Religious Concepts and Language

Dear ToKers,

1. Research a religion unfamiliar to you. For a partial list of religions, please consult this list from the BBC.

2. Which key concepts are vital to understanding this religion?

3. How is language used to shape this particular view? Is this language metaphorical? Symbolic? Or is it meant to be understood as literal? Which words or phrases are central to this belief?

4. Raise two knowledge questions centered around the ways of knowing.

5. Post your observations, examples, and questions on this class website

Due Monday at the end of class.

Kind Regards,

Mr. Coey

66 thoughts on “Religious Concepts and Language

  1. 1. Santeria
    2. Santeria is a type of syncretic religion for it incorporates various elements from several different faiths like from the Roman Catholic faith. Although Santeria has a symbiotic relation to Catholicism, the Santeria primarily focuses on practicing beliefs that promise wisdom and power in dealing with life’s hardships. Despite its growing popularity, Santeria is usually practiced privately. However, Santeria is also considered to be a religion practiced by the poorer population of the Carribean. Yet, recent studies have shown that even lawyers are now practicing this unique religion. Even though Santeria has African roots, language does not primarily have an effect because it has no central organization. Even though language does not readily apply, Santeria is considered amorphous, practical, and oral tradition.

  2. In Santeria key concepts are spirits, destiny, and God.
    Santeria believe that people most worship the spirits Orishas as they are manifestations of God or Olodumare. They believe that maintaining a good relationship with the spirits will help them in life and if the rituals are carried out appropriately then they will be about to achieve their destiny that God has given them since birth. It is also important to maintain these relationships because without worship Orishas will cease to exist. The language is symbolic because they use spirits to represent the embodiment of God.
    To what extent does one need to worship God so that they can achieve their destiny?
    How can our reason affect the way we view worship and the idea of destiny?

  3. I chose to study spiritualism. Spiritualists communicate with the spirits that passed away, believing those that passed away can and try to communicate with us. Mediums are people who have special skills that can communicate with spirits. The messages can be communicated verbally or physically shown. Spiritualism is a recent, so it doesn’t have any global presence, but it has all the elements other religions have. This religion doesn’t tell you what or how to think, and it doesn’t have any books or preachers to follow. Spiritualists believe that the souls of those that died survives and enters the spirit-world where it surrounds the living world. Spiritualists believe that spirits can communicate with the material world and that spirits are much like how they were when they were living. They teach that there is an afterlife and those that died take responsibility for their deeds of their lifetime. It’s meant to be literal and symbolic. They believe in finding the truth from nature and scientific laws rather than the supernatural.
    How can reasoning affect one’s belief in spirits?
    How can this area of knowledge benefit the “living world”?

  4. A Bembe is a ritual that invites the Orisha, spirits, to communicate with them. They are mostly called by singing , dancing, and playing the drums.

    • What if the ‘concepts’ or ‘language’ is too foreign for me to understand? Which other ways of knowing might be involved in developing these concepts for me?

  5. Religious Concepts and Language:
    I chose to study the religion of Rastafari. Rastafari is a young, Africa-centered religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafari theology developed from the ideas of Marcus Garvey, a political activist who wanted to improve the status of fellow blacks. Haile Selassies was coroneted as king of Ethiopia, due to him being king; Rastafarians believed he was a God. Which led them to rely on him, to put all their beliefs on him. I don’t really know their language but they seem to show a symbolic language through music. For example, Bob Marley’s music was spread global wide, they became successful during the 70’s. Their chanting, drumming etc. showed symbolic views towards their religion. To what extent is this religion similar to Christianity?

    • It’s interesting to think about the role music plays in shaping the Rastafari’s beliefs. Isn’t this the religion which advocates using marijuana?

      • If a religion claims/knows that an illegal substance (marijuana in this case) brings you close to God, then with the separation of Church and State what should be done? Could I smoke a joint in Mr. Coey’s class because I claim to follow Rastafarianism?
        To what extent does faith have to conform to society?

        • How do religions use ‘authority’ as a justification for their actions and beliefs? Is Mr. Coey’s authority enough to infringe upon ‘your’ Rastafarian beliefs? What role does context play in shaping how we reason?

