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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER 13 Spirituality, Religion and the Supernatural As self-conscious ad self-reflecting beings, humans face challenges beyond biological survival; they face mental ones born of the need to make meaningful sense of their existence. Among other concerns, they wrestle with questions about human origin and destiny. Most cultures have origin-of-life stories that s, are passed on from one generation to the next, helping to define the individual and the groups place in the world. For example, the Jains, a Hindu sect in India, believe that all life springs from a cosmic being that has existed since the beginning of time. Religion forms part of a cultural systems superstructure, which comprises a societys worldview. It is an organized system of ideas about spiritual reality, or the supernatural, along with associated beliefs and ceremonial practices. Religion (as well as less formalized spiritual beliefs and practices) guides humans in their attempts to give meaning to the world and their place in it and to deal with problems that defy ordinary explanation or solution through direct means. To overcome these challenges, people appeal to, or seek to influence and even manipulate, spiritual or supernatural being and powers. Religion consists of various beliefs and ritualsprayers, songs, dances, offerings, and sacrificesthat people use to interpret, appeal to, and manipulate supernatural beings and powers to their advantage. These beings and powers may consist of gods and goddesses, ancestral and other spirits, or impersonal powers, either by themselves or in various combinations. In all societies certain individuals are especially skilled at dealing with these beings and powers and assist other members of society in their ritual activities. A body of myths rationalizes or explains the system in a manner consistent with peoples experience in the world in which they live. Whether or not a particular religion accomplishes what people believe it does, all religions serve a number of important psychological and social functions. They reduce anxiety by explaining the unknown and provide comfort with the belief that supernatural aid is available in times of crisis. They provide notions of right and wrong, setting precedents for acceptable behavior and transferring the burden of decision making from individuals to supernatural powers. Through ritual, religion may be used to enhance the 1 learning of oral traditions. Finally, religion plays an important role in maintaining social solidarity....
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