Dynamism of Religion,Rituals and Philosophy

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Abstract

Dynamism in philosophy is a theory, doctrine or a system which does seek to explain on the phenomena of the universe through immanent energy or force. In religion, dynamism is the main theoretical viewpoint which finds an immanent force, universe as well as energy underlying. Dynamism had been formulated as a major theoretical alternative to proposed theories on the main origin of religion.  The main perspectives in sociological literature that does reflect on the main dynamism of religion are religion in respect to everyday lifestyle, religious evolution, culture, religious discourse, religious evolution and the influence of social reality as far as religion is concerned. This paper will hence discuss on Smart’s dimensions of religion, the religious doctrines, philosophies as well as the critical analysis in dynamism.

Introduction

Religion is one aspect that gives a person both relationship and identity. It deals with meaning, selfhood as well as purpose. Religion does answer some of the critical questions for various people in a satisfying as well as multidimensional way. There are various types of religious experience. These are mystical and numinous experiences.  Numinous experiences focus on the main encounter with God for example the encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush. The mystical experience one tends to experience a loss as far as personal identity is concerned. The experiences can hence be grouped into monist, nature and theist mysticism (Eric, 2008, pp. 151).

There is also an essence of rituals dimensions. Rituals are basically what the believers do. It offers the believers a symbolic communication mode which is designed to propel them out of the usual or ordinary experiences to extraordinary realities. Rituals are usually based on myths that are contained in a certain worldview (Philip, 1996, pp. 307-321).

The basic Christian doctrines focus on the revealed word of God. It is basically the Christian theology that regards on the God, the nature of the truth, Jesus, salvation, God, the trinity, the Holy Spirit, resurrection and the gospel. The Christian doctrine is accurate, informative and quite brief. The basics are usually the foundation of one’s Christian life. In the Christian doctrines there is an aspect of the bible, God, man and creation.

Religion is quite imperative to diverse people and every person’s religion is something which every person is dedicated to. However, we cannot deny that most rituals as far as outsiders are concerned are complex to comprehend and quite bizarre. Religious humanism does focus on integration of all religious rituals with some humanistic philosophy which centres on human interests, needs and abilities (Samuel, 1970, pp. 100).  Religious philosophy is any philosophical thinking which is directed and inspired by religion for example Judaism philosophy, Buddhist philosophy or Christian philosophy.

This paper will focus on various traditions and basically Christianity and Buddhism in respect to religious doctrines, philosophies and rituals. It will also put immense emphasis on Smart’s six dimensions of religion as well as other doctrines for example Joseph Smith’s doctrine of deity.

Discussion

            Religious rituals

Rituals are set of actions that are performed basically because of their symbolic values. It can be prescribed by traditions of a certain community or religion. The term does exclude actions that are arbitrarily chosen or dictated by performers either by chance, logic and necessity.  In religion, rituals comprise of the prescribed forms in performing cults or cultus of a certain observation in a religion or within a religious denomination. Though rituals are often focused on or used in the context of worship that is performed in churches, the main relationship between religious doctrines and rituals vary from an organized religion to a non institutionalized spirituality.  Rituals usually have a very a deep connection with astonishment thus in most cases it does express reverence for some idealized humanity state or deity.

The main functions of rituals have often been immensely exploited for political issues. Besides reverence and personal worshipping dimensions, rituals do have a basic importance as far as expressing, reinforcing and fixing the beliefs and shared values of the society is concerned. Rituals help in creating group identity and human beings have always used rituals in order to create some social bonds as well as nourish some interpersonal relationships. Nearly all the sororities and fraternities do have rituals that are incorporated in their structure from secret to elaborate rites to a more formalized structure used in convening a meeting.

Christian rituals and practices

Most of the religious practices and Christian rituals do vary between denominations, individual Christian and individual church though some of the practices are virtually to all Christian forms. Most of the Christians do attend worshipping services on Sunday which comprise of praying, singing and sermons. Most of the Christian churches do have special rituals meant for designating or ordination of a person that is fit for a certain leadership position in churches. At home most of the practicing Christians do pray regularly and even read their bibles.