    • I don’t really know what key concepts I should apply to this little research but I do happen to know the key ideas in the Rastafari religion. For example, they not only believe evil is personal but also corporate. Also, in their system of beliefs they saw hatred against white as something powerful, they believed in achieving revenge against whites and make them their servants but, that belief was diminished, gone for good. It seems, like they build their power from negativity energy due to their strange beliefs. It’s strange that Rastafari religion takes much direction from the bible, but their actions doesn’t seem to match up with that.

  6. 2. Zoroastrianism was one of the first monotheistic religions. It was founded around 3500 years ago by the prophet Zoroaster. In order to understand the religion, one must understand that Zoroastrians are not fire-worshipper. Instead they believe the spirits are pure and that the spirit of fire represents the light and wisdom of God, who they call Ahura Mazda. They also believe that Ahura Mazda revealed the truth to Zoroaster who founded the religion. The Avesta is the Holy Book of Zoroastrianism and it is split into two parts. One part representing the older side and the other represents the newer ideas. They also worship in Fire-Temples and pray several times a day.
    3. In the Avesta, there are several hymns in the older side of the Holy Script. In the newer script, there are myths, stories, details, and ritual observations.
    4. How does knowing that there are two parts to the Zoroastrian’s Holy Script affect your knowledge of the Christian Bible. (Assuming you know that the Bible is also split into two parts.)
    To what extent does knowing that there are spirits in Zoroastrianism affect your belief of the afterlife?

    • When we observe nature, we usually have a target, or something we hope to find. Other times we do not have a specific goal in mind. It is at these times where i believe we turn to our beliefs. We observe the observable in search of evidence that may support our beliefs, and we may find other discoveries along the way. Of course there are Atheist who do not have a religion to believe in, but nevertheless, they would still have something to aim at. They could try to find evidence that would approve theories of science, which would disprove religion.

  7. In regards to Paganism some vital concepts you should cope to understand the divine world in all concepts, but more specifically nature.
    In my research about paganism I have came up with the questions of If they believe in divine nature and polytheism then how much of there gut feeling is based upon there reason and can new gods be created

    • What is the concept, ‘cycle of procreation’? Why is this concept important to pagans?

  8. 1. Spiritualism
    2. The key concepts to believe in Spiritualism are to understand that souls survive bodily death and the souls live in the spirit world. Souls are able to communicate with the physical world. There are mediums that are believed to be to be able to see the spirits and communicate with them by traveling into the spiritual world.
    3. Spiritualists usually refer to it as a religion, philosophy and a science. They use scientific and natural laws rather than supernatural laws. It is meant to be taken literal and symbolic.
    4. How can a spiritualist justify their claims? Are spirits actually able to communicate with the physical world?
    5. Spiritualism in a nutshell seems like something I would see on the show Ghost Hunters. They believe in spirits, and they use natural laws and scientific methods of providing evidence of the existence of spiritual beings.

    • How might spiritualists justify their beliefs if they cannot see/observe spirits? Which other ways of knowing might be involved?

    • Spiritualists can justify their claims using scientific evidence. The spiritualists’ claim that they abide by the natural laws rather than supernatural laws. For example, they will have Electronic Voice phenomena sessions, EVP for short. These phenomena’s are sounds recorded by audio devices that are supposed to be the voices of the spirits. They will also use old cameras and handy cams to capture visual evidence of spirits. These sessions can also be held when a medium is present, where the medium who claims to be able to traverse between worlds, will communicate with the spirits. In that moment the session will capture evidence to justify their claims.

  9. Pastafarianism is a relatively new religion, but just as valid as any other. Its ideology closely mirrors those of Creationist religions and has a One Creator, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The key idea is that Pastafarianism’s beliefs are just as valid as any religion – especially those involving intelligent design – namely among them the belief fact that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe, and that pirates were the original founders. Furthermore, the lack of modern pirates is the cause of global warming, supporting the idea of “correlation equaling causation.”
    While many adherents firmly argue the truth of their religion, Pastafarianism is widely viewed as a mock-religion and is strictly metaphorical for the idea of the border between strongly-held belief and silliness. However, this is widely contested by religious groups who cannot understand the idea and dismiss Pastafarianism. Questions arise from Pastafarianism and the ideas surrounding it, such as Can (or should) Faith take precedence over reason or emotion? Also, Is validity dependent on group size, such as a dozen people correct against a billion “nonbelievers.”

