Religion means to have faith in the supernatural powers, the worship of any supernatural being, or the belief that involves the ritual and devotional observances. It also refers to having some moral codes which govern the human beings’ behaviors. The features that comprise a religion are symbolism, practices, beliefs, and story that give sense to life experiences (Moss, 98). Whether it is based on holiness or the ultimate truth, religion is generally identified by meditation, musical activities, ritual practices and prayers. It can be linked to given metaphysical, ethical responsibilities as well as supernatural arguments on the realism such as the human nature and the world that may submit to some sets of moral codes, religious regulation for a fastidious way of living.
Religion involves some cultural practices or ancestral traditions, personal faith, mythology, religious experiences, writings and history. Religious values are typically linked to some subsistence, nature and the reverence that involves heavenly being or divinities and their relationship with the entire human life and the general universe.
Case study: Shinto Religion
Shinto refers to a traditional religion in Japan. The Japanese practice Buddhism but it had not arrived until 650 AD. Shinto, therefore was their main religion. Buddhism is highly responsible for the deaths as well as funerals because there is a high regard for life after death. Shinto on the other hand viewed the dead bodies as polluting and were not suitable for the priesthood to deal with. Some of the affirmations of Shinto include the following:
- Honouring of the tradition and family
- Loving what nature has provided plays a very crucial role in the society. A good number of shrines are erected in groves at the edge of the village.
- Honouring of the festivals and ceremonies is held with high esteem. Festivals known as masturi are some of the occasions that are accompanied by lots of energetic activities
Religious beliefs can also be linked to practices and values passed on by spiritual leaders. They are also likely to entail activities as well as practices that are believed to bring about conscientiousness or total devotion. These are some of the ethics that are not necessarily constrained to structured religion. Religion provides identity, structure and meaning with cultural systems.
Myths and religion
Myth and religion differ, but they have related aspects. Both words define the systems of perceptions that are greatly valued by members of a particular community concerning the sacred or supernatural. To sum it up, mythology is seen as an facet or component of religion. The only distinction is that religion is a much broader phrase that entails issues like mystical religion, theology and morality. This particular mythology is usually linked with early Greek religion. Myth is usually a traditional tale of apparent past events that function to disclose how people view the world or explain a belief, practice or natural happening.
In regard to religion, a myth is anything heroic or religious legends that explain the meaning of religion and religious beliefs and practices. A myth refers to a consecrated account that tries to explain how humankind together with the universe came into being. In the context of religion, myths can be described as stories whose main characters are paranormal beings or gods. Religious tales are therefore myths. For instance, the stories of the Bible can be termed a mythology with no inference that the book is not historical or false. However, the term myth can lead to a misunderstanding and upset people who treasure these myths. This is so since the term myth is commonly used to imply falsehood and so individuals who embrace this view might that people who refer to a scripture as a mythology are implying that the scripture is false (Lang, p. 150).
The myths of different religions, both contemporary as well as ancient have common general elements. Common similarities among religious mythologies are that numerous religions believe that there is an initial paradise prior to usual past times. Several religions entail the narrative about a god who usually undergoes death and renaissance or resurrection. Several mythologies pay emphasis on explaining the natural phenomenon, universe and matters of human existence and usually ascribe the action to several deities or supernatural forces. Moreover, numerous religions do not have this type of story about cosmic elucidation. For example, the Buddhist fable of the arrow is against speculations such as whether the world is endless or not, or if people have another life after death and views them as immaterial to the aim of evading suffering.
Most religions have traditional sacred narratives that are thought to convey profound truth. A number of religious practitioners as well as organizations have it that the traditional tales are real and sacred. They are also historically viable. They are associated with a divine revelation and references to such kinds of stories as myths are seen as a sign of disrespect of the unique status. However, other religious practitioners and groups do not have problems with classifying their holy tales as myths. Some religious followers feel offended when what they believe as historical features of their beliefs are displayed as myths. Some people have assumptions those religious followers who contest against the word myth are literalists and they overlook the wide range of non-literal implications like allegory or hyperbole that the scripture contains. This form of supposition is mainly groundless even though a number of fundamentalists have it that every single story found in the scripture needs to be fully accepted as a true fact (Tylus, p. 115).
