Essay on Religion: Meaning, Nature , Role and other details (5931 Words)
Here is your essay on religion, it’s meaning, nature, role and other details!
Religion is an almost universal institution in human society. It is found in all societies, past and present. All the preliterate societies known to us have religion. Religion goes back to the beginning of the culture itself. It is a very ancient institution. There is no primitive society without religion.
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Like other social institutions, religion also arose from the intellectual power of man in response to certain felt needs of men. While most people consider religion as universal and therefore, a significant institution of societies. It is the foundation on which the normative structure of society stands.
It is the social institution that deals with sacred things, that lie beyond our knowledge and control. It has influenced other institutions. It has been exerting tremendous influence upon political and economic aspects of life. It is said that man from the earliest times has been incurably religious. Judaism, Christianity, Islam (Semitic religions), Hinduism and Buddhism; Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto (Chinese-Japanese religions) etc. are examples of the great religions of the world.
Meaning of Religion:
Religion is concerned with the shared beliefs and practices of human beings. It is the human response to those elements in the life and environment of mankind which are beyond their ordinary comprehension. Religion is pre-eminently social and is found in nearly all societies. Majumdar and Madan explain that the word religion has its origin in the Latin word Rel (I) igio. This is derived from two root words.
The first root is Leg, meaning “together, count or observe”. The second root is Lig, meaning ‘to bind’. The first root refers to belief in and practice of “signs of Divine Communication”. The second root refers to the carrying out those activities which link human beings with the supernatural powers. Thus, we find that the word religion basically represents beliefs and practices which are generally the main characteristics of all religions.
Central to all religions is the concept of faith. Religion in this sense is the organisation of faith which binds human beings to their temporal and transcendental foundation. By faith man is distinguished from other beings. It is essentially a subjective and private matter. Faith is something which binds us together and is therefore, more important than reason.
Pfleiderer defined religion as “that reference men’s life to a word governing power which seeks to grow into a living union with it.”
According to James G. Frazer considered religion as a belief in “Powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life”.
As Christopher Dauson writes, “Whenever and wherever man has a sense of dependence on external powers which are conceived as mysterious and higher than man’s own, there is religion, and the feelings of awe and self-abasement with which man is filled in the presence of such powers is essentially a religious emotion, the root of worship and prayer.”
Arnold W. Green defines religion as “a system of beliefs and symbolic practices and objects, governed by faith rather than by knowledge, which relates man to an unseen supernatural realm beyond the known and beyond the controllable.”
According to Maclver and Page, “Religion, as we understand the term, implies a relationship not merely between man and man but also between man and some higher power.”
As Gillin and Gillin says, “The social field of religion may be regarded as including those emotionalized beliefs prevalent in a social group concurring the supernatural plus crest and behaviour, material objects and symbols associated with such beliefs.”
Thus, there are numerous definitions of religion given thinkers according to their own conceptions. As a matter of fact the forms in which religion expresses itself vary so much that it is difficult to agree upon a definition. Some maintain that religion includes a belief in supernatural or mysterious powers and that it expresses itself in overt activities designed to deal with those powers.
Others regard religion as something very earthly and materialistic, designed to achieve practical ends. Sumner and Keller asserted that, “Religion in history, from the earliest to very recent days, has not been a matter of morality at all but of rites, rituals, observance and ceremony”.
Religion, in fact, is not a mere process of mediations about man’s life; it is also a means of preserving the values of life. While it is possible to define religion as belief in God or some super-natural powers, it is well to remember that there can also be a Godless religion as Buddhism.
Nature of Religion:
In sociology, the word religion is used in a wider sense than that used in religious books. A common characteristic found among all religions is that they represent a complex of emotional feelings and attitudes towards mysterious and perplexities of life.
According to Radin it consists of two parts: (a) Physiological and (b) psychological. The physiological part expresses itself in such acts as kneeling, closing the eyes, touching the feet. The psychological part consists of supernormal sensitivity to certain traditions and beliefs. While belief in supernatural powers may be considered basic to all religion, equally fundamental is the presence of a deeply emotional feeling which Golden Weiber called the “religion thrill”.
If we analyse the great religions of the world, we shall find that each of them contains, five basic elements: (1) belief in supernatural powers, (2) belief in the holy, (3) ritual, (4) acts defined as sinful and (5) some method of salvation.
1. Belief in Supernatural Powers:
The first basic element of religion is the belief that there are supernatural powers. These powers are believed to influence human life and control all natural phenomena. Some call these supernatural forces God, other call them Gods. There are even others who do not call them by any name. They simply consider them as forces in their universe. Thus, belief in the non-sensory, super-empirical world is the first element of religion.
2. Belief in the Holy:
There are certain holy or sacred elements of religion. These constitute the heart of the religion. There are certain things which are regarded as holy or sacred. But a thing is holy or sacred not because of a peculiar quality of thing. An attitude makes a thing holy. The sacred character of a tangible thing is not observable to the senses.
Sacred things are symbols. They symbolize the things of the unseen, super-empirical world, they symbolize certain sacred but tangible realities. When a Hindu worships a cow, he worships it not because of the kind of animal the cow is, but because of a host of super-empirical characteristics which this animal is imagined to represent.