    • Based upon this [and multiple other religions] I can see that religion doesn’t really need any physical proof whatsoever for one to believe in it.
      So my question to you is Do you believe one can actually truly and sincerely believe in a religion or a concept even without proof of some sort? [even false proof would suffice.]

      • Great question! Are emotions metaphysical or physical? In other words, would emotions count as ‘proof’?

        • By definition, anything that is physical can be touched or physically seen [such as a dog or a tree]
          Technically, emotions are metaphysical. In this sense, they do not serve as proof.
          However, one could argue that physical emotions can be seen [such as a sad face or a happy face] which in this case, it can serve as ‘physical proof’ for religion.
          It merely depends upon which side you are on.

        • When it comes to one’s faith, reason plays a role in what to believe. Using your comic, one could say it’s reasonable to think that Doctor Who saved us from an invasion for the invasion never appears in hour history books and such, thus “proving” that it was prevented by Doctor Who. This reasoning helps one to believe what is being said in religion.
          Sense perception is a bit tougher to associate with religion. But, if one could count being touched by a “spirit” in a way or “emotionally touched,” wouldn’t that fall under the categories of the ‘touching’ sense?
          As for your last question, yes. One can solidly argue that Doctor Who could be a religious idol. However, I don’t think the religion would actually be named “Doctor Who.”

    • How do the people in this religion justify their beliefs? Do they use special language or specific terms when referring to any religious deities or the like?

  10. 2 & 3. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion that was very popular in Persia, which is now known as Iran. The name of their god is Ahura Mazda and they believe that the elements are pure and that fires represent god’s light or wisdom. They worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary and the holy scripture is called The Avesta. They traditionally pray several times a day.
    4. How does representation affect our lives?
    How does beliefs change our daily lives?

  11. 2. Several key concepts that are vital to understanding the religion of a Jehovah Witness, can be especially more helpful to distinguish if comparing their views to other similar religions– like Christianity.
    Based mainly on beliefs (the Bible, purpose of living, the afterlife, God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, etc.)– by understanding that Jehovah Witnesses interprets the Bible only as literally, we can compare them to Christians that interpret the Bible as literally and symbolically. For that reason, I am able to realize that despite the similarities in beliefs, I can see that each religion’s own interpretation can affect the character of one’s believers.
    3. Like I mentioned before, if comparing Jehovah Witness to Christianity, depending on the language that’s established in each Bible, the interpretation and beliefs will be differently influenced, affecting how one lives life.

    4. According to what the Jehovah Witness’ Bible that says, “only 144,000 human beings will go to Heaven and rule the Earth from there with Christ,” how does that affect one’s faith and perception of God?
    How did one become a believer of a Jehovah Witness (testimony), and what’s one’s reason for believing and following as one?

    • Nice comparison, Lucky. Which knowledge questions seem to emerge from this comparison?

      • A couple of knowledge questions that could emerge from the comparison are:
        How does one’s belief of the afterlife, affects one’s sense perception of living?…
        How does the language in the Bible of the Jehovah Witness affect one’s interpretation and faith?

    • A good comparison Lucky. However, do you believe it is only limited to comparing the ideas to Christianity? What about the Asiatic religions?

  12. 2. A few key concepts in Rastafari are that: Blacks are superior to whites, Haile Selassie is the living god, Ethiopia is heaven while Jamaica is hell, and that blacks will soon rule the world. The modern beliefs slightly in changed for people to believe that god is in everyone, corporate is evil, and that salvation is found on earth.
    3. I think that the language in Rastafari is supposed to be taken literally. They had a strong hatred towards the whites and believed that they would enslave them and take over the world one day. They want themselves to be viewed as the best people and that everyone else besides them are inferior. That’s what most religions advocate; that you are the best, because you follow that religion. A central phrase in this religion is that God is in everyone and that blacks are superior to other races, especially whites.
    4. Should changes in the teachings of religion affect our faith and intuition? How have past events influenced Rastafari and other religions?

