Religious Beliefs and Philosophies
Religious Beliefs and Philosophies
Religious beliefs are to a large extent shaped by upbringing. Usually, many people will ascribe to the religious beliefs that they grew up with. However, it is not uncommon for people to change those beliefs later on in life and adopt others. In many religious beliefs, the presence of an all-powerful ‘god’ or ‘gods’ is at the core of that religion. These entities or entity are supposed to be powerful and control events in the human world that are difficult to explain. In addition, those who ascribe to these religions are supposed to worship and honor these ‘god/s’ through various rituals that include offerings and complete obedience. Through religious leaders, the followers are directed on what is required in order to gain favor and mercy from the ‘god/s.’ Nonetheless, there are also other people who reject the assertion that there is a ‘god/s’ that need to be worshiped. I am the group of people who reject the religious assertion of a ‘god/s.’
The belief in god/s as ascribed by many religions is purely based on faith with no empirical evidence that such an entity/s exists. However, it is understandable that in pursuit of trying to explain things that they could not explain, human beings chose to place these events in the realm of the god/s. As such, believers belief that the god/s control events such as rainfall, draughts, accidents, earthquakes, tsunamis, etcetera. By placing these events in a different realm, the believers are able to comprehend them as works of a more powerful entity/s.
Life and death are different sides of the same coin. However, for theists, the beginning and end of someone’s life is the work of god/gods. The mystic associated with how life develops and what happens to a person’s ‘soul’ after they die, are easily explained if you are religious. The teachings of many religions explain the origin of life variously with some likening humans with God’s image while for others life does not end with death but it comes back in a different form. Although no one has evidence on the role that ‘god/gods’ play in giving life, having faith in the process of life and death as controlled by these entities makes it easy to accept the loss of a loved one. Consequently, theists must have absolute faith in these events although no one knows exactly what happens after death except that the body decomposes.
Religions also operate on a ‘positive reinforcement’ principle to keep people in line. For believers, favors from the god/s and deities are not for free and must be earned through obedience. As such, many religions have laws that govern the different aspects of human life including what to eat, how to dress, interaction between the sexes, as well as how to honor them among others. As a result, ant transgression against the set laws leads punishment which is usually in the form of bad luck. However, if an adherent is faithful and follows all the laws, their life is characterized by blessings bestowed on them by the god/s, deities, and even spirits. As a result, the god entity/s in many religions is/are benevolent beings that will reward those who obey them and punish those that disobey.
The benevolence of the god/s, deities, together with spirits is most sought for life after death. As such, many religions promise a life that is full of happiness and without worry. However, to enter this life, one has to lead the normal life in a manner that conforms to the laws of that religion. The promise of an afterlife is characterized by threats of death and damnation if one goes against the edicts of the religion. As such, whereas obedience will lead to a glorious life after one’s death, disobedience will be punished with fire and brimstone. However, other religions belief that life does not end with death but the promises are similar all through. If one leads their life according to the laws of the religion, then they will be accorded the opportunity to reincarnate as a different animal. Nonetheless, the animals are ranked and given suitability with some animals being considered good while others are considered bad. As such, religions that belief in reincarnation also advice against the consumption of animals and they are treated equally to humans and eating them is like eating a person.
However, regardless of the religion, the concept of an omnipotent, omnipresent entity that controls all aspects of life is based on faith. Although most aspects of religion are not verifiable and there is no evidence for their existence, theists must have absolute faith if they wish to reap the benefits promised. In addition, apart from faith, most religions call for blind obedience to their teachings. As such, adherents ho follow their religious edicts blindly are easily manipulated and used to achieve other goals that may not necessarily be religious. Consequently, the argument that for one to experience the goodness of God/s, deities, as well as spirits is hinged on total faith is not enough.
By taking this course, my views regarding religious diversity in the philosophy of religions have been changed. This course has accorded me an opportunity to question my long-held beliefs regarding religions across the world. A clearer understanding emerged not only on the aspect of religious theology by also how diverse religions impact those who adhere to them. Through this class, I have been able to gain a deeper understanding of various religions and what makes them unique. Due to my back ground as a non-conformist atheist, the philosophy of religious diversity through the concepts of religious pluralism, relativism, and exclusivism has changed how I view religion as concept and its impact on the world as I know it.
I have always held the belief that all religions are the same conceptually and as such are only built around control of the adherents. However, this belief was changed through this class and more so through the understanding of the philosophy of religious diversity. As such, different religions differed fundamentally on their view of the origins of life and death and also the concept of afterlife. In addition, the pluralistic nature of religious experiences changed my views on God’s character as espoused in the different religions. The fact that religious pluralism meant that God was experienced differently by different people changed my view that the concept of god was similar in all religions. Further, although some religions are not monotheistic in nature, my views regarding their gods were the same as the religions with a single god. Consequently, the reality of God as experienced by different religions was as different as my lack of acknowledgment of the entire concept.
In addition to religious pluralism and the concept of god being foreign to me due to my cultural background, this class also opened my eyes to how culture shapes our concepts about God and religion. Just as easy as it was for me to dismiss the whole concept of god, so it must be the same for someone coming from a religious background to accept the existence of god. This reality that god/s is as real to the people who believe changed my views on how I have viewed cultural differences all along. As such, my understanding of God as a religious concept has changed my older view of God as an entity only.
Apart from religious pluralism, my views on religious relativism were broadened. The differences in religious understanding and beliefs as understood by those who adhere to the different religions should not be construed to the true in the real sense but understood objectively. This is because the different people who adhere to the different religions experience the traditions of their religion collectively. As such, there is not only a cultural bond but also the religious experience and world view of each group is similar but different from other religions. Before this class, my views regarding religion were that all religions espoused the truth or their versions of it as an end. However, this view was changed, and now I understand that there is also religious understanding that the truth can also be relative.
The third aspect of religious diversity that also challenged my held views was religious exclusivism. Although it was my held belief that most religions are intolerant to differing opinions regarding their held truths, this view was not different from my assertions that there is no concept of god. This exclusivism was not only propagated by religions but also by me. My held belief was that there is no god and any other person who peddles such a concept must be wrong. In the same way, many religions will typically hold any other view that does not conform to their held truth as false. For example, Christians hold the truth that Jesus was the son of god and as such he is above all humans and angels. However, those who profess the Islamic religion are of the view that Jesus was just a prophet and as such is at the same level as Prophet Muhammad. As a result, the differing versions of the truth as believed by Christians and Muslims cannot be true. However, those who hold exclusivism tendencies will say ‘I am right, and they are wrong.’
Nonetheless, although the differences among religions both in traditions and beliefs vary, their universal view of the nature of human beings is almost similar. They capture human nature in their edicts about how to live and become better human beings. Although many religions do not share a historical origin, they require following certain regulations for a better tomorrow. It is the call by some religions to their followers to respect others, protect the environment, and generally become better human being that changed my view on blanket condemnation of religious organizations as manipulating entities seeking to control their followers.
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