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These are just two examples, but the extension of the self beyond its physical expiration date is a common thread in religious texts. These promises of new life and mystifying promise lands are not simply handed out to everyone, however. They require an individual to faithfully practice and participate in accordance to the demands of specific commandments, doctrines, rituals, or tenants.

Theodicy is an attempt to explain or justify the existence of bad things or instances that occur in the world, such as death, disaster, sickness, and suffering. Is there truly such a thing as heaven or hell? Can we expect to embody a new life after death? Are we really the creation of an omnipotent and transcendent Godly figure?

These are all fascinating ontological questions — i. For example, Buddhists and Taoists believe that there is a life force that can be reborn after death, but do not believe that there is a transcendent creator God, whereas Christian Baptists believe that one can be reborn once, or even many times, within a single lifetime.

However, these questions are not the central focus of sociologists. Instead sociologists ask about the different social forms, experiences, and functions that religious organizations evoke and promote within society. What is religion as a social phenomenon? Why does it exist? For sociologists, it is key that religion guides people to act and behave in particular ways.

How does it do so? Regardless if one personally believes in the fundamental values, beliefs, and doctrines that certain religions present, one does not have to look very far to recognize the significance that religion has in a variety of different social aspects around the world. Religious activities and ideals are found in political platforms, business models, and constitutional laws, and have historically produced rationales for countless wars. Some people adhere to the messages of a religious text to a tee, while others pick and choose aspects of a religion that best fit their personal needs.

In other words, religion is present in a number of socially significant domains and can be expressed in a variety of different levels of commitment and fervour. Interestingly, each of them predicted that the processes of modern secularization would gradually erode the significance of religion in everyday life. More recent theorists like Peter Berger, Rodney Stark feminist , and John Caputo take account of contemporary experiences of religion, including what appears to be a period of religious revivalism.

Each of these theorists contribute uniquely important perspectives that describe the roles and functions that religion has served society over time. When taken altogether, sociologists recognize that religion is an entity that does not remain stagnant. It evolves and develops alongside new intellectual discoveries and expressions of societal, as well as individual, needs and desires. A case in point would be the evolution of belief in the Catholic Church. However, in the 21st century, the Catholic Church appears to be adapting its attitudes towards modernization. Pope Francis has also addressed contemporary issues of climate change.

At the U. We are at the limits. Throughout history, and in societies across the world, leaders have used religious narratives, symbols, and traditions in an attempt to give more meaning to life and to understand the universe. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. The practice of religion can include feasts and festivals, God or gods, marriage and funeral services, music and art, meditation or initiation, sacrifice or service, and other aspects of culture. There are three different ways of defining religion in sociology — substantial definitions, functional definitions, and family resemblance definitions — each of which has consequences for what counts as a religion, and each of which has limitations and strengths in its explanatory power Dawson and Thiessen, The problem of defining religion is not without real consequences, not least for questions of whether specific groups can obtain legal recognition as religions.

Guarantees of religious freedom under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms stem from whether practices or groups are regarded as legitimately religious or not. What definitions of religion do we use to decide these questions? It has to be imported from the Amazon where its ingredients are found. Importing and distributing it constitute trafficking and are subject to criminal charges. Other neo-Vegetalismo groups who use ayahuasca in traditional Amazonian healing ceremonies in Canada, but do not have affiliations with a formal church-like organization, are not recognized as official religions and, therefore, their use of ayahuasca remains criminalized and underground.

Substantial definitions attempt to delineate the crucial characteristics that define what a religion is and is not. These definitions are strong in that they identify the key characteristic — belief in the supernatural — that distinguishes religion from other types of potentially similar social practice like politics or art. They are also easily and simply applied across societies, no matter how exotic or different the societies are. However, the problem with substantial definitions is that they tend to be too narrow.

On the other hand, functional definitions define religion by what it does or how it functions in society. Is religion for example the only means by which social groups struggle with the ultimate problems of human life? The third type of definition is the family resemblance model in which religion is defined on the basis of a series of commonly shared attributes Dawson and Thiessen, The idea is that a family — even a real family — will hold a number of, say, physiological traits in common, which can be used to distinguish them from other families, even though each family member is unique and any particular family member might not have all them.

You can still tell that the member belongs to the family and not to another because of the traits he or she shares. It is also possible to define religion in terms of a cluster of attributes based on family resemblance. This cluster includes four attributes: particular types of belief, ritual, experience, and social form. This type of definition has the capacity to capture aspects of both the substantive and functional definitions. It can be based on common sense notions of what religion is and is not, without the drawback of being overly exclusive.

The incredible amount of variation between different religions makes it challenging to decide upon a concrete definition of religion that applies to all of them.

The first dimension is one that comes to mind for most Canadians when they think of religion, some systematic form of beliefs. Religious beliefs are a generalized system of ideas and values that shape how members of a religious group come to understand the world around them see Table They define the cognitive aspect of religion. These beliefs are taught to followers by religious authorities, such as priests, imams, or shamen, through formal creeds and doctrines as well as more informal lessons learned through stories, songs, and myths.

Belief systems provide people with certain ways of thinking and knowing that help them cope with ultimate questions that cannot be explained in any other way. Weber argues that the problem of theodicy explains the prevalence of religion in our society. In the absence of other plausible explanations of the contradictory nature of existence, religious theodicies construct the world as meaningful.

The second dimension, ritual, functions to anchor religious beliefs. Rituals are the repeated physical gestures or activities, such as prayers and mantras, used to reinforce religious teachings, elicit spiritual feelings, and connect worshippers with a higher power. They reinforce the division between the sacred and the profane by defining the intricate set of processes and attitudes with which the sacred dimension of life can be approached. Examples of rites of passage common in contemporary Canadian culture include baptisms, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings.