    • Not sure about the claim that “blacks are superior to whites,” but I did read that they believe they are God’s chosen people.

      Check out their rites of passage, especially for marriage and death.

  13. 2. Candomblé is a religion based on African beliefs which originated from Africa, and was brought to Brazil during the slave trade and there it was popularized. The religion involves the traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs that originated from various areas in Africa. Candomblé means the “dance of the honor of gods.” Followers and practitioners of the religion believe in the almighty god called Oludumaré who is served by lower deities, called orixas. The followers and practitioners believe that everyone has their own orixa that which control their own destinies and serves as a protector. There are no concepts of good or bad because everyone is supposed to follow their destiny even though it is consider bad or good.
    3. Language plays an important part in this religion. Candomblé is an oral religion and has no holy sculptures. Music and dance plays an important part in this religion because a certain chorography that is performed by worshippers is believed that he or she is possessed by the orixa.
    4. How does the absence of holy sculptures affect our knowledge of religious activities?
    To what extent is Candomblé similar to Christianity?

    • What role might interpretation play in this oral-tradition religion? How might ‘seeing’ the dance, or performing in the dance shape what a person can know about this religion?

  14. 1.) Jainism
    2.) Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself. Jainism has no priests. Its professional religious people are monks and nuns, who lead strict lives.
    3.) Jainism is the religion of self help. Their supreme principal is to live in harmony with our surroundings and live a life of non-violence. The monks and nuns of the faith must memorize the scripture because they are not allowed to write or hold the book. Because of the lack of Agamas books, many stories have been lost and forgotten over the years. Jains believe in reincarnation.
    4.) -What process do women have to go through in order to become a monk in the Jainism faith?
    -How are Jains viewed worldwide through the eyes of other religions?

    • Renunciation is a one central belief of the Jains. Renunciation is the act of renouncing or rejecting something as invalid, especially if it is something that the renouncer has previously enjoyed or endorsed.

  15. 2. Spiritualism is a religion which has a wide range of principles. Some vitals key concepts to understand this religion are to be open-minded to the freedom of religious, and believe in “Infinite Intelligence.” Spiritualism followers believe that the spirit continues to live in the Spiritual World.
    3. The word “freedom” and “individual” are repeated many times in the beliefs of this religion. I think that it meant to be understand literally. Those words are meant to show that in this religion and individual has his/her own freedom.
    4. How does faith effectively shape one’s belief?
    What justification support the idea of “continuous existence of the human soul”?

    • Good job, Dang! You are the first person to write about ‘concepts and language.’ What comes first, faith or belief?

      • I believe that belief comes first, but faith is the main factor that keeps followers loyal to their religion.

    • Dang, are there any different types of spirits that are similar to gods or are all spirits different than the gods that are portrayed in the other religions?

  16. shintoism- to the japanese shintoism is not looked at as a religion but looked baisically on how they look at the world. even though there are not any known spiritual leaders they do have shrines that are shown respect. majority of the shrines are located in their houses. holy books like records of ancient matters have many myths that are passed down from generation to generation. if we as people choose to combine shintoism with another religion does it affect where we go in the afterlife?

    • Purity is at the heart of Shinto’s understanding of good and evil knowing this concept raises many questions about a shintoist lifestyle
      what is kami? apparently these beings are as close to human beings as possible and they respond to human prayers so knowing this i pose this question. how do we understand the limits to kami’s power and how are we able to enter the spiritual world and become kami?

