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Religious experiences can be characterized generally as experiences that seem to the person having them to be of some objective reality and to have some religious import. That reality can be an individual, a state of affairs, a fact, or even an absence, depending on the religious tradition the experience is a part of. A wide variety of kinds of experience fall under the general rubric of religious experience. The concept is vague, and the multiplicity of kinds of experiences that fall under it makes it difficult to capture in any general account. Part of that vagueness comes from the term ‘religion,’ which is difficult to define in any way that does not either rule out institutions that clearly are religions, or include terms that can only be understood in the light of a prior understanding of what religions are. Nevertheless, we can make some progress in elucidating the concept by distinguishing it from distinct but related concepts.
First, religious experience is to be distinguished from religious feelings, in the same way that experience in general is to be distinguished from feelings in general. A feeling of elation, for example, even if it occurs in a religious context, does not count in itself as a religious experience, even if the subject later comes to think that the feeling was caused by some objective reality of religious significance. An analogy with sense experience is helpful here. If a subject feels a general feeling of happiness, not on account of anything in particular, and later comes to believe the feeling was caused by the presence of a particular person, that fact does not transform the feeling of happiness into a perception of the person. Just as a mental event, to be a perception of an object, must in some sense seem to be an experience of that object, a religiously oriented mental event, to be a religious experience, must in some way seem to be an experience of a religiously significant reality. So, although religious feelings may be involved in many, or even most, religious experiences, they are not the same thing. Discussions of religious experience in terms of feelings, like Schleiermacher’s (1998) “feeling of absolute dependence,” or Otto’s (1923) feeling of the numinous, were important early contributions to theorizing about religious experience, but some have since then argued (see Gellman 2001 and Alston 1991, for example) that religious affective states are not all there is to religious experience. To account for the experiences qua experiences, we must go beyond subjective feelings.
Religious experience is also to be distinguished from mystical experience. Although there is obviously a close connection between the two, and mystical experiences are religious experiences, not all religious experiences qualify as mystical. The word ‘mysticism’ has been understood in many different ways. James (1902) took mysticism to necessarily involve ineffability, which would rule out many cases commonly understood to be mystical. Alston (1991) adopted the term grudgingly as the best of a bad lot and gave it a semi-technical meaning. But in its common, non-technical sense, mysticism is a specific religious system or practice, deliberately undertaken in order to come to some realization or insight, to come to unity with the divine, or to experience the ultimate reality directly. At the very least, religious experiences form a broader category; many religious experiences, like those of Saint Paul, Arjuna, Moses, Muhammad, and many others come unsought, not as the result of some deliberate practice undertaken to produce an experience.
1. Types of Religious Experience
2. language and experience, 3. epistemological issues, 4. the diverse objects of religious experience, other internet resources, related entries.
Reports of religious experiences reveal a variety of different kinds. Perhaps most are visual or auditory presentations (visions and auditions), but not through the physical eyes or ears. Subjects report “seeing” or “hearing,” but quickly disavow any claim to seeing or hearing with bodily sense organs. Such experiences are easy to dismiss as hallucinations, but the subjects of the experience frequently claim that though it is entirely internal, like a hallucination or imagination, it is nevertheless a veridical experience, through some spiritual analog of the eye or ear (James 1902 and Alston 1991 cite many examples).
In other cases, the language of “seeing” is used in its extended sense of realization, as when a yogi is said to “see” his or her identity with Brahman; Buddhists speak of “seeing things as they are” as one of the hallmarks of true enlightenment, where this means grasping or realizing the emptiness of things, but not in a purely intellectual way.
A third type is the religious experience that comes through sensory experiences of ordinary objects, but seems to carry with it extra information about some supramundane reality. Examples include experiencing God in nature, in the starry sky, or a flower, or the like. Another person standing nearby would see exactly the same sky or flower, but would not necessarily have the further religious content to his or her experience. There are also cases in which the religious experience just is an ordinary perception, but the physical object is itself the object of religious significance. Moses’s experience of the burning bush, or the Buddha’s disciples watching him levitate, are examples of this type. A second person standing nearby would see exactly the same phenomenon. Witnesses to miracles are having that kind of religious experience, whether they understand it that way or not.
A fourth type of religious experience is harder to describe: it can’t be characterized accurately in sensory language, even analogically, yet the subject of the experience insists that the experience is a real, direct awareness of some religiously significant reality external to the subject. These kinds of experiences are usually described as “ineffable.” Depending on one’s purposes, other ways of dividing up religious experiences will suggest themselves. For example, William James (1902) divides experiences into “healthy-minded” and “sick-minded,” according to the personality of the subject, which colors the content of the experience itself. Keith Yandell (1993, 25–32) divided them into five categories, according to the content of the experiences: monotheistic, nirvanic (enlightenment experiences associated with Buddhism), kevalic (enlightenment experiences associated with Jainism), moksha (experiences of release from karma, associated with Hinduism), and nature experiences. Differences of object certainly make differences in content, and so make differences in what can be said about the experiences. See Section 4 for further discussion of this issue.
Many have thought that there is some special problem with religious language, that it can’t be meaningful in the same way that ordinary language is. The Logical Positivists claimed that language is meaningful only insofar as it is moored in our experiences of the physical world. Since we can’t account for religious language by linking it to experiences of the physical world, such language is meaningless. Even though religious claims look in every way like ordinary assertions about the world, their lack of empirical consequences makes them meaningless. Ayer (1952) calls such language “metaphysical,” and therefore meaningless. He says, “That a transcendent god exists 3s a metaphysical assertion, and therefore not literally significant.” The principle of verification went through many formulations as it faced criticism. But if it is understood as a claim about meaning in ordinary language, it seems to be self-undermining, since there is no empirical way to verify it. Eventually, that approach to language fell out of favor, but some still use a modified, weaker version to criticize religious language. For example, Antony Flew (Flew and MacIntyre, 1955) relies on a principle to the effect that if a claim is not falsifiable, it is somehow illegitimate. Martin (1990) and Nielsen (1985) invoke a principle that combines verifiability and falsifiability; to be meaningful, a claim must be one or the other. It is not clear that even these modified and weakened versions of the verification principle entirely escape self-undermining. Even if they do, they seem to take other kinds of language with them—like moral language, talk about the future or past, and talk about the contents of others’ minds — that we might be loath to lose. Moreover, to deny the meaningfulness of religious-experience claims on the grounds that it is not moored in experience begs the question, in that it assumes that religious experiences are not real experiences.
Another possibility is to allow that religious claims are meaningful, but they are not true or false, because they should not be understood as assertions. Braithwaite (1970), for example, understands religious claims to be expressions of commitments to sets of values. On such a view, what appears to be a claim about a religious experience is not in fact a claim at all. It might be that some set of mental events, with which the experience itself can be identified, would be the ground and prompting of the claim, but it would not properly be what the claim is about.
A second challenge to religious-experience claims comes from Wittgensteinian accounts of language. Wittgenstein (1978) muses at some length on the differences between how ordinary language is used, and how religious language is used. Others (see Phillips 1970, for example), following Wittgenstein, have tried to give an explanation of the strangeness of religious language by invoking the idea of a language-game. Each language-game has its own rules, including its own procedures for verification. As a result, it is a mistake to treat it like ordinary language, expecting evidence in the ordinary sense, in the same way that it would be a mistake to ask for the evidence for a joke. “I saw God” should not be treated in the same way as “I saw Elvis.” Some even go so far as to say the religious language-game is isolated from other practices, such that it would be a mistake to derive any claims about history, geography, or cosmology from them, never mind demand the same kind of evidence for them. On this view, religious experiences should not be treated as comparable to sense experiences, but that does not entail that they are not important, nor that they are not in some sense veridical, in that they could still be avenues for important insights about reality. Such a view can be attributed to D. Z. Phillips (1970).
While this may account for some of the unusual aspects of religious language, it certainly does not capture what many religious people think about the claims they make. As creationism illustrates, many religious folk think it is perfectly permissible to draw empirical conclusions from religious doctrine. Hindus and Buddhists for many centuries thought there was a literal Mount Meru in the middle of the (flat, disc-shaped) world. It would be very odd if “The Buddha attained enlightenment under the bo tree” had to be given a very different treatment from “The Buddha ate rice under the bo tree” because the first is a religious claim and the second is an ordinary empirical claim. There are certainly entailment relations between religious and non-religious claims, too: “Jesus died for my sins” straightforwardly entails “Jesus died.”
Since the subjects of religious experiences tend to take them to be real experiences of some external reality, we may ask what reason there is to think they are right. That is to say, do religious experiences amount to good reasons for religious belief? One answer to that question is what is often called the Argument from Religious Experience: Religious experiences are in all relevant respects like sensory experiences; sensory experiences are excellent grounds for beliefs about the physical world; so religious experiences are excellent grounds for religious beliefs. This argument, or one very like it, can be found in Swinburne (1979), Alston (1991), Plantinga (1981, 2000), Netland (2022) and others. Critics of this approach generally find ways in which religious experiences are different from sensory experiences, and argue that those differences are enough to undermine the evidential value of the experiences. Swinburne (1979) invokes what he calls the “Principle of Credulity,” according to which one is justified in believing that what seems to one to be present actually is present, unless some appropriate defeater is operative. He then discusses a variety of circumstances that would be defeaters in the ordinary sensory case, and argues that those defeaters do not obtain, or not always, in the case of religious experience. To reject his argument, one would have to show that religious experience is unlike sensory experience in that in the religious case, one or more of the defeaters always obtains. Anyone who accepts the principle has excellent reason to accept the deliverances of religious experience, unless he or she believes that defeaters always, or almost always, obtain.
Plantinga offers a different kind of argument. According to Cartesian-style foundationalism, in order to count as justified, a belief must either be grounded in other justified beliefs, or derive its justification from some special status, like infallibility, incorrigibility, or indubitability. There is a parallel view about knowledge. Plantinga (1981) argued that such a foundationalism is inconsistent with holding one’s own ordinary beliefs about the world to be justified (or knowledge), because our ordinary beliefs derived from sense-experience aren’t derived from anything infallible, indubitable, or incorrigible. In fact, we typically treat them as foundational, in need of no further justification. If we hold sensory beliefs to be properly basic, then we have to hold similarly formed religious beliefs, formed on experiences of God manifesting himself to a believer (Plantinga calls them ‘M-beliefs’), as properly basic. He proposed that human beings have a faculty—what John Calvin called the ‘ sensus divinitatis ’—that allows them to be aware of God’s actions or dispositions with respect to them. If beliefs formed by sense-experience can be properly basic, then beliefs formed by this faculty cannot, in any principled way, be denied that same status. His developed theory of warrant (2000) implies that, if the beliefs are true, then they are warranted. One cannot attack claims of religious experience without first addressing the question as to whether the religious claims are true. He admits that, since there are people in other religious traditions who have based beliefs about religious matters on similar purported manifestations, they may be able to make the same argument about their own religious experiences.