They sacralize the process of identity transformation. When these rites are religious in nature, they often also mark the spiritual dangers of transformation. The Sun Dance rituals of many Native American tribes are rites of renewal which can also act as initiation-into-manhood rites for young men. They confer great prestige onto the pledgers who go through the ordeal, but there is also the possibility of failure. The sun dances last for several days, during which young men fast and dance around a pole to which they are connected by rawhide strips passed through the skin of the chest Hoebel, During their weakened state, the pledgers are neither the person they were, nor yet the person they are becoming.

In particular, they can access powers that both relieve or induce anxieties within a group depending on the circumstances. In relieving anxieties, religious rituals are often present at times when people face uncertainty or chance. In this sense they provide a basis of psychological stability. When fishing in the sheltered coves of the islands very little ritual was involved. It was not until fishermen decided to venture into the much more dangerous open ocean in search of bigger and riskier catches that a rigorous set of religious rituals were invoked, which worked to subdue the fears of not only the fisherman but the rest of the villagers.

Cultural Context of the Biblical World (Introduction)

In contrast, rituals can also be used to create anxieties that keep people in line with established norms. In the case of taboos , the designation of certain objects or acts as prohibited or sacred creates an aura of fear or anxiety around them. The observance of rituals is used to either prevent the transgression of taboos or to return society to normal after taboos have been transgressed.

This failure could only be resolved through further specific rituals Smith, In this example, sociologists would note that the taboo acts as a form of ritualized social control that encourages people to act in ways that benefit the wider society, such as the prevention of overhunting. A third common dimension of various religions is the promise of access to some form of unique spiritual experience or feeling of immediate connection with a higher power.

The pursuit of these indescribable experiences explains one set of motives behind the continued prevalence of religion in Canada and around the world. From this point of view, religion is not so much about thinking a certain way i. These experiences can come in several forms: the incredible visions or revelations of the religious founders or prophets e. While being exposed to a higher power can be awe inspiring, it can also be intensely overwhelming for those experiencing it.

These experiences reveal a form of knowledge that is instantly transformative. The historical example of Saul of Tarsus later renamed St. Paul the Apostle in the Christian New Testament is an example. Saul was a Pharisee heavily involved in the persecution of Christians.

While on the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him in a life-changing vision. The experience of divine revelation overwhelmed Saul, blinded him for three days, and prompted his immediate conversion to Christianity. As a result he lived out his life spreading Christianity through the Roman Empire. Are these types of experiences open to all members or just those spiritual elites like prophets, shamen, saints, monks, or nuns who hold a certain status?

Are practitioners encouraged to seek these experiences or are the experiences suppressed? Is it a specific cultivated experience that is sought through disciplined practice, as in Zen Buddhism, or a more spontaneous experience of divine inspiration, like the experience of speaking in tongues in Evangelical congregations? Each religion has their own answers to these questions. Finally, the forth common dimension of religion is the formation of specific forms of social organization or community.


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Dawson and Thiessen elaborate on this social dimension shared by all religions. First, the beliefs of a religion gain their credibility through being shared and agreed upon by a group. Second, religion provides an authority that deals specifically with social or moral issues such as determining the best way to live life. It provides a basis for ethics and proper behaviours, which establish the normative basis of the community. Even as many Canadians move away from traditional forms of religion, many still draw their values and ideals from some form of shared beliefs that are religious in origin e.

Third, religion also helps to shape different aspects of social life, by acting as a form of social control, and supporting the formation of self-control, that is vital to many aspects of a functional society. Fourth, although it may be on the decline in Canada, places of religious worship function as social hubs within communities, providing a source of entertainment, socialization, and support.

By looking at religions in terms of these four dimensions — belief, ritual, experience, and community — sociologists can identify the important characteristics they share while taking into consideration and allowing for the great diversity of the world religions. These schools were created with the purpose of assimilating Aboriginal children into North American culture Woods, In the government legally mandated that all Aboriginal children between the ages of seven and fifteen attend these schools Blackburn, They took the children away from their families and communities to remove them from all influence of their Aboriginal identities that could inhibit their assimilation.

Many families did not want their children to be taken away and would hide them, until it became illegal Neeganagwedgin, Under the Indian Act, they were also not allowed lawyers to fight government action, which added greatly to the systemic marginalization of these people. The churches were responsible for daily religious teachings and daily activities, and the government was in charge of the curriculum, funding, and monitoring the schools Blackburn, There were as many as 80 residential schools in Canada by Woods, It was known early on in this system that there were flaws, but they still persisted until the last residential school was abolished in As we now know, the experience of residential schools for Aboriginal children was traumatic and dreadful.

Within the walls of these schools, children were exposed to sexual and physical abuse, malnourishment, and disease.

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By , there were more than 8, lawsuits against the Churches and Canadian government for their role in the residential schools Woods, A lawsuit filed by former students of the Alberni Indian Residential School was one of the first to get to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the first to deem both the government and church equally responsible. Apologies are still being made on behalf of the churches involved in the residential schools, but the effects it has had on the Indigenous peoples and their culture are perpetuating today.

The Christian churches and mission groups have done good things for societies, but their role in these residential schools was immoral and unjust to the Aboriginal people. In every society there are different organizational forms that develop for the practice of religion. Sociologists are interested in understanding how these different types of organization affect spiritual beliefs and practices. They can be categorized according to their size and influence into churches ecclesia or denomination , sects, and cults.

This allows sociologists to examine the different types of relationships religious organization has with the dominant religions in their societies and with society itself. A church is a large, bureaucratically organized religious organization that is closely integrated into the larger society.

Two types of church organizations exist. The first is the ecclesia , a church that has formal ties with the state. As such, the ecclesia forms the national or state religion. People ordinarily do not join an ecclesia, instead they automatically become members when they are born. In an ecclesiastic society there may be little separation of church and state, because the ecclesia and the state are so intertwined. In some ecclesiastic societies, such as those in the Middle East, religious leaders rule the state as theocracies — systems of government in which ecclesiastical authorities rule on behalf of a divine authority — while in others, such as Sweden and England, they have little or no direct influence.