Religious ritual is “the active side of religion. It is behaviour with reference to super empirical entities and sacred — objects”. It includes any kind of behavior (such as the wearing of special clothing and the immersion in certain rivers, in the Ganga for instance), prayers, hymns, creedal recitations, and other forms of reverence, usually performed with other people and in public. It can include singing, dancing, weeping, crawling, starving, feasting, etc. Failure to perform these acts is considered a sin.
4. Acts defined as Sinful:
Each religion defines certain acts as sinful and profane (unholy). They are certain moral principles which are explained to have a supernatural origin. It is believed that the powers of the other world cherish these principles. The violation of these principles creates man’s sense of guilty. It may also bring upon him the disfavour of the supernatural powers. If the behaviour is not in accordance with the religions code, the behaviour or act is considered as sinful.
5. Some Method of Salvation:
A method of salvation is the fifth basic element of religion. Man needs some method by which he can regain harmony with the Gods through removal of guilt. In Hindu religion Moksha or Salvation represents the end of life, the realisation of an inner spirituality in man.
The Hindu seeks release from the bondage of Karma, which is the joy or suffering he undergoes as a result of his actions in his life. The ultimate end of life is to attain Moksha. The Buddhist hopes to attain Salvation by being absorbed in the Godhead and entering Nirvana. The Christian has a redeemer in Christ who gave his life for man’s sins.
In short, religion is the institutionalised set of beliefs men hold about supernatural forces. It is more or less coherent system of beliefs and practices concerning a supernatural order of beings, forces, places or other entities.
Role or Functions of Religion:
Religion is interwoven with all aspects of human life: with kinship systems, economic and political institutions. Prior to the advent of what may be called as “the age of reason”, religion has been the chief supporter of the spiritual and moral values of life. It has shaped domestic, economic and political institutions. Hence, it is obvious that religion performs a number of functions both for the religious group and for the wider society. These functions of religion are discussed bellow.
1. Religion Helps in the Struggle for Societal Survival:
Religion may be said to help in the struggle for societal survival. Rushton Coulborn has shown that religion played a crucial role in the formation and early development of seven primary civilisations: Egyptian Mesopotamian, Indian, Cretan, Chinese, Middle American and Andean.
Religion in each of these societies gave its members the courage needed for survival in an unfavourable environment, by giving explanations to certain aspects of the human conditions which could not be explained in a rational manner. In present societies religion also performs this role.
By relating the empirical world to the super-empirical world religion gives the individual a sense of security in this rapidly changing world. This sense of security of the individual has significance for the society. Since religion helps man to forget the suffering, disappointments and sorrows in this life’, social dissatisfaction and social unrest become less frequent and the social system continues functioning.
2. Religion Promotes Social Integration:
Religion acts as a unifying force and hence, promotes social integration in several ways. Religion plays an important part in crystallising, symbolising and reinforcing common values and norms. It thus provides support for social standards, socially accepted behaviour. Common faith, values and norms etc. are significant in unifying people.
As the individuals perform rituals collectively their devotion to group ends is enhanced. Through a ritual individual expresses common beliefs and sentiments. It thus helps him to identify himself more with his fellows, and to distinguish himself more from members of other groups, communities or nations.
By distinguishing between holy and unholy things, religion creates sacred symbol for the values and this symbol becomes the rallying point for all persons who share the same values. The cow as a sacred symbol of the Hindus, for example, is a rallying point which gives cohesion to Hindu society.
Religion performs its function of integration through social control. It regulates the conduct of individuals by enforcing moral principles on them and by prescribing powerful sanctions against them for violation.
3. Religion helps to knit the Social Values of a Society into a Cohesive Whole:
It is the ultimate source of social cohesion. The primary requirement of society is the common possession of social values by which individuals control the actions of self and others and through which society is perpetuated. These social values emanate from religious faith. Religion is the foundation upon which these values rest.
Children should obey their parents, should not tell a lie or cheat, women should be faithful to men; people should be honest and virtuous are some of the social values which maintain social cohesion. It is religion that asks man to renounce unsocial activities and requires him to accept limitations upon his wants and desires. All the religions have preached love and non-violence. They have emphasized sacrifice and forbearance.
4. Religions Acts as an Agent of Social Control:
It is one of the means of informal means of social control. Religion not only defines moral expectations for members of the religious group but usually enforces them. It supports certain types of social conduct by placing the powerful sanctions of the supernatural behind them.
It makes certain forms of social behaviour as offences not only against society but also against God. Hence, any violation of the acceptable norm is punishable not only by God but by society. Hinduism gives sanction to the caste system which regulates social relations of various classes in India.
5. Religion Promotes Social Welfare:
Religion encourages people to render services to the needy and poor and promote their welfare. It develops philanthropic attitude of people. Help and assistance are rendered to poor and destitute persons due to religion inspiration. It is believed that one can obtain the cherished goal of religion by way of giving alms and assistance to the helpless and needy persons. In this way religion promotes the welfare of individuals, groups and community.
