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Essay/Term paper: What is religion

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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What Is Religion

What is religion? According to an Oxford dictionary, religion is the
belief in the existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator and
controller of the universe, who has given to man a spirtual nature which
continues to exist after the death of the body. Religion appears to be a simple
idea on the surface, but in reality it is a very complex system of ideas that
many base their lives upon.

There are many religions in the world. Christianity seems to be the one
religion believed widely in the modern world. However, this is not the case in
a group of five people in a World Religion class. These five people share
common knowledge on several aspects of religion, yet they have some major
conflicts. The focus of this paper is to explore the ideas and beliefs of the
group, analyze the importance of religions dialogue, and to discuss the
challenge of religious pluralism in the contemporary world.

The first group member states her firm Christian views. Melissa
recognizes all the religions of the world, but she holds Christanity to be the
only true religion. To her, Christianity is the only way one person can attain
salvation. All other religions are false and those who do not follow
Christanity are misguided and will not attain salvation. It is only through
Jesus Christ's death on the cross that one can repent, be forgiven, and attain

Melissa feels that others who are non-Christians believe that their
religion is true. Afterall everyone is brought up to believe in the faith or
religion they are taught. If this was not the case, no one would have any
beliefs. Although their religions are not true religions Melissa respects their
views of being true.

Quite similar to Melissa's opinion, Jason feels that there is only one
true religion in the world, which is Christianity. However, he recognizes that
there are many other religions in the world in which their followers believe are
true. He does not believe that one should criticize others for their beliefs,
and that they should respect each person's beliefs even if they are different
from his.

For Jason, Christianity is the true religion. It is the only religion
that he believes Has the right answers for life, and the correct way to
salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. So his position is that there is only
one true religion in the world, but that there are other religions in the world
that people follow and their followers hold their religion to be true. Jason
feels that other religions of the world are important and are held true by their
followers. If this were not so, then why would anyone follow a religion that
they did not believe was true.

Michele believes Christianity is the one true religion. However, she
recognizes that other religions exist, and they are held true by their
respective adherents. She does not believe that non-Christian religions are
right, but she respects other people's rights to choose whatever faith they want
to follow.

Michele has been raised a Roman Catholic and is checking out other
Christian religions to see what they offer. She still believes that
Christianity is the one true religion, but she is curious to learn more about
the other Christian denominations.

Lori believes that since there are so many diverse religions today that
it is impossible to say that only one religion is correct. Lori feels that if
she said there was only one true religion she would be forcing her religion onto
others. For her, religion is an opinion. If you were to ask almost anyone
which religion was the one true religion of the world, they would say their
religion. She also feels that there are so many unanswered questions in every
religion therefore, she can not justify saying there is only one that is right.
She does believe that there is only one true God. Overall, she believes in one
true God, while recognizing the fact that there are other religions besides the
one of which she is a part.

Finally, Tony expresses his views which are quite different from the
rest of the group members. A few years ago Tony was a Christian and believed
that the god he worshiped was the one and only true god. He not only had a
strong faith in his relgious beliefs, but also felt that all the other religions
in the world were false, and that the followers of these teachings were
misfortunately misguided. He was going to heaven because he was right and they
(those of other faiths) were wrong and unfortunately going to hell. In the past
few years Tony questined his Christian faith and the holy writings upon which
they were based. Now he is an agnostic.

Although Tony does not believe or have evidence that there is any true
religion or religions, he now gives equal credibility to all religions to which
previously he had not. He has concluded that those persons of the various
religions show just as much fervor in their faith as do their religious
counterparts of opposing faiths. It is apparent that there are many persons and
just as may religious perspectives. This does not necessarily lead to the
conclusion that there is a true religion and a false religion(s), but that
religion is an entirely subjective experience whose truth is decided by its
value to its adherents.

Further discussion on other aspects of religion took place as well. For
example, the topic of the Christian Bible posed conflict among two of the group
members. Jason boldly stated his opinion of the Bible. He believes every word
in the Bible to be true. He thinks that everything in life should be based on
how the Bible tells you to live. He feels that the Bible is the true word of
God. He also feels that the Bible has told the past and fortells the future as
well. According to the Bible, Israel is God's chosen nation and that any country
that goes against this nation, they will be punished by God. He relates this to
the recent incident of Israel's Prime Minister being assassinated. He believes
that if this was a direct act of a certain nation, then there will be other
events to follow. However, Tony has different beliefs which controdict Jason's
completely. Tony has no belief in Christianity, therefore, he has no belief in
the Bible. He feels there is no way the Bible can be the word of God because
there is no proof and there is no foundation. Tony also questions the presence
of a heaven and hell. For Tony, Christianity is nothing but brainwashing. He
thinks one's beliefs are determined by the way one is raised. If one is brought
up a certain way, then he will only believe a certain way. The group came to a
meeting point from this statement. We all agreed that one's religion is his or
her own personal belief built from the foundation of one's upbringing.

The group also discussed how we as a society are supposed to handle the
problems that religious pluralism causes. There is no greater enemy to
humankind than fear. It is undoubtedly the germ of hatred, contempt, disdain,
resentment, disapproval and therefore all forms of discrimiantion. When we are
unable to understand or encounter the unfamiliar, we fear. The only way to
understand amd become familiar with the source of our fears is through exposure.
This is imperative to mutual understanding in any matter. This is especially
true in religion, where those of the various faiths are adamant in the belief of
the superiority of their relgious faith. An invaluable means of coming to terms
with those of differing faiths is the process of dialogue. The importance of
interreligious dialogue cannot be understated.

In our discussion group of five members (consisting of four Christians
and one agnostic), the majority is of the opinion that their religion is the
only one true religion in the world. This majority simply beleives that those
of other faiths are misfortunately misguided. Nonetheless, there is unanimous
agreement that there is considerable importance in intereligious dialouge
amongst the religions of the world. This dialogue will bring understanding and
hopefully promote tolerance and acceptance of those beliefs not similar to one's
own. The idea is not to bring about conformity, but to exploit the benefits of
religious diversity.

Our group agrees on how the challenge of religious pluralism is to be
met in contemporary world. The most important tool to help deal with religious
pluralism is dialogue. People of different religions need to communicate and
listen to each other. Because of all the diversity in the world, we feel people
need to be open-minded and non-judgemental of other people's views, especially
if their views do not necessarily agree with someone else's views. We think
trying to understand different religions takes compassion and understanding.
Often, people fear the "unknown."

So, another way to meet the challenge of religious pluralism is through
education. People can learn about different religions and respect the diversity
that exists. Further, to help understand a different religion, our group thinks
that going to check out different religion services will give people personal
experience of that different faith. People do not have to feel they have to
accept the other religion, but going to visit another service will broaden their
horizons. We believe that if society can respect the religious diversity in the
world, the challenge of relgious pluralism can be met. W.C. Smith says it best,
"Unless men can learn to understand and to be loyal to each other across
religious frontiers, unless we can build a world in which people profoundly of
different faiths can live together and work together, then the prospects for our
planets future are not bright" ("The Christian in a Religiously Plural World"


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