Nearly all the Christians get baptized either in early infant stages or when they become adults. They also do participate regularly in communion which is also called Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. Communion and baptism are usually considered as sacraments that are instituted by Jesus. The Catholic Church has recognized five sacraments and other practices which are referred to as devotions or sacramentals which comprise of praying of the rosary as well as going to pilgrimages. Both Orthodox and Catholic churches do have religious orders. Some of the Christian practices are baptism, communion, confirmation, prayer, Sunday services, missions and evangelism, marriage, healing, ordination and funerals (Hendrick, 2008).

The Roman Catholic does recognize seven sacrament rituals which comprise of baptism, penance, confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony and extreme unction (Hendrick, 2008, pp. 296).  The protestant churches do recognise Eucharist and baptism since these can only be proved from the scripture to having been instituted by Jesus Christ. The protestant churches usually have some formal ceremonies for the matrimony though it is not regarded as sacraments.

Buddhism rituals and practices

Buddhism does incorporate a variety of practices and rituals which are usually intended to aid in the enlightenment journey as well as bring forth blessings to others. The meditation practice is basically central to almost all Buddhism forms and is directly derived from all the teachings and experiences of Buddha. Mediation is the main focus as far as Zen Buddhism is concerned and the main liberation in Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism practices and rituals do comprise of detailed and intricate prayers. It comprises of Puja or prayer which is a main way that is used to express dedication and offerings to God (, pp 102).

Following and practicing these rituals helps a person to move onto the enlightenment path. The prayers are usually initiated through evoking of sangha. After sangha has been evoked then the dharma and sadhaka students perform some prostrations which are also known as three aggregates. They comprise of the mind, body and the speech. It also does indicate and reveals that these students have hence acknowledged the Buddha bodies which comprise of Smbhogakaya, Dharmakaya and Nirmanakaya (Vicki, 2003). The immense power in Buddhism is usually found when one fully engages in it. There is however more in Buddhism than just practices and rituals. However, rituals happen to be both teaching and training.

In Buddhism, merit is usually shared and made through periodic, daily, yearly festivals as well as special rituals. Services involved in chanting or worship only take place at home, temple or monastery. Through incense and lighting of the candles before the image of Buddha, the monks hence chants together and then the lay family offers the prayer. The flowers are also placed as a symbol of life’s impermanence.

The daily rite of Buddhism is offering of the food. The Theravada laity does make this offering to monks and Mahayana laity does make it to Buddha as part of worship. In both settings merits is usually shared (Bibhuti, 2000,  pp. 69).  There are usually some special rituals used to protect, mark and bless occasions of major transitions of life. They usually protect and mark passage times from one stage to the other for example births, birthdays, marriage, coming of age, death and others. The monks are the ones who do preside over funerals, ordinations and even death rites. In the tradition of Theravada, ordination is either coming of age or puberty rite. The monks also preside over entering of new house and birthday rites.

The Ex-monks elders from the lay community do perform rituals for marriage and childbirth (Bibhuti, 2000). The lay priests on the other hand preside over some rituals like presentation of a child to the temple, confirmation of girls and boys during death and puberty and others. The Buddhists do celebrate Buddha’s birth as well as the New Year, death and enlightenment. The beginning of the year is a time dedicated to take stock of each person’s well wishing, Karma and cleansing. The laity bathes the images of Buddha by sprinkling them with water as well as elders and monks as a sign of respect and good wishes. The monks hence chant their blessings to the laity and share on the merits of this occasion with the dead. The pouring of the water is not just a sign of honouring the monks, elders and Buddha but it is offering for plentiful days and rain to come.