6. Priestly Function:
The priesthood often was dedicated to art and culture. The priests laid the foundations of medicine. Magic supplied the roots of observation and experimentation from which science developed. It also inculcated the habit of charity among the people who opened many charitable institutions like hospitals, rest houses, temples to help the needy and the poor.
7. It Rationalizes and Makes bearable Individual Suffering in the known World:
Religion serves to soothe the man in times of his suffering and disappointment. In this world man often suffers disappointment even in the midst of all hopes and achievements. The things for which he strives are in some measure always denied to him. When human hopes are blighted, when all that was planned and striven for has been swept away, man naturally wants something to console and compensate him.
When a son dies man seeks to assuage his grief in ritualistic exchanges of condolence. On God he puts faith and entertains the belief that some unseen power moves in mysterious ways to make even his loss meaningful. Faith in God compensates him and sustains his interest in life and makes it bearable. In this way religion helps man to bear his frustrations and encourages him to accept his lot on earth.
8. Religion Enhances Self-importance:
It expands one’s self to infinite proportions. Man unites himself with the infinite and feels ennobled. Through unity with the infinite the self is made majestic and triumphant. Man considers himself the noblest work of God with whom he shall be united and his self thus becomes grand and luminous.
Besides this, religion shapes domestic, economic and political institutions. Religion supports institutional pattern more explicitly. All the great religions of the world have attempted to regulate kinship relations, especially marriage and family. Political institutions are often sanctioned by religion: the emperor of China or Japan was sacred; the ruling caste of India was sanctioned by Brahmanism; the kings of France were supposed to rule by divine right.
Religious rites are performed on many occasions in relation to vital events and dominant interests: birth, initiation, marriage, sickness, death, hunting, animal husbandry and so on; and they are intimately concerned with family and kinship interests and with political institutions. Religion is the central element in the life of civilisation.
Religion has also performed some other services to humanity among which Sumner and Keller included the provision of work, the spread of education, the accumulation of capital and the creation of a leisure class.
For thousands of years, religion has exerted a great influence over economic and political life. Even today religion is called upon to support rulers, contacts and other legal procedures.
Dysfunctions of Religion:
In addition to positive functions of religion, there are some negative aspects of its social functions. Although religion is an integrative force, it may be disruptive for the society as a whole. Sumner and Keller, Benjamin Kidd, Karl Marx, Thomas F. O’ Dea and others have pointed the dysfunctions of religion. The dysfunctions of religion are as follows.
1. Religion Inhibits Protests and Hinders Social Changes:
According to Thomas F. O’ Dea, religion inhibits protests and impedes social changes which may even prove to be beneficial to the welfare of the society. All protests and conflicts are not always negative. Protests and conflicts often become necessary for bringing out changes. Some changes would certainly lead to positive reforms. By inhibiting protests and preventing changes religion may postpone reforms.
2. Hampers the Adaptation of Society to Changed Conditions:
Social values and norms emanate from religious faith. Some of the norms which lose their appropriateness under changed conditions may also be imposed by religion. This can “impede a more functionally appropriate adaptation of society to changing conditions.”
For example, during the medieval Europe, the Church refused to grant the ethical legitimacy of money lending at interest, despite the great functional need of this activity in a situation of developing capitalism”. Even today, traditional Muslims face religio-ethical problems concerning interest-taking. Similar social conflict is evident in the case of birth control measures including abortion, in the Catholic world.
3. Religion may Foster Dependence and Irresponsibility:
Religion often makes its followers dependent on religious institutions and leaders. But it does not develop an ability in them to assume individual responsibility. For example, a good number of people in India prefer to take the advises of priests and religious leaders before starting some ventures. But they do not take the suggestion of those who are competent in the field.
4. Promotes Evil Practices:
In its course of development religion has supported and promoted evil practices such as cannibalism, slavery, untouchability, human and animal sacrifice etc.
5. Contributes to Exploitation:
As religion interprets misfortune and suffering in this world as manifestations of the supernatural order itself, it sanctifies the existing social structure. Religion preaches submission to the existing socio-economic condition and to fate.
It is this control function of religion that caused Marx to call religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the people.” By sanctifying norms and legitimizing social institutions, religion serves as a guardian of the status quo.
6. Promotes Superstitions:
Religion is the source of many superstitions. These superstitions have caused harm to human being. Superstitions like evil spirits and ghosts cause diseases; poverty is the desire of the God etc. hinder the welfare of human beings.
7. Results Conflicts:
Religion results in inter-group conflicts by dividing people along religious lines. It is deeply related with conflicts. Wars and battles have been fought in the name of religion.
8. Religion Causes Wastes:
Sumner and Keller are of the opinion that religion often causes economic wastes. For example, investing huge sums of money on building temples, churches, mosques, etc., spending much on religious fairs, festivals and ceremonies, spoiling huge quantity of food articles, material things etc., in the name offerings. It leads to waste of human labour, energy and time.
9. Religion Weakens Unity:
Religion creates diversities among people. It creates a gap among them. In the name of God and religion, loot, plundering, mass killing, rape and other cruel and inhuman treatments have been meted out to people.