Alston develops a general theory of doxastic practices (constellations of belief-forming mechanisms, together with characteristic background assumptions and sets of defeaters), gives an account of what it is to rationally engage in such a practice, and then argues that at least the practice of forming beliefs on the basis of Christian religious experiences fulfills those requirements. If we think of the broad doxastic practices we currently employ, we see that some of them can be justified by the use of other practices. The practice of science, for example, reduces mostly to the practices of sense-perception, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning (memory and testimony also make contributions, of course). The justificatory status the practice gives to its product beliefs derives from those more basic practices. Most, however, cannot be so reduced. How are they justified, then? It seems that they cannot be justified non-circularly, that is, without the use of premises derived from the practices themselves. Our only justification for continuing to trust these practices is that they are firmly established, interwoven with other practices and projects of ours, and have “stood the test of time” by producing mostly consistent sets of beliefs. They produce a sufficiently consistent set of beliefs if they don’t produce massive, unavoidable contradictions on central matters, either internally, or with the outputs of other equally well-established practices. If that’s all there is to be said about our ordinary practices, then we ought to extend the same status to other practices that have the same features. He then argues that the Christian practice of belief-formation on the basis of religious experience does have those features. Like Plantinga, he admits that such an argument might be equally available to other religious practices; it all depends on whether the practice in question generates massive and unavoidable contradictions, on central matters, either internally, or with other equally well-established practices. To undermine this argument, one would have to show either that Alston’s criteria for rationality of a practice are too permissive, or that religious practices never escape massive contradictions.
Both Plantinga’s and Alston’s defense of the epistemic value of religious experiences turn crucially on some degree of similarity with sense-experience. But they are not simple arguments from analogy; not just any similarities will do to make the positive argument, and not just any dissimilarities will do to defeat the argument. The similarities or dissimilarities need to be epistemologically relevant. It is not enough, for example, to show that religious experiences do not typically allow for independent public verification, unless one wants to give up on other perfectly respectable practices, like rational intuition, that also lack that feature.
The two most important defeaters on the table for claims of the epistemic authority of religious experience are the fact of religious diversity, and the availability of naturalistic explanations for religious experiences. Religious diversity is a prima facie defeater for the veridicality of religious experiences in the same way that wildly conflicting eyewitness reports undermine each other. If the reports are at all similar, then it may be reasonable to conclude that there is some truth to the testimony, at least in broad outline. A version of this objection is the argument from divine hiddenness (cf. Lovering 2013). If God exists, and shows himself to some people in religious experiences, then the fact that he doesn’t do so for more people, more widely distributed, requires some explanation. Axtell provides another version of that objection. He argues that to insist that one’s own religious convictions are true in the face of the diversity of religions is to reason counter-inductively, and is therefore irrational. The reasoning is counter-inductive because your own convictions come from the same kinds of epistemic sources (investment in testimonial authority) as those you deem to be wrong, so if you are right, it is just a matter of luck. But if two eyewitness reports disagree on the most basic facts about what happened, then it seems that neither gives you good grounds for any beliefs about what happened. It certainly seems that the contents of religious-experience reports are radically different from one another. Some subjects of religious experiences report experience of nothingness as the ultimate reality, some a vast impersonal consciousness in which we all participate, some an infinitely perfect, personal creator. To maintain that one’s own religious experiences are veridical, one would have to a) find some common core to all these experiences, such that in spite of differences of detail, they could reasonably be construed as experiences of the same reality, or b) insist that one’s own experiences are veridical, and that therefore those of other traditions are not veridical. The first is difficult to manage, in the face of the manifest differences across religions. Nevertheless, John Hick (1989) develops a view of that kind, making use of a Kantian two-worlds epistemology. The idea is that the object of these experiences, in itself, is one and the same reality, but it is experienced phenomenally by different people differently. Thus, is possible to see how one and the same object can be experienced in ways that are completely incompatible with one another. This approach is only as plausible as the Kantian framework itself is. Jerome Gellman (2001) proposes a similar idea, without the Kantian baggage. Solutions like these leave the problem untouched: If the different practices produce experiences the contents of which are inconsistent with one another, one of the practices must be unreliable. Alston (1991) and Plantinga (2000) develop the second kind of answer. The general strategy is to argue that, from within a tradition, a person acquires epistemic resources not available to those outside the tradition, just as travelling to the heart of a jungle allows one to see things that those who have not made the journey can’t see. As a result, even if people in other traditions can make the same argument, it is still reasonable to say that some are right and the others are wrong. The things that justify my beliefs still justify them, even if you have comparable resources justifying a contrary view.
Naturalistic explanations for religious experiences are thought to undermine their epistemic value because, if the naturalistic explanation is sufficient to explain the experience, we have no grounds for positing anything beyond that naturalistic cause. Freud (1927) and Marx (1876/1977) are frequently held up as offering such explanations. Freud claims that religious experiences can be adequately explained by psychological mechanisms having their root in early childhood experience and psychodynamic tensions. Marx similarly attributes religious belief in general to materialistic economic forces. Both claim that, since the hidden psychological or economic explanations are sufficient to explain the origins of religious belief, there is no need to suppose, in addition, that the beliefs are true. Freud’s theory of religion has few adherents, even among the psychoanalytically inclined, and Marx’s view likewise has all but been abandoned, but that is not to say that something in the neighborhood might not be true. More recently, neurological explanations of religious experience have been put forward as reasons to deny the veridicality of the experiences. Events in the brain that occur during meditative states and other religious experiences are very similar to events that happen during certain kinds of seizures, or with certain kinds of mental disorders, and can also be induced with drugs. Therefore, it is argued, there is nothing more to religious experiences than what happens in seizures, mental disorders, or drug experiences. Some who are studying the neurological basis of religious experience do not infer that they are not veridical (see, e.g., d’Aquili and Newberg 1999), but many do. Guthrie (1995), for example, argues that religion has its origin in our tendency to anthropomorphize phenomena in our vicinity, seeing agency where there is none.
There are general problems with all kinds of naturalistic explanations as defeaters. First of all, as Gellman (2001) points out, most such explanations (like the psychoanalytic and socio-political ones) are put forward as hypotheses, not as established facts. The proponent assumes that the experiences are not veridical, then casts around for an explanation. This is not true of the neurological explanations, but they face another kind of weakness noted by Ellwood (1999): every experience, whatever its source, is accompanied by a corresponding neurological state. To argue that the experience is illusory because there is a corresponding brain state is fallacious. The same reasoning would lead us to conclude that sensory experiences are illusory, since in each sensory experience, there is some corresponding neurological state that is just like the state that occurs in the corresponding hallucination. The proponent of the naturalistic explanation as a defeater owes us some reason to believe that his or her argument is not just another skeptical argument from the veil of perception.
One further epistemological worry accompanies religious experience. James claimed that, while mystical experiences proved authoritative grounds for belief in the person experiencing them, they cannot give grounds for a person to whom the experience is reported. In other words, my experience is evidence for me, but not for you. Bovens (2012) gives a modern expansion and explanation of this claim. The claim can be understood in a variety of ways, depending on the kind of normativity that attaches to the purported evidential relation. Some (see Oakes 1976, for example) have claimed that religious experiences epistemically can necessitate belief; that is, anyone who has the experience and doesn’t form the corresponding belief is making an epistemic mistake, much like a person who, in normal conditions, refuses to believe his or her eyes. More commonly, defenders of the epistemic value of religious experience claim that the experiences make it epistemically permissible to form the belief, but you may also be justified in not forming the belief. The testimony of other people about what they have experienced is much the same. In some cases, a person would be unjustified in rejecting the testimony of others, and in other cases, one would be justified in accepting it, but need not accept it. This leaves us with three possibilities, on the assumption that the subject of the experience is justified in forming a religious belief on the basis of his or her experience, and that he or she tells someone else about it: the testimony might provide compelling evidence for the hearer, such that he or she would be unjustified in rejecting the claim; the testimony might provide non-compelling justification for the hearer to accept the claim; or the testimony might fail to provide any kind of grounds for the hearer to accept the claim. When a subject makes a claim on the basis of an ordinary experience, it might fall into any one of these three categories, depending on the claim’s content and the epistemic situation of the hearer. The most natural thing to say about religious experience claims is that they work the same way (on the assumption that they give the subject of the experience, who is making the claim, any justification for his or her beliefs). James, and some others after him, claim that testimony about religious experiences cannot fall under either of the first two categories. If that’s true, it must be because of something special about the nature of the experiences. If we assume that the experiences cannot be shown a priori to be defective somehow, and that religious language is intelligible—and if we do not make these assumptions, then the question of religious testimony doesn’t even arise—then it must be because the evidential value of the experience is so small that it cannot survive transmission to another person; that is, it must be that in the ordinary act of reporting an experience to someone else, there is some defeater at work that is always stronger than whatever evidential force the experience itself has. While there are important differences between ordinary sense-experience and religious experience (clarity of the experience, amount of information it contains, presence of competing explanations, and the like), it is not clear whether the differences are great enough to disqualify religious testimony always and everywhere.
Just as there are a variety of religions, each with its own claims about the nature of reality, there are a variety of objects and states of affairs that the subjects of these experiences claim to be aware of. Much analytic philosophy of religion has been done in Europe and the nations descended from Europe, so much of the discussion has been in terms of God as conceived of in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. In those traditions, the object of religious experiences is typically God himself, understood as an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, free, and perfectly good spirit. God, for reasons of his own, reveals himself to people, some of them unbidden (like Moses, Muhammad, and Saint Paul), and some because they have undertaken a rigorous practice to draw closer to him (like the mystics). To say that an experience comes unbidden is not to say that nothing the subject has done has prepared her, or primed her, for the experience (see Luhrmann 2012); it is only to claim that the subject has not undertaken any practice aimed at producing a religious experience. In such experiences, God frequently delivers a message at the same time, but he need not. He is always identifiable as the same being who revealed himself to others in the same tradition. Other experiences can be of angels, demons, saints, heaven, hell, or other religiously significant objects.
In other traditions, it is not necessarily a personal being who is the object of the experience, or even a positive being at all. In the traditions that find their origin in the Indian subcontinent—chiefly Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism—the object of religious experiences is some basic fact or feature of reality, rather than some entity separate from the universe. In the orthodox Hindu traditions, one may certainly have an experience of a god or some other supernatural entity (like Arjuna’s encounter with Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita), but a great many important kinds of experiences are of Brahman, and its identity with the self. In Yoga, which is based in the Samkhya understanding of the nature of things, the mystical practice of yoga leads to a calming and stilling of the mind, which allows the yogi to apprehend directly that he or she is not identical to, or even causally connected with, the physical body, and this realization is what liberates him or her from suffering.
In Theravada Buddhism, the goal of meditation is to “see things as they are,” which is to see them as unsatisfactory, impermanent, and not-self (Gowans 2003, 191). The meditator, as he or she makes progress along the way, sheds various delusions and attachments. The last one to go is the delusion that he or she is a self. To see this is to see all of reality as made up of sequences of momentary events, each causally dependent on the ones that went before. There are no abiding substances, and no eternal souls. Seeing reality that way extinguishes the fires of craving, and liberates the meditator from the necessity of rebirth (Laumakis 2008, 158–161). Seeing things as they are involves removing from the mind all the delusions that stand in the way of such seeing, which is done by meditation practices that develop the meditator’s mastery of his or her own mind. The type of meditation that brings this mastery and allows the meditator to see the true nature of things is called Vipassana (insight) meditation. It typically involves some object of meditation, which can be some feature of the meditator him- or herself, some feature of the physical or mental world, or some abstraction, which then becomes the focus of the meditator’s concentration and examination. In the end, it is hoped, the meditator will see in the object the unsatisfactory and impermanent nature of things and that there is no self to be found in them. At the moment of that insight, nirvana is achieved. While the experience of nirvana is essentially the realization of a kind of insight, it is also accompanied by other experiential elements, especially of the cessation of negative mental states. Nirvana is described in the Buddhist canon as the extinction of the fires of desire. The Theravada tradition teaches other kinds of meditation that can help the meditator make progress, but the final goal can’t be achieved without vipassana meditation.