In general, the close ties that ecclesiae have to the state help ensure they will support state policies and practices. For this reason, ecclesiae often help the state solidify its control over the populace. The second type of church organization is the denomination, a religious organization that is closely integrated into the larger society but is not a formal part of the state. In modern religiously pluralistic nations, several denominations coexist. So historically, in Canada, denominationalism developed formally as a result of the Treaty of Paris in , which granted Roman Catholics the freedom to practice their religion and informally as a result of the immigration of people with different faiths during the expansion of settlement of Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

These are both denominational and non-denominational, meaning not officially aligned with any specific established religious denomination. About one-third are nondenominational, and one-fifth are Southern Baptist, with the remainder primarily of other Protestant denominations. Several dozen have at least 10, worshippers and the largest U.

Some even conduct market surveys to determine these needs and how best to address them. As might be expected, their buildings are huge by any standard, and they often feature bookstores, food courts, and sports and recreation facilities. They also provide day care, psychological counseling, and youth outreach programs. Their services often feature electronic music and light shows. Despite their popularity, they have been criticized for being so big that members are unable to develop close bonds with each other and with members of the clergy that are characteristic of smaller houses of worship.

On the other hand, supporters say that mega churches bring many people into religious worship who would otherwise not be involved. A sect is a small religious body that forms after a group breaks away from a larger religious group, like a church or denomination. Sects are relatively small religious organizations that are not closely integrated into the larger society. They often conflict with at least some of its norms and values. Their migration from Tyrol, Austria, due to persecution eventually lead to their immigration to the Dakotas in the 19th century and then to the Canadian prairies, as conscientious objectors following WWI.

Typically, a sect breaks away from a larger denomination in an effort to restore what members of the sect regard as the original views of the religion. Because sects are relatively small, they usually lack the bureaucracy of denominations and ecclesiae, and often also lack clergy who have received official training. Their worship services can be intensely emotional experiences, often more so than those typical of many denominations, where worship tends to be more formal and restrained.

Members of many sects typically proselytize and try to recruit new members into the sect. If a sect succeeds in attracting many new members, it gradually grows, becomes more bureaucratic, and, ironically, eventually evolves into a denomination. A cult or New Religious Movement is a small religious organization that is at great odds with the norms and values of the larger society. Cults are similar to sects but differ in at least three respects. First, they generally have not broken away from a larger denomination and instead originate outside the mainstream religious tradition.

Second, they are often secretive and do not proselytize as much. Cults, more than other religious organizations, have been subject to contemporary moral panics about brainwashing, sexual deviance, and strange esoteric beliefs. However, research challenges several popular beliefs about cults, including the ideas that they brainwash people into joining them and that their members are mentally ill.

In a study of the Unification Church Moonies , Eileen Barker found no more signs of mental illness among people who joined the Moonies than in those who did not. She also found no evidence that people who joined the Moonies had been brainwashed into doing so. Another source of moral panic about cults is that they are violent. In fact, most are not violent. Nevertheless, some cults have committed violence in the recent past. Two years earlier, the Branch Davidian cult engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents in Waco, Texas.

A few cults have also committed mass suicide. Similarly, in Canada, on the morning of October 4th, , a blaze engulfed a complex of luxury condominiums in the resort town of Morin-Heights, Quebec. Firefighters found the bodies of a Swiss couple, Gerry and Collette Genoud, in its ruins. At first it was thought that the fire was accidental, but then news arrived from Switzerland of another odd set of fires at homes owed by the same men who owned the Quebec condominiums.

All the fires had been set with improvised incendiary devices, which made the police realize they were dealing with a rare incidence of mass murder suicide involving members of an esoteric religious group known as the Solar Temple. From the recorded and written messages left behind by the group, it is clear that the leaders felt it was time to effect what they called a transit to another reality associated with Sirius.

It is important to note that cults or new religious movements are very diverse. They offer spiritual options for people seeking purpose in the modern context of state secularism and religious pluralism. Members of new religions run the risk of being stigmatized and even prosecuted Dawson, Modern societies highly value freedom and individual choice, but not when exercised in a manner that defies expectations of what is normal. Even at a young age he claimed to be in touch with supernatural beings Gorman, At its height it had over followers around the world, many of whom sent over large sums of money.

The Aquarian Foundation was based on the teachings on the Theosophical Society, which was an organization formed in New York City in Theosophy had much in common with the beliefs of Buddhism and Hinduism, such as the belief in reincarnation. It was radically different than the dominant Christian belief of the time. Theosophy also promoted the idea that there was a spiritual world beyond death inhabited by evolved spiritual beings, whose wisdom could be accessed through the occult reading of esoteric signs and the intervention of spiritual mediums Scott, These isolated areas provided a place to get away from the social pressures of the outside world.

However, an insurrection took place when Brother XII announced to his followers that he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian God Osiris. Between and , a series of trials involving Brother XII occurred, which included allegations of misusing foundation funds and having extramarital affairs.

News reports claimed that he used black magic to cause witnesses and several members of the audience to faint Rutten, Wilson himself became increasingly authoritarian and used social pressure to convince members into performing gruelling physical labour that was virtually on the same level as slavery. He did this by telling them these activities were tests of fitness to advance their spirituality.

In , the group was finally dissolved and Wilson disappeared from the Nanaimo area along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of Foundation money and Mabel Skottowe one of the women with whom he was accused of having an extramarital affair. They reportedly left by tugboat and eventually made their way to Switzerland. The majority of reports say that he died in Switzerland in , though some that say he was seen in San Francisco with his lawyer after his alleged death.

According to Cowan , because most people have little direct knowledge of cults and mainly get their information through sensationalist media reports, cults are easily presented as targets of moral panic for being immoral, extreme or dangerous. The three main accusations that cults face are that they engage in brainwashing, acts of sexual deviance and social isolationism.

