocal. Rather it is an awareness of the fact that we and the objects of our environment, which are reciprocally related, are both, in their relatedness, dependent and not self-sufficient. The “absolute feeling of dependence” is not merely the “feeling of dependence’ carried to the absolute. It is a... type of awareness. We give the name “God” to the correlate of this feeling of absolute dependence. -- Joseph Dabney Bettis. “mysterium tremendum”-- Rudolph Otto “... Thou before whom all words recoil”--Shankara
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct Feeling Ultimate Concern Religion is the aspect of depth in the totality of the human spirit.... What does the metaphor depth mean? It means that the religious aspect points to that which is ultimate, infinite, unconditional in [humankind’s] spiritual life. Religion, in the largest and most basic sense of the word, is ultimate concern. And ultimate concern is manifest in all creative functions of the human spirit.-- Paul Tillich
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct Feeling Ultimate Concern Belief (Creeds, doctrines, etc.)
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct Feeling Ultimate Concern Belief (Creeds, doctrines, etc.) Not Religion but Faith (e.g., for Karl Barth “Religion... is human piety, human self- justification and human conjecture: faith is that which God creates in us.” (from A Dictionary of Christian Theology.)
What is Religion? Ritual Moral Conduct Feeling Ultimate Concern Belief (Creeds, doctrines, etc.) Not Religion but Faith Focus on the sacred and the holy
Succinct and Inclusive Definitions William James: “... the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider divine.” Moojan Momen: “Religion is humanity’s response to what it experiences as holy.” The New Columbia Encyclopedia: “... a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members of that group an object of devotion; a code of behavior by which an individual may judge the personal and social consequences of his actions; and a frame of reference by which an individual may relate himself to his group and his universe. Usually, religion concerns itself with that which transcends the known, the natural, or the expected; it is an acknowledgement of the extraordinary, the mysterious, and the supernatural The religious consciousness generally recognizes a transcendent, sacred order and elaborates a technique to deal with the inexplicable or unpredictable elements of human experience in the world or beyond it.”
Religion as Illusion Ludwig Feuerbach: “Man--this is the mystery of religion-- projects his being into objectivity, and then again makes himself an object to this projected image of himself thus converted into a subject; he thinks of himself (not?) [as] an object to himself, but as the object of an object, of another being than himself. Thus here. Man is an object to God.” Karl Marx: Religion is “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.... Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.” Sigmund Freud: “There is no appeal to a court above that of reason.” (Religion is illusion, wish fulfillment, etc.)
“Beyond” Religion Such people speak of “Christianity,” “Islam,” “Buddhism,” “Hinduism,” “Sikhism,” and so on... Then, there is the language which is spoken by those who understand reality (Dhamma), especially those who know and understand reality in the ultimate sense. This is another kind of language.... We can call it “Dhamma language.” Those who have penetrated to the essential nature of religion will regard all religions as being the same.... However, those who have penetrated to the highest understanding of Dhamma will feel that the thing called “religion” doesn’t exist after all.... Thus the phrase “No religion!” is actually Dhamma language of the highest level.... One who has attained to the ultimate truth sees that there’s no such thing as “religion.” There is only a certain nature, which can be called whatever we like. We can call it “Dhamma,” we can call it “Truth,” we can call it “God,” “Tao,” or whatever, but we shouldn’t particularize that Dhamma or that Truth as Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, or Islam, for we can neither capture nor confine it with labels and concepts. Still, such divisions occur because people haven’t yet realized this nameless truth for themselves. They have only reached the external levels...” (Bhikku 1-4)
Individual and Society Religion is solitariness; and if you are never solitary,you are never religious.... It belongs to the depth of the religious spirit to have felt forsaken, even by God.” (Alfred North Whitehead) “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say things set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community... all those who adhere to them.” (Emile Durkheim)
World Building & World Maintenance “Indeed, religion is all the more deeply involved in this process of maintaining the social system insofar as there is a strong tendency in societies to take their ways and practices and elevate them into the supernatural realm. That is, the human-created systems, norms, values, and beliefs that make up a given social world are often seen as somehow reflecting the fundamental laws and structure of the universe. Or to put it another way, our ways, customs, and social structure are not merely our creation but reflect the very pattern of the cosmic Tao, or the commandments that God would have us to follow. In short, our ways are God’s ways! The reason for this is obvious. If the expectations, beliefs, and structures of our social world are simply human creations, then humans can change them. Instability and uncertainty result. But if our social world is really created by God, or is a reflection of the “Tao of Heaven,” then it is eternal and beyond change. This leaves the world we have created safe and secure and gives us a mighty fortress against the threat of chaos.” (Richter et al, p. 50).
Religion & Globalization As the dramatic changes of globalization proceed, therefore, religion is all the more active in both world building and world maintenance... individuals may be faced with a need to rebuild their religious understanding of the world. Thus, many movements, such as interfaith dialogues... represent universalism, an effort to redefine religion in ways that seem more inclusive.” (Richter et al, 50) In contrast, as globalization threatens the self- definition of local communities and individual cultures, religion rises up to defend itself against disintegration. Those religious movements such as fundamentalism, seeking to rediscover and to keep strong the “fundamentals” of religion and culture, are engaged in world maintenance. (Richter et al, 50)