REL 113 Common Practices in Religion

Topics: Religion, Ritual, Buddhism Pages: 5 (859 words) Published: May 5, 2015


Common Practices in Religion
Calvin Young
REL 133
March 31, 2015
Mr. William Sunday
Common Practices in Religion
Although religions today take on many shapes and forms, and may seem so dramatically different from each other, in order to study and understand these religions, their similarities must be identified. This paper will first present a definition of religion that will connect to all religions at the simplest base. Then this paper will examine the common practices and experiences that are present in both the primary religions of the world, as well as the indigenous religions. Finally, this paper will discuss the issues that are critical to the academic study of religions. Definition of Religion

The most common failing in defining religion is in failing to account for the many different nuances and possible expressions of religion (Molloy, 2013). One possible definition of religion is a unified set of beliefs, shared among a group, to connect with an idea of the sacred. This definition may be discounted due to its lack of reference to the worship of the divine; however not all religions are focused on the worship of a divine (Molloy, 2013). Another objection to the proposed definition is the requirement of a group. Requiring that a group hold the beliefs, however, can be said to what separates personally held faith and religion. The separation of faith and religion is vital to the study of religion because, even within a single religion, the privately held faith can change from one individual to the other. Lastly, this definition, by relying solely on the beliefs rather than the rituals, symbolism, and myths, allows for the existence of religions that may lack them, so long as the group shares the underlying beliefs of the religion. Common Practices and Experiences

Throughout the religions of the world, there are common practices, even among the most isolated indigenous religions, which are dramatically different to each other but hold the same basic ideas. The first one of these is the concept of religious ceremony. The idea that, through ritualized actions, word, or behaviors, the participants are brought closer to, or into the favor of, the sacred of the practicing religion. Present throughout religions from Roman Catholic Mass, Buddhist meditation, even in indigenous religions hold specific ceremony to mark important times in the celebrant’s life, such as the coming-of-age rituals of West Africa, and the many ceremonies of the Igbo people (Molloy, 2013). Secondly, common to the religions of the world is the idea of the taboo, a word, idea, or action that is in direct offense to the sacred. Commonly these rule mirror the social law, such as prohibitions on murder of, and theft from, those in the community. Also, these rules cover aspects of life such as rules concerning the dead, childbirth, and even the food eaten. One such taboo is the Islamic and Judaic taboo on the consumption or even handling, of pork. Among the indigenous religions, where religious and social lines are almost identical, taboos are often extensive, covering many of the social norms (Molloy, 2013). Lastly, religions have shown, through the world, a propensity to express stories and lessons through artistic means. Whether through the use of poetry in religious works, explanations of taboos depicted in weavings and tapestries, or oral traditions of epic stories, passed down from mentor to student, religions have found that artistic measures assist in the transition of the religious message. Critical Issues to the Study of Religion

As with the study of any society, the study of religion, in an academic sense, must consider several important matters. Michael Malloy identifies several of these critical issues in his book Experiencing the World’s Religions (2013). The first of these questions is whether the religion can truly be observed or is the act of study changing the events observe, thus invalidating the research. If the...
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