Theravada Buddhists do transfer and honour merit to the ancestors on each occasion of sharing and merit making. The Buddhists also do have a chance of celebrating the blessing ceremony. During the blessing ceremony the major item is the image of Buddha whereby a white thread is wrapped or tied around. The thread usually has around 8 strands which signify and symbolise the 8 fold path (Bibhuti, 2000). It is usually white to signify or represent purity while the thread symbolises connection, unity, peace, harmony and solidarity. Some of the elements that are involved in Puja or worship are bowing, offerings, chanting, lights, relationships and meditation.

Generally the practice of Buddhism is usually associated with reflective, quiet as well as introspective aspects involved in formal meditation with little realisation or recognition of the various means in which we can cultivate some qualities for example gladness, joy as well as uplift of one’s heart.

Smart’s six dimension of religion

Ninian Smart came up with various dimensions in relation to religion.  These are the ritual, experiential, mythic, ethical, philosophical, social and the material dimensions.  The ritual dimension as put forth by Smart comprises of all the practices as well as rituals that include waving flags, marching, praying and even taking of holidays (Ninian & John.  2009, Pp. 152). The experiential dimension comprise of religious experiences for example revelations, visions, religious ecstasy and enlightenment. The mythic dimension comprise of both written and oral tales with formal and informal teachings, predictions and alternative histories. The philosophical dimension is the formal and official teachings which do underpin the mythic or narrative parts of the religion. In Christianity, there are existences of cults following the stories, rituals and life of Jesus which hence formed the Christian doctrines.

The ethical dimension dictate the fact that the formal and moral laws from any system do run the gamut from complex and extensive Mosaic laws to unwritten and variable set of the Christian taboos. The social dimension does require a physical form as opposed to others which are abstract.  The social dimension comprises of the formal organization for example umma, church, mosque or sangha. The material dimension comprise of the religion’s physical creations which comprise or art, icons, buildings and instruments of ritual. It also comprises of the natural features which are crucial to the system for example holy ground, sacred mountains and Jerusalem.

The ritual and practical dimensions do cover all acts of worship whether corporate and private, preaching, meditation and sacrifice. It also does include some other practices for example yoga. The examples do comprise of the celebration of Eucharist in Christianity. Experiential dimension brings together ranges of some religious phenomena which range from experience of conversion to shamanistic trances (Ninian & John.  2009).

It comprises of less dramatic feelings for example stillness and sense oneness which is usually reported by the believers to occur in moments of reflection. The mythic dimension incorporates stories which form a starting point to some religious teachings. The creation myths are usually incorporated with accounts and devotional material of lives of important individuals. The philosophical dimensions refer to teachings encompassing the world’s religions. The more the religions develop; their myths as well as narratives are hence explained by intellectually rigorous and complex doctrines of the official teachings.

In Buddhism the social dimension in reference to sangha is usually a name that is given to a community of nuns and monks as well as the wider Buddhist community. As far as material dimension is concerned, Buddhism has hence given rise to various statues while orthodox Christianity has come up with some beautiful icons.

Although Ninian Smart has not offered a succinct definition of what religion is, his main approach offers an insight into religious nature. It is a major system which can hence be applied to humanistic and secular world views for example Marxism and nationalism.

Smart’s main goal is to advance on our understanding of how human beings do interact thoughtfully to express on the exigencies of existence and nature.

Religious doctrines

In various religions, some doctrines are usually considered imperative to belief system. There are usually key or central doctrines which form a primary base to the belief system. Denial of these essential doctrines tends to compromise one’s religion. Any person who tends to deny some of the central doctrines should hence not be accepted as being a genuine follower to that faith.

There are numerous Christian doctrines. In Christianity, there is usually only one Supreme Being. God is a trinity and there are no other gods after or before God. God is omnipresent, powerful, and sovereign and created everything that does exist. It is crucial as a Christian to realize the basic doctrines to be in a position to answer questions which arise on why we believe on what we believe. There are six important doctrines that Christians believe.