In the Mahayana Buddhist traditions, this idea of the constantly fluctuating nature of the universe is extended in various ways. For some, even those momentary events that make up the flow of the world are understood to be empty of inherent existence (the idea of inherent existence is understood differently in different traditions) to the point that what one sees in the enlightenment experience is the ultimate emptiness ( sunyata ) of all things. In the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism, this is understood as emptiness of external existence; that is, to see things as they are is to see them as all mind-dependent. In the Zen school of Mahayana Buddhism, the enlightenment experience ( kensho ) reveals that reality contains no distinctions or dualities. Since concepts and language always involve distinctions, which always involve duality, the insight so gained cannot be achieved conceptually or expressed linguistically. In all Mahayana schools, what brings enlightenment is direct realization of sunyata as a basic fact about reality.
The situation is somewhat more complicated in the Chinese traditions. The idea of religious experience seems to be almost completely absent in the Confucian tradition; the social world looms large, and the idea of an ultimate reality that needs to be experienced becomes much less prominent. Before the arrival of Buddhism in China, Confucianism was primarily a political and ethical system, with no particular concern with the transcendent (though people who identified themselves as Confucians frequently engaged in Chinese folk religious practices). Nevertheless, meditation (and therefore something that could be called “religious experience”) did come to play a role in Confucian practice in the tenth century, as Confucian thought began to be influenced by Buddhist and Daoist thought. The resulting view is known as Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism retains the Mencian doctrine that human beings are by nature good, but in need of purification. Since goodness resides in every person, then examination of oneself should reveal the nature of goodness, through the experience of the vital force within ( qi ). The form of meditation that arises from this line of thought (“quiet sitting” or “sitting and forgetting”) are very like Buddhist vipassana meditation, but there is no value placed on any particular insight gained, though one can experience the principle of unity ( li ) behind the world. Success is measured in gradual moral improvement.
The Daoist ideal is to come to an understanding of the Dao, the fundamental nature of reality that explains all things in the world, and live according to it. Knowledge of the Dao is essential to the good life, but this knowledge cannot be learned from discourses, or transmitted by teaching. It is only known by experiential acquaintance. The Dao gives the universe a kind of grain, or flow, going against which causes human difficulty. The good human life is then one that respects the flow of Dao, and goes along with it. This is what is meant by “life in accordance with nature,” and is the insight behind the Daoist admonition of wu wei, sometimes glossed as “actionless action.” By paying attention to reality as it presents itself, a person can learn what the Dao is, and can experience unity with it. This picture of reality, along with the picture of how one can come to know it, heavily influenced the development of Ch’an Buddhism, which became Zen.
All of the same epistemological problems that arise for theism will also arise for these other traditions, though in different forms. That is, one can ask of experiences of Brahman, Sunyata, the Dao, and anything else that is the object of religious experience whether there is any reason to think the experience is veridical. One can also ask whether testimony about those experiences carries the same weight as ordinary experience. Naturalistic explanations can also be offered to these experiences. It is equally true that the responses that have been offered to these objections in a theistic context are also available to defenders of non-theistic religious experience.
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Library of Congress Catalog Data: ISSN 1095-5054
- Review Paper
- Published: 10 June 2021
Religiosity, Spirituality and Work: A Systematic Literature Review and Research Directions
- Sandra Leonara Obregon ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7009-8774 1 ,
- Luis Felipe Dias Lopes ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2438-0226 1 ,
- Fabiola Kaczam ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0460-9927 2 ,
- Claudimar Pereira da Veiga 3 &
- Wesley Vieira da Silva 4 , 5
Journal of Business Ethics volume 179 , pages 573–595 ( 2022 ) Cite this article
This article presents the results of a systematic literature review (SLR) on religiosity and spirituality, particularly in the work context. We aimed to verify the state-of-the-art of scientific production related to these themes. To achieve the proposed objective, we identified 312 articles published in journals in the period between 1960 and 2018 using a rigourous method of analysis and sorting, which resulted in 52 appropriate studies. The analyses presented are based on the three bibliometric laws: those of (i) Lotka (16:317–323, 1926), (ii) Bradford (137:85–86, 1934) and (iii) Zipf (1949). This article brings contributions that encompass four approaches: (i) measurement scales of spirituality and religiosity; (ii) behavioural benefits of religiosity in individuals; (iii) insertion of religiosity and spirituality in social service practice; and (iv) research directions. This research presents technical and managerial implications to provide theoretical support for the creation of programmes and/or practices of spirituality and religion in the workplace as an effective strategy, towards ethical attitudes. Also, this study contributes to the methodological achievement of SLRs in the field of religion in the workplace, highlighting an effective method for thematic mapping, and holistically identifying new research topics and directions, especially because of the several guidelines presented.
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We are grateful to our Editor Harry Van Buren III and anonymous reviewers for the contributions and recommendations. All comments were constructive, and we believe that our revised manuscript was significantly improved by addressing the comments and suggestions.
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Sandra Leonara Obregon & Luis Felipe Dias Lopes
Postgraduate Program in Administration, Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), Building 74C, 2nd floor, Room: 4209, Santa Maria, 97105-900, Brazil
Postgraduate Program in Administration, Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), Building 74C, 2nd floor, Room: 4209, Santa Maria, RS, 97105-900, Brazil
Claudimar Pereira da Veiga
Department of General and Applied Administration, School of Business Administration, Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), Av. Prefeito Lothário Meissner, 632, Curitiba, 80210-170, Brazil
Wesley Vieira da Silva
Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting, Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL), Av. Lourival Melo Mota, S/N Tabuleiro do Martins, Maceió, 57072-900, Brazil
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Obregon, S.L., Lopes, L.F.D., Kaczam, F. et al. Religiosity, Spirituality and Work: A Systematic Literature Review and Research Directions. J Bus Ethics 179 , 573–595 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-021-04856-7
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Issue Date : August 2022
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-021-04856-7
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Development of religion and belief, early explanations for religion and belief, eastern and western traditions, christianity, religious objects, symbols, and rituals, religion, manuscripts, and teachings, future directions.
Religion and belief are of great importance for anthropological research on the development of humankind and its history, as they represent the human reaction to an extrahuman, holy, transcendent, or divine object. Almost no other terms of the mental and intellectual human life seem to have such a big and colorful variety as “belief ” or “religion.”
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At first, a look into the past: The term religion has its etymologic and historical roots in the ancient Roman world. A different context can be found for the terms personal belief or universal faith; they have their semantic origin in the Greek word pístis, which Saint Paul used in his letters, or in the Latin fides. Whereas religion gives the framework, belief fills this framework with individual religious activities. Faith means the universal religious activity of a group of people of the same religion. The Latin noun religio stems from the verb re-legere, which has the meaning “to do something diligently, to do something again, to re-read something,” according to Marcus T. Cicero (106–43 BCE). The prefix re- could even be translated as “to do something diligently again and again.” The careful execution of rituals was prescribed by rules, which were only valid through their exact observance. Therefore in the ancient Roman culture, the Latin noun religio expresses the right observance of cults and, as a consequence, the respect for the gods. The verb re-legere is the opposite of the verb neg-legere (to neglect).
The derivation of the noun religio from religare (to connect, to reconnect) is in general problematic, because this reconnection can be seen in a feeling of an inner attachment to something transcendent, which was not common to classical beliefs. In its character, religio is in Roman antiquity rather a virtue than a kind of feeling. Central in the diligent performance of rituals was a kind of “pious awe,” which was not so intensive that the acting person in religious affairs was moved inside. This is one of the reasons why ancient Roman religio is basically incomprehensible to us. Nowadays, the adjective religiosus means “pious.” In a later development, homo religiosus means “member of an order,” a person who lives according to the three evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience. This person wants to be, in his religious life, a good example to others. It was this meaning of the word pious (religiosus) that brought the noun religion into the Christian-shaped, Western culture, and less the Latin noun religio, in the ancient Roman sense.
To exhaust the full meaning of religion or belief, it is not sufficient to speak only of devoutness or “expression of devoutness.” Religion and belief also cover the sentence fides quaerens intellectum (faith or belief that searches for insight). Therefore, it has also to do with rationality and the search for reasonable causes. Saint Augustine (354–430 CE), as an exponent of Christian antiquity, and Saint Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1224/5–1274 CE), as a philosopher of high scholasticism, shaped the concept of religio as identical with Christianity. Other, non-Christian religions or beliefs could only be classified as lex, secta, or fides.
The meaning of the term lex is universal, according to our expression “denomination” or “total structure of life.” There is also a lex Christianorum, which means “doctrine and law of the Christian faith.” By no means is the forming of the concepts “religion” and “belief ” steady or logical. Within the historical development, beginning with classical antiquity up to the advent of Protestantism in the 16th century, it is not possible to find a strictly continuous development to the modern term religion . So, religio cannot be translated by or equated with religion or belief in today’s meaning.
If the Christian context of the word religion is left aside, then religion and also belief can be defined as the relationship of a human to a personal or impersonal transcendent, in whatever shape of “the Real”: a divine persona or impersona. The meaning of the Western terms religion or belief , influenced by Christian thoughts, changes in other European and non-European languages from “something that is owed to the transcendence” to “law/doctrine” and “eternal, never-ending structure.”
As a result, the term religion is more objective than the rather subjective term belief . Also, the concepts of belief— characterized as individual, personal belief, or conviction— and faith—characterized as universal belief—can be differentiated. Religion is in general the system of faith that people of the same conviction have in common. Belief is the personal activity, the “personal” faith, within the framework of religion. Belief system is very near to religion, but it emphasizes the personal religious activity more than universal faith.
After this etymological study, the paradigmatic development of the modern terms religion and belief will now be described in order to give a contemporary view on them. A religion that prescribes a belief in a deity of imaginable terms is marked as rational, according to the Lutheran theologian and historian of comparative religion Rudolf Otto. In his classic work, The Idea of the Holy (1917/1925), Otto also asked for the objectivity of religion or belief, and emphasized the “contrast between Rationalism and profounder religion.” One cannot do justice to religion or belief only by rational terms. The two opposite characterizations of religion are, as Otto pointed out, the tremendum, or the “awefulness,” and simultaneously the fascinans, or the “fascinating.” The tremendum shakes people in awe in sight of the mysterious, completely different being, God. This form of fear is by far different than the “natural,” or ordinary fear of a human, and applies more to the general “world-fear.” The tremendum derives from a “numinous dread” that terrifies and fascinates people at the same time.
The Romanian historian of religion Mircea Eliade, who worked at the University of Chicago, addressed Rudolf Otto’s reflections at the beginning of his book The Sacred and the Profane (1957/1959). Eliade focused on the nature of religion or belief, describing the manifestations of religion and the religious in a world that dissociates itself more and more from religious dimensions. But even in a secular world, there is something sacred that is characterized by humans as the opposite of the profane. The process is always the same: the “completely different” is a reality that is not of our world and manifests itself on things that are components of our natural, profane world.