Each of these accusations applied to the media reports on the Aquarian Foundation although their dominant theme centered on the claim that Brother XII was a fraud. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal , for sociologists religion is also a social institution. Social scientists recognize that religion exists as an organized and integrated set of beliefs, behaviours, and norms centred on basic social needs and values. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups.

For instance, in every culture, funeral rites are practiced in some way, although these customs vary between cultures and within religious affiliations. These universals, and the differences in how societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. But why does religion exist in the first place? Despite the conflict that has accompanied religion over the centuries, it still continues to exist, and in some cases thrive. How do we explain the origins and continued existence of religion? We will examine sociological theories below, but first we turn to evolutionary and psychological explanations.

Many psychologists explain the rise and persistence of religion in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Psychologist Roger Cloninger defines this core religious experience as the disposition towards self-transcendence. It has three measurable components: self-forgetfulness absorption in tasks and the ability to lose oneself in concentration , transpersonal identification perception of spiritual union with the cosmos and the ability to reduce boundaries of self vs. The argument is that because this is a universal phenomenon, it must have a common physiological or genetic basis that is passed on between generations that enhances human survival.

According to Charles Darwin all species are involved in a constant battle for survival, using adaptions as their primary weapon against an ever-changing, and hostile environment. Adaptions are genetic, or behavioral traits that are shaped by environmental pressures, and genetic variation. By dissecting religion to a core set of purposes, it can be categorized as an adaption that increases the chances of human survival. All adaptions successfully passed on to future generations aided at one point either in reproduction or survival because the genes that selected for them were passed on.

This is the rule of natural selection Darwin, Much of evolutionary psychology aims at explaining the possible environments in which certain adaptions were selected. Although religion has the potential to cause unwanted side effects, such as wars, it still provides much greater benefits, by responding to numerous survival problems through collective religious processes. A very specific benefit, for example, is disease prevention. Many historic religions placed an emphasis on cleanliness, comparing it to spiritual purity.

Consequently there is also an evolutionary benefit to this religious virtue. During a time period where disease was a constant threat to survival, idealizing cleanliness helped minimize communicable diseases from food, animals, and even humans. Although disease prevention has been an important byproduct of religious practices around the world, evolutionary psychologists argue that the main benefit religion has provided to human survival is the mutual support provided by fellow members.

More specifically, religion creates a framework for social cohesion and solidarity, even during times of loss, and grief, which has been a crucial competitive strategy of the human species. Dean Hamer for example describes a specific gene that correlates with the capacity for self-transcendence.

After his research team isolated an association between the VMAT2 gene sequence and populations who scored high on psychological scales for self-transcendence, Hamer noted these genes were connected to the production of neurotransmitters known as monoamines. The effects of monoamines on the meso-limbic systems in the human body were similar to many stimulant drugs: feelings of euphoria and positive well-being. What is striking about this evidence is the implication that evolution has favoured genes that are often displayed in religious populations.

Hamer extends the evolutionary argument to suggest that religion, grounded genetically in a neuro-chemical capacity for self-transcendence, provides competitive advantages for the human species in the forms of community well-being higher rates of reciprocity and social welfare and longevity reduction of maladaptive behaviours and increased cleanliness. Many similar effects can be observed in the present environment. Strawbridge, Sherna, Cohen, and Kaplan, conducted a year longitudinal study on religious attendance and survival.

Although they found that weekly religious attendance more often assisted in targeting and reducing maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, it also aided in maintaining social relations, and marriage Strawbridge et al. Evolutionary psychology argues that these modern tendencies to feel happiness during a church congregation to reduce maladaptive behaviours are innate, sculpted by centuries of exposure to religion.

Evolutionist Richard Dawkins hypothesized a similar reason why religion has created such a lasting impact on society. Comparable to genes, memes are bits of information that can be imitated and transferred across cultures and generations Dawkins, As a vocal proponent of atheism, Dawkins believes the idea of God is a meme, working in the human mind the same way as a placebo effect. The God meme contains tangible benefits to human society such as answers to questions about human transcendence and superficial comfort for daily difficulties, but the idea of God itself is a product of the human imagination Dawkins, Although a human creation, the God meme is incredibly appealing, and as a result, has continually been passed on through cultural transfusion.

The logic of evolutionary psychology suggests that it is possible for religion to be replaced by another mechanism that is more beneficial to human survival. Just as Dawkins hypothesized that religious memes colonized societies around the world, this process could also be applied to secular memes. The secularization thesis predicts that as societies become modern, religious authority will be replaced with public institutions. System based on belief and spiritual world. Requiring proof as a basis of belief.

I There can be many truths; truths are dependent upon individual experiences. Everything and everyone is related. There is real belief that people, objects and the environment are all connected. Law, kinship and spirituality reinforce this connectedness. Identity comes from connections. W Compartmentalized society, becoming more so. Time is measured in cyclical events. The seasons are central to this cyclical concept. The framework of months, years, days etc reinforces the linear structure. W Amassing wealth is for personal gain.

It also has been suggested that in any society there is a dominant worldview that is held by most members of that society. Alternative worldviews do exist, but they are not usually held by a majority of a society. As Martin Luther King Jr. Understanding and respecting the differences in worldviews will help in relationship building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. This is what is meant by cultural competency.

This is where Pai seeks refuge and calls out to her ancestors. The second sacred place is the beach, where she has her sacred encounter with the whale. Trials and tribulations: Pai sets out to seek the ways of the warrior by sneaking onto the training compound, only to be caught by her grandfather, and to be humiliated in front of her male initiates.

In one very important scene, Pai is being honored at school and dedicates as a gesture, a traditional tribal performance to her grandfather. Her heart is broken when he fails to show up. Revelation: A truth is revealed to her Uncle Rawiri one afternoon, as Pai retrieves the lost sacred artifact the whale tooth of her grandfather.

