Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Two Kinds of Religious Texts

When studying religion, either on your own or in university, it is helpful to recognize that there are, almost always, two types of literature associated with a religion, that is, if the religion has a written tradition.

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detail of unnamed sacred Hindu texts from collection of prof Klaus Klostermaier

The two types of religious texts are 1) sacred scripture, and 2) non-sacred, but cherished, traditional writings and commentaries.

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Filed under Religious Literacy, Revelation, Ways to Learn the World Religions

Religious Cult : No Such Thing

One of the best things you can do for yourself as an honest student of religion is to throw away the common concept of a ‘religious cult’.

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The porch of caryatids at the Erechtheum in Athens, the civic cult of Athena.

 

The student who has accepted my notion of  Modern Religion and has discarded the concept of religious cult (or ‘secte’ in French) as a rogue religion, will be able to explore these religions, whether or not these religions function within accepted laws or cultural norms and regardless of their modern expression, denomination, or relationship to the state.

The ‘cult of a god’ is a term that goes to the heart of all religion, both the living traditions and those that are extinct.

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Modern Religion

To help you remember the many and diverse religions of the world, my seven categories of all religions past and present offer you assistance and support.

takayamaMahakariShrine

The Mahikari-no-Waza Temple at Takayama, Japan.

 

Modern Religion – the last of my categories – allows you to easily isolate the more recent religions from their ancient inspiration. A modern religion is any and all religion that has a founder or foundation after the beginning of the nineteenth century. Modern religion contains at least one, but most often several, of the following: Continue reading

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Filed under Easy Categories, Origins, Religious Literacy, Ways to Learn the World Religions

The Term ‘Abrahamic’

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image above: detail of Abraham and Isaac on the way to the Place of Sacrifice Marc Chagall, 1931

It is endlessly troublesome to create helpful categories for the myriad religions of the world.

The centuries of hostility between the so-called Abrahamic religions originate from their competitive claims to the Hebrew prophetic tradition and from their mutually exclusive claims to the revelations attributed to Abraham and the canon of Israelite prophets. I’m not sure why this category title ever felt right to anyone, religious or otherwise. Continue reading

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Oh, I’ve Heard About Your Religion

My religion told me about your religion!  The student of religion is very often discouraged and deterred by the discovery that all religion spends so much time and effort commenting upon, and criticizing the religions of others.

mamertinum

For the good Muslim, it is God who speaks in the Qur’an; it is God who writes the poetry of the Qur’an, and in this poem God mentions the Jewish people and the Christians by name. To be more precise, God devotes more than twenty per cent of the Qur’an to talking about Judaism, Christianity and other religions.

God discusses the failings, or otherwise, of the Sabeans, possibly the Mandaeans, and of numerous ancient religions of various Arabic tribes.

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Recipe for Happiness

Most all religions have at one time or another described themselves as a path to truth and a recipe for happiness. As these recipes are believed to come from a spokesperson for the divine, it’s fair to say that some part of religion consists of a ‘how to’ set of instructions, like a recipe, revealed, as it were, from the Divine Chef.

mudra02

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Magic Talk in the Classroom

The terminology we choose in our study of religion can block us from looking closely into the various topics we are hoping to investigate. Uncritical and wonted use of words like ‘magic’,  ‘superstition’ and ‘pagan’ consistently send us off in the wrong direction.

PfisterBible

The most familiar of these words is the term ‘spiritual’. We sometimes use the term spiritual as synonymous with ‘religious’ and at other times to indicate ‘ethereal’ or ‘non-material’ and at other times to indicate ‘mind and emotion’. Often we wander through these various meanings without taking much care. Continue reading

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Too Timid for the Job

Both the public inquiry into religion and the university classes devoted to an introduction to World Religions, are by now battered and obstructed by our traditionally apologetic and timid approach.

lateRomanOne source of this traditionally shy approach is religion’s own natural immunity to inquiry, and the over-protective public relations department found in all of our living religious traditions. Continue reading

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