Eliade repeatedly spoke of homo religious, and he wanted to make clear that religion and belief belong to the human nature. Therefore, people live as long as possible in the sacred universe. By the word sacred, the dimension of the religious is described. This dimension surrounds, carries, and holds the human as a religious being. On the other side, a secular person, who is able to live without any religious feeling, has a completely different, secular experience of the universe. She lives in a desacralized world. The religious feeling has to find its way by another, maybe hidden means. The secular person lives totally differently from the homo religious.
Almost 150 years earlier than Eliade, Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher, a German Lutheran theologian and philosopher, classified religion and belief as a “feeling,” as the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau did before him. Schleiermacher called religion a “feeling of infinity” in his second speech, “On the Nature of Religion,” of his five speeches appearing in On Religion (1799/1996).
The German philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant, stood in strong contrast to the definition of religion or belief as “feeling.” In his work Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1793/1998), Kant proved that there was no way to conclude the certain feature of direct divine influence by a feeling. Hence, according to Kant, religion must be based on reason alone in order to be universal. For Kant, religion had to be a “pure religion of reason.” Although these two characterizations of religion as a “feeling” (Schleiermacher) or as a “pure religion of reason” (Kant) are opposing, these two definitions of religion may be coincident in the fact that religion or belief is something according to human nature. Therefore, around the year 1800, a concept of internal religion developed, which remains effective today.
Statements on religion or belief by the Protestant theologians Ernst Troeltsch (1912/1981) and Paul Tillich (1955, 1961/1988) underlined this fact. In another way, Tillich’s works can be regarded as examples of the effective power of the concept of religion or belief. In a different approach to Immanuel Kant, he distanced himself to consider “feeling” as the basic determination of religion. If religion could be connected to the pure subjectivity of emotion, then it would decline, because religion would loose its seriousness, its truth, and its highest sense. Without a highest content, religion would stay empty. In his essay “Religion as a Function of the Human Mind?” (1955/1988), Tillich defined religion as “something that concerns us immediately,” in the deepest sense of the universe. That which “concerns us immediately” referred to all creative functions of the human mind. However, this did not mean that religion and belief are fictions of the mind, created by human beings.
According to Tillich, the human mind is able to be creative in relation to both itself and to the world. But this creativeness is limited by the relationship to God. Religions and beliefs contain all areas of the human life and of the mind, as they build the substance, the basis, and the depth of the human intellectual life. Therefore religion or belief is not based on a function of the mind at all. Religion is universal; belief is individual. They are consequently the unconditioned components in every situation of human life. Being moved by religion is always related to a religious object. In this context, Tillich emphasized two points: (1) Religion and belief are always related to a content, which cannot be explained in the end; and (2) religion has always a social dimension, too. Nobody is alone in being religiously moved or in feeling any kind of religious emotion. Therefore, the objectivity of religion is founded by its social dimension, according to Tillich. As a consequence, religion and belief are situated in the human being, who is touched by a “revealed unconditioned being,” by a religious object. This can generally be applied to everyone. “Religious reality,” however, goes along with a secret consciousness: tua res agitur, “your situation is concerned.”
Two definitions of the concept of religion can be found in Tillich’s work. Both differ crucially from the traditional one—religion or belief as the human answers to the transcendent. (1) Tillich spoke of an “autonomous religion” that does not know a representational God, nor, consequently, any form of prayer. But in contradiction to that, religion is not impious or lacking a God. It just does not know any kind of ecclesiastical objectification of God. With mysticism, it is different again, because mysticism elevates itself beyond the objectification of God. (2) In his later essay, “Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions” (1961/1988), Tillich mentioned quasireligions, which are similar to religions and have some features in common with religions. But quasireligions are only related to secular objects and consequently to secular institutions. Tillich differentiates between quasireligions and pseudoreligions. Both pretend intentionally to be similar to religions. The expansion of the concepts of religion or of belief as inward phenomena, which have been developed since the beginning of the 19th century, became clear in Tillich’s considerations.
The two concepts of quasireligions and pseudoreligions must be strictly distinguished from traditional, historical religions. Similar to quasireligions is what Eric Voegelin (1938/1999) and Raymond Aron (1965/1968) spoke of as political religion. An explosive nature is exhibited in the relationship between religion and politics, as it is demonstrated in the concept of political religion, and later on in the concepts of state religion or civil religion. The term political religion has its roots in religio politica, going back to the early 17th century. Since the 1930s, it served to classify the politicaltotalitarian mass movements of this time in a critical attitude toward ideology. This modern “political religion,” however, must be clearly distinguished from the “political religion” of classical antiquity and the later concepts of state religion and civil religion, which tried to institutionalize the relationship between religion and politics, not always in a fruitful way.
Generally speaking, it is possible to identify religion or belief as being situated in a person. Religion or belief must be further defined as a relationship and interchange between a human being and transcendent reality, which is relevant for humans. But the relationship to transcendence is not the only decisive criterion for a religion or a belief. Religions and beliefs are rather connected by a kind of “family resemblance,” as defined by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953/2001). They are determined by overlapping qualities, including holiness, prayers, and services. Religions and beliefs also show similarities that connect them. These similarities, however, must not necessarily be alike in every religion or belief. Regarding those similarities, the reference to transcendence plays, of course, an important role. John Hick (2005) pointed out that another fundamental “family resemblance” of religions and beliefs, in addition to their reference to the transcendence, is their soteriological content, which describes the ability of a religion or belief to redeem human souls and allow salvation. However different their contents and traditions may be, this soteriological quality is a feature that all religions and beliefs have in common in various manners. Also, the validity of religious traditions was of great importance for Hick.
Religion and belief in the modern ideology can carefully be defined as generic terms, or concepts, which slowly have grown in importance in our modern age. These concepts are very different from the ancient meaning of the word religio, which first described all imaginations, attitudes, and actions of a person concerning the ultimate reality. Humans accept the ultimate reality as powers or a power, spirits or demons, gods or God, the “Sacred” or the “Absolute,” or just “Transcendence.” In ancient times, religio was not used as a collective name for each belief or as a universal term, in which various beliefs were summed up. The term religio, representing the past view on religion or belief, was used in a very narrow sense from antiquity up to the 16th century. At first, religio referred to the exercising of the rituals prescribed by law, but only later with regard to the Christian denomination. In general, it took a long time before religio and later “religion” had achieved their meaning, which led to the modern understanding of “religion.” Religion is more than the mere name of a personal belief. It expresses that humans are concerned about something beyond them. Also, death obtains a different meaning within a religious worldview. Romano Guardini (1940/1998), the Catholic priest, theologian, and philosopher of religion, considered death as the gate to the other side of human life, which remains secret to those who still live in this world. For religious people, death is no longer the end of life but, instead, is the turning point to a different reality.
Summing up, the terms religion and belief can be characterized by the following three points:
- There are no universal terms for all religions or beliefsystems of humankind in each epoch.
- There is no term that includes all aspects of what ismeant by religion or belief today. Even all these terms together cannot cover every aspect now meant by religion or belief.
- Earlier terms of religio or religion stand in contrast to themodern meaning of religion. They emphasize the external practice of religion, the observance of ritual instructions and regulations, and the obedience to religious laws.
These three points, however, cannot unambiguously classify religions or beliefs and they do not ultimately define them. But they do outline the broad frame of the modern concept of religion and belief.
Since ancient times, as many sources teach, people have had various religious or pseudoreligious systems. In the past, religions and beliefs were the result of natural phenomena, which led people to fear and to require that these natural phenomena be explained. Also, social facts and mechanisms had to be explained through religious patterns. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman religions show this function of early religions or belief systems. These religions and beliefs were polytheistic (i.e., there were many different gods, who had different things to take care of). In many cases, one god is honored as supreme among the others (e.g., Zeus in ancient Greek religion or Jupiter/Jove in ancient Roman religion). The holy or the deity was often linked with nature. Humans found in nature the powerful influence of God: Therefore trees or fountains or mountains (esp. the peak, like Mount Fuji in Japan) were adored as holy, or as the place where the deity lives. Also in totems, things of everyday life or symbols or even animals, the spirit of a deity is believed to be effective. Therefore, it is forbidden, it is a taboo, to kill an animal in which a deity is believed to be present. These original religious aspects can be found within African religions and beliefs, or within the religions of the Pacific islands.
In the Egyptian and Roman traditions, the emperor was adored as a god and found his place in the Pantheon after his death. Archaeological proofs of these ancient religions and belief systems can be found in the pyramids in Egypt, as well as in the ancient Roman temples around the Mediterranean Sea. From the onset of European culture, politics, religion, and society were interconnected within the ancient state, the Greek pólis or the Roman civitas. So religions and politics were interlinked in ancient European societies. Later on, these three aspects differentiated more and more. Today, politics, religions, and societies are almost separated, but one should be aware that humans are oriented toward religious belief, as civilians within a political state and a civil society. So it is useful to respect religion and belief even within a political point of view.
At the beginning of ancient Greek culture, the explanations for the reasons why the universe came to exist, and why it exists the way it does, were given in the myths of the writers Homer (ca. 8th century BCE) and Hesiod (ca. 8th century BCE). Next, there was a shift from mythos (myths) to lógos (reason). This shift can be found in the quotations and fragments of the pre-Socratic philosophers, who turned their interests toward nature and the reasons for natural phenomena. Thales of Miletus (ca. 624–546 BCE), for example, a philosopher of nature living on the Ionic coast (today’s Turkey), gave a precise forecast for a total eclipse by calculation, but people took him almost for a prophet, and, what is more, he could forecast a rich bearing of olives, so that he lent all the olive presses in his country for a small amount of money, and consequently he was able to borrow them for a very good price. The next step from myths to reason can be found in the philosophy of Plato (ca. 428/427–348/347 BCE), a disciple of Socrates (ca. 469–399 BCE). Plato underlined his arguments in his dialogues with myths, in order to explain them better to his disciples. Among them, there was another important philosopher, the educator of Alexander the Great, Aristotle (384–322 BCE). Aristotle was also very interested in investigating natural phenomena and in explaining the world by reason, not by myths.
The general aim of this early Greek philosophy was to explain the universe by using human reason rather than mythical explanations. As a result, the soul of a human should not be in a disturbed situation, but in a quiet state, which is characterized as eudaimonía (felicity). The early philosophical schools in ancient Greece always had the intention of caring for the soul by giving reasonable explanations for the universe and its existence. Consequently, these early philosophical schools played the role that religions or beliefs play in our own time.
Major Religions and Belief Systems
There are many religious systems, including ancient systems or natural religions, or smaller derivates from the major religions or belief systems. All religions and belief systems aim to provide answers to human questions on the transcendent and to major questions on life and death. People thus find orientation for their lives within these major religions and belief systems.
In general, Eastern traditions differ from Western traditions. Among Eastern traditions, which have more the character of belief systems than religions, there is Hinduism and Buddhism, but also Confucianism in China, which concentrates on the ethical life, and the animistic and polytheistic Shinto in Japan, which honors and prays to the ancestors. These are known as very old religious traditions in the Eastern part of the world.
The Western traditions are better described as religions than as belief systems. The most important are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three of these religions refer in quite different ways to Abraham (ca. 2000 BCE) as an ideal of a pious and religious person.
Also, Zoroastrianism is counted among the major religious traditions or belief systems. It is considered to be the first monotheistic belief system, with Ahura Mazda as the universal God. But it is also a dualistic system; asha/arta is the principle of “truth” and “order” whereas druj, “lie,” is the opposite. Both principles “fight” against each other in the world. Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zoroaster, or Zarathushtra, in the farmland area of today’s Western Iran. The main teachings of Zoroastrianism can be found in the scripture Zend-Avesta.