Symbolic death: Near the end of the film, Pai has her sacred encounter with the beached whale. She climbs up onto the back of the lead whale, in an attempt to get the whale to re-enter the water. The whale responds and off she goes with the whale into deeper waters. She almost drowns and is hospitalized for a few days. It is during this time that her family is remorseful, especially her grandfather and reconsiders his point of view on who should be chief.

Resurrection and rebirth: The film fades from a lonely scene of Pai in her hospital bed to a vibrant ceremony of Pai in the finished canoe of her father. With her grandfather by her side, the fully crewed canoe is ocean bound. It is safe to assume Pai will fulfill her duties as the new chief. A pilgrimage is a journey on behalf of ritual and religious belief. Often pilgrims try to obtain salvation of their soul through this physical journey. Most times the journey is to a shrine or a sacred place of importance to a person's faith.

The institution of pilgrimage is evident in all world religions and was also important in the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome. Pilgrimages attract visitors from widely dispersed cultural backgrounds and physical locations, offering them the opportunity to be brought together because of the origins of their faith.

Relevant to so many different cultural contexts, there is no single definition to describe to the act of pilgrimage. However, similarities are noticeable. Pilgrimage usually requires separation from the common everyday world, and in displaying that separation pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from familiar comforts. Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time i.

The hajj always occurs on the 8th, 9th, and 10th days of the last month of the Muslim year. The location of sacred sites and shrines often represent some great miracle or divine appearance, they may also appropriate the places that are holy to older or rival faiths. A factor that unites pilgrimage locations across different religions is the sense, variously expressed, that a given place can provide privileged access to a divine or transcendent state.

The hajj is the fifth pillar of faith in the Islamic faith. It occurs on the 8th to 12th day of Dhul-Hijah, which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Members of the Islamic faith are encouraged to perform the hajj , a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime.

However, religious law allow exclusions on grounds of hardship. Mecca is known by Muslims as the dwelling place of Adam after his expulsion from paradise and as the birthplace of Muhammad — , the prophet of Islam. The Huichol are an indigenous group of maize corn farmers who reside in Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. Maize, along with deer and peyote-which the Huichol have linked together-are key ingredients for their way of life.

Peyote is a rare cactus found in Mexico containing the chemical mescaline which induces hallucinogenic experiences if ingested properly. However, a pilgrimage must be first undertaken to find the peyote; beginning an approximate mile trek. The location the pilgrims of Huichol are destined to find the peyote is a representation of "Wirikuta, the original homeland where the First People, both deities and ancestors, once lived. The pilgrim then chews the peyote button to ingest the mescaline.

The group then begins to gather peyote for the rest of the community. The pilgrimage for peyote is an example of a culture actively holding onto their past. Instead of allowing their traditions to fall through the cracks, the Huichol use a holistic experience to preserve their religion and culture. Two examples include Carnival and Halloween. Carnival The Carnival celebration occurs as a way to let loose before the strict rules of religion are set in place for lent. Typically, during Carnival everyday customs, rules, and habits of the community are inverted. Kings become servants, servants become kings, women dress as men and vice versa.

The normal rules are overturned and indulgence becomes the rule. The body is granted freedom and obscenity are expected. Work and diets are omitted as people take to the streets to eat and party the days away. Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Regardless, many people participate in the carnival tradition today. The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events.

Festivities are held in hundreds of different countries worldwide. Mardi Gras occurs in February right before the season of Lent. Ever since its introduction Mardi Gras has been celebrated in that area of the United States for many years. It's common to see people wearing minimal clothing, flashing for beaded necklaces, and partying in the streets. Much of this behavior is overlooked by police who only react when it is taken to the extreme or is in the more "family friendly" areas.

Chapter 15. Religion

Traditionally, large bonfires were built and people gathered to offer food and animals as sacrifice to the many deities. The Celts, pronounced Kelts, were polytheistic and offered gifts to specific Pagan Gods throughout the year. After the celebration had ended, people would relight the hearth in their homes with fire from the communal and sacred bonfire. This fire was thought to protect the people especially on the night of October 31, when the ghosts of the dead and otherworldly spirits were believed to return to earth. These church-sanctioned holidays were similarly celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes consisting of saints, angels, and devils.

The idea of Satan is a Christian concept that did not exist in pagan beliefs. In order to believe in one idea of ultimate evil the Devil the Celts would have had to believe in one concrete idea of ultimate good God , but they worshiped several Gods. These traditions went under further construction as further generations began to relocate away from ancestral grounds. A sacrifice is an offering of something of value to an invisible force, and is done in many cultures and religions. Sacrifices are also made out of selfless good deeds.

The word "sacrifice" in Latin means "to make sacred. In pre-Columbian Mexico, the Aztecs sacrificed hundreds of humans in accordance with their ritual calendar in what is referred to as a human sacrifice. The most common sacrifice was for the sun God, Huitzilopochtli, in which a knife is used to cut under the ribs to get to the human heart, which was then forcibly removed. During the Bronze period of ancient China, sacrifices were very common in the worship of ancestors.

It was believed that when a person died their fate was decided by spirits. In order to invoke these spirits a beautiful bronze vessel was filled with wine and water as an offering. It was to be placed outside of the city during a time of need as a offering to the Heavens. This is an example of a goods sacrifice. In the Hmong Shamanism tradition, shamans would sacrifice animals to try and retrieve lost souls from the clutches of evil spirits. This was because animal souls were thought to be linked with human souls. In their tradition, evil spirits, known as dabs, would steal a persons soul and make them ill.

When this happens, a chicken, pig, goat, or cow would be sacrificed and the animal's soul would be given to the evil spirits in exchange for the human soul, and this would make the person well again. This form of ritual and healing practice is typically not embraced by mainstream North American cultures as a part of typical, everyday life meaning altered states are not institutionalized. Trance States or Behaviors are more difficult to characterize. Other than an altered state an often inward oriented states of thought, there is most times a change in body image, emotional expression, rejuvenating feelings, and increased sense of self.

