What is religion? A substantial definition distinguishes religion from other social practices by identifying a key characteristic, such as belief in the supernatural. This definition is widely applicable to different cultures, but is often too narrow and ambiguous. We will consider Animism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In this article, we’ll consider the characteristics of each of these beliefs and their relationship to other social practices. What is religion and why is it important to humans?
Animism is a belief system that all objects, places, and creatures have a spiritual essence. All things are considered alive and animated by animism. Animism advocates a spiritual connection between humans and nature. The religion emphasizes the importance of human spirituality, and its followers believe that all beings have a purpose and can teach us valuable lessons. This belief is held by millions of people around the world.
As the Christian tradition developed, its focus narrowed to Jesus Christ and salvation, rather than defining the nature of man. Hence, saving a person who is not saved is not its purpose. Christianity also sought to identify and explain the nature of human nature, with some definitions referring to the “original sin,” a condition all humans inherited from Adam and Eve, making it impossible to please God and be perfect. Hence, it became important to identify the essence of Christianity in order to understand its purpose.
In Buddhist philosophy, the concept of the non-self, or anatman, is a fundamental principle. This doctrine claims that a person has no unchanging self or soul, but instead, that we are composed of a series of interrelated aggregates: form, sensation, perception, and consciousness. Buddhism states that a person is not an independent being, and all phenomena arise in dependence on causes, and are subject to decay. Buddhists also believe that our minds are constantly changing, and we will eventually die, and that we will continue to be reborn again.
Hinduism is a religion centered around the idea that all existence is interconnected. The belief system is both a monotheistic and a polytheistic religion, varying in its focus on the individual and the universe. Hinduism evolved from Vedism, which focuses on the unknowable Truth. It begins with the observable world and evolves from there to consider the underlying Truth. Here are a few of the important points of Hinduism.
The religion of Islam is based on a belief that man has a spiritual and material purpose. It also prohibits many things that are detrimental to one’s life. Pork, alcohol, and mind-altering drugs are all prohibited in Islam. Meat must be blessed in a certain way to be considered halal. Also forbidden in Islam is gambling, taking interest, fortune-telling, and lying. Other prohibited behaviors include denying the Almighty God, disrespecting parents, and mistreating relatives.
The central practice of Sufism is called dhikr. The practice varies slightly among the tariqah, but the Mevlevi Sufis practice a ritual known as “sama,” which means “listening.” The mevlevi dhikr practice is most popularly known by the names of the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlevi Sufis spin at a meditative pace while reciting divine verses.