10. Religion Promotes Fanaticism:
Religion has made people blind, dumb and deaf to the reality. They have faith without reasoning which is blind. On the contrary, it has often made people to become bigots and fanatics. Bigotry and fanaticism have led to persecution, inhuman treatment and misery in the past.
11. Religion Retards Progress:
Religion preserves traditions. It preaches submission to the existing conditions and maintenance of status quo. Religion is not readily amenable to social change and progress.
12. Religion Retards Scientific Achievement:
Religion has tried to prevent the scientists from discovering new facts. For example, it tried to suppress the doctrines of Darwin, Huxley and others.
By placing high premium on divine power religion has made people fatalistic. They think that all events in life is due to some divine power and hence due to fate. As a result, his power and potentiality is undermined. Thus, religion affects the creativity of man.
Marx has strongly criticised religion. For Marx all that was fundamental in the science of society proceeded from the material and especially the economic sphere. For him therefore religion is, to be sure, superstition, but to stop at this point is to limit religion to merely abstract belief.
It leaves the impression that religion may be dislodged simply by new, rational belief. Marx’s sense of the matter is more profound. Merely changing beliefs is not enough. The transformation of an entire social order is required, for belief is deeply rooted in the social relations of men.
Religion, writes Marx, “is the ‘self-consciousness and self-feeling of man who either has not yet found himself or has already lost himself. But man is no abstract being, squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, and society. This state, this society produce religion, a perverted world consciousness, because they are a perverted world.
Religion is the compendium of that world, its encyclopedic, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its universal ground for consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality.
Marx believed, like Luduig Feuerbach, that what man gives to God in the form of worship, he takes from himself. That is, man is persuaded through suffering or through false teaching to project what is his to a supernatural being. But he was convinced, unlike Feuerbach, that what is fundamental is not religious forms – against which Feuerbach had urged revolt-but the economic forms of existence.
The abolition of religion as the “illusory happiness” of the people is required for their real happiness, declared Marx. But before religion can be abolished the conditions which nurture it must be done away with. “The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion”.
Marx’s criticism of religion is thus deeply connected with the criticism of right and the criticism of politics. As Marx put it… “The criticism of heaven transforms itself into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics”.
Marx was an atheist as well as a great humanist. He had profound sympathy for all who look up to religion for salvation. This is amply clear from his following observation: “The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence of man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is debased, enslaved abandoned…”
Changes in Religion:
Change is the very essence of a living thing. A living religion must grow, must advance and must change. No form of religion is static. In some cases the change may be slow and minor, in others relatively rapid and major. Every religion claims its first principle supreme, original and eternal. Hence, there is also an element of censure for change.
Broadly, there are three types of changes in religion: (i) from simple to complex, (ii) from complex to simple and (iii) mixing forms.
Contact with complex form of religion adds many new elements in the simple form of tribal religion. For example, with the gradual spread of Vaishnavism in chhotanagpur, the Oraons tribe which lives in that region, began to reorganise traditional faith.
There are also examples of simplification of complex form of religion, specially of rituals and ceremonies. Buddhism for instance, came as a revolt against the Vedic ritual which was both complex and expensive, and also beyond the common man’s reach. In the 19 century, Brahmo Samaj again tried to simplify the complex nature of Brahmanic Hinduism.
Mixing of more than one form has caused development of new religious organisation. The most excellent example is of Sophism. It has evolved from Persian, Zoroastrianism and Arab Islamism. Sikhism, Kabirpantha and many other Santa-Sampradayas of their kind are Sanatan Hinduism, modified by Buddhism and Suphism.
The history of the development of religion shows that as mankind moves from small isolated village towards large, complex, urban, industrialised society the character of influence of religion on man and his life changes. In the earlier phases of religion the primary needs of mankind, those concerned with the necessities of life, played a dominant part. As man’s knowledge of natural forces grows, he learns to control them by natural methods, that is, by a detailed scrutiny of their causes and conditions.
As religious explanation of the universe is gradually substituted by rational scientific explanations and various group activities (such as politics, education, art and music) have been increasingly transferred from ecclesiastical to civil and other non-religious agencies, the conception of God as a power over man and his society loses its importance. This movement is sometimes referred to as secularisation.
Thus secularisation as Bryan Wilson has defined, refers to the process in which religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance. In Europe, secularisation is held to be the outcome of the social changes brought about by urban, industrial society. It means that religious beliefs and practices have tended to decline in modern urban, industrial societies, particularly among the working class in Western societies.
Religion in Western societies has tended to place less emphasis on dogma and more on social values. It has tried to reconcile its doctrine with scientific knowledge. As Barnes has pointed out religion adapted to our changed conditions of life is worth preserving and it must seek to organise. The masses and guide their activities for the benefit of the society rather than for the purpose of pleasing the God.
Secularism as an ideology has emerged from the dialectic of modern science and Protestantism, not from simple repudiation of religion and the rise of rationalism. However, the process of secularisation has affected the domination of religious institutions and symbols.