  17. The religion I chose to study is The Church of Euthanasia. In basic terms,the religion focuses on the restoring the balance between humans and nature on Earth. Now, this may seem like a legit religion, but their matter of restoring balance involves killing one’s self. The number one commandment of the church is “Thou shall not procreate,” meaning anything sexual acts committed by a person cannot be to reproduce.They contain slogans such as “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself” , “Six Billion Humans Can’t be Wrong” , and even “Eat a Queer Fetus for Jesus.”
    Even though the church seems outrages and like a suicide cult, it does contains restrictions. They do not support murders and such, nor to they support violent acts of suicide, and believe that instances such as suicide or abortion should be a choice and not forced upon the people of the church.
    For one to understand this religion, one has to think about the purpose of the people. They want the balance between humans and nature to restore to 50/50. They can see that the Earth is being too overpopulated with humans who only continue to destroy the Earth through their lives, and want to fix that.
    The language that the church uses helps the church seem less extreme. Instead of saying “You shall not have children.” they say “You shall not procreate.” It’s more complex in statement, but makes it seem less drastic. The other key sayings [such as “Eat a Queer Fetus for Jesus”] is not meant as a literal term. It is meant so that people who are against abortion and homosexuality will notice how extreme they are looking at those concepts and change their ways.
    This religion is very extreme in its practices, and raises many questions. Two questions that I’ve thought up would be:
    How does our reasoning effect our beliefs?
    How does our beliefs effect our actions?

      • Well by definition… Religion is a belief in a higher power or that there is a power greater than ourselves. So by definition, there is a limit as to what is considered a religion and what is not. This, of course, has led to radical religions to form, such as the Prince Phillip Movement which was created by a small group in Africa who believed that Prince Phillip was a son of a mountain spirit. The fact that he was believed to be a higher power made this religion, by definition, a real, research-able religion.
        But if you are not going by the definition then one could say there is no limit to religion and that all can be a religion.
        However, if one can say that anything can be a religion, then would one end up considering being an Atheist as being a part of a religion?

        • So, Ivana, if that is your real name, how might your insights about religion’s categorical boundaries relate to how we think about art?

          • Well again, by definition…
            Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” [found with google]
            Using this definition, one could say that art is limited to what is created and what looks beautiful or provides a certain set of emotions to the audience. In this case, it is saying that anything that is “ugly” or “emotionless” cannot be considered art.
            However, if you are not going by definition, then art has no limit and anything can be considered art, whether it be “ugly” or “fabulous.”
            Much like religion, art can be have these ‘categorical boundaries’ as you put it as well. These boundaries that are set by either humans or dictionaries, much like those for religion, can be broken and loop holes can be found within them, classifying multiple pieces of art as real art [or in multiple groups as actually religions.]
            Basically, art and religion have the same boundaries, as do other areas of knowledge, but I highly doubt I’ll be able to type out that entire comment on each and every area, especially not when we’re on the subject of religion.

            Next question?

  18. In the religion of Santeria one thing that must be under stood is that an eternal equilibrium must be achieved in order to successfully follow this religion. One must also understand that the spirits in the other world travel here, to ours, to assist us in the accomplishment of our future potential or destiny with god.In this religion the language used to share most of the communal religious aspects is Spanish since the religion specifically started in the Caribbean islands including Cuba.Also in this religion the meanings of words are taken truly not metaphorically since their beliefs are based on a metaphysical theory just like others modern religions.One word that is central to the Santeria beliefs is Bembe. This is a ritual that allows their followers to share a meal with their orisha, which are the guiding spirits.
    How can the metaphysical shape our beliefs?
    How can language influence our beliefs?

  19. 2. Spiritualism was founded in New York when the Fox sisters heard the sounds of knocking from spirits sending spirit messages.Their daughters, Maggie and Kate discovered that the spirits that created the noises was from a murdered peddler whose remains were buried in the cellar of their home. In the end of it all, they admitted the truth that the whole time it was the daughters creating the noises. This religion became a sensation and very fashionable for men and women across the world. Spiritualism was one of the first that spread around the world and used from various religions.
    3. In spiritualism they don’t have a certain language. The way they proved it was by testing the paranormal activities that occurs in that area. They also used spiritualist to provide information and evidence more than a scientist could find.
    4. How can sense perception affect our beliefs of the spirits? To what extent can spirits be measured?

    • Some key concepts of Spiritualism is that some spirits are drawn to people in the real world. Spiritualist have said that the ones who are in the spirit world know and are attracted in the lives they had lived before they left the real world. Souls can also communicate with the real world by the right conditions through ‘medium’.