In Asia, the Hindu traditions are well known; the religion of the Vedas and the Upanishads is grounded in very old scriptures (e.g., the Bhagavad Gita or “Song of God”). The beginning of these traditions is about 4,000 years BCE in India. The Hindu traditions have a polytheistic basis, with Shiva and Vishnu as the central deities, but only one eternal aim: the unification of the individual soul, atman, with the highest spirit, Brahman . After several lives, the soul can enter the Brahman, leaving the system of reincarnation ( samsara ), if the karma, the balance of all individual actions, is good enough. Five elements are considered to be central for Hindu beliefs: (1) dharma (ethics and duties), (2) samsara (cycle of reincarnation), (3) karma (action and resulting reaction), (4) moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirth), and (5) yogas (paths and practices). Though it is controversially debated among scholars whether the caste system is an important part of Hindu teaching, this social system remains strong even today. There are four castes, called varnas, beginning with the highest cast: (1) Brahmins (teachers and priests); (2) Kshatriyas (warriors, nobles, and kings); (3) Vaishyas (farmers, merchants, and businessmen); and (4) Shudras (servants and laborers). The caste system is very rigid. Marriage is only possible within one caste. People outside the caste system, Parjanya or Antyaja (or now Dalits), the “untouchables,” have almost no chance to progress in social life. Therefore, this system has often been criticized as discriminatory (e.g., by Mahatma Gandhi [1869–1948], whose ideal was absolute peacefulness).
Also in Asia, the Buddhist tradition is founded on the philosophy of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (ca. 563–483 BCE), who was a teacher of spiritual wisdom. There are two main traditions in Buddhism: the Mahayana (great vehicle) Buddhism and the Theravada (ancient teaching) Buddhism. A smaller tradition is the Hinayana (low vehicle) Buddhism. Central Buddhist teachings contain the Four Noble Truths: (1) the nature of suffering ( dukkha ), (2) suffering’s origin ( samudaya ), (3) suffering’s cessation ( nirodha ), and (4) the way ( marga ) leading to the cessation of suffering. This “way” (marga) is characterized by the Noble Eightfold Path: (1) right view, (2) right intention (wisdom), (3) right speech, (4) right action, (5) right livelihood (ethical conduct), (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right concentration (concentration). The Noble Eightfold Path contains the ethical “program” of Buddhism.
One aim of Buddhism is to bring cessation from suffering to the human soul. There are several traditions within Buddhism. Among them, there is Zen Buddhism in Japan and Tibetan Buddhism, whose head is the Dalai Lama. The monastic tradition is also very common in Buddhism, because its discipline helps the adherent to succeed in achieving the aim, the nirvana, as a unity of the individual soul with the universal in the absolute nothingness (nirvana).
The Mosaic tradition, later Judaism, is historically the first major tradition in Western culture. Christianity and Islam followed. In Judaism, humankind has been given the advice to follow God’s law, which was revealed on Mount Sinai, or Horeb to Moses. This revelation took place during the Exodus, the Jews’ escape out of Egyptian slavery. Moses was the leader of the people of Israel during that time. A life in accordance to the law will end up in felicity and prosperity, even after death. The prophets played a major role, because they renewed the concentration on God’s revelation within his law. During the reign of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar II (ca. 630–562 BCE), the Jewish people were kidnapped and taken to Babylon. The Babylonian Talmud was written during this time, a commentary on the Torah, with respect to other commentaries and the oral tradition, in order to give a set of rules for everyday life. Literature interpreting the Torah is known as midrash.
When the people of Israel returned to the Holy Land, they built the first temple. In the year 70 CE, the temple was destroyed by the Romans, and the rabbinic phase began in Judaism. Rabbis are teachers of the Holy Scripture and they interpret for believers. They also give advice to pious Jews on how to manage life and how to decide in problematic situations. The halakha means to follow properly the way of the Jewish tradition.
Judaism today is quite various. There are liberal branches, as well as orthodox branches, whose believers observe the traditional religious law very strictly. As predicted in the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, Jewish people still wait for the Messiah, who will come in the future in order to complete the divine law in his person.
In Christianity, Jesus Christ is believed to be the son of God, who came to redeem people. After the original sin of Adam and Eve, humankind survived for the redemption. The redeemer is Jesus Christ, who was crucified by the Romans after being accused, by the Jews in Jerusalem, of heresy for pretending to be the Messiah, and whose resurrection after 3 days astonished people, especially his own disciples. After another 40 days, Jesus Christ went up into heaven. After another 9 days, the Holy Spirit was sent down to earth in order to lead the faithful and to give consolation to them. God is the Holy Trinity in Christian tradition: God-Father, God-Son, God-Holy-Spirit.
Later, the Christian church developed into a more and more powerful institution, which secures the tradition of belief and teaching. Although crusades have occurred, the Christian doctrine is against force and tends toward peace on earth. In the year 1054 CE, the Eastern Greek Church turned away from the Latin Roman Church with the pope, the bishop of Rome, as Vicar of Christ and head of the church. Formally, there were two reasons for the East-West Schism: First, the Western and the Eastern traditions could not find a proper date for Easter, and second, the Eastern tradition could not agree to the filioque (“and by the Son”) within the credo, the big confession of the faith. The filioque means that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and Son together.
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation movements began with the Augustinian monk Martin Luther (1483–1546) in Germany, Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), and John Calvin (1509–1564) in Switzerland. The theologians Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 or 1469–1536) and Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) both followed the Lutheran teaching and supported the Protestant teaching in the academic sector (e.g., by writing important letters). The Protestant Reformation movements wanted to renew the Western Church (e.g., by providing new translations of the Bible, and a new structure by changing the hierarchy). But in the end, these movements divided the church again as a result of a second big schism. Protestant Christianity then divided again into the many small movements and churches, or denominations, of today.
In 1534, the English Church separated from the Roman Church, and as a result the Church of England or Anglican Church was founded. The king or the queen of England is the head of the Anglican Church, and meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises this office worldwide in the Anglican Church (e.g., the Episcopal Church in the USA). Whereas the High Church is near to the Catholic Church, the Low Church is nearer to the Protestant Church. So the Anglican Church regards itself as a “middle way” between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
In contrast to Protestantism, the Catholic Church keeps up its 2,000-year-old tradition and discipline, although the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (1962–1965) has changed some elements in this tradition.
Islam was founded by the prophet Muhammad (ca. 570–632 CE), who had a direct revelation from God ( Alla – h ). This revelation is written down in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. In 622 CE, the first year of the Islamic calendar, Muhammad went from Mecca to Medina; this event is called the Hijra, or “walk,” which was the founding act of Islam. Sometime later, Muhammad returned to Mecca with his soldiers and gained a lot of followers and power. Islam regards itself as the final religion, which is based on the ultimate revelation given by God to Muhammad. This revelation gave perfection to the Mosaic and Christian revelation. Muhammad, the prophet of God, is the last and the highest of the prophets.
In the Islamic tradition, on each Friday there is a ritual prayer in the mosque. Ritual prayers are among the most important elements of Islam, the so-called Five Pillars of Islam: (1) fasting in the month of Ramadan, (2) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), (3) ritual prayers (salát) several times a day, (4) charity (e.g., giving money to the poor), and (5) the profession of faith. Also, the observance of religious law (sharia), which contains rules for all areas of human life, is central to Islamic teaching. Islam is a religion or belief system of strict discipline, and it has gained a lot of influence in the states of both the Near East and the Middle East, as well as in Indonesia and Africa.
Each major religion or belief system knows certain objects and symbols, as well as rites. The rite is often connected with specific objects or symbols. In Buddhism, for instance, the wheel is a symbol of the recurrence of life and, more important, the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Mosaic tradition, the Star of David is the central symbol of identification. In Christianity, the cross, on which Christ was sacrificed, is the core symbol. And in the Islamic tradition, the half moon, as well as the sword, is central.
Symbols serve to give meaning to rites. In Jewish service, for example, the scrolls of the Torah must not be touched by humans, because they are absolutely sacred and represent God’s presence. Therefore signs exist, sometimes formed like a human hand, with which the scrolls of the Torah can be touched in order to follow the lines, which have to be cited. Another symbol in Jewish service is the shofar, a horn (e.g., from a ram, which is blown in preparation for and during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when humans reconcile with God). Yom Kippur is celebrated 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
In the Catholic Holy Mass, wine and bread are leavened and then transubstantiated into the blood and body of Christ as an unbloody renewal of the Crucifixion of Christ. The Host is then essentially Christ, and it is carefully venerated and adored. Also, the Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic faith as the Mother of Jesus Christ (i.e., the Mother of God). In the Protestant traditions, the transubstantiation is interpreted in a different way. The essential real presence of Christ is limited to the moment of the transubstantiation. Also, the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints is not common in the Protestant tradition. In order to venerate the Corpus Christi (body of Christ), the Virgin Mary, or the saints, there are often processions of Christians, especially in the Catholic tradition.
The pilgrimage ( hajj ) to Mecca, one of the holy cities of Islam, has its aim in circling around the Kaaba, or “cube.” The Kaaba is a thousand-year-old small building and the most sacred place in Islam. In the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, there is the Black Stone, the most important feature of the “cube.” All Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca, as it is the center of Islam.
Also, ritual dances or specific music or songs help to bring people into a state of mind that leads them toward a deeper understanding of the transcendent. The location for rites is, in most cases, a sacred place or a temple (in Christianity, a church), which can be seen as the house of God. These “houses of God or gods” attach a specific place to religions or beliefs, thereby providing an identity for them; also, they provide a meeting point for the believers as a kind of “home.”
Religions and belief systems express themselves in teachings, on the one hand manifested by oral traditions and on the other by sacred manuscripts. The basis for most of the teachings is a divine revelation.
The most common religious manuscript in our times is the Holy Bible, the “book of books.” But in the Far East, we have a lively tradition of Holy Scriptures: In the Vedas and Upanishads, Indian religious wisdom is written down, as in the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of God, as mentioned earlier. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sanjaya, who has a supernatural eye, tells the blind-born king Dhritarashtra about the big battle (between the near-related royal families of the Pandavas and Kauravas) that took place in the region where now the city of Delhi is located.
Judaism and Christianity refer in different ways to the Holy Bible. The Mosaic tradition is based on the five books of Moses, the Mosaic law or the Torah, the books of the prophets, and the psalms. Another important writing of Jewish tradition is The Guide of the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides (ca. 1135–1204), which considers religious and philosophical aspects, and helps to interpret the Jewish law properly. Maimonides’s influence on Jewish thinking still remains intense. Christianity is also based on the Old Testament, partly equivalent to the Hebrew Bible ( Tanakh ), but also on the New Testament: the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of Saint Paul, and the General or Catholic Epistles, as well as the Apocalypse of Saint John.
In the Koran, or “the recitation,” the holy book of Islam, the revelation to Muhammad resulted in the central teachings of Islam, which are the core of the religious law, the sharia. Furthermore, the sunna, the history of the life of Muhammad, is the model of a good life for a Muslim. In Islam, the religious law, the sharia, has a great meaning, so the most important religious leaders are judges.