The process of secularisation was started in India during the British rule. But the process of secularisation took its course unlike Western Europe renaissance and reformation in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The process was very slow.
However, this worldly outlook, rationality and secular education gradually affected various aspects of religion in India. Various laws of social reformation, modern education, transport and communication contributed towards decline in religiosity among the Hindus.
No doubt we are moving from religiosity to secular way of life. But evidences show that religious beliefs have not declined in West as well as in our society. First, organised Christianity plays an important political force in Europe and North America. Second, the vitality of Zionism, militant Islam (Islamic fundamentalism), radical Catholicism in Latin America and Sikhism, fundamentalism and communalism in India suggest that no necessary connection exists between modernisation and secularisation.
All these criticisms are formidable indeed. But it should be noted that the diversity of religious sects and cults in modern societies demonstrates that religion has become an individual matter and not a dominant feature of social life. It can also be argued that, while religion may play a part in ideological struggles against colonialism (as in Iran), in the long run modernisation of society brings about secularisation.
The history of the development of religion shows that as mankind moves from small isolated villages towards large, complex, urban, industrial society; the influence of religion on man and his life changes. In the earlier phases of religion the primary needs of mankind were very much influenced by it. As man’s knowledge of natural forces grows, he learns to control them by natural methods, that is, by a detailed scrutiny of their causes and conditions.
As religious explanation of the universe is gradually substituted by rational scientific explanations and various group activities (politics, education, art and music) have been increasingly transferred from ecclesiastic to civil and other non-religious agencies, the conception of God as power over man and his society loses its importance. This movement is sometimes referred to as secularization.
Secularism as an ideology has emerged from the dialectic of modern science and Protestantism, not from a simple repudiation of religion and the rise of rationalism.
‘Secularisation’, in the words of Peter Berger, refers to ‘the process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols.
Brayan Wilson argues that the following factors encouraged the development of rational thinking and a rational world view. Firstly, ascetic Protestantism, which created an ethic which was pragmatic, rational controlled and anti-emotional. Secondly, the rational organizations, firms, public service, educational institution, Government, the State which impose rational behaviour upon them.
Thirdly, the greater knowledge of social and physical world which results from the development of physical, biological and social sciences. He says that this knowledge is based on reason rather than faith. He claims that science not only explained many facts of life and the material environment in a way more satisfactory (than religion), but it also provided confirmation of its explanation in practical results.
The term ‘secularisation’ has been used in different ways. Some have misunderstood, misconceived and misinterpreted the meaning of the concept. Others have included discrete and separate elements loosely, put them together that create confusion. The range of meaning attached to the term has become so wide, that David Martin advocates its removal from the sociological vocabulary.
There are two meanings of the word current in modern and modernizing India and even in the whole of this subcontinent. One of the two meanings is found by consulting any standard dictionary. But there is the difficulty in finding the other, for it is non-standard, local meaning which, many like to believe, is typically and distinctively Indian or South Asian.
The first meaning becomes clear when people talk of secular trends in history or economics, or when they speak of secularizing the State. The word secular has been used in this sense, at least in the English-speaking West, for more than three hundred years.
This secularism chalks out an area in public life where religion is not admitted. One can have religion in one’s private life. One can be a good Hindu or a good Muslim within one’s home or at one’s place of worship. But when one enters public life, one is expected to leave one’s faith behind.
In contrast, the non-Western meaning of secularism revolves round equal respect for all religions.
In the Indian context the word has very different meaning from its standard use in the English language. It is held that India is not Europe and hence secularism in India cannot mean the same thing as it does in Europe. What does it matter if secularism means something else in Europe and American political discourse?
As long as there are clear and commonly agreed referents for the world in the Indian context, we should go ahead and address ourselves to the specifically Indian meaning of secularism. Unfortunately the matter cannot be settled that easily. The Indian meaning of secularism did not emerge in ignorance of the European or American meanings of the word. Indian meaning of secularism is debated in its Western genealogies.
New meaning is acquired by the word secularism in India. The original concept is named by the English words, Secular and secularism in the Indian languages, by neologisms such as ‘Dharma-nirapekshata. This is translation of those English words and dharma-nirapekshata is used to refer to the range of meanings indicated by the English term.
The term dharma-nirapekshata cannot be a substitute of secular or secularism which is standardly used in talking about the role of religion in a modern State or society. Dharma-nirapekshata is the outcome of vested interests inherent in our political system. Dharma-nirapekshata is understood in terms of practice of any religion by any citizen.
Besides, the State is not to give preference to any religion over another. But this term is irrelevant in a democratic structure and it bears no application in reality because three principles are mentioned in the liberal-doctrine (Liberty which requires that the State, permits the practice of any religion, equality which requires that State not to give preference to any religion and the principle of neutrality).
Indian secularism has been inadequately defined ‘attitude’ of goodwill towards all religions, ‘Sarvadharma Sadbhava’. In a narrower formulation it has been a negative or a defensive policy of religious neutrality on the part of the State.
Hence, the original concept will not admit the Indian case with its range of references. Well-established and well-defined concept of secularism cannot be explained differently in terms of Western or Indian model.
