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I.

Experiencing the Worlds Religions - Molloy


Chapter 1 Understanding Religion
Interesting Points
a. Religion serves to join the tangible world to the sacred world.
b. Frazer said: Religion originates from people trying to influence nature
inbetween magic and science.
c. Freud said: The more secure people are inside, the less they need
religion.
d. James said: Religion is a psychological medicine that greatly
improves peoples lives by helping them cope+making them feel
better.
e. Otto said: Religion is compelled by that which is frightening, yet
intriguing. Big scary thunderstorms strike awe in us and make us
wonder about religious topics.
f. Jung said: Religions exist to fulfill us on a personal level. Its how we
cope with the depth of reality.
g. Marx said: We use religion to cure our unease+promise something
better to come. In a society with less suffering, there will be no need
for these fantasies.
h. Although women were once powerful religious symbols goddesses,
high priestesses, etc. , men may have risen to this position because
their physical prowess and ability to fight turned them into leaders.
This theory explains why many God figures are male and why there
are few female clergy members.
i. Just 200 years ago, a need for study of non-Western religions emerged
due to scientific progression, the study of history, and the mix of
cultures. These three things challenged religious beliefs, so scholars
began to search for outside validation.
j. Not until recently have we thought that religions got their origins in
large groups rather than in 1 singular founder (Moses invented
Judaism, Mohammed invented Islam, etc.)

II.

Experiencing the Worlds Religions - Molloy


Chapter 1 Understanding Religion
Vocabulary
a. To define religion limits it by establishing rules. Instead of a set-instone definition, religion can be defined with these 8 elements:
i. Belief system
ii. Community sharing that system
iii. Central myths that express the beliefs
iv. Rituals in which beliefs are enacted+made real
v. Ethics / Rules about human behavior
vi. Shared emotional experience: Guilt, devotion, rebirth, inner
peace, etc.
vii. Physical elements like statues, songs, paintings, architecture,
clothing, etc.
viii. A difference between the sacred and the ordinary, which can be
expressed by using a holy language or wearing special clothing.
b. What is God?
i. Omnipotent (all-knowing)
ii. Transcendent (unable to describe)
iii. A Cosmic Person, which is compassionate and humane. This
characteristic comes with naming the being God.
iv. Sometimes immanent, meaning it is not a Cosmic Person but
instead can be found all around us. It is a mysterious
power/energy.
c. Pantheism: God exists in all our surroundings.
d. Polytheism: Many gods, or, 1 god with many forms.
e. Atheism: There is no God.
f. Agnosticism: The existence of God cannot be proven.
g. Nontheism: No position taken on the existence of God.
i. e, f, and g are not modern ideas; they have existed before.
ii. One of these 3 may still have faith-based parts, and therefore be
called a religion.
h. Individuation: An individuals need to reach personal fulfillment, as
described by Jung. Ones need to find their centre.
i. Animism: All elements of nature are filled with spirit(s).
j. Dualism: The natural world is in direct opposition with the sacred
world. This belief is held by some Christians, Jains, and Hindus.
k. Structuralism: Structures in the human mind form similarities in
language, sociality, religion, taboos, marriage, etc. , according to LeviStrauss.

Experiencing the Worlds Religions - Molloy


Chapter 1 Understanding Religion
l. Post-Structuralism: Counter to k. Grand structures may ignore the
individuality of each religious experience, according to Foucault.
m. Deconstruction: All-new ways to interpret sacred texts should be used
in order to reveal underlying attitudes and cultural aspects, according
to Derrida.
n. Thick Description: Favoured by Geerts, a style of describing ritual
objects that includes what they mean to those practicing the ritual.

III.

Experiencing the Worlds Religions - Molloy


Chapter 1 Understanding Religion
Key Concepts
a. Religions often include scripture, divine beings, moral codes and
commandments. See the 8 elements of religion in letter a of the vocab
section.
b. Religions share all kinds of symbols and symbolic speech, such as
water or fire, or rebirth or savior.
c. Scholars once debated evolutionary stages of religion, but nowadays
scholars think that way of looking at religions growth makes one
religion seem more advanced than another; for example,
animism>polytheism>monotheism. Monotheism is the final stage, so
its biased as if Monotheism is the most advanced.
d. The Universe
i. As planned by God: religions with this belief tend to make the
Creator seem more sacred, and think it is humankinds job to
perfect the world theyve been given.
ii. Eternal: The universe is sacred and immortal, and the world is
already perfect.
e. Sacred Reality
i. Can be thought of as transcendent or immanent, personal
(compassionate) or impersonal (not like a person), existing or
nonexistent.
f. Nature
i. Dualism: Some Christianity, Jains, Hindus
ii. It is sacred and no change is needed: Daoism, Shinto
iii. The world was divinely made and people are here to shape it:
Judaism, Islam
g. Time
i. Religions that see the universe as being created and finite
(Christianity, Islam, Judaism) see time as important, linear, not
repeatable, and limited.
ii. To some, like Buddhism, time is a big cycle and the present is
most important.
h. Humans
i. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have a moral code based on the
important of human actions.

Experiencing the Worlds Religions - Molloy


Chapter 1 Understanding Religion
ii. Daoism, Shinto, and Confucianism place less emphasis on
individual rights and instead focus on achieving harmony with
ones surroundings, ie society and family.
i. Inclusive/Exclusive
i. Inclusive allows more than one religion; the rules and attitudes
towards deities are looser. Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism
ii. Exclusive allows only one religion. Certain types of people,
places, or foods are avoided. Christianity, Judaism, Islam
j. Focus of Beliefs
i. Sacramental (ritual focus), Prophetic (contact with the sacred,
achieved by piety), Mystical (creating a union with the bigger
reality)