Trance states involve both amplification of certain internal cognitive processes as well as a decoupling of sensory processing. All cultures have developed practices to heal the ill. In many cultures, when home remedies fail people often turn to a specialist of some sort. Many cultures including those exposed to Western medicine resort to "magico-religious" healers such as Shamans or spirit guides.

Trances and various altered states of consciousness are mainly associated with shamanistic healing practices. Trance states can be induced by a variety of activities such as singing, drumming, dancing, chanting, fasting, sleep or sleep deprivation, and psychoactive drugs.

After a person is in a trance state, they may collapse and have intense visual experiences and hallucinations while unconscious. There are two major divisions within Hinduism: Vaishnavaism and Shivaism. Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul. This is the transfer of one's soul after death into another body. This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their many lifetimes that's called Samsara. Karma is the accumulated sum of ones good and bad deeds.

Karma determines how you will live your next life. Through pure acts, thoughts and devotion, one can be reborn at a higher level. Eventually, one can escape samsara and achieve enlightenment. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn as a lower level, or even as an animal. Hindus body of scriptures is divided into Sruti and Smriti. Hindus organize their lives around certain activities Purusharthas. These are called the Four aims of Hinduism or "The doctrine of the fourfold end of life.

Hinduism is unique due to the fact that there is no real distinction between beings divine and human. In Hinduism humans can appear divine, and gods human. Also, unlike most religions such as Christianity, there are two supreme gods Vishnu and Shiva, who are equal in power. Hinduism also has other gods such as Lakshmi and Parvati, who are wives to Vishnu and Shiva. A staple of Hinduism is greetings. In most pictorials of the deities, the divine are often showing this same way of greeting, showing that the divine must show respect.

Religion and Identity | Facing History and Ourselves

Hinduism today is seen and argued as being polytheistic or monotheistic. In fact they would both be right. They do worship many deities, but they believe that each one is part of a whole unity. This is the panentheistic principle of Brahman: that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is one divine entity that is at one with the universe. Strictly speaking, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, meaning they recognize a single deity, and recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that God.

Viashnavism is a tradition of Hinduism distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or his manifestations, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. Viashnavism is seen as monotheistic, since adherents to this form of Hinduism believe in one Supreme God. They believe that the living entity or soul is eternal, and that the purpose of life is to be free from reincarnation through spiritual practices.

Bhakti Yoga the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to God is seen as the most direct method to achieve this. Desire is seen as the root of all evil, and thus a great deal of importance is assigned to the control of the senses, mainly through meditation and yoga practice. Material nature is seen as temporary, and is said to contain 3 modes: Goodness, Passion, and Ignorance. Desire, or lust, is said to be the result of material contact with the mode of passion, which is inevitably transformed into ignorance.

He is male, and eternal. He is the Creator and the Destroyer. It is said that He created the material world by impregnating it with His eyes. The Material Universe is said to last trillion 40 billion years and then die. At this point the devastation takes place, which means that the energy manifested by the Lord is again would up in Himself.

Then Creation follows, and material energy is let loose once again. This cycle repeats infinitely The monotheistic worship of Vishnu was already well developed in the period of the Itihasas. Hopkins says "Vishnuism, in a word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India. Vaishnavism is expounded in a part of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita, which contains the words of Krishna, one the avatars of Vishnu.

Vaishnavism flourished in predominantly Shaivite South India during the seventh to tenth centuries CE, and is still commonplace, especially in Tamil Nadu, as a result of the twelve Alvars, saints who spread the sect to the common people with their devotional hymns. The temples which the Alvars visited or founded are now known as Divya Desams. In later years Vaishnava practices increased in popularity due to the influence of sages like Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Manavala Mamunigal, Vedanta Desika, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, and many others. Large Vaishnava communities now exist throughout India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as Rajasthan and Gujarat and north eastern state Assam.

Since the s Vaishnavism has spread from within India and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in C Bhaktivadanta Swami Prabhupada. Sikhism is a religion based in Punjab, India.

It is the fifth-largest world religion. Guru Nanak founded the religion in CE. It means "wonderful teacher" in the Punjabi language. Sikhism promotes the idea of salvation through disciplined and personal meditation on the name and message of God. The concept of God in Sikhism is oneness with the entire universe and its spirit. Sikhs must eliminate ego to be able to find God.

Sikhs do not believe in heaven or hell. The suffering and pain caused by ego is seen as "hell" on earth. They believe that upon death, one merges back into universal nature. Sikhs view men and women as equal in the world. Women are expected to participate in the same religious life as men are. In Sikhism, every person is fully responsible for leading a moral life. Sikhs have no priestly class. Therefore, those who are educated in the ways of the religion are free to teach others about Sikhism, however, they cannot claim to have access to God.

Sikhs believe they have no right to impose their beliefs on others or to cajole members of other religions to convert. All individuals, regardless of race, gender, or nationality, are eligible to become Sikhs. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest recorded monotheistic religions. It originated from Persia and is based on the teachings of Zoroaster , a prophet of the early 5th century BCE. Many present day theologians point to Zoroastrianism as the influence for many of today's monotheistic world religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism etc. Zoroaster preached the following of Ahura Mazda which equates to God.

Ahura Mazda is the supreme being of good whose enemy is represented by "druj" which is the power of evil. Zoroastrianism asks its followers simply to do good and to go through life with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds as these are necessary to create happiness and to keep the "druj" at bay. Pre-Islam Iranian governments promoted the teaching of Zoroastrianism during that time.

Zoroastrianism was extremely popular to the Iranian people and was considered a state religion until it was marginalized by other religions in the 7th century. However it is still significant due to its history, the possible influence it had on other religions, and its followers who still are around today.

Currently there are approximately , Zoroastrians in the world. Buddhism is a religion based on personal spiritual development with some atheistic characteristics formed by a man named Siddhartha Gautama , who is commonly called "the Buddha " which is actually a title that means "the Enlightened One". He was believed to be born in Nepal around BCE. Buddhism was formed after Siddhartha came to disagree with the practices and beliefs of asceticism. Born into a royal family, he became aware of suffering after taking a trip outside of the palace.

