Religion is the people's beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life. This is my definition of religion before I started this class.
On the first day of the class, a young man walked inside the class room. He has dark hair, facial hair, not really tall but good looking. I thought he was one of our classmates until he introduce himself as our professor. My jaw dropped and was at awe. I was expecting an old, grumpy, nerdy looking professor to spend my eight weeks learning something about religion. Little did I know that I will learn a lot from this young, good looking guy that knows a lot about religion; human experience. I learned that religion addresses the issues of origin, purpose and destiny.
Religion also impacts the whole person in three ways: It influences the moral ethos, as well impacting human action; it creates, not only deep-set dispositions, but also a worldview; and it presents an aura of factuality which goes beyond the individual. Humans are religious because it is a distinguishing element from animals. I also learned on the first day the meaning of transcendence which is the ability to visualize from distance, the ability to stand apart and being above and beyond material experience. It also allows people to ask fundamental questions. Thomas O’Dea also suggests religion is intricately connected to three things which are powerlessness, scarcity and uncertainty.
There are 4 reasons why people study religion. First, it is part of the human experience. Second, it helps overcome human ignorance. Third to achieve global perspective and lastly, to help understand one self and formulates one’s own belief.
This is some of the most striking topics that I learned in one day. It was also surprising that most of my classmates are open talking about religion, and noticed that one is offended. Everyone is encouraged to say what they think and feel. I enjoyed listening to other people’s perception about religion regarding how they understand it and how it’s affecting our daily lives. I felt this class is very diverse and don’t get offended or upset.
I don’t know if they are just hiding their feelings towards the topics or they are just there to listen and learn. I can’t forget the time when my other classmate said, “I don’t know anything about going to heaven or hell but I know that when I die, I will become a fertilizer.” It was funny at first, but it is actually true. She is right, who knows where are we going when we die? It’s funny to know the real name of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. All along, I thought it was just Buddha! The group projects were also a fun experience. I have never been to a group of men who knows more about religion.
On the following week, our professor talked about the sacred and the holy, and the sacred symbol, myth and doctrine. I learned the sacred place for all the five central religions. Buddhism considers Bodh Gaya the sacred place because their leader experienced enlightenment there. Islam considers Mecca because the Ka’ba is there and their founder made pilgrimages there. Judaism considers Jerusalem, because Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac there and their temple was also located there. Christianity considers Relics, because there were objects that belonged to saintly men and women.
I have learned a lot of information in just two weeks that made me more eager to come to class. I noticed that some of my classmates really take this class seriously and most of them are just going with the flow. I enjoy listening to my classmates debating about the topics. I also learned a lot from them as well as from the members of my group. Third week in religion class, the topic is about ritual and society. This week, I have learned about the three life types of sacred rites which are life-cycle, seasonal and life-crisis.
The four life cycle rites are Buddhist tonsure (shaving of the head), foot washing, Christian confirmation and Jewish bar mitzvah. The four life-crises rites are Muslim casting out jinn causing sickness, Christian exorcism, woman freed from spirit causing miscarriage and Iban shaman killing a demon. A person participates in a ritual or sacrifice to get blessings and propitiation. This is already the third week and up to now I don’t know what religion my classmates belong to. Our group grows closer each week that made it easy to coordinate with one another. Fourth week has too many information about religion.
This is the week were I learn about society and the sacred and cosmogony. I learned that natural religions tend to be dependent upon tribal or blood relations and also Family life, economics, warfare and medicine are all parts of natural religions. Religion impacts society and society impacts religion. Founded religion’s most difficult time is surviving the leader’s death. In relations to founded religion, witness to a new revelation or spiritual wisdom serves as the role of the initial leader. The reformer of Catholicism is Luther’s Lutherens, Church of England is Wesely’s Methodist and Speners Moravians is for Lutheranism.