To Herberg, ‘authentic religion’ means an emphasis on the supernatural, a deep inner conviction of the reality of supernatural power, a serious commitment to religious teaching, a strong element of the theological doctrine and a refusal to compromise religious beliefs and values with those of the wider society.
If there is any trend of decline in any aspect of religion mentioned above, then it is indicative of the process of secularisation. Thus secularization, as Brayan Wilson has defined, refers to the process in which religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance. Religion in America is subordinated to the American way of life. It means that religious belief and practices have tended to decline.
Secularism is taken to mean that one’s religious ideals and beliefs should not interfere in general with social, economic and political field. Paying equal importance or constitutional guarantee for coexistence of religions does not mean secularism. There are other aspects of secularism. Secularism is related to rationalism and empiricism.
Secularisation involves reduction of religious influence on men, elimination of some aspects of it which are not beneficial to human welfare, elimination of superstitions and blind beliefs. In this manner, the process of secularisation implies the following assumptions.
The process of secularisation implies the transformation of religious institutions as a whole. There is the need to secularise the religious institutions. This means less emphasis on supernatural power, lack of theological doctrine, and desirability to compromise with religious beliefs and values.
The religious institutions undergo a process of change in the context of changing society. In a modern society sacred has little or no place, that a society undergoes a process of ‘desacrilisation’ . This means that supernatural forces are no longer seen as controlling the world. Action is not directed by religious beliefs.
People in a modern society increasingly look upon the world and their own lives without the benefit of religious interpretation. As a result there is a ‘secularisation of consciousness’. Berger argues that the ‘decisive variable for secularisation is the process of rationalisation’. That is the pre-requisite for any industrial society of the modern type.
Secularisation also implies rationality. Wilson argues that a rational world view is the energy of religion. It is based on testing of arguments and beliefs by rational procedure, on asserting truth by means of factors which can be quantified and objectively measured.
Religion is based on faith. Its claim to truth cannot be tested by rational procedures. A rational world view rejects faith which is the basis of religion. It removes the mystery, magic and authority of religion. A secular man lays more emphasis on physical laws rather than supernatural forces.
The process of secularisation as the most important component of the process of modernisation is occurring in different forms in various contemporary societies. Like modernisation, this process is good and desirable for the welfare of mankind. Finally, it is both a product and a process.
Sample essay on the relation between Science and Religion
Sample essay on the relation between Science and Religion
Science and religion are commonly perceived to be mutually exclusive contradictions in terms, as it were. Both the method and the aims of science and religion seem to be different. While science is linked to the material, religion is concerned with the spiritual.
Development of Thought:
On the face of it the scope, sphere and method of science and religion are different and exclude each other. Science is objective while religion is subjective; Science relies on experiment, religion on experience; science deals with the material world, religion with the Supra mundane.
Over the ages a conflict has developed between science and religion. But science does not have the answer to everything. Science without religion gives rise to materialism and other ills of life. There is no real conflict between science and religion. The approach is different but the goal is the same.
The conflict between science and religion is superficial. There is no real antagonism between the two. Science and religion have apparently different aims and objects, yet in fact they are closely related and act and react on each other.
Science and Religion, the two terms have come to signify a contradiction in terms. On the face of it, it seems difficult to find a compromise between science and religion. Tar their scope is different and excludes each other.
Science deals with the world that we know, the material world that is comprehended by the senses; religion is concerned with a supra-mundane world — world that we cannot be said to know.
Science believes in things that can be proved; religion is preoccupied with ideas that have to be accepted without »roof Science depends on reasons; religion on intuition. The scientist works in the laboratory of the material world; the religious teacher works within the recesses of his personal experiences.
Religion begins where science ends. Science says that the First Cause is unknowable. Religion says that it can be known through the discipline of religion, for it is God who is not only self-existent but self — revealed.
Hence, there is bound to be hostility between the man of science and the man of religion. Science ends when matter ends. But religions oppose to this finite world of matter, the God who is endless.
Science relies on experiment, whereas religion on experience. Any religious experience, be that of Christ or Ramakrishna, is personal and subjective and it cannot be tested by any experiment. One has to believe in it. On the other hand, the experiment of science is an impersonal venture.
Also, objectivity as a temperament of the mind is needed in this pursuit. So rationality is one of the tools that science employs. Proof is provided in the form of tangible results which can be perceived with the eye and at times can be sensed.
As the words ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’ connote, the worlds of religion and science are poles apart. Science is concerned with ‘how’ of reality whereas religion is concerned with the ‘why’ of reality.
Science takes up the tangible entities and analyses them into their minutest parts, and then comes to conclusions regarding the way in which tangible realities are organized.
In brief, science is analytical. On the other hand, religion takes for granted the reality. The path of religion is metaphysical.
Indeed, the rationalists of religion pursuing the path of metaphysics postulate the concept of God: but even then, at the highest level of religious consciousness, the concept of God is a matter of faith. And this faith enables the religious man to attribute a design or meaning to the reality. Thus, science is analytical in approach whereas religion is synthetically.