Here, he encountered people suffering from disease, old age, and death. At the age of 29, having witnessed such sufferings, he decided to leave his life of comfort and become an ascetic in an attempt to find the solution to end suffering. For six years he ate only tiny handfuls of rice each day and did little besides meditating, in an attempt to free himself of bodily concerns.

It is said that after those six years, he ran into a little girl by a river, who offered him a bowl of rice to feed his famished body. At this same time, a man so the story goes was traveling down the river playing a stringed instrument. Here Siddhartha came to a realization, which he later explained as: "Look at the lute. If its strings are too tight, they will break.

If they are too loose, it cannot be played. Only by tuning them neither too tight nor too lose will the lute work. After this realization, he broke away from his ascetic practices and sat under a tree latterly called the Bo-tree, or Tree of Enlightenment , entering a deep meditation. This act is what is known as Jiriki or self-power. At the age of 35, after meditating for 49 days, he attained Enlightenment and was henceforth called "the Buddha" [27].

After attaining enlightenment, he went on to help others reach nirvana. Buddhism also splits into three subcategories, the first being Theravada Buddhism which is found in South East Asia , Mahayana Buddhism found throughout East Asia , and Vajrayana Buddhism this includes many subcategories of Buddhism including Tantric Buddhism and Mantrayana [21] [28].

Zen is another school of Buddhist thought that developed in China during the 7th century, by an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, from a combination of Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism. Practitioners of Zen aim to see the world as it truly is, without lasting thoughts or feelings but instead as a constant stream of unconnected thoughts.

Zen is predominantly practiced in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea but in recent years has gained popularity in the western world. It is estimated that there are currently million people who practice Buddhism today. This makes the religion the fourth largest in the world. The Four Noble Truths deal with the nature, origin, cessation, and path to the cessation of suffering. These four things are the core of Siddhartha's message, and presumably expresses what he learned while meditating under the Bo-tree.

The Eightfold Path is part of the Fourth Noble Truth, or the path leading to the cessation of suffering. It is referred to as the Eightfold Path because of the eight categories or divisions that it is composed of, those being Right Understanding. These paths are used to avoid two extremes: one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses; the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of ascentism peterson talk.

It should not be thought that the categories should be followed by the numerical order above, but should instead be used more or less simultaneously, according to the capacity of each individual. Like Hinduism , Buddhists believe in a rebirth of oneself. Rebirth is the idea that one goes through a series of lifetimes.

When one dies, he or she moves to another body. However, Buddhism rejects the idea of an eternal soul such as in Christianity. It is an ever-changing process that is regulated by karma , the laws of cause and effect. Besides the immediate effect of an action in this world, karma helps dictate the rebirth process. Possessing good karma will allow for a better realm of rebirth than bad karma. Buddhism says that the cycle of rebirth takes within one of five or six realms depending on the type of Buddhism one practices and within these realms, there are 31 planes of existence.

Samsara is a Buddhist concept that directly related to this cycle of rebirth. It is the world in which the human race currently resides and in which there is much pain, suffering, and sorrow. One can only leave Samsara once they have reached nirvana. The Ten Fetters is a series of items that keep a person in Samsara.

If one possesses any of these, he or she will remain in Samsara. One, according to Buddhist thought, should strive to overcome these things. Buddhists take part in religious travels to sacred sites called pilgrimages. These sites are significant places in the life of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Gautama taught that these four main sites would make his followers feel a sense of spiritual urgency, as they coincide with the life and spiritually significant experiences of the religious leader.

The four significant places are as follows: Lumbini , where Siddartha Gautama was born, Bodh Gaya , where he was enlightened, Sarnath , where he gave his first teaching, and finally Kusinara , where Siddartha died. The sacred site Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama is surrounded by an area called a monastic zone, or, an area in which only monasteries can be built.

The site is visited by many looking to meditate and chant near the exact place of Siddartha's birth, and the sacred Bodhi tree. Traveling on a pilgrimage is an act Buddhists believe will earn them merit for future incarnations.

Family Values

The farther and longer the journey, and the more humble the mind of the person traveling, the greater the merit will be. Going on a pilgrimage is also a way for Buddhists to practice becoming free from worldly attachments. They might aim to no long feel so attached to an old home, to old relationships, or too old desires.

By dedicating oneself to the pursuit of a holy place in a humble mindset, one comes closer to walking the Eightfold Path. The traveling of many monks over the centuries is attributed as one of the main causes of the spread of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and traditionally has been responsible for the governing of Tibet. However, the Chinese government established control in However, after his exile, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India.

The Dalai Lama has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration the Tibetan government-in-exile is also established. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the largest and most influential tradition in Tibet. The institution of the Dalai Lama is a relatively recent one. There have been only 14 Dalai Lamas in the history of Buddhism, and the first and second Dalai Lamas were given the title posthumously.

According to Buddhist belief, the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a past lama who decided to be reborn again to continue his important work. The Dalai Lama essentially chooses to be reborn again instead of passing onward. A person who decides to be continually reborn is known as Tulku. Buddhists believe that the first tulku in this reincarnation was Gedun Drub, who lived from —, and the second was Gendun Gyatso.

However, the name Dalai Lama meaning Ocean of Wisdom was not conferred until the third reincarnation in the form of Sonam Gyatso in The current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso. Shinto is a form of animism that is the indigenous religion of Japan. It is a form of worship that is based upon nature. So any tree, rock, car, dog, cat, person, or anything else has a Kami. Kami also means 'paper' in Japanese, so the usage of it is a common theme in marking shrines and divine objects. In Japan, it typically is practiced alongside Japanese Buddhism.