The first essential doctrine is the bible. Christians do believe on the fact that the bible happens to be the inerrant inspired word of God.  All the men who wrote the bible were guided and inspired by Holy Spirit in order to papyrus the truths that God did want us to know. The second imperative doctrine is the human being. We all believe that we are created in God’s image. In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam who he formed from earth’s dust. God also created eve when He took a rib from Adam. The third doctrine is God. Christians believe in God and three persons namely the Holy Spirit, Son and Father which we do refer as trinity.

The other doctrine is Jesus. As Christians we do believe on the fact that Jesus is a son of God and part of Trinity.  Jesus came in form of a man and died on the cross hence taking our punishments.  Jesus is usually called the Lamb of God as he takes away the sins of mankind.  The other doctrine is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit happens to be the third part of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit happens to be God and inhabits the believers. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit people are in a position to interpret the scripture as well as learn what is needed by God and what He really requires. Christians do believe that everybody is a sinner and that is why Jesus had to suffer on behalf of them.

Finally there is the salvation doctrine. Christians believe that there is one way to enter the kingdom of heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. The only way to receive salvation is through belief and faith. Christian Doctrines appear ritualistic and convoluted to seekers who have otherwise experienced organized religions traditions.  Most of the churches hinder the understanding and presentation of Christian doctrine.

Religious philosophy and criticism

Religious views and opinions should never affect people’s treatment that has divergent views. The treatment to other people is based on respect and has no any religious preference. All human beings ought to have unified respect given to one another. The religious philosophy is an enthralling area in philosophy. It not only addresses on some perennial questions but also questions on the existence of God and how He is like if at all He exists.

Christian philosophy requires faith as far as biblical revelation is concerned. However most Christians assume that their faith is indefensible and they reason by claiming that what they really believe is completely beyond reason. As far as Christian philosophy is concerned, the bible does not point out that we abandon reason for us to accept truth. Apostle Paul in 1 Peter 3:15 encourage the Christians to present some logical as well as compelling reasons as far as their hope in Christ is concerned.

Christianity does answer most of the contentious questions. Though most people debate on the existence of God, for most average people such debate is completely irrational and irrelevant.

The major tenets of the Christian philosophy are quite rational since they are only held by the rational and average people. However, Christianity still runs through some epistemological problems. There are always questions on how the knowledge gained through faith in the biblical revelation can compare to the intellect and knowledge gained by the scientific investigation (John, 1900, pp. 12). All knowledge does require faith as it precedes reasoning power.  Though humanists and Marxists portray science as the primary faith and knowledge in the biblical revelation as blind as superstition or epistemology, the fact is that all the methods of knowing do rely on assumptions (John, 1900).

The main philosophical problem is not actually the problem of reason versus faith but is the fact that most thinkers do place their entire trust in sets of assumptions as they search for truth as other thinkers place their entire trust in other divergent sets of assumptions.  Marxist and humanist do place their trust in particular findings of experience and science which can never be rationally demonstrated as the main source of truth.

Christians do appeal to History, Science as well as personal experiences though they are fully aware that such avenues in discovering the real truth are not reliable (Szerszynski & Bronislaw, 2005, pp. 813-822).  Christians are fully aware on the fact that the scientists do make some mistakes and even the fact that the scientific journals are likely to be discriminatory on the views that are considered as dangerous. They are also aware that history can be twisted, distorted, perverted and the fact that personal experience can never be a rich source of knowledge or fact. They do believe that the biblical revelation is quite true and God can never mislead his own people.

Christian philosophy has never rejected tests of truth or reason.  The Christians assert that the New Testament is factual and true since its truths can as well be tested.  Christian epistemology is usually based on some special revelation which is based on law, history and archaeological science.

The philosophical naturalists do make the assumption that through their definition they do accept on faith. They do agree on the fact that there is no any supernatural. Faith is quite imperative and crucial in each philosophy thus when people are developing philosophy ought to be quite careful to base their case on truthful assumptions otherwise the entire philosophy will end up crumbling.