Religion is subjective, as religious enlightenment has to be felt by one’s own experience. Unless and until religious experience is felt by an individual himself, he cannot reap any pleasure out of it. The moral and religious rules are allied and have to be followed by individuals in appropriate ethical situations.
Science, on the other hand, deals with the objective side of life. Scientific discoveries are common property. They are experience felt by all and sundry.
They are open to common men and not shrouded in mystery or haziness. They are truths, universally true and subject to scientific calculations. A systematic scholarship and concentration is needed to get at scientific truths which are subsequently tested and approved by hypotheses and experiment.
But so long as scientific knowledge is imperfect, the place of religion and god will continue to be highly relevant. So long as scientific theories do not reach perfection, humans have to fall back upon their own reasoning and secondary powers of their own soul and spirit.
In this sense, science and religion actually converge. Both scientists and saints have to undertake solitary travels into the regions unknown and to depend on themselves only and nobody else. But once a line is drawn between them, their ways bifurcate and take separate routes.
Religious truths remain essentiality the property of the individuals who experience and realise them through their own inward soul and mind and not through the external manifestation of things which have a physical behaviour. Scientific truths, on the other hand, become the property of the whole world and go to inflate the store-house of human knowledge.
Religion is perhaps as old as mankind. Even in the earliest times man had some idea of the higher power, a superior unknowable force pervading and controlling the universe. The earliest form of man’s worship of serpents, science and statues is clear proof of his belief in an All-powerful Creator.
Science is of more recent growth. The earliest phases of science may not be more than four or five thousand years old, while modern science began only in the 15th century. But Religion is very much older and before science made its appearance the former was the chief force guiding and governing human thoughts and conduct.
The supremacy of religion, however, gave rise to many evils. Religion encouraged superstition and other evil practices. The heads of various religions assumed almost the powers of a dictator over their followers. The Roman Catholic Church in Europe, the Brahmin priests in India and others behaved as despots and tyrants.
The true spirit of religion was ignored on account of these developments. But with the beginning of science, many of these evil growths were badly shaken. The conflict between science and religion was for some time very bitter.
The conflict between science and religion shows how truth has to suffer in order to establish its claims. Pioneers of science had to face numerous difficulties. Galileo, for instance, was thrown into prison for his new theories about heavenly bodies.
No better was the fate of Copernicus who pointed out that it is the earth which moves round the sun. In the 19th century also Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave rise to angry opposition from the Christian Church, since his theory cut across the Biblical version of the creation of mankind from Adam and Eve.
The Churchmen raised the cry «Religion in Danger» and pressed for the persecution of such scientist. In recent times, the German scientist Robert Mayor was shut up in a lunatic asylum for discovering his theory of the Conservation of Energy.
Thus all those who departed from the accepted Biblical theories about God, and universe were regarded as the enemies of mankind and religion.
Numerous attempts were made to suppress the voice of reason and truth. But Truth eventually prevailed and science held its ground. Many who had come forward to laugh at science became its champions and followers. Before the 19th century had run its course, the triumph of science was complete.
The rapid progress of science changed the face of the world beyond recognition. It conferred unheard of comforts and conveniences on mankind. The wonders of science bewildered man and he began to enjoy numerous blessings in life Time and distance, disease and pain were rapidly conquered and man seemed to be the master of his surroundings.
These developments gave rise in some circles to the belief that man is all-powerful and God a superiors being, people lost faith in Heaven or Hell, God or the Supreme Power.
Religion seemed to be unnecessary and the Church began to lose the respect and power it had once enjoyed Religion seemed to be dethroned from the hearts of man and science reigned in its place.
But the path of science did not ultimately prove as smooth as its worshippers had thought it to be. It turned out to be a mixed blessing. It did provide bodily comforts, but at the cost of man’s moral and spiritual development. It ruined man into a skeptic, a creature without any faith and lofty ideals to inspire and guide him.
The loss of such faith brought the baser side of his nature into free play. Man became dishonest, selfish and proud. It destroyed man’s simple faith, fellow feeling, affection and kindness. Besides, the blessings of science gave rise to new social problems. The gulf between the rich and the poor became wide than ever before.
The widespread use of machinery subjected millions of human beings to the evils of economic exploitation, unemployment, crowded, congested cities and the growth of slums. The average worker lost his independence and happiness and was reduced to the position of a mere clog in the vast organization of modern industry.
Above all, the use of science in the manufacture of weapons made war increasingly horrible and destructive, and it appeared that the very existence of humanity and civilization was at stake. Consequently the enthusiasm of the supporters of science began to cool down.
Also science is not able to answer the fundamental questions of the mystery of life and death and the incalculability of events. The scientist can say that the universe developed from a primeval atom but what made them coagulate into the universe we know.
Science fails to answer the question of the ‘First Cause’. It is here that man and even a scientist has to fall back upon the idea of God and religion.
In fact, science alone cannot give peace and happiness to mankind. Science must be allied to religion. Science makes man materialistic, but religion upholds his faith in God, in the higher and spiritual values of life. It must be admitted that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than our science can dream of.
