IntroductiontoReligion

IntroductiontoReligion - The Worlds Religions: Basic...

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1 The World’s Religions: Basic Beliefs and Their Expression in Life Lecture Notes with Anthology By Dr. Owen Anderson
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2 C hapter 1 Introduction: The Study of Religion This is a course about the world’s religions, focusing on their expressions in the modern world. Because it is a survey we will be studying the religions that cover the largest areas of geography and extend deepest into time. We will especially be interested in studying the challenges facing religious belief in the contemporary world. In the past 100 years the world has emerged into an age of communication that allows persons from all parts of the globe to be connected. This has produced a situation in which people are searching for a common basis for life together. The great religious traditions of the world each put themselves forward as the solution to the need for a common foundation. However, the Western world has been attempting to avoid religious wars and divisions by agreeing to keep religion private and out of the public sphere. This solution to religious divisions dates back around 450 years to the Peace of Westphalia (1648) which ended the Wars of Religion in Europe. Rather than providing a method for coming to agreement in religious matters, this solution simply said that each locality would be governed by the religion of the leader with some protections for other religions, and therefore established the precedent that interaction between states would not be on the basis of any of these religions (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist). This is sometimes called secularism from the Latin word for this age because it is a focus on worldly affairs with little concern for what happens in the next life. In a similar way, China went through a warring states period, and has its own solution to the problem of divisions. So, as the
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3 world emerges into a time of almost universal communication there are serious questions about how we will live together and what will serve as the basis for our common life. Before proceeding further we will need to define religion. Due to the tradition of secularism mentioned above, it has become common in some circles to define religion as a private matter that deals with the supernatural. This restricts religion from public debate and too narrowly defines it. Indeed, once we begin to consider the role that religion plays in the lives of its adherents we see that secularism itself is based on religious attitudes, as is the naturalism behind much “scientific” interpretation. What do systems as diverse as animism and the naturalism of Richard Dawkins share in common? We can begin the process by giving a definition of religion that distinguishes it from non-religion. This definition must be inclusive and exclusive—it must not too narrowly define religion in terms such as “groups that belief in God,” and not so widely define religion as to include everything (although when religion becomes shared basic beliefs and thus a culture it does affect everything). Definition:
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This note was uploaded on 02/22/2011 for the course REL 100 taught by Professor Woodword during the Fall '08 term at ASU.

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IntroductiontoReligion - The Worlds Religions: Basic...

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