Teachings of all religions provide explanations for the beginning of the universe, as in Genesis, the first book of the bible, moral teachings, and orders for a good life, which must match the will of God. These moral teachings belong to the realm of natural rights, which are similar in all religions and belief systems and their teachings. Natural rights follow human nature and therefore human rationality. Religious teachings give answers to crucial human questions concerning the universe, ethical problems, and life and death.
In the field of religions and beliefs, many fruitful future research areas can be found. The humanities, especially the studies of religion, which are linked to anthropological and sociocultural research, create new research areas: using the structuralistic method of the French ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, rituals are analyzed in order to discover the common structures of rituals in different religions or beliefs. Furthermore, the discourse of religions and beliefs are examined as well. Therefore, the dynamics and controversies within this discursive process are analyzed and described in order to obtain more results concerning the relationship between different religions and belief systems.
Also, the aesthetics of religions or beliefs are currently under scrutiny. Religions and beliefs can be described as aesthetical systems or systems of symbols, which influence the human realization of reality. The aesthetics of religion build up a systematic coherence for religions and belief systems. Another field of interest is the influence of religions and beliefs on different human societies and politics, because religions and belief systems provide ethical rules and values. Psychological studies examine the inner processes caused by the personal beliefs of a human being, for example during religious examinations, such as prayers or meditations. Very important for future research on religion is the investigation of human nature. All religions or belief systems provide concepts of human nature. This question of human nature is important for answering many questions and solving many problems in terms of the sciences in the future (e.g., in human-genetics research).
Also, in philosophy and theology, there are new areas of research, especially the examination of the relationship between rationality and religion or belief. For example, the context of metaphysical considerations of late antiquity and the appearance of Christian revelation in the first centuries, beginning with early Fathers of the Church like Origen (185–254 CE) and ending with Saint Augustine (354–430 CE). During that time, theology has its origins in the confrontation of philosophy and religion. A major rational concentration on religious thoughts can be found in the Middle Ages (e.g., in the Summa Theologica, written from 1264–1274, of Saint Thomas Aquinas). The rationalism of the European Enlightenment emphasized critical views grounded in logic and nature. After rationalism, German idealism included religion systematically within philosophy as a philosophical perfection of the spirit. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) understood his philosophical work as a negative profile of religion in contrast to Christian thinking, which, he posited, is not suitable to human nature. But in the 20th and 21st centuries, religions and beliefs soon came back to the intellectual agenda. Therefore, religions and beliefs are truly fruitful objects for future research, as well as for anthropological research.
Summing up, the following three points are important for an anthropological perspective of religions and beliefs:
- Religions and belief systems want to give humans aspecial place in the universe and within reality itself, which is of course a different orientation from the scientific worldview, but nevertheless one way to consider the universe and humans within it.
- People may not want to refer to religion or beliefs assomething entirely made by humans. For many people, religions and beliefs should include a serious transcendental relationship (e.g., based on a revelation). Otherwise, religion is in danger of becoming an ideology, which may lead people to the use of force and cruelty, as in totalitarian political systems. Such systems are often characterized as political religions, like fascism, national socialism, or communism.
- Moreover, religions and belief systems need not be rigidsystems of moral teachings in order to suppress others. Religions offer guidelines for life respecting the truth, with the aim being a future life (of the soul) in truth and peace. In religions and belief systems, people want to live their lives in accordance with God, as fruitful and successful individuals. And, what is more, people want to gain the hope for eternal life or redemption after death, which thereby gives a meaningful sense to human existence, like a gate to paradise, near to God or the transcendent.
Religions and beliefs belong to many fields in the humanities: theology, philosophy, sociology, history, religious studies, and psychology (among others). It is very important that, in many perspectives on human life, religion and belief play a role as an answer to the question of the sense of human life and death. In religions and belief systems, humans seek answers to many other questions as well, especially in terms of ethical questions and the question of a good life. As a result, religions and belief systems play a major role within anthropological considerations of any kind.
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- Brague, R. (2007). The Law of God: The philosophical history of an idea (L. G. Cochrane, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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The Best 50 Religion Research Topics to Use for Students
In our multi-religious and multicultural society, crafting a great research paper on religion is a challenging task. Indeed, this challenge starts from the first stage of preparing your paper: identifying a good religious research paper topic. Further, it is almost impossible to write a paper without offending one or more religious feelings, especially when working on the history of religion. To make writing your paper easy, you must start by picking good religious paper topics.
In this paper, we list 50 religion research paper topics and a guide for selecting the best. If you want to get good grades, start with the right step- the best topic.
Why You Need the Best Religion Research Paper Topics
When working on any research paper, the most important step is identifying the topic. Indeed, the topic determines the direction you will take with the paper. Here are other benefits of selecting the best topics for a religious research paper.
- It allows you to work on the preferred area of interest.
- With a good topic, you do not get bored midway.
- A great topic offers you the opportunity to fill knowledge gaps in the field of religious studies.
- It is your opportunity to make your contribution felt.
- Picking the best topics is the first step to better grades.
How to Pick the Best Topics for a Religious Research Paper
Now that you know the benefits of selecting the best topics for your religious papers, you might be wondering, “How do I pick it?” Here are some useful tips to help you identify the best:
- Brainstorm your religious study subject. This will help you to get the best ideas to work on.
- Comprehensively research your area of interest. For example, you might be interested in the history of religion, church and social action, creationism, or modernism and religion.
- Look at the latest happenings. Things such as religious involvement in economics and education might inspire your paper ideas.
- Follow your teacher’s recommendation. Often, professors give guidelines to students on the areas they should work on. For example, if you were covering a certain area in your religious education studies class; your teacher might ask you to pick topics from that section only. But in most cases, teachers leave the topics open for students to select on their own.
- Read other research on religious studies. Most researchers point at gaps that exist in the niche so that later students can work on them. This is a great place to commence your research paper.
The Best Religious Topics for a Research Paper
Whether you prefer working on religious controversial topics or philosophy of religion essay topics, we have listed the best 50 ideas to get you started. Check them and pick them as they are or tweak them to fit your preferred format.
- Christian and economics.
- Religion and homosexuality.
- Black churches.
- Christianity history.
- Comparing and contrasting Christian and Islam history.
- A closer look at world religions without gods.
- The concept of religion and soul.
- The impact of religious laws on morality.
- The phenomenon of trickster gods.
- The impact of Greek religion on European culture.
- Impact of religion on American culture.
- Impact of religion on Chinese culture.
- Comparing the similarities of images of gods in different religions.
- How does gender affect religion?
- Islam in modern India.
- What is the future of religion?
- Afterlife: What are the differences in diverse religions?
- What are the main causes of the faith crisis?
- Analyzing the influence of female clergy on religion.
- Relooking at the reincarnation concept.
- What role do men have in religion?
- The impacts of yoga on religion.
- Can faith remove the harshness of adolescence?
- Why is Ramadhan referred to as the holy month?
- Comparing religious counselors to classical psychologists.
- A closer look at the main differences between the bible and Koran.
- What is the importance of Christmas for Christians?
- Religion and science.
- How do people implement different religious practices today?
- Should atheism be considered another form of religion?
- Judaism: A closer look at its history.
- Analyzing attitudes towards sex in the Christian religion.
- Children: Are they considered innocent in all religions?
- A closer look at the history of Hinduism.
- A closer look at the existence of God as a supernatural being.
- Comparing and contrasting monotheistic cultures.
- Female goddesses.
- Chaplain-ship: How does it trigger peace and harmony?
- Impact of women in the history of Christianity.
- What are the implications of forced religion on people?
- Religion and terrorism.
- Religion in the workplace.
- Religion and evolution.
- Nordic mythology.
- A world without religion: Is it possible?
- Applying religion to address global problems.
- The primal religions.
- Do you think religion should play a role in modern politics?
- Do you think religion influences societal virtues?
Got the Best Religion Topics to Write About – What Next?
Now that you have a list of the best world religion research paper topics, it is important to appreciate that the journey of writing your assignment has just started. The next step is to write down your paper in line with your teacher’s guidelines. This is where your writing skills come into play. Well, it is never easy for many students. Often, some lack good writing skills, have other engagements, or acquire the right resources is a challenge. For others, the deadline is too tight and almost impossible to beat. The best idea is to seek affordable college assignment writing help.
After selecting the best topics, be they sociology or religion research topics or religious debate topics, writing help is provided by experts with years of experience in academic writing. They have handled such papers before and are willing to help you craft the best paper for top grades. Well, do not let that religious research paper stress you anymore, let a professional help you!
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203 Informative Religious Research Paper Topics For A+ Grades
Religion is the way people deal with the ultimate concerns of their lives and fate after death. Hence, people in different religions believe in a supernatural, powerful being; God. Who is all-powerful, sacred, and divine. Some religions even believe in certain spirits.
Most religions cling to a certain belief in a supernatural being. If you want top grades you have to do thorough research, consult your professor, invest in data collection, and proofread. You will need to first do an outline to stipulate how the work will be, draft then write the final paper.
Major Religion Topics
- Faith: Religion touches on people’s faith. In some religions, they believe in the power of faith. In that, you can believe in something and through faith, it gets fulfilled.
- Religion and Technology: There are many new technologies like cloning, artificial insemination, and frozen embryo that are being used. Many debates come upon whether they are ethical.
- Religious and Mental Health: Religion is also linked to mental health based on certain beliefs that people have.
- Philosophy and Theology: Religion is also interlinked with philosophy and theology. Most religious leaders go to learn theology to get a better understanding of their religion.
- World Religions: Most of the religions are closely interlinked. The only difference is the kind of rituals, beliefs, powerful being, and spiritual being that they believe in.
- Religious History: Most of the topics also rely on the history of the various religions. Some myths have strongly been nullified and agreed upon. This also interlinks with development over time.
- Traditions: Most people live life according to the Holy Book’s teachings. This is what guides people in the various phenomenon.
Interesting Religious Research Paper Topics
Understanding religion is easy when you do thorough research. You just have to get the best resources and link them with the specific topic.
- The causes of the faith crisis.
- Evaluate the history of Hinduism to modern Indian social life.
- Can faith be used to reduce the harshness of puberty?
- The major difference between the Bible and the Quran.
- The implications of the technological error to religion.
- The major roles paid by men in Christianity.
- The major similarities of god images and myths.
- The impact of yoga in boosting health.
- Evaluate Confucianism broadly.
- The effects of the emergence of a new religion.
- The history of Christianity.
- Evaluate the world religions broadly.
- Evaluate the existence of God as a supernatural being.
- The major similarities found in monotheistic cultures.
- The major differences found in monotheistic cultures.
Exceptional Religion Research Topics
If you want to get top grades, you must work towards doing a proper literature review. You can get enough information from documentaries, books, articles, and even other scholarly articles.
- The relation between the soul and religion.
- The implications of trickster gods.
- The influence of religion in theocratic states.
- The effects of the Greek religion.
- The impact of religion on modern Japanese culture.
- Why are children considered innocent souls in religion?
- The influence of religious laws on morality.
- Evaluate polytheistic religion.
- The major triggers of peace and harmony.
- The impact of gender on religion.
- The relation between religion and the LGBT community.
- The influence of the clergy on religion.
- Evaluate the reincarnation concept in modern religion.
- The major impact of women in Islam.
- The major role of men in Christianity.
Informative Religion Research Paper Topics
Are you writing a dissertation or thesis? Have you chosen a topic yet? You can use any of these topics to do your research. If you are at the graduate level, you must be great at research. This will be a walk in the park.
- The similarities of the afterlife in diverse religions.
