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World Religions: Introduction


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PowerPoint slides to accompany Lecture 1a

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World Religions: Introduction

  1. 1. World Religions Definition & Theories
  2. 2. Definition of a World Religion • Latin: “religio” meaning “fear” or “awe”Criteria for Understanding Religions • Usually deal in some way with peoples’ relationship to the unseen world of spirits, gods, and demons. • Usually have developed a system of myths (or symbolic language) contained in sacred writings. • Usually have developed an organization of rituals, temples, and priests.
  3. 3. Criteria for Understanding Religions• Usually have some proposal for escaping theproblems generated in this life, proposals that may becalled salvation or enlightenment.• Usually have some statement about life beyonddeath, either as a survival in shadowy Hades, insome version of death and hell, or throughreincarnation.
  4. 4. Origins: Theories of DevelopmentAnimistic Theories: Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917)• Religion derives from a basic instinct or response thatpeople have to the unknown.• Experiences of death and dreams in primitive cultures led people to believe that (1) all of nature was filled with spirits, (2) there is life in everything, even stones and trees.• Combination of these factors, plus the worship ofancestors, produced a religion in which all things areworshiped and feared.
  5. 5. Origins:Nature Worship: Max Muller (1823-1900)• Alternative to animistic theories: religion arose out of speculation about the forces of nature• Primitives ascribed personalities to these forcesafter noting the phenomena of their regularities andirregularities• Example: Greek myth of Apollo’s (sun) love forDaphne (dawn). Apollo chased Daphne, who always ran from him. This, then, became the Greekexplanation for why the sun chases away the dawn
  6. 6. Origins:Original Monotheism: Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954)• Contended that hunter-gatherer societies (theoldest societies about which we have knowledge)held to belief in a distinct high god.• Although mainly polytheistic and animistic, theylargely held to the view that there was one highgod who was both creator and originator of moralcodes.• Believed monotheism was the basic view, butbecause it was hard to maintain, cultures tended todegenerate into polytheism.
  7. 7. Origins:Magic Theory: Sir James George Frazier (1854-1941)• Agreed with Tylor that in religious perceptions thehuman mind had evolved in linear, evolutionaryfashion.• Believed in three phases of history relative toreligion: (1) Magic era - attempts were made to control the world through magic (2) Religion era – when magic failed, people turned to religion (3) Science era - when religion failed people turned to science
  8. 8. Origins:Projection of Human Need Theories• Ludwig Feurbach (1804-1872)Religions are basically the projections of the wishes and needs ofhumanity. Man is not in the image of God but God is in the image of man.• Karl Marx (1818-1883)Saw religion in terms of Feurbach’s views: “Man makes religion, religion does not make man. It is the opium of the people.” He believed religion was used by the ruling classes to oppose the power classes.
  9. 9. Origins:• Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Gave Feurbach’s position a psychological basis. Believed that religion originated as guilt that men felt for hating their fathers. He said men love their mothers and hate their fathers, and that religion is an attempt to get rid of the guilt.• Friedrich Nietzsche Claimed that we must wake up and realize that while earlier societies had invented God, modern man had now killed the ghost.
  10. 10. Origins:• Julius WellhausenPosited an evolution of religion from animism through polytheismthrough henotheism to monotheism based on a Darwinian theory of evolution. It is more likely that monotheism was original, and that it developed into other forms--especially polytheism.
  11. 11. T hr ee For ms of ReligiousExpr ession• Theoretical Expression Has to do with the basic story (myth) and with ideology or doctrine.• Practical Expression What is done in religion. Has to do with ritual, forms of dress, manner of worship and celebration.• Sociological Expressions Church type: a comprehensive system allowing for individual variations without extreme demands on participants (denominations). Withdrawal groups: commitment to the group is more important than family ties.
  12. 12. Four Types of Religions(1) Basic or Primitive Religions Applies to the religions of peoples in undeveloped areas of the world and to the religion of prehistoric peoples: animism, totemism, polytheism.(2) Religions Originating in India Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism All but Sikism--which takes its belief in one god from Islam--basic beliefs include:  Belief in many gods  One person may lead many lives through a series of reincarnations or rebirths. Ultimate concern: release from cycle of life, death, rebirth, and achievement of none-life, or moksha.
  13. 13. (3) Religions Originating in China and Japan Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism Each holds to:  Belief in many gods  The worship of nature(4) Religions Originating in the Middle East Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i Believe in:  one supreme creator God  people live only once  divine judgment of the world.