World Religions

Exam 1
William Schmidt's monotheistic theory of religion: beliefs of primitive societies concerning God
- distant one great god above all others
- created lesser deities
Sir James George Frazier's magic theory: three phases of development regarding spirit world
- attempt to control world through magic
- religion
- science
three theories of religion as projections of human needs: Ludwig, Marx, Freud
- used to overcome problems via imagination; imagine a power who can help them

- used by ruling classes to suppress underclass

- projection of a great father image called God, rooted in guilt men feel in hating their fathers, fulfillment of most urgent wishes of mankind
Four types of religious systems: Basic Religions

common trait
religious ideas are not preserved in written form.

Religions of Pre-historic peoples

have a small amount of information.

-Native American and African Religions

-COMMON: animistic view
Four types of religious systems: Religions orientating in India

common trait

COMMON: Release from Cycle of Life, Death, and Rebirth
Four types of religious systems: Religions orientating in China/Japan

common trait
Religions Originating in China and Japan

Belief in many gods, Worship of nature, Veneration of Ancestors
Four types of religious systems: Religions orientating in Middle East

common trait

Belief in One Creator God, Absence of Reincarnation, Linear View of Time, Divine Judgment of the World
animals, stones, rivers, mountains and Earth have a spirit.

Spirits can communicate
Rites of passage
birth, puberty, marriage and death
birth of twins, women and menstruation, unclean food
methods used to achieve divination
analyzing animal entrails, bird flight observation, reading tortoise shell
- use pictures to explain religion
- poetic way of telling great truths
- attempt to control nature
- intent of practitioner determines difference between magic and religion
- fetish: good luck charms
Totem is based on
feeling of kinship between humans and other creatures/nature
sacrifice various meanings
feeding spirits, gift to spirit world, establishment of bond between humans and spirits
ritual: what devotees identify with
divine characters and their actions
phenomenon that led to ancestor veneration
people dreamed of the dead

began to believe dead were not gone but lived in another form/planet
Native American concept of God?
many levels of gods and spirits exist
How do Native Americans view hunting in light of their religion?
- viewed animal as fellow creature with spirit
- hunter prayed to spirit of animal before the hunt
- after hunt hunter asked animal for forgiveness
What is the purpose of the vision quest
- gain spirit power
According to Native American belief, how is the land of the dead often portrayed?
- happy or sad place
- only exists as long as remembered
Note the teaching on the High God and polytheism in African religions.
-created the world then left (Olorun)
-sons (Obatala, Oduda)
teaching on lesser spirits and animistic faiths.
- worshiped with temples, priests, rituals, food/drink
What is the traditional African belief about illness, misfortune, and death?
- caused by witchcraft or foul play
What do many African religions believe about the dead?
- no eschatology
- dead move into the world the spirits and continue to be effective among the living
What is the most common spiritual force in African religions?
- ancestors
the belief that there are forces in nature that humans can use to their benefit.
shamans and ancestor worship.
God or the gods are pictured as various animals.
God or the gods take on the form or characteristics of humans.
specialists in rituals that deal with the spirit word
Why Study World Religions?
Insight into Religious Beliefs

Insight into What Religions Share

Insight into how religions differ
Reasons to Study World Religions
Globalization: economic and social systems of nations are connected together moving freely between nations

Pluarlism: presence of various religions and is a mark of a democracy.

Religious Violence: members of certain religions misuse their religion to invoke or justify the killing of other people - in the name of God.
Why are there religions: 3 general theories
Materialistic Perspective - humans invented religion. only material world exists

Functional Perspective - religion is useful for individuals and society. Glue that holds society together (Emile Durkheim)

Belief Perspective - Ultimate Reality exists. Unseen reality. knowledge may come through reading the scriptures, meditation
based on one's relationship to a Divine Being.
belief in no God; denies the existence of God(s).
if the divine exist, it is impossible for humans to know it.
-Unseen reality viewed in non-personal ways

-a "Changeless Unity" or "Ground of Being" or the "One."
belief in one God worshipped in a singular form.
reality exists outside of the material universe

sacred reality encompasses material world

(Eastern/indigenous religions)
"all God"

-the sacred can being discovered within the physical world

-nature itself is part of God
all is God, God is all
Definition of indigenous
- living naturally in a particular area or environment.

Native American Beliefs on Creation
-the earth rises out of the waters and separates them from the sky.

-world isn't finished creation
Native Americans: Shamans
- control spirits to maintain harmony with nature

-seek to heal people

-speak to animals
African Religions: traditions
beginning of the world
African Religions: Ancestors
- guard and guide decendents