- The influence of religion on economics.
- The significance of Ramadan month to Islam.
- Make a comparison between shamanism and modern religions.
- Make a comparison between modern psychologists and religious counselors.
- The impact of religion on terrorism.
- The significance of Christmas to Christians.
- Animalism manifestation in the modern world.
- Is the “Great Flood” story found in all religions?
- The manifestation of totems in the modern world.
- Evaluate how atheism is the new world religion.
- The different attitudes of sex in different religions.
- The significance of baptism to people and infants.
- The justification of military action through religious ethics.
- The different religions’ methods of converting followers.
Research Question about Religion
Are you looking for ideal research questions? Well, you can start with these. However, if you feel like you won’t manage, you may consult us. We offer the best essay, research project, proposal, and thesis writing help.
- How does the Bible boost religion?
- What is the significance of the clergy in religion?
- How does religion help in impacting social morality?
- How does Hinduism influence modern Indian life?
- How does religion influence societal virtues?
- How can religion be used to combat terrorism?
- How does religion play a role in politics?
- Which are the major religious cultures?
- Do all religious alignments lead to the same destination?
- How do wars present politics as a cover when religion is at the core?
- What makes the different religions different from each other?
- Does religion play a role in whether a candidate will win in an election or not?
- Do all religions consider children as innocent?
- What is the difference between the creation story and theories of Genesis Chapter 1?
- Do you think a person who had been divorced can be remarried?
Religion Paper Topics
When you plan to do a paper, ensure you consult your supervisor thoroughly. He or she will guide you on what is needed for your research paper. This is whether you are in university or college.
- Evaluate the principles of Western and Eastern religious faiths.
- Evaluate the religious beliefs in modern-day India to their beliefs in the 20th century.
- Do young babies go straight to heaven when they die?
- Discuss the existence of guardian angels.
- Evaluate the Old Testament and New Testament laws.
- How does divinity represent itself in nature like the Egyptians believed?
- Evaluate broadly the hypostatic union.
- The impacts of the female clergies in various religions.
- Evaluate how God only exists in the minds of those who believe in Him.
- The impact of Greek myths on European culture.
- The impact of religion on European culture.
- Hinduism and Islam in India.
- Differentiate the Gnostic faith from modern Christianity.
- How different religions deal with the end of the world.
- Compare the Jewish Bar Mitzvah versus the Catholic confirmation ritual.
Best Religious Paper Topics
As a student, you need to devote your time to proper research. Once you have a topic, it can be easy to research a specific religious topic. Here are some of the best that you can start with.
- Is it possible to know God’s will in our lives?
- How do the different religions cannibalize the past religions?
- The importance of religious books like the Bible and Quran.
- The influence of politics on religion.
- How does reincarnation occur in Hinduism?
- Provide an elaborative overview of the Buddhist religion.
- Can atheism be termed as a religion?
- Is ethical egoism a logical moral code?
- DO you think debt is Biblically allowed?
- The assumption of believer drinking; it is allowed?
- The various thoughts on contraception.
- Do you think freezing embryos is religiously right?
- The implication of artificial insemination.
- Evaluate Mormonism and whether it is true American religion.
- How have the Jewish people managed to navigate persecution that well over the centuries?
Religious Topics For Research Papers
Research is vital when doing any assignment. It can even help you with the most controversial topics. You just need to choose an ideal topic and give it your best shot.
- The significance of tithing in the different religions.
- The major difference between the Old Testament and New Testament giving.
- The similarities and differences in monotheistic religions.
- The relation between Nordic mythology and religion.
- Evaluate how politicians should not meddle in religious disputes.
- The role of religion is solving political conflicts.
- Evaluate the polytheistic religions.
- The implementation of religious practices in the modern world.
- Discuss religion in modern Japan.
- The relation between religion and law.
- Should religious leaders have legal and political power?
- Evaluate counseling Biblically.
- How can religion be used to guide teenagers?
- The similarities and differences of the afterlife in different religions.
- Evaluate the concept of the soul in different religions.
Engaging Religion Topics To Write About
Once you are done with any assignment, always remember to do proofreading. Hence, if you try out any of these engaging religious topics, be sure to proofread thoroughly.
- The history of Islam.
- The history of Judaism.
- The history of Hinduism.
- The History of Christianity.
- The basic understanding of trickster gods.
- Can the taking of one’s innocent life be justified ethically and religiously?
- The different mythology surrounding creation. Evaluate the various myths.
- The religious and cultural reasons behind wearing a hijab.
- What were the major causes of the Protestant reformation?
- The major causes of the emergence of a new religion.
- The various moral ways considered as living a spiritual life.
- Ethical beliefs are involved in the Hindu faith.
- The major purposes of missions in modern religion.
- The purpose of the church – Why did it start?
- The role of ritual sacrifice in different religions.
Argumentative World Religion Paper Topics
These are some of the best argumentative world religion paper topics. If you doubt yourself, our educated writers can help you. They will offer nothing but professional output. You will get top grades!
- The causes that made Martin Luther split from the Catholic faith.
- The relation between yoga and religion.
- The relation between the world religions and modern science.
- Evaluate the various world religions that have no god.
- The importance of doctrinal competency.
- The occurrence of trial and suffering.
- The role of women in congregations.
- Are situation ethics important in ensuring moral code?
- Evaluate Zoroastrianism in the modern world.
- Evaluate the major world religions.
- What causes the emergence of new religions?
- The view of religion on LGBTQ people in the world.
- The religious views regarding abortion.
- When is abortion allowed?
- The concept of reincarnation in the modern world.
Good Topics on Religion
As students, you need to always consult the professor. Yes, they have provided the assignment, but it is still vital to learn about their requirements. If it is a research project, ensure they approve your topic and objectives before proceeding on.
- The Christian view of gay marriage.
- Satanism is a valid religion. Discuss.
- The endorsement of slavery by religions.
- Is polytheism a valid religious choice?
- Does religion have more conflicts than it solves?
- The basic concepts of the Religious books.
- The different obligations of religious groups in Arabic countries.
- The various methods used to build peace in religion.
- Evaluate cloning from a religious point.
- The connection between religion and anthropology.
- The features of a person who can become a saint.
- The importance of the church in building national well-being.
- Compare how different religions convert people into their followers.
- The traditions of the Islamic world.
- The different ways to celebrate Christmas.
Interesting Religious Topics
If you want to succeed at school, you need to be collaborative with other students. In the case that you chose any of these interesting religious topics, you can brainstorm with your friends and know how best to phrase it.
- The role of religion in society.
- The debate between religious groups and scientists.
- The polygamous marriages in the Islamic world.
- The Saint place of the world according to the Bible.
- The major changes made through religious practices.
- The rules of behavior in the Orthodox Church.
- The most ancient religions in the world.
- The religious view of abortion.
- The differences of funeral rituals in different religions.
- The development of Christian music.
- The major differences between atheism and agnosticism.
- The impact of mass media on religion.
- The major problems faced by pagans
- The relation between the big bang theory and religion.
- Evaluate the orthodox sacrament of marriage.
Christian Research Paper Topics
Christianity is one of the most common religions of the world. Here are some of the best Christian research paper topics. They are simple, straightforward, and engaging.
- Religion is the opiate of the people.
- Is it right to change religions?
- The difference between Judaism and other religions.
- The most popular reference book in Islam.
- The role of female preachers in congregations.
- The way Asian people perceive death.
- Is cloning acceptable in Christianity?
- Is Islam a peaceful religion?
- Evaluate the tradition to attend church on Sunday.
- Is Buddhism a religion or philosophy?
- The negative implications of Buddhism
- The goal of theism in modern society.
- Is freedom of religion possible in Arabic countries?
- How religion can be used as a tool for government control.
- Evaluate the concept of religious inequality.
Religion Research Papers
There are different religions in the world. However, they all have different beliefs and rituals. Hence be mindful of that when choosing an ideal religion research paper.
- The role of different cults in society.
- Explore divorce in two different religions.
- The major views of Karl Marx on religion.
- The conflict of pluralism and secularism in modern Islam.
- The Islam and Christianity beliefs of the end of the world.
- The various reasons why the church separated from the state.
- The benefit of religion on society.
- The role of being born again in religion.
- The concept of guardian angels in religions.
- The different Christianity sects.
- Islam and Christianity say on suicide.
Religious Studies Research Paper Topics
In most schools, religious studies are compulsory. Hence, you can choose an easy topic from this list and use it in your essay, proposal, research project, thesis, or dissertation. As long as you do thorough research you will be sorted.
- The role of missionaries in the early Church.
- The relation between sociology and religion.
- Evaluate religious tolerance.
- The various reasons why people change religion.
- Faith is a reality.
- Do you think polygamous marriage should be forbidden?
- Evaluate whether all men are slaves to religion.
- Can religion be termed as a tool for capitalists?
- Is cloning abuse against God?
- Can abortion be termed as a sin against God or having control over your body and kids?
- Should religious leaders also be politicians?
- Evaluate agnosticism broadly.
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Essays on Religious Experience
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Good Jung’s Confrontation With The Unconscious, Healthy And Unhealthy Religion Essay Example
Example of another notable figure, william james, claimed that religion comes as a result of individual human experience. he says that; essay.
Psychology of Religion
Not Everything Has to Be Meaningful
By Brad Stulberg
Mr. Stulberg writes about excellence and mental health. He is the author of “ Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything Is Changing — Including You .”
In 2017, I was blindsided by the sudden onset of obsessive compulsive disorder and secondary depression. For the better of a year, my days were consumed by intrusive thoughts and feelings of angst, dread and despair. It was a terrifying and disorienting ordeal.
Normally, I process whatever I’m going through via my work, writing — suddenly, I could hardly muster enough focus to string together a sentence. My favorite foods tasted like cardboard. I couldn’t find peace, let alone joy, anywhere, not even in my newborn son. The pain of that was excruciating, like nothing I’d experienced before.
I had always been — and to a large extent, still am — an optimistic, growth-oriented and meaning-seeking person. Part of what I found so confounding about the experience was how utterly meaningless it felt. I’ve read many personal development and psychology books, all of which implored me to grow from struggle and find meaning in suffering. This suffering, however, felt as if it existed solely to create pain.
Four months into my recovery, I shared my concerns with my therapist, who herself has experienced bouts of anxiety and depression. “Why does what you are experiencing right now need to have some greater purpose?” she asked me. “Not everything has to be meaningful and you don’t have to grow from it. Why can’t it just suck, at least for the time being?”
A large body of psychology research shows that constructs such as growth mind-set , gratitude and construing meaning out of struggle can promote well-being. However, there are times when what you are going through is so painful, vexing and void of purpose that trying to adhere to these constructs hinders, rather than helps, your healing. Not only is what you are going through terrible, but you end up judging yourself because you can’t even do what all the self-help books, inspirational podcasts and #growfromstruggle social media posts tell you to. The result is you feel as if you’re not even good at feeling bad. Which, of course, only makes you feel worse.
It turns out that in times of deep grief, serious illness and other significant life disruptions, our sanest and most caring option is often to absolve ourselves of any pressure to find meaning or growth in our experience. Instead, as I found, sometimes simply focusing on showing up and getting through is more than enough.
That’s not to say we ought to wallow in despair or become nihilistic. Pain and suffering are often followed by meaning, but sometimes that meaning comes days, weeks or even years after the experience.
