Synthesis Essay on Religion

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Introduction

Religion has been part of humanity and it has also played a role in uniting many societies. It has also evolved to the level where individuals, societies as well and nations use it to differentiate themselves from others. According to Atran & Norenzayan (Cited by Shariff & Norenzayan 2011:85), “the belief in supernatural agents has been a powerful force found throughout all cultures and across all of recorded human history.” As a result, throughout history, humans poured resources into elaborate religious buildings and rituals, with no obvious boost to survival and reproduction (Sciencemag, 2009:784).

Nevertheless, there are individuals or groups that detest religion and everything it stands such as philosophers Karl Marx, and Nietzsche. This individual saw religion as something that does not exist or as a man-made system to control them. For instance, Carl Max views it as a system that the poor use to comfort themselves. Similar to any issue in the world religion is shaped by economic changes and demands. This may as the result of seeing his father moving from Jewish religion to Christianity in order to keep his job as a lawyer (Latief, 2011:259).

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Religion can be defined as “Religion is the set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas, and practices that define the relations between human beings and sacred or divinity” Anon (2018:1). Religion can be traced back-traced to the ancient Near East or Western Asia and classified in three basic categories: polytheistic, pantheistic and monotheistic, in the 18th century. However, religious studies cannot agree on a common definition of its subject matter. As it is a broad research field.

Traditionally it is understood that Christianity is a religion, as they believe that all religions worship the same God (Adamson, 2019). And it has been like that for centuries. However, the difference is the approach. Therefore in this essay, I will be reviewing religion and Christianity, their similarities and differences. I will be going through the religious aspects of Christianity and its non-religious aspects. And draw a conclusion based on the findings on whether Christianity is a religion or not.

1. Religion

Religious beliefs are universal across cultures and time, and understanding the geneses and progression of religion is a question that has attracted noteworthy attention and question Pyysiaine & Haauser (2009:1). According to Zwemer (1945:13) the homo sapiens of the technologist, in any circumstance, appears on the scene already possessed of religious instinct and exercising religious rites. In addition, Penalver (1997:791) claims that “religion is a commonly used and widely understood term in our everyday language, not some obscure term of art in need of technical definition.”

Nath (2015:83) states that there are different theories about when and how religion came about. It is therefore clear that researchers cannot point as to when and where religion began, but its impact on humanity is very clear. It is said by Dunbar (Cited by Palermo 2015) that religious conviction may have sprung up from this need to keep everybody on the same page. However, Richardson (2014:1) states that “religion was not named until there appeared a number of traditions overlapping in the same empires.”

According to AAR (2019), Creed can be categorized into 3 systems: polytheistic, pantheistic, and monotheistic. Monotheism and polytheism are not older than the 17th century CE and have diverse rulings Assmanm (2004:17). polytheism meaning a belief in many gods, is believed to have started in Huiduism around 2500 BC. According to Anon (2018), the polytheistic gods customarily take human features and are famous by precise meanings. It can also be assumed that these gods can be the society’s heroes and heroines who lived before them and had a remarkable impact on the lives of that society.

Though others believe in many gods, there are individuals who are doubtful about God but rather believe more in nature and the universe. This religion is referred to as Pantheism. According to Harrison (201) at the heart of pantheism is reverence of the universe as the ultimate focus of reverence, for the natural earth is sacred. Pantheists perceive the universe as God or rather all is God. “Pantheism has been frequently discussed in philosophical, scientific, and environmentalist circles rather than in established, mainstream religious traditions” (Anon 2019)

Unlike polytheistic and pantheistic monotheistic religions basics are built on believing in one God. According to Assmann (2004:17), “monotheism asserts its identity by opposing itself to polytheism, whereas no polytheistic religion ever asserted itself in contradistinction to monotheism, for the simple reason that polytheism is always the older or “primary” and monotheism the newer or “secondary” type of religion.”

The word religion itself was derived from the Latin root Religare which means to bind fast (The People’s University 2006: 2). It is however now used to categorize peoples by their beliefs or their way of life based on the many definitions given by scholars. Martineau (Cited by Harrison 2006:133) defines religion as “the belief in an ever-living God.” This definition fits groups that believe in an eternal God and excludes the public who worship seen and perishing idols. It is tricky to define religion in terms of belief that has a specific kind of object, like God, it means that certain credence systems that are normally regarded as a religion, Theravada Buddhism for example would have to be classed as non-religious and entailment which strikes many as counter-intuitive (Harrison 2006:135).

Tyler (Cited by Van Niekerk 2018:3) outlines religion as a “belief in spiritual beings.” This definition also has some shortfalls, as it leaves other religious groups that believe in spirituality let alone beings. Harrison (2006:1) argues that there are practical reasons for favoring the previously popular view that essentialist definitions of “religions” are inadequate and that religions should be interpreted, instead, as possessing a number of “family resemblances”. Different religious groups have different practices and beliefs therefore, laying them in one definition has been impossible for most scholars. But they all must have one thing in common which remains the root of religion “Binding together”.

