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Why Study Religion Essay

PHL230 Religions of the World I think that it is important to study world religions because it can help people to become more tolerant of other’s beliefs and more compassionate to other people’s causes. With so much war and misunderstanding in the world based on religious viewpoints, it is important to take the time to find out where and why people believe the way that they do. While I find that most people in the world follow a religion based on their geographical location, this is not the case in the United States.

Because the US is a country where people from all over the world can come to live it is a place where many different religions are practiced. It is important, especially for people in this country, to study world religions in order to know how to relate to others who live here. Religion has an influence on many aspects of life from politics, education, and the arts. It is important that we study all religions so we get a better understanding of how and why it influences these things. I think the greatest reason to study world religions is for appreciation.

I think that studying these religions I have gained a better understanding of people in other areas of the world. I also find that I see many similarities, as well as some differences, in religious ideas and rituals. I think that how we started our studies in this class, with indigenous religions we learned the basics of beliefs and where they originated. I think that because the essence of animism’s “everything is alive” theory we start to see how people first connected with God and nature.

I think that most religions believe that God, or whatever they call him in that religion, is everywhere, that His hand was in the creation of all living things and that there is a purpose for everything. I also find it interesting that although most indigenous people never came into contact with anyone else, and lived in different regions of the world, many of the beliefs are similar. I understand more now how indigenous people could believe that violent weather can be perceived as a wrath from a god because of mistreatment of nature.

I think that this is something that can be thought of in today’s world because of global warming. We have mistreated the land for so long and it seems to be taking revenge on us with various weather patterns. Even though in today’s world we see this as just an environmental thing, indigenous religions would see it as a god’s wrath because of the poor treatment of the land. I enjoyed learning about Hinduism and the aspects of karma and samsara I found to be the most interesting parts of the Hindu faith. I think because of the Hindu belief in these things they work towards living a more moral and respectful existence.

Karma is the notion of moral consequences that are carried along with every act. (Molloy 87) Samsara is the wheel of life. It is a circle of constant rebirth, suggesting that the world is full of change. (Molloy 87) Because the Hindu believes that the things they do in life have consequences in their reincarnation it makes them try to live better so that their next life may be in a higher position. I find it interesting that in this religion what happens to the person in their next life is up to that individual himself, and it is up to that person to find their own path to their enlightenment.

Hinduism is said to be a religion of one truth and may paths. This is something I also found to be different because in my religion of Christianity what happens to you after death is based only upon your belief in Jesus being your savior. The other religion I feel I became more knowledgeable about because of the studies in this class is Buddhism. I had no previous knowledge about this religion other than it existed. The most important concept I feel that I learned from Buddhism is part of the three marks of reality. These are made up of, change, no permanent identity and suffering.

In no permanent identity each person and each thing is changing and made up of parts that are also constantly changing. It means that people have no permanent soul or no self. (Molloy133). In suffering it is the fact of life that when life is lived conventionally it can never be fully satisfying because of change. (Molloy pg 134) The mark of reality I found the most interesting is change. The concept of change in Buddhism has us look at life as it really is. Things change gradually and we notice the changes over time. We don’t expect change but nothing ever remains the same. Molloy132) When I learned this I looked over my life and have to admit, that much has changed over time. No matter how we try and keep things the same it is impossible. Children grow up, our body ages, our relationships change. Even things in the world things are constantly changing, landscapes change naturally from things like the tide or erosion, and seasons come and go. In Buddhism the belief is that we are responsible for accepting this and not trying to change the outside world but we need to change ourselves and the way we experience the world. Molloy 134) In studying the world religions I learned that there are similarities; they all seem to have a similar moral code. The basic concept of all religions is to treat everyone with kindness. Ahimsa, “do no harm”, is a fundamental practice found in religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. This is similar to the “do unto others” concept in Christianity. People should be kind to people as they want people to treat them kindly. I feel that prayer or meditation relate in a way to each other in different religions.

