Religion as Belief

  • Belief in what?
    • The truth and existence of God(s) and/or Goddess(es)
    • Cosmic Order?
    • Afterlife?
    • “Something out there”
    • Truth contained in religious texts, doctrines (beliefs), and/or ethics?
  • Why do people believe?  What convinces them of their belief?
  • What does this sort of belief do for the believer?

Religion as Rite (practice)

  • Sacraments, prayer, song, dance, art, ancestor worship, astrology, therapeutics (e.g. reiki, ayurveda, feng shui)
  • Rites can be symbolic of an important specific belief (e.g. Confession in Catholicism, puja in Hinduism) or symbolic of an important event in the religion’s history (e.g. Chanukah in Judaism, Visakha Puja Day in Buddhism
  • Rituals can at times take on lives of their own, without a clear link to a specific belief (e.g. 5 of the 7 Catholic sacraments are not mentioned in the Bible).  These rituals become part of the tradition within the faith
  • What is the purpose of ritual?
    • They create bonds within the community and makes people feel good
    • Create a sense of social order
    • Ritual precision enhances the potential “power” that is unleashed during the performance of the rite
    • Creates links to the past (tradition and ancestors)

Religion as Mystical Experience

  • Mystical Experience – the immediate, direct, intuitive connection with that which is beyond the material world; a personal connective experience with God(s), the Absolute, the Unknown, the Universe, etc.
  • Rituals can help generate a mystical experience (i.e. prayer, chanting, fasting, meditation, yoga, dancing, etc.)
  • “Non-religious” acts can also generate mystical experiences (breathing exercises, music, drugs, sex, etc.)
  • Signs someone is having a genuine mystical experience – euphoria, significant change in perception, enhanced awareness, the ability to see, hear, and understand things beyond regular perception, other signs?
  • Do people fake mystical experience?
  • Does peer pressure come into play here?

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