According to Durkheim (1986), '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 called a Church, all those who adhere to them.' Durkeim’s definition includes important aspects of religion such as faith, unity, sacred as well, and community.

Advantages and disadvantages of religion

Religion is one important aspect of humanity that brings people together. It plays a huge role in the well-being of individuals as well as society. According to Levy and Ranzin (2011:2), “religious beliefs and religious practice are clearly two important and possibly inseparable features of religious organizations and the link between them is yet to be fully understood.” Most religious organization tends to be an escape place for community member; they are mostly established with the aim of serving the community. “A core belief of each of the world’s religious traditions is that of concern for others less fortunate and the deliberate turning of attention away from ourselves and toward others who are in need” (Idler, 2008:3).

Religion organizations promote goodwill within the community, it encourages their affiliates to be good to each other but also to those who do not belong to their organizations. Tejvan (2018) that religious ethics such as the Golden Rule do provide a basis for boosting better human conduct. These rules work because the followers believe that there are certain benefits attached to following the rules word for word. Religious establishments play a dynamic role in modeling beliefs; many put in the time and hard work in endorsing certain kinds of messages while editing others (Levy & Razin, 2011:3). Organizations wear the culture of the place it’s established in order to make rules that relate to their ways of leaving and make it better.

Religious practices give hope to individuals as well as well as the community. Life can be very hard and sad but it is through the encouragement and faith that religious people have in divinity that will help them to look forward to tomorrow. Barber (2012) states that it is called the security blanket concept where supernatural belief systems provide peace of mind and help believers to cope with the more stressful events in their lives. Faith has been a source of encouragement and through it, many avoided things such as depression, suicide, and related diseases as it provides a sense of emotional security.

However, religion does not only have a positive side. As much as the word religion means to bind together, it also separates. Many religious groups fight as to which religious doctrines are correct and also fight over power to dominate the world. Today many nations do not see eye to eye because of religion. As far as religion is concerned it brings together only people believing in the same deities. Hungtington ( 1993: ) in The Clash of Civilisation argues that differences between religious originations will only result in clashes as each wants to dominate. For instance, Huntington (Cited by Cline, 2019) “Muslims do not easily assimilate to host cultures when new rulers arrive, nor do non-Muslims easily assimilate to a culture under Islamic control”

Religion also uses pastors, priests, and prophets to scare individuals into compliance. Many people who are religious do not have the freedom to do things, because whatever move they make they are always conscious not to break the law or displease their gods or God. According to Anon (2018), “rules do not match with feelings.” Fornication for example. “Religion discourages free inquiry and restricts freedom of thought, by encouraging the idea that fundamental answers can only be found in a fixed and specific book or belief system” (Goodman, 2019).

Furthermore, Tarico (2014) argues that religion promotes helplessness as most believers believe in gods or God who solves their problems. For example, a religious person will not take medication for cancer, HIV & AIDS and many other diseases as their help will come from the supernatural. Religious practices are harmful to society, it lead to very slow human progress. According to Goodman (2019), religion excuses people from taking accountability, because they can say that Supernatural being told them to do it.

Reference

    1. Adamson, M. 2019. Connecting to the divine. https://www.everystudent.com/features/connecting.html Date of access: 6 Sep.2019
    2. All About Religion. 2019. Origin of religion. https://www.allaboutreligion.org/origin-of-religion.htm Date of access: 18 Sep 2019.
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    4. Anon. 2018. Advantages and disadvantages of religion. https://www.scribd.com/document/369567574/ADVANTAGES-AND-DISADVANTAGES-OF-RELIGION-docx Date of access: 19 Sep. 2019.
    5. Anon. 2018. Polytheism. https://www.polytheism.net/ Date of access: 17 Sp. 2019.
    6. Anon. 2019. Pantheism. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pantheism Date of access: 17 Sep 2019
    7. Assmann, J. 2004. Monotheism and Polytheism. Religion of the ancient world. 17-31. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/45268676.pdf Date of access. 17 Sep. 2019
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    12. Harrison, P. 2018. Pantheism Scientific Pantheism: Reverence of Nature and Cosmos. https://www.pantheism.net/paul/ date of access: 17 Sep. 2019.
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    14. Hungtington, S.P. 1993. The Clash of Civilisations.
    15. Idler, E. 2008. The Psychological and Physical benefits of spiritual/religious practices. Spirituality in Higher Education Newsletter. 4(2): https://spirituality.ucla.edu/docs/newsletters/4/Idler_Final.pdf Date of access: 19 Sep 2019.
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    17. Nath, S. 2015. Religion and its role in society. Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 20(11):82-85.
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