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TitleReligion: A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld Beginner’s Guides)
File Size1.2 MB
Total Pages209
Table of Contents
	There’s more to life than meets the eye
	Mundane matters
1 – What is religion?
	The origins of religion
	The age of nationalism and internationalism
	Criticisms of the secular quest for the origins of religion
	The end of the quest for the origins of religion
	The place of religion in society
	Religions: a modern invention?
	Religion as systems
	Empathy for the religious other?
	The perennial philosophy
	How to recognise a religion
2 – Is anyone or something there?
	The one and the many
	Tribal or universal?
	Does it really matter whether anyone or anything is there?
3 – How the transcendent sees us and we see the transcendent
	Art and aesthetics
	Holy places
	Holy word
	Holy people
	The mystical path
	Festivals and festivities
4 – The good life
	Life beyond?
	The way through dusty death
	The moving finger?
	A universal rule?
	What sort of god is god?
5 – Religion in the new millennium
	Idealisation of the past
	Reconstructions of religion
	The search for justice
	The question of truth
	Faith in the future of religion
Document Text Contents
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85how the transcendent sees us and we see the transcendent

questing person to re-vision who she is in relation to the earth, the
spirits, animal life and other humans. This spiritual tradition has
now been ‘borrowed’ by many outsiders. Indeed, it is commonly
promoted in New Age circles. If this sometimes makes people think
of the Vision Quest as a fad, they should not. At various stages of an
American aboriginal’s life, it helps her to locate her place in the
universe of meaning. For the adolescent, it marks a breakthrough to
adult life; for the older person, a transition to a new phase of life, or
even a way of contemplating the journey into death. Since it is done
in a holy and awesome place, it is a reminder to members of more
wordy cultures that spiritual discernment is not confined to what is
written or even spoken, but is enabled by what is seen by the eyes
and by an inner, more intuitive sense.

holy places

The widespread conviction of the religious imagination that
Transcendence can be encountered in art and aesthetics, that is in
human artefacts, finds its most particular expression in the belief
that certain places especially witness to the presence of Transcendent
reality. This section will briefly examine the importance of religious
buildings and of pilgrimage in the world’s religions.

It is important to define holiness. In many people’s minds it has
an ethical connotation of extreme goodness or even sanctity. Whilst
this is frequently the case, often a specifically ethical dimension may
not be at the centre of the meaning of holiness. Primarily, it denotes
the presence of the Transcendent in human life. So some places may
actually be ethically extremely problematic, yet of extraordinary
importance in the aspirations and even the psyche of the
worshipper. For example, Jerusalem, which means the ‘city of peace’,
has hardly lived up to its signification, partly and ironically because
it has focused the divergent hopes of three world religions, Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. As such, it has been invaded and conquered
by: Jews under King David who seized it from the Jebusites around
1000 BCE; early Muslims who conquered it in 637 CE and came to see
it as the place which the Prophet Muhammad had visited in a vision
(Quran 17:1); medieval Christian crusaders who wrested it bloodily
from Muslim rule and controlled it from 1099 to 1187 CE, after

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which it returned to Muslim rule until the controversial creation of
the modern State of Israel in 1948.
Even so, holy places may indeed evoke in worshippers a sense of the
presence of Transcendence, who is good and caring. Some religions,
often those of first peoples, have no places that are built by human
hands. Rather, their sacred places are often natural objects or
locations: streams, trees and such like. Sometimes, they are artefacts
associated with these places. For example, Dalits, the ‘oppressed
ones’ of India, outside the caste system, often locate their spirituality
outside Hinduism or any other world religions present in South
Asia. Instead, some worship the image of a mother goddess, often
represented with laden, milk-giving breasts, who is often located
and worshipped near a running stream or some other open space.

However, most religions have a special place or building where
ultimate reality is particularly focused. Jews have synagogues,
Muslims have mosques, Hindus have mandirs or temples, Sikhs
have gurudwaras, and so on. Often, such a place is not just a
worship area but also an important locus of communal gathering.
Indeed, the words ‘synagogue’ and ‘mosque’ are among a group of
religious words for a religious building that, in the original
language, indicate a place of gathering.

