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"Why We Study Religion"
It seems as if there has never been a time known to man when there has never been a religion in some shape or form. Nor has there been a race of people who have never tried to practice it in some form or another. The study of religion should not be regarded as a new venture for mankind or a new idea that man is trying to grasp and understand. Also, it could be argued that by researching such a phenomenon as religion, it does not look like man will come to any unified agreement in the near future. Especially, if it all comes down to what religion means to you, and whether you believe in such a thing or not.
So what is religion? ; Can it be a way of life? ; Does there have to be an element of the supernatural? ; and What are the consequences if we ignore it? Clifford Geertz sees religion as, ‘a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, persuasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.' One has to keep the definition of religion fairly loose in order to encompass the many diverse religions of the world. If we familiarize ourselves with the essence of many of the world's religions then we would find they contain simple comparisons such as rituals, morality, and heritage.
The study of religion should involve in-depth knowledge into a collection of facts about the world's religions and about how these religions have evolved throughout history. It is quite possible that there has never been any race of people since the beginning of man on earth that can claim that they have no religion. The study of religion should not just involve the study of a few insignificant groups of people but it should necessitate the study of the whole of mankind. This could be regarded as a powerful if not intriguing subject. Studying religion may be understood as just a collection of ideas or concepts which relate to God or some other kind of supernatural entity. Sometimes it merely comes down to one group of people arguing that their source of revelation is more correct than that of some other group which has competing claims. Surely it must be something much deeper than this because it is something far closer to home than we think. Therefore, to study religion is to study us because religion cannot exist without the emergence of man. Religion arouses man's feelings, affects how he thinks and the way he behaves in certain conditions, either individually or in a group, and also what affects these issues have upon each other.
Science uses the criteria of ‘fact' and ‘theory' in its study methods, which in collaboration with real life applications can yield very positive results. Every religion has some similar criteria, and that is ‘truth' and ‘falsehood,' but this formula is quite interchangeable as regards to the study of religions. So one cannot have one large blueprint to understand all of the world's religions but rather a template needed for each religion. Only then may we proceed to study and judge a particular religion's ‘truth' and ‘falsehood' by its own merits.
So one could study a religion like a behavioral science like psychology where people's theories can be analyzed in an environment of intellectual academic skill. One could also study religion for personal reasons or one could study it for the purposes of deepening one's faith, beliefs, or whatever commitments one already possesses. That way at the end of one's studies one can either confirm one's preconceived notions or strengthen their belief in whichever specific religion or realize that there may be more greater ‘truths' than what had originally been thought established.
One has to be careful because there may be times when one could get into difficulties by letting one's subjective thoughts affect their impartiality, especially, when judging the ‘truth' and ‘falsehood' of any specific religion. One has to be objective at all times otherwise we run the risk of being confused and inevitably end up being lost.
This could be viewed as the reality of religion, in this way everyone can have access
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Spirituality, Culture, Religion, Religious studies, Belief, God Is Not Great, Theories about religions, Ninian Smart
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