Holiness and sanctity
The term holy can be defined as derived from, associated with or belonging to a divine power. Sacredness or sanctity refers to a state of being holy. To be sacred is termed as assign of total devotion or high level of respect in a given spiritual idea (Barton, p. 209).
To some contexts, certain objects are regularly considered sacred or holy when used for religious reasons, for instance in the service of the supernatural being like gods. In normal circumstances, power is understood by religious people as the ability to transform the destinies and lives of a given group of people. Certain practices display people’s holiness or sanctity which provides order and identity. For example, according to Christianity, Israelites were holy since they remained within God’s covenantal array without mingling with other people, their ways and their gods. Their isolation was reinforced by dietetic restrictions like prohibition against consuming pork on the belief that pigs are dirty or unholy since their physical characters were abnormal in accordance with how ancient Israelites classified animals. They believed that animals with cleft hooves and are non-ruminant should not be eaten by holy people. Religion is seen as a human experience with an irreducible holy like a god. This understanding is collectively identifiable. It is a form of orientation I its own way (Fieser & John, pp. 121-8).
Sacred time and space
In regard to religion, sacred space mainly focuses on setting the table with food. To the Christians, the sacred point is usually the altar. This is a point where the Christian faithful take the sacred meals referred to as the body of Christ. In other churches, altars are placed by the pulpit and this is a point where Christians are supposed to be nourished. In Hindu sanctuary, the faithful are separated from their deities by use of a rail which is used in offering food to the gods. Sacred space is usually a location where the human and divine communicate usually on issues of providence (Bell, p. 185).
Domestic dining spaces can also have an implication of religion. The home of both Hindus and Buddhists has shrines that act as minuscule temples for the gods that are worshipped and on a daily basis Chinese kitchens possess shrines that are used for storing goods. Sacred time also displays some form of religious practices. In a number of religions, time, in most cases is marked by periods of fasting as well as eating. Fasting during Ramadan by Islamists acts is a way of strengthening the religious bond with Allah. The cycle of eating and abstaining from meals marks holy times where people’s relationship to food displays one’s relation to holiness through balancing the disciplined averting of carnal enjoyments and involvement in Allah’s reward (James, pp. 78-9).
Myth, ritual and religion
Eating at holy times and in sacred places is a main model of religious activity. Ritual brings together with the sacred as people engage in patterned procedures that match those of ancestors and gods. In Christian faith, honoring the Passover meal joins the current Christians with the ancient Israelites. This is done through eating the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread and the sacrificial lamb. Through commemoration of the last supper by repetition of the exact words of Christ, the Christian believers are able to reconstruct the sacred time of their lord together with the followers. The practice that involves eating the body of Christ is a sign of forgiveness of the sins. The holy sanctity is usually narrated in sacred myths as well as stories. Through these practices the believers view the myth stories are perfectly true as they believe that gods did the same thing (Lyden, p. 200).
Examining practices and religion helps people to have a clear understanding of how religions play a role in culture and how religious experiences and practices are powerful for religious believers. Religious myths give stories that elucidate the meaning of religion and religious practices and beliefs. Having a clear understanding of religion helps people to gain knowledge of their origin and destiny.
- Barton, Stephen. Holiness: past and. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. 2003
- Bell, Catherine. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009
- Fieser and John. Powers: “Scriptures of the World’s Religions”. McGraw Hill, 2002.
- James C. Livingston. Anatomy of the Sacred James. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002.
- Lang, Andrew. Myth, Ritual and Religion. Chicago: Kessinger Publisher. 2010.
- Lyden, John. Film as religion: myths, morals, and rituals. New York: New York University Press. 2003.
- Moss, Bernard. Religion and Spirituality. New York: Russell House Publishing Limited. 2005.