Psalm 63 verses 1 to 4 gives a taste of the importance of a holy
building for a worshipper. Although this passage has traditionally
been interpreted as a psalm of David, wandering in the wilderness
of Judah during the rebellion of his son Absalom, this is unlikely to
be true. The reference to the sanctuary suggests that the worshipper
has had a deep experience of God in the Temple in Jerusalem:

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul faints for you, as in a dry

and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in

the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your

steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless

you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

Yet specific holy places rarely if ever exhaust the worshipper’s
capacity for or ability to worship. He is also expected to worship
elsewhere. For example, many Hindus do not go to the mandir at
all. Even if they do, many have a room or part of a room set aside at
home for puja, honour or reverence paid to a deity, the deities or

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reconstructions, of religion 159–164
reform movements, religions as 64,

65–69, 70
reification, of religions 27–28
reincarnation 124–125, 137–138
religion, meaning of 1–4

identifying 37–40
versus religion 1, 27–29

religious studies, discipline of xi
religious tourism 90
repentance 26
resurrection, communal and individual

revolutionary, religion as 44, 48
Rig-Veda 15
rites of passage 108
ritual x, 2, 18, 109
Roman Catholic Church 164, 171–172
Rosenzweig, Franz 68
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 146–147
Rumi, Jalal al-Din 84, 106, 108
Rushdie, Salman 157
Russian Primary Chronicle 118

sabbath 116
sacraments 83, 116
Sacred Books of the East 15
samsara (rebirth) 61, 66, 100, 124, 134,

Sartre, Jean-Paul 49
satori (enlightenment experience)

scepticism 3–4, 5, 9, 10–11
Schmidt, Wilhelm 17–18, 43
science, and religion xiv–xv, xvi, 5, 15–16,

scripture 90–98

Christianity 92–93, 95
divine revelation and human appropri-

ation 92–98
Hinduism 93
on idolatry 82
illiteracy 79–80
Islam 94–95
Judaism 93–94, 95
one way of revelation 90–91
oral/aural 90, 91
as oral text 91–92
Sikhism 70
as written text 92

secularism x–xi, 5, 9, 20–21, 25, 27, 31,
154, 157–158

Sermon on the Mount 146
Seth 44–47, 48, 137
sexism xvii

sexual forces 137
Shammai, Rabbi xii
Shankara 133–134
Sharpe, Eric 6, 8, 16
Shuon, Frithjof 35
Sikhism 70, 101–102, 160, 161
Singh, Baba Virsa 93, 152, 161–164, 162
Singh, Dr Karan 161
Singh, Guru Gobind 70, 102
Smart, Ninian xii, 19, 33, 37–38
Smith, Huston xii, 35
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell 27–28, 29, 31, 34,

Smith, William Robertson 7
social inequality 155
Social Statics 6
society, and the individual 128
sociology, and origins of religion 6–7, 9
Socrates 49
Spencer, Herbert 5–6, 43
spirituality xiii, 119–120
Stahl, Georg Ernest 8
state, and religion 61
stories 47, 52, 80–81
suffering 48, 65, 75–76, 119, 124, 125–126,

Sufism 69, 84
Sunni Islam 24, 84, 106, 133, 144
Supreme Beings 17–18, 35–36, 62–63, 80
Swidler, Leonard 150
Symmachus 174, 175
systems, religions as 28–32

Tantric Hinduism 136
Taoism 14, 56, 61, 123–124

ethics 136
theism 60
theology xiv–xv
Theosophical Movement 14
Thiagaraj, Henry 169–170
Thor 51
Thoth 45
tolerance 166
Torah 93–94, 143–144, 146, 150
totalitarianism x, 20–21, 23–24
Totem and Taboo 10–11
totemism 7, 8
tradition 69–70

cumulative 176
fundamentalism 156–157

Transcendence xiii–xiv, xv, 2–3
anthropologists’ scepticism 9
engagement with life 73–74, 154–155
ethics 151–152
experiencing 23
Gnosticism 36

index 189

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human response 154
mundane existence 119–120
perennial philosophy 37
polytheism 44, 51, 60
religious images 81–84
revelation 72, 74, 77
study of religion 39–40
ultimate reality 69, 73
witnessing 27

transmigration of souls 138
trinitarianism 56–57
truth 63, 158, 173–176
Tutankhamun, tomb of 78

unconscious, the 18–19
underworld 46
Unification Church (Moonies) 70, 71

in diversity 59–63
of God 55, 57–58, 65

universalism 63–73, 160
ethics 149–151

Upanishads 59, 93

van Gennep, Arnold 108
Varieties of Religious Experience, The 10
Vatican Councils 12, 164
visionary core, of religions 39, 40

Vladimir, Prince of Kiev 118
wealth 152
Weatherhead, Leslie 92
West African Religion 7–8
Western Buddhism 143
Whaling, Frank 33, 38
Wilson, Professor Kenneth 170–171
Wisdom, Lady 57
Wittgenstein, Ludwig 29
women 49

enlightenment 100
mystics 105–106
paganism 138
patriarchal monotheism 58
prayer in Islam 112, 114
religious leaders 99–100
roles for 47

worship 111–118
Buddhism 131–133
holy places 82, 86–87
Islamic service 117
versus veneration 82

yoga 104–105

Zen 107–108
Zohar 107
Zoroastrianism 55

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