Meditation in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are a way people can achieve inner peace and improve themselves as human beings. I find that prayer also can bring peace to a person. Prayer in religions like Christianity and Judaism is the way people speak and become closer to God. So in both prayer and meditation people improve themselves and achieve an inner peace. One difference that I learned in the course would be the concepts of time as they relate to religions. Religions such as animism, Hinduism and Buddhism have a cyclical view of time. This means there is no beginning or end but everything goes in a cycle.

In Hinduism this is seen in the concept of samsara you are born, live, and are reincarnated so time is always going in a circle of life. In a religion like Christianity there is a beginning and an end to time. The belief is that one day Jesus will return and then the end of the world where non believers will be sent to hell and the believers will ascend to heaven will happen. Another difference I learned about is in the amount of gods there are or the lack of any god in some religions. In Christianity, Judaism and Islam there is one God and God alone is worshipped.

In a religion like Hinduism there are several deities that are worshipped. In Hinduism there is the Brahma, god of the universe, creation. Vishnu is the god of preservation in the universe. Shiva is the god associated to destruction. There are also several other gods in Hinduism like Devi, Durga, Kali, Krishna, and Vishnu. A religion like Daoism has no definite god only a belief of the Dao which is nameless and everything is a manifestation of the Dao. (Molloy 221) I would say that by studying world religions I did come away with many things I had not thought of or knew of before.

I think it was beneficial for me because it gave me a better understanding of how people in different regions of the world think. Religion has an effect on many aspects of a person’s thinking. I think because of this, myself being a psychology major, the study of world religions has been very beneficial for me. I will know how to better relate to people of other cultures and schools of thought better because of my study. Works Cited Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World’s Religions, Tradition, Challenge, and Change 5th Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2010.

Whether you consider yourself a religious person or not, or whether you think religion has played a positive or negative role in history, it is an incontrovertible fact that from the beginning of time, humans have engaged in activities that we now call religion, such as worship, prayer, and rituals marking important life passages. Moreover, religions have always asked fundamental questions, such as: What is the true meaning of life? What happens to us after death? How do we explain human suffering and injustices?

Human Understanding

The answers different religious traditions give to these important questions are many and varied and often contradictory. But the questions themselves are ones with which humans throughout time have grappled, and probably will continue to grapple with into the indefinite future. Thus, one of the first reasons to study religion is simply to deepen our understanding of others and ourselves.

Cultural Influence

We also study religion in order to learn more about how different aspects of human life—politics, science, literature, art, law, economics—have been and continue to be shaped by changing religious notions of, for example, good and evil, images of the deity and the divine, salvation and punishment, etc. By studying different religious doctrines, rituals, stories, and scriptures, we can also come to understand how different communities of believers—past and present, East and West—have used their religious traditions to shape, sustain, transform themselves.

Global Insight

More than ever before, the world we live in is both multicultural and global. We no longer need to travel across the ocean to visit a Hindu temple or an Islamic mosque or to meet a Sikh or a Jain. The chances are that you can find a temple or mosque within a few miles of where you live, and it is almost certain that you will be meet someone from any and all of these religious traditions on campus or on the street. This makes it even more essential that we cultivate our ability to understand and interpret other people’s religious traditions.

Interdisciplinary Learning

Finally, the academic study of religion is inherently multidisciplinary. This is reflected in our program here at Washington University, which draws faculty from different disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, such as history, anthropology, literature, art history, and political science. Studying religion thus provides you an opportunity to learn about a range of disciplinary approaches, and, even more importantly, the connections and linkages among them. In this way studying religion invites us all to think in a more interdisciplinary and integral way about the world and our place in it.

Broad Opportunity

So, what can you do with a major or minor in Religious Studies? The study of religion helps you to learn how to think critically, listen empathetically, speak thoughtfully, and write clearly—all skills that will be of great use no matter what you go on to do in life. It will also help you to better live and work in our increasingly diverse society and global world. Students of religion go on to careers in a wide variety of fields including teaching, medicine, social service, law, journalism, international business, diplomacy, and, of course, religious professions of various kinds.

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