Since Buddhism focuses primarily on the afterlife, Shintoism focuses on the present. There are 4 affirmations to Shintoism that include 1 Tradition and family, 2 Respect of nature, 3 Physical cleanliness, 4 and the celebration of festivals matsuri for the various kami. Kami are:. The kami are believed to move among their shrines and to reside in a small house-shaped box built for them at the shrine or jinja. Each has limitations. But the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, is dominant however. She gave birth to the first emperor.

Her main shrine is called Jingu and is located in a forest at Ise in western Japan. No paintings, sculptures, masks, etc. Only Buddhist temples use physical representations in painting and sculpture of the Buddha and the Boddhisatvas. For example, sumo wrestling matches and the many local festivals, called matsuri, began as means of entertaining local kami. Judaism is based on the laws and principles of the Tanakh Hebrew Bible.

Within the Tanakh there are a total of twenty-four books. Their Holy land is Israel, but their perceived right to the land is great source of controversy between the Jews and their Muslim neighbors. Because of their banishment from the land of Israel in ancient times, Jews now live all over the world. There are approximately 14 million practicing and secular Jews today.

Throughout history, many Christians have blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus. During the high Middle Ages, Jews were expelled, massacred, and forced to convert to Christianity. In the midth century, as the Black Death devastated Europe, rumors spread that the Jews had caused the disease by poisoning the wells.

In Strasbourg , a city that hadn't yet been affected by the plague, Jews were burnt alive. After much more persecution throughout the next few centuries, such as the Holocaust that lead to the death 6 million Jews and the displacement of most of Europe's Jews. After such a tragedy, the Jews saw to the formation of a recognized Jewish State known as Israel in There are three main sects in Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Jewish men and women wear special clothing during times of prayer and other religious practices.

While praying, eating, reciting blessings, or studying Jewish religious texts, a round brimless for the most part skull cap called a kippah or yarmulke is worn. The tzitzit are special knotted tassels that are worn on the four corners of a prayer shawl; different Jewish customs explain when these should be worn. Tefillin are two square leather boxes that contain bible verses and are worn during the weekday morning prayers.

A kittel is a white knee-length overgarment that is worn by prayer leaders on the high holidays and the head of the household wears this at the Passover seder. Orthodox Jews traditionally pray three times a day, and on holidays a fourth prayer is added. Prayers are typically recited throughout the day upon waking, and before and after eating a meal. Although most prayers can be recited in solidarity, communal prayer is often preferred.

In many reform temples, musical accompaniment such as organs and choirs are used. Further, a fifth prayer service, Ne'ilah "closing" , is recited only on Yom Kippur. The Jewish religion can be categorized into six major branches in America. They are the Reform, the Conservative, the Modern Orthodox, the Re-constructionist and the Ultra Orthodox or Haredim, which breaks into two separate groups called the Hasidim and the Mitnaggedim. Reform is the largest branch in America and is the most liberal. Between , immigrating Jews decided that Jewish law is a personal idea and not a requirement.

These changes were made in an attempt to keep Jewish people Jewish as there was no longer a pressure to remain Jewish once people assimilated to American culture. The Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and Re-constructionist function as denominations or different branches of the same religion.

The Haredim are a community based group and culturally connected. These are those who life in strict adherence to the Halacha. One of five major world religions, Christianity is a monotheistic religion made up of roughly 2 billion people, [34] and is considered one of the Abrahamic religions , which originally began as a movement from Judaism. Where Christianity and Judaism depart from one another is in the Christian belief that Jesus of Nazareth Christ or simply Jesus was divine and was literally the "Son of God.

Jesus mainly taught about God's love and mercy, but also taught about forgiveness, charity, and treating yourself well. Christians also believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and when He did, He allowed the Holy Spirit to "enter" into anyone who chose to believe in Him so that they may have eternal life with God in Heaven after their physical bodies die on earth. There are many branches of Christianity that are not the same.

Christians believe in one God and one God only, it is just how they express their love and grace for him. This ranges differently from the vast amount of Christian groups. He came not to destroy those laws Ten Commandments , but to fulfill those laws as stated in Matthew Therefore, fulfilling the law is Jesus Christ living out the laws perfectly, so that his followers will also be able to do the same.

Christians use the bible as a tool to communicate to God. The bible is where Christians get all of their wisdom on how to live their life for God. Another name for the bible is the "Word of God". Another way Christians practice their faith is by going to church. The church is somewhere Christians can go to worship and dive deeper into God's word. The church can also be a safe place for people to go if they are feeling any sort of pain. The main way Christians practice their faith and live for God is to show everyone God's love.

One way of connecting to God is though the ritual of holy communion where participants consume symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ. This is an example of unity of consciousness in which the consumption of the body bread and blood wine brings the participant and God closer together by letting God become one with them. Catholicism, made up of about 1. Catholics believe that people are good but corrupted by a sin nature and the only way to redeem people from that sin is divine grace from the sacraments.

However, unlike non-Catholic Christianity, some Catholic sects do not believe that salvation is obtained solely through accepting Jesus Christ as ones Savior, but believe that good works are required to obtain salvation and are a visible manifestation of faith in Christ. Catholic Churches are unified under the Pope in Rome. Under him are Cardinals, Arch bishops, Bishops, and Priests. Priests preside over individual churches also known as parishes. Although there is very important aspect of Christianity that believes in Free Will.

The term free will implies that although God rules all things, he wants humans to make their own choices, we can choose to sin or to turn away from sin. Unlike Non denominational Christians, Catholics are involved in using the Sacraments. The Vatican is located in the Vatican City, a sovereign country of which the Pope is the sovereign leader.

The history of the Catholic Church starts from apostolic times making it the worlds oldest and largest institution covering nearly 2, years. The Pope is recognized by Catholics of the world as the successor to Saint Peter who was an early leader of the Christian church and had a large part in writing the New Testament. Peter was the first official Bishop of Rome, making all of his successors superior to any other worldly Bishop.

He was elected April 19, , and took office April 24th Protestantism began in Europe during the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation , which began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church.