As you heal from hardship, you can integrate struggles into your identity. For particularly challenging or painful experiences, you may need time to wield an appropriate response. If you are going to experience growth and meaning, these attributes must come on their own time. The bigger and more challenging the experience, the longer it takes.
Patience is crucial, but it’s also hard. When you are in the thick of disorder your perception of time can slow down. Minutes feel like hours; hours feel like days; days feel like weeks.
In researching and reporting for my most recent book, “Master of Change,” which explores how to navigate periods of disorder and endure life’s inevitable chaos and flux, I came across countless individuals who underwent harrowing life disruptions from grave injury to illness to profound loss. The vast majority said that when they were in the thick of these experiences what they were going through often felt meaningless and as if it were going to last forever. But they got to the other side and could look back on their struggles without a sense of their being all consuming, though sometimes this took many months, sometimes many years. And with the benefit of time, most people found at least some meaning and growth.
In certain circumstances, such as grief, for many people there is no getting to the other side, no tidy bow to tie around the narrative. Yet even then there can still be meaning and growth. But if these qualities are going to emerge, they have to arrive on their own schedule. In other words, when you are in the thick of pain or struggle, meaning can feel elusive, and trying to force it usually backfires. But with time and distance, meaning often emerges, even when you least expect it. Holding on to both parts of this idea, even if it’s only with 1 percent of your awareness, can be a source of strength and consolation.
In a 2010 study , researchers followed 330 survivors of terrible physical injuries, many of whom required surgery at a Level 1 trauma center. In a testament to the human spirit, they found that as soon as six months following their accidents, the majority of survivors were on what the researchers called a resilience trajectory, experiencing relatively low symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But it wasn’t always a straight line to recovery. For some participants, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder gradually rose during the first three months of recovery before they started to subside and shift to a more positive trajectory.
It seems then, that the most important thing to do when in the midst of a life upheaval is to release yourself from any expectations altogether. Be patient and be kind to yourself. Seek help and social support. Do what you can to hold onto the fact that what feels like forever now probably won’t in the future. If you find immediate meaning and growth in your experience, that’s great. But if not, that’s OK too. Sometimes simply showing up and getting through is plenty. Perhaps the real growth is learning to let it be enough.
Brad Stulberg writes about excellence and mental health, is a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Public Health, and the author of “ Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything Is Changing — Including You .”
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Patrick Stewart says his time on 'Star Trek' felt like a ministry
Legendary actor Patrick Stewart talks about his time on Star Trek and the supernatural experiences that have shaped his spirituality.
SCOTT DETROW, HOST:
It is time now for Enlighten Me, our series about how we find meaning. And for this one, fire up Cerebro or, better yet, pour yourself a cup a tea - Earl Grey, hot - and settle into your captain's chair to hear this conversation between Rachel Martin and actor Patrick Stewart. Rachel, engage.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Sometimes you find comfort in the most unusual places. It was 1997, and I was living in Japan, teaching English to middle school kids. I lived in a tiny village. And in those early days especially, I was pretty lonely, except for my good friends Jean-Luc and Data. The teacher who had lived in my apartment before had left a huge box of VHS tapes. There were enough episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to keep me company for the duration of my time there. So don't worry, I did make real friends in Japan, but that show, those characters navigating the galaxy, were an important touchstone as I explored my own new world. For the most devoted of fans, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" represents far more.
PATRICK STEWART: Its impact on so many people has been extraordinary, ranging from people saying that it became their education to others who said, I was going to end my life, but I couldn't because I wouldn't be able to see "Star Trek" anymore.
MARTIN: That unforgettable voice is that of Sir Patrick Stewart, who played the captain of the Starship Enterprise on "The Next Generation" for seven seasons and in four feature films, and he stars in the latest TV iteration of the franchise, "Picard." I got to talk with Stewart about his new memoir called "Making It So."
There is a bit in the book, early in your career - I think it was your first job - but you were an assistant stage manager. It was your first job in the industry. And you write this beautiful description of what it felt like to be on the stage. And I wondered if you would read that for me.
STEWART: Yes, I can.
MARTIN: Thank you.
STEWART: (Reading) At the end of each performance, I waited for the last actor and the staff to leave the theater before switching off the lights and locking up for the night. Actually, I left on one light in accordance with an old theater tradition whereby a single bare bulb is left on, hanging over the center of the stage. With the theater otherwise deserted, I stood beneath this light every night, taking a moment to breathe in the auditorium and the vibrations of the audience that had just left it. I looked at the set, only recently populated by our company of actors. I was part of all this now. Indeed, I had responsibilities to fulfill, even if they were as a lowly assistant stage manager. This, I thought, is now my home.
MARTIN: I talk to a lot of people about spirituality and about the value of spiritual communities, which I think are when people who have similar values gather together and have or seek transcendent experiences. And I think "Star Trek," in all of its incarnations, represents that to a lot of fans. It is a spiritual world. They treat it with religious reverence. Have you encountered that? I mean, do you get it?
STEWART: Yes. I see it very, very clearly and very strongly. It was about truth and fairness and honesty and respect for others, no matter who they were or what strange alien creature they looked like. That was immaterial. They were alive. And if they needed help, Jean-Luc Picard and his crew, his team, were there to give it. So, yes, in a sense, we were ministers. And I have heard now so many times from individuals who have been honest enough and brave enough to tell me aspects of their life, of their health, of their mental health, and how it was all saved and improved by watching every week.
MARTIN: I mean, how did that sit with you? That's an awful lot of responsibility, to be that minister. I mean, you're an actor in a show, and people ascribe to you this wisdom, you as a moral compass for them
STEWART: Yes. I was proud of it and what we did. And I talked to Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden and Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton. We talked about this kind of thing often. And it's a glorious feeling 'cause we're just having a good time. We love our jobs. I love acting. And it's...
MARTIN: But didn't that feel incongruous that you are...
MARTIN: ...You're acting and you're having fun and - but it had this profound impact? No?
STEWART: It didn't feel at all incongruous because, particularly given the role I was playing, was a man of such profound understanding and empathy. And to feel like that as a person was such a reward for what we were doing because we were enjoying our work, our job. But at the same time, we were changing people's lives.
MARTIN: Did playing Jean-Luc Picard make you a better person?
STEWART: It gave me an idea of how I might become a better person, yes. I was able to absorb that and make those feelings a strong and firm part of my life.
MARTIN: There are several references in your book to the supernatural - experiencing spirits or even hearing your mother's voice after she died. Do you believe in spirits? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in things that are bigger than us like that?
STEWART: Yes. Bigger than us - yes. I believe in presence. And that was why, I think, when I was an assistant stage manager in my first job, I stood on that empty stage under one light - bare light bulb. Because while I was there, breathing quietly, it was as though I was surrounded by all the hundreds of actors who had been on that stage for the last hundred years.
MARTIN: Does your feeling about transcendence and spirits - does that extend to a possible afterlife? You are 83. You have lost a lot of people in your life. You have had to say goodbye to people who have died. What do you think happens? Have you thought about your own mortality in that way?
STEWART: I don't know what happens, but I have a very, very deep and acute feeling that there is more than this life that we lead. But I know, in some people who I've had relationships with, this has been an obsessive set of feelings that they have - fearful and harmful feelings. And instead, I am determined to see them differently. But with - by simply...
MARTIN: You mean seeing the end of life differently?
STEWART: Yes, as a closure of a chapter, not the end of existence. And I believe in that. Increasingly now, as I get older, I brood a little about this, but not despairingly, not depressedly (ph) at all. But just asking myself, am I ready?
MARTIN: Are you, or is that still the journey? That is the longing - to be ready.
STEWART: Yes. I'm getting close, very close. And I am experiencing happiness on a level and of an intensity that I've never experienced in my life before.
MARTIN: I'm so pleased for you.
STEWART: Thank you.
MARTIN: The book is called "Making It So," the aptly titled memoir from actor Patrick Stewart. Sir Patrick, what a pleasure. Thank you so much.
STEWART: And for me too, a great pleasure and a privilege to have been talking to you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
In a shock for Europe, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders records a massive win in Dutch elections
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders won a huge victory in Dutch elections, according to a near complete count of the vote early Thursday, in a stunning lurch to the far right for a nation once famed as a beacon of tolerance.
The result will send shockwaves through Europe, where far-right ideology is on the rise, and puts Wilders in line to lead talks to form the next governing coalition and possibly become the first far-right prime minister of the Netherlands.
With nearly all votes counted, Wilders’ Party for Freedom was forecast to win 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, two more than predicted by an exit poll when voting finished Wednesday night and more than double the 17 he won at the last election.
“I had to pinch my arm,” a jubilant Wilders said.
Political parties were set to hold separate meetings Thursday to discuss the outcome before what is likely to be an arduous process of forming a new governing coalition begins Friday.
Despite his harsh rhetoric, Wilders has already begun courting other right and center parties by saying in a victory speech that whatever policies he pushes will be “within the law and constitution.”
Wilders’ election program included calls for a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, a total halt to accepting asylum-seekers and migrant pushbacks at Dutch borders.
It also advocates the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands. He says he wants no mosques or Islamic schools in the country, although he has been milder about Islam during this election campaign than in the past.
Instead, his victory seems based on his campaign to rein-in migration -— the issue that caused the last governing coalition to quit in July —- and tackle issues such as the cost-of-living crisis and housing shortages.
“Voters said, ‘We are sick of it. Sick to our stomachs,’” he said, adding he is now on a mission to end the “asylum tsunami,” referring to the migration issue that came to dominate his campaign.
“The Dutch will be No. 1 again,” Wilders said. “The people must get their nation back.”
But Wilders, who has in the past been labeled a Dutch version of Donald Trump, first must form a coalition government before he can take the reins of power.
That will be tough as mainstream parties are reluctant to join forces with him and his party, but the size of his victory strengthens his hand in any negotiations.
Wilders called on other parties to constructively engage in coalition talks. Pieter Omtzigt , a former centrist Christian Democrat who built his own New Social Contract party in three months to take 20 seats, said he would always be open to talks.
The closest party to Wilders’ in the election was an alliance of the center-left Labor Party and Green Left, which was forecast to win 25 seats. But its leader, Frans Timmermans, made clear that Wilders should not count on a coalition with him.
“We will never form a coalition with parties that pretend that asylum seekers are the source of all misery,” Timmermans said, vowing to defend Dutch democracy.
The historic victory came one year after the win of Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy’s roots were steeped in nostalgia for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Meloni has since mellowed her stance on several issues and has become the acceptable face of the hard right in the EU.
Wilders was long a firebrand lashing out at Islam, at the EU and migrants -— a stance which brought him close to power but never in it, in a nation known for compromise politics.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who boasts of turning Hungary into an “illiberal” state and has similarly harsh stances on migration and EU institutions, was quick to congratulate Wilders. “The winds of change are here! Congratulations,” Orban said.
During the final weeks of his campaign, Wilders somewhat softened his stance and vowed that he would be a prime minister for all Dutch people, so much so that he gained the moniker Geert “Milders.”
The election was called after the fourth and final coalition of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned in July after failing to agree to measures to rein-in migration.
Rutte was replaced by Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, a former refugee from Turkey who could have become the country’s first female prime minister had her party won the most votes. Instead, it was forecast to lose 10 seats to end up with 24.
The result is the latest in a series of elections that is altering the European political landscape. From Slovakia and Spain, to Germany and Poland, populist and hard-right parties triumphed in some EU member nations and faltered in others.