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Introduction to Religion. What is religion?. Some Images. Religare Latin root Re plus ligare ‘again’ combined with ‘to bind’ meaning ‘to tie fast’ Religia Latin – ‘obligation’ or ‘bond’ Religian Old French. Religion . Gary Comstock.

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introduction to religion

Introduction to Religion

What is religion?


Latin root

Re plus ligare

‘again’ combined with ‘to bind’ meaning ‘to tie fast’


Latin – ‘obligation’ or ‘bond’


Old French

gary comstock
Gary Comstock
  • that part of some people’s lives which involves rituals, beliefs, organizations, ethical values, historical traditions and personal habits or choices – some of which refer to the transcendent.
mircea eliade
“The sacred always manifests itself as a reality of a wholly different order from ‘natural’ realities. ...The first possible definition of the sacred is that it is the opposite of the profane.”

sacred: Set apart for worship of a deity or as worthy of worship.

profane: Nonreligious. Outside the sphere of religion.

Mircea Eliade
ninian smart
Seven Dimensions of Religion.

Not a definition, but identifying features that help us understand the way academics think about the topic.

Ninian Smart
experiential or emotional
Rudolf Otto

Mysterium tremendum fascinans – a mysterious something that draws you in and inspires both awe and fear

Experiential or Emotional
  • Mysticism key here
    • Intuitive
    • Beyond reason

Bernini, GianlorenzoEcstasy of St. Teresa1647-52Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

narrative or mythic dimension
Myth – a vehicle that relates a truth defying normal expression and sets pattern for human behaviors


Accounts of creation of the world


Accounts/Beliefs about the end of the world

Scriptural or canonical (kanon is Greek for measuring rod)

Narrative or Mythic Dimension
doctrinal or philosophical dimension
The principles of a tradition

Typically explain complex ideas

May or may not be familiar to the average believer, but is part of the scholarly tradition

Doctrinal or Philosophical Dimension
ethical or legal dimension
Ethical or Legal Dimension
  • The things required of a believer
material dimension
Material Dimension
  • Artifacts
    • Buildings
    • Art
    • Music
    • Symbols
    • Natural World
why do religions exist
Religions help us deal with a variety of human needs. For example:

Give us a way to think about our own mortality

Help us to find security in an insecure world

Organize us socially

Assist the poorest and the weakest with survival

Stimulate artistic production

Why do religions exist?
sigmund freud

Religion is about projecting our childhood experiences with our parents onto a God or gods

Sigmund Freud
carl jung

Individuation or personal fulfillment

Symbols particularly important

Carl Jung
some key terms

Religions based on a relationship with a divine being


The Divine in a Singular form


Multiple forms of the divine


Beneath multiple apparent forms of the divine there is one ultimate reality


Non-belief in any deity


No knowledge if the divine exists or can be known

Some Key Terms
why study religions
Insight into other cultures and into the lives of other people. Religion is a key to the way many people live. Understanding religious practice helps us to better understand others’ lives and hopefully, to be tolerant of people not like us.

Improve your appreciation of new places because you can understand what you see and hear and experience more fully.

To assist in your own religious quest. Summed up simply: we can learn from others who do not practice as we do.

To appreciate every day life more fully. You cannot see a movie, read a book, hear a song, listen to a Presidential debate without some mention of religion it seems. Knowing more is a positive.

To make you a better citizen of the world

Why Study Religions