The beauty and mystery of human life, its spiritual and moral values are lost if men are guided entirely by science. And without moral and spiritual values man’s life is not better than the life of a beast.
It is on account of this neglect of the moral and spiritual aspect of life that science has been applied for destructive and immoral purposes during the last century. If this state of affairs continues science will bring about the complete ruin of mankind and civilization.
Yet there is another danger: science itself may take the place of religion. It may in the blindness of fanaticism arrogate to itself the intolerance of dogmatism and persecute those who have the courage to differ from accepted scientific notions.
The fanaticism of the scientist may well prove to be a more awful men ace in so far as it is uninhibited by the humanitarian basis of religion «
People have, therefore, got to realise that there is no real conflict between science and religion. Their approach towards life is, of course different but the goal is the same. Science follows the path of reason and intellect, religion travel the road of faith and belief. But both aim at the discovery of truth.
As a matter of fact, today we know clearly that the animosity between the two is not very sub substantial. The pyramids of ancient Egypt evoke both religious reverence and also the admiration of engineers. Roger Bacon, the inventor of gunpowder, believed in alchemy.
Copernicus dedicated his famous book to the pope. Mendel was a monk by profession. And Einstein remarked that a great scientific discovery was a matter of religious insight.
Historically, in ancient times, there was no conflict between religion and science because human knowledge was an undifferentiated whole.
The imaginative shaman or the magician played the role of both doctor and high-priest. The Hippocrates oath taken by doctors till today refers to a religious belief of the Greeks-Hygeia, the goddess of health.
Thus, we notice that there is no antithesis worth speaking between the two all through the ages. Besides, intuition plays a vital role in the apprehension of God or in any religious belief.
Similarly, a great scientist never plans what he is about to discover. Before Newton millions of apples must have fallen to the ground but only the supersensitive insight of Newton made him propound the famous law of gravitation.
The compatibility of science and religion is well expressed in the couplet:
Nature and Nature’s law lay hid in the Night, God said, let Net won be and all was Light.
Outwardly religion and science are the two opposite poles of man’s consciousness. But the two do no necessarily repel each other. The meeting point is in the mind of man.
Religion without science degenerates into superstition, while science without the help of religion gives rise to materialism and lack of faith. Science, to speak the truth, has only purified religion, whereas religion has given a touch of beauty and mystery to science.
The discoveries of science and its conquest of Nature only— show the wonders of the Supreme Being. Thus science strengthens the work of religion. A true scientist is not an unbeliever or irreligious person, but a real admirer of God and His wonderful creations.
What the superstitious man worships blindly, the scientists worships as the fruit of his knowledge. Hence modern scientists have come to know not only the limitations of science but have given a better understanding of miracles of Nature and the wonders of the Creator.
The Religion of Science, if one may use the term, is a rational approach to the problems of the universe in which the voice of conservatism and superstition has no place. Science has thus ceased to be the enemy of religion; it has, on the other hand; become its helper and champion.
What does an essay on religion entail?
In the academic world, one of the simplest subjects and interesting at the same time is religion. When writing an essay on religion, the first thing to put in mind when approaching it is to understand that religion is a unique discipline unlike other studies such as science. Away from the uniqueness of this subject, the interdisciplinary aspect of religious studies makes writing a religion essay both exceedingly inspiring and captivating. Some of the disciplines that will highly feature when developing an argumentative essay on religion are as diverse as sociology, hermeneutics, anthropology, linguistics, and most importantly history. For this reason, the teacher, professor or the instructor in charge of the course will be expecting the religion essay that you write to have an incorporation of these disciplines. These other disciplines come in handy when one is writing a comparative religion essay on the give topic. This form of comparative assignment can range from a compare and contrast two religions essay to one that compares beliefs of certain leaders in the Bible. Personally, I am sure my religion essay will most probably be a comparative assignment.
Some of the specific and narrowed essay topics on religion that can be given out by instructors and teachers include:
- The role of church ministers in modern day church
- Why do Christians switch their religions?
- Evangelism versus the Protestantism
- Comparison of Islam and Christianity
- The emergence of the Protestantism
- Explain why the Bible is considered as one of the most widely known book.
These and more are just examples of specific religion essay topics that students will find themselves writing about and can form great research topics too. We have a wide range of essays that can help you in getting ideas on your assignment. Below are some of the topics that are common and have preserved for you the highly rated by our clients for your review.
- Islam religion essay
- Essay on Indian religion
- Short essay on Hindu religion
- Jane Eyre religion essay
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An essay about religion or a religion essay can take various forms.
For sure, an essay about religion can take various systematic forms mostly depending on the level of the course. For instance, a high school, college essay religion, and a master’s level persuasive essay on religion cannot take the same form or structure. This is because the level of understanding for the students in these three classes is different.
Since religion is majorly based on the account of historical events as narrated in the Holy books, it becomes easy to learn and understand. In fact of all the humanities that exist an essay on humanity is the best religion can offer. Therefore, next time you are contemplating on writing any kind of an assignment on religion be it just a simple religion definition essay or a complex analysis assignment, come to us for help.