The three things that have contributed to the existence of many religions and denominations are discord, calls for reformation and protest. Frequent prayers, chastity and simplistic dress apply to monasticism. New Age movements of scientology or Wicca applies Feministic, e-meter, 20th century origins, mankind’s problems arise from the unconscious mind and earth centered. The difference between henotheism and monotheism is that henotheism admits other gods but disapproves of their worship and monotheism disbelieves all deities but one, which is to be worshipped.
These are the topics that I found interesting in this week’s class. Week five is all about Cosmogony which tells us about ourselves and Views of the human problem. Re-Atum is said to be created air (Shu) and moisture (Tefnut) by his sneeze and spit. The Natural environment is created by having a sexual union of a primeval male and female, for example, the sky-father Uranos with goddess Gaea, the sky-mother. The sexual union of Izangi and Izami created the Japanese islands.
The way that the earth and sky, and natural environment are created amuses me. It is not only created with sexual union and also of chaos like the battle of Marduk and Ti’amat. The sky and earth is created by the corpse of Ti’amat. Buddhism and Jainism reject cosmogonic speculation. Both Jainism and Buddhism arose in the 6th Century BC as protest movements against the Hinduism of the day. At that point in time, Hinduism was deeply entrenched in philosophic speculation. For many people, this speculation was less than helpful in everyday life.
It is therefore not surprising that Jainism rejected questions of cosmogony as useless and even confusing. Zeno of Athens in 4th century BC founded Stoicism. Christianity is founded by Jesus Christ in 1st century AD and Buddhism is founded by Siddhartha Gautama in 6th century BC. There are three points associated with Stoicism which are mental and emotional viewpoints are humanity’s main problem, no situation is inherently bad and apathy. Created in God’s image but corrupted, personal sin needs remedied and sin, humanity’s main problem are the three points associated with Christianity.
The three points that is associated with Buddhism are Karma, Four Noble Truths and Eightfold way. Four noble truths are the following: The key to happiness is non-attachment and desire’s cessation, Life is filled with pain, desire and craving cause pain and Eightfold way leads to non-attachment.
Having the correct view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration in Buddhism, these comprise the Eightfold way. Rationality, creativity, spiritually and dominion are the attributes which believes to be relevant to mankind as God’s image and likeness. The topic for week six is about Theodicy and Ethics. It justifies God in light of evil and suffering’s presence in the world.
The Sadducees is an example of this-worldly theodicy because they only care for politics than religion. They were the aristocrats and tend to be wealthy and held powerful positions. Other-worldly theodicy person is compensated with rewards or punishment in the afterlife. These are most common among the three missionary religions, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Christianity’s goal is heaven and its punishment is Gehenna. Islam’s goal is paradise and its punishment is hell. Buddhism’s goal is release to cosmos and its punishment is reincarnation.
I think Buddhism’s punishment of reincarnation is far worst than hell and Gehenna. The reason is that when you are reincarnated, you are not going back to human form but in different form. It can be in the form of an animal that you most hated when you are still living but you still have to live by it till your last breath. Charismatic leader may impact ethics with commands, passionate action and extreme peace. Muhammad would lead in commands and passionate action while Gandhi is extreme peace.
Seventh week and this week is almost over. This week’s topic is about Soteriology and Secularization. Luther is the 16th century reformer as the father of faith as the way to heaven, he looked up to Erasmus who was the theologian and scholar but later denounced Luther. Luther was training for a life as a lawyer but after a near-death experience and became a monk. Luther decided the church needed reformation and tacked 95 theses on the Church door.
He was tried then excommunicated when he would not back down from his call of reformation. Secularization originates in 1648 with Peace of Westphalia. Secularization means power going away from religious authority to civil. In conclusion, religion is society’s means of answering the question why is man here? The rules that are made by religion to guide a man’s journey in this life are larger influence by society’s ideals and that of their charismatic leaders.
Roselyn L. Simmons
Religion and Human Experience
24 July 2013