  20. 2. Shinto is a religion in Japan. To understand the Shinto religion, one must understand that people live according to the way of the kami. One must also know that kami are not perfect beings as they make mistakes too so there are no absolute rules to follow by. People strive to be pure and sincere. Everything is part of one unified creation.
    3. Language is meant to be understood literally to understand the way of life. The way of the Kami is a central phrase for their beliefs. 4. How does ones emotion affect their belief of the meaning, purity? How does ones religious beliefs alter their meaning of “good” or “right”?

    • If you were to live by the way of kami, what would need to be your first insight?

      To what extent does religion give us knowledge that science and history cannot?

      • 2.Several key concepts in the religion, Shinto is that people live according to the way of the kami. Kami are not perfect beings as they make mistakes too so there are no absolute rules to follow by. People strive to be pure and sincere. Everything is part of one unified creation.
        3.The language in Shinto is meant to be symbolic as this will change our views of life. “Kami” is translated as spirits but they symbolizes the forces of nature as there are millions of kamis or it can symbolize the essence of existence. This language changes the lives of people because they kami is their based guidance and how they see or interpret kami affects their views.
        4. How does emotion play in the role of faith and reasoning? To what extent does imagination alter our language or interpretation of language?

        Answer to your question; if you live by shinto, your first insight would be the insight to strive to be pure.
        Religion give us the knowledge of reasons (ethics) and faith.

  21. 2. Shintoism should not seen see as a religion but in reality it is about the way the Japanese people view the world. In order to understand Shintoism one must understand that first of all, it is not a religion but merely an aspect of viewing life; because of this, the Japanese people are able to coexist with the different religions that are also there such as Buddhism and Taoism. In Shintoism there are Kami’s which are simply translated as spirits or can complexly be known as elements of the landscape or forces of nature. Although it does not have religious leaders, in Japan there are local shrines placed throughout Japan that and also small Shinto shrines in every Japanese household that they are able to worship from.
    3. The holy books of Shinto are the Kojiki or ‘Records of Ancient Matters’ and the ‘Nihon-gi or ‘Chronicles of Japan’ these books were composed of ancient myth’s that had been passed down orally and they also serve as to have many different moral purposes.
    4. How would our faith’s change if we were to have the concepts that Shintoism has? how does our sense perception ( the way we interact with things ) affect our beliefs?

    • a key concept for Shintoism was that even though the spirits or deity are greater beings, even they are not perfect and still make mistakes at times, indicating that there is no moral rule that they are perfect beings.

  22. 2. Jainism is a religion which was founded in India, where most of its followers reside. In order to understand Jainism, one must follow the three guiding principles which are: right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. There are no priests, but the religious leaders live very strict lives. They believe that everyone and everything has a soul and they must be treated equally. Therefore, they are strictly vegetarian. At death, Jains believe they are reincarnated. In order to be free from the reincarnation cycle, they must eliminate all the karma from their soul.

    3. Jainism’s holy book is called the ‘Agamas.’ The monks and nuns of the faith must memorize the scripture because they are not allowed to write or hold the book. Because of the lack of Agamas books, many stories have been lost and forgotten. The Agamas can be written or memorized. The 5 most important rules for Jians are non-violence, non-attachment to materials, not lying, not stealing, and sexual restraint. Jains must abide the Agamas literally, for it teaches them the way of life.

    4. What process do men have to go through in order to become a monk in the Jainism faith? What do they believe happens when the soul is completely liberated?

    • It’s interesting to notice how the five rules are established as ‘not doing’ these behaviors. Why do you think that is the case? What is the concept of Karma?

      Which knowledge questions emerge from thinking about this religion?

      • I think that Jina practices try to exempt these behaviors because of the belief that everything has a soul. As humans, we prefer to not experience grief. So they apply this mindset to everything.
        Jina’s believe that karma is a physical attribute, as it is attached to every living soul. They believe that karma sticks to the soul like dust particles. I see logic in this since scientifically we know what we’re 99.9% made of, but what about the other 0.1%? They believe we attract Karma, so it is their ultimate goal is to not attract any karma at all. Their 5 principles all repel karma, which will make them achieve their ultimate goal of liberation—if they follow the vows.

        To what extent can our sense perception measure the amount of karma our souls carry?
        How do others judgments affect the amount of karma?