Generally Christian philosophy is held as being the most logical and rational among all the worldviews and hence requires no other faith than other philosophies.  It does represent on the general worldview which is quite consistent with the Bible. Christian philosophy embraces on the meaningful and purposeful life where one shapes their beliefs on a reasonable, coherent and truthful worldview. It is the duty of the Christian leaders to comprehend on the ideologies of philosophy in order to be in a position where they can face challenges amicably.

On the other hand, Buddhism philosophy and concern is on eliminating suffering as well as finding for a cure for the pain that exists in humans. Buddha intended his philosophical base to be practical and one that is aimed at happiness to all the creatures. As he outlined his metaphysics, he never expected anybody to go ahead and accept through faith but to go ahead and verify through insights. His main emphasis was based on seeing and understanding clearly (Masih, 1991, pp. 17).

In order to achieve such insights the Buddhists have to live a disciplined way of life and immense commitment to the liberation.  Buddha laid a clear path on how to live wisely and his core teachings are usually contained in the Noble Eightfold path that covers the Buddhist practices. The main goal is meant to cultivate compassion and wisdom.  Regarding the Buddhist path as being a philosophical one, then one ought to consider the epistemology.  Buddha derived a consistent and complex system of philosophy that has stood for many centuries through assumptions for example dependent origination and impermanence. His teachings are self evolving and quite interactive with its end goal being Nirvana.

Arguments for the existence of God

The arguments can be classified in Ontological, Cosmological, Teleogical, Moral, Pascal’s Wager arguments and finally the argument basing on religious experience.  Pascal’s Wager is a basic argument for a belief in God based not on the fact that God exists but based on self interest (Brooke & Kenneth, 2001, pp. 384). It states that it is in our interests to go ahead and believe that God does exist and hence it is rational to believe. This argument is supported by considerations of consequences of unbelief and belief.  If we go ahead and believe in God and then the argument runs that He actually exists then we shall get a reward and in case he does not exist then we have nothing to lose.

The ontological argument proves on the existence of God through abstract reasoning. There is an argument that a God who does exist is better than one who does not. To speak of God as being perfect then it is to affirm that He does exist and to assert that He does not exist is simply contradicting ourselves (Brooke & Kenneth, 2001).

The cosmological argument focuses on the existence of the universe and a being that keeps it existing.  Since the universe did not exist before, then there is an explanation on why it does exist. There must be a being that is behind the existence of the universe (Brooke & Kenneth, 2001).  The teleological argument focuses on the order of the universe and the main existence of a being that created it with a purpose in mind (Brooke & Kenneth, 2001).  It is plausible that the world is like that because it had been created by God with a major purpose which is life.

The moral argument is an argument from the nature or existence of morality to existence of a Supreme Being who is God (Brooke & Kenneth, 2001). Finally is the argument from a religious point of view. It states that personal experiences are likely to prove God’s existence to those that have undergone through such experiences. One hence can perceive only that which does exist and hence God should exist since there are those that have experienced Him.

Critical analysis of dynamism

Both Christian and Buddhism are meant to solve various known problems in the society and to answer some contentious questions. However, there have always been controversies as both traditions are vulnerable to some extent. They have not been able to solve most of the societal problems as there are divergent beliefs and opinions from its members. Though the opinion of each person should be respected, the two traditions should come together and try and solve some of the problems in the society for example poverty, child abuse, abortion and others.

Conclusion

Today, there are various religious beliefs and traditions with diverse contribution as far as the societal problems are concerned. Though they are meant to answer some of the intriguing questions, they have failed to do so because of the controversies they have created. Dynamism as far as religion is concerned is inevitable. Both Buddhism and Christianity have their stand as far philosophy, rituals, dynamism and arguments on the existence of God are concerned. They differ to a large extent but their goals are similar as they are after making the world a better place to be. They both value the concept of reason as far as their philosophical base is concerned. However, religions in an aim to solve most of the world problems, they should come together and agree on a common goal and fight to answer some of the contentious issues and questions.

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