Religion refers to a strong belief and worship of a supernatural being with powers that exceed the understanding and abilities of any human being. There are many religions in the present world. These religions are centered on almost similar concepts and foundations (Morgan, 2012, p.1). For this reason, many people who have studied religion use some common but extremely important terms to put their points across. This essay will explain the meaning of key terms that relate to religion and religious practices, while putting more emphasis on the two major religions on the earth: Christianity and Islam. However, there are other religions with minority following, such as Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and many others.
Many religions are built on the fact that there exists a superhuman figure with extra ordinary abilities that earthly people can never understand or compare to. This is what is called deity. For instance, the Christians believe in God as their deity figure while the Muslims believe in Allah. Christians pray through the Son of God, Jesus, while Muslims pray through His prophet, Mohammed.
Worship is total devotion to a deity. It involves praying and praising the deity figure as required by the religion. Worship is usually guided by written rules and procedures of conducting it. These rules and procedures are found in the holy books. The holy book for Christians is the Bible while that for Muslims is the Quran.
Sin refers to an act that is prohibited by a religion. In all religions, sin is punishable. For instance, in both Christianity and Islam, killing is a sin. If an individual commits such sin then they are sent to hell by God and Allah respectively.
This is a term used to refer to either a person or a place. A holy person is one who is free of sins and evil. A holy place is a place where sin does not exist. Such places are used for worship by the followers of religion. In the Islamic religion, some individuals are considered to be holy and are given the responsibility of being teachers to the rest. These people are called Sheikhs. At the same time, a mosque is considered to be the holiest place. For Christians, Jesus is a holy individual, devoid of sin. The churches are considered to be holy places.
The Sacred and Ritual of Religions
The word ‘sacred’ means something that has a connection with deity. Ritual is a combination of actions and beliefs that bind people to their religion (Essortment, 2012, p.1). Therefore, a sacred ritual is an act or expression that is acceptable by religion and which is believed to draw an individual closer to their deity. One such practice for Christians is prayer (Essortment, 2012, p.1). In the Christian belief, Jesus left instructions that whenever and individual needs to communicate with God, they can do this through prayer. This means that through prayer, an individual is directly connected with God. There is also baptism (p1).This is when an individual is submerged in water; which is believed to wash his/her sins away. This is a practice that was instructed by Jesus to keep the ‘flock’ holy of sin. ‘The Lord’s supper’ is also a fundamental ritual in Christianity. This is where followers of the religion share a piece of bread with wine or juice to symbolize Jesus’ last meal on the earth. This is practiced as a symbol of Christian fellowship in Jesus Christ.
Muslims practice fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. This is the ninth month of their calendar. It is dedicated to total worship to Allah. No follower of the religion is supposed to commit any sin during this month. There is also Al-Hajj. This is a day in the life of all Muslims when they are required to implement self-discipline and righteousness (Essortment, 2012, p.1). It is practiced every year. Finally, just like the Christians, Muslims are required to pray too. This ritual is very serious to the religion. Every Muslim has to pray at least seven times a day.
All religions teach that the followers should have time to fellowship together. This means that it is a common practice and ritual that people should meet in groups as members of a certain religion. In Christian religion, this is practiced through prayers in churches while Muslims pray in Mosques.
These are just a few of the many sacred rituals practiced by the followers of these religions.
Characteristics of Religion
As mentioned above, all religions have similar foundations and bases. For this reason, they all posses some common features. For instance, all religions have belief in a deity (Morgan, 2012, p.1). All religions have a supernatural being, with extra ordinary abilities, and who is worshipped by the followers. They are also based on the doctrine of salvation (p.1). This means that most, if not all religions put the followers in some form of danger. This danger poses as an ultimate risk which can destroy individuals and communities if they do not submit and offer ultimate worship to their deity. In Christianity, this danger is posed by spiritual sin while Islam is largely centered on physical sin. Commitment of such sins sends one to hell or leads to some form of suffering. An example of the suffering is plague attacks. Most religions try to explain natural and extra ordinary occurrences, such as droughts and famine. Christians and Muslims believe that God/Allah uses extreme physical weather to punish wrong doing in the society. Therefore, the wages of sin are bad events and happenings to the sinning society. In many religions, the sacred are separated and distinct from the ordinary (Nielsen, 2010). Anything believed to have direct connection with deity is set aside as extremely special. This is why Easter and Christmas are special days for Christians since they symbolize the crucifixion and birth of Jesus Christ respectively. For Muslims, Id-Hajj and Id-Fitr are special times as they represent holiness and self-discipline. These, among other traits identify many religious groupings and beliefs.
Importance of Religion to Individuals
Religion plays an important role in nurturing people. According to Preserve Articles, it provides mental peace (2012, p.1). The uncertainty, danger and helplessness in humans can be calmed by belief in deity. This is due to the fact that religions guarantee moral and emotional support during adversities. It also encourages good moral behavior and ethics (p.1). The teachings offered in religious books insist on good manners and treating others with discipline. This improves the morality of the follower as an individual. It encourages peace and unity. An individual is able to see another person as a brother or a sister due to the religious connection. This provides a podium for love and appreciation of each other, rather than hostility towards one another. It is also used as a tool for socialization. Most religions encourage individuals to meet in prayer and worship. This gives them a chance to interact and therefore unveil the social part of all the followers (p.1). Religion is said to strengthen the self-confidence of a person (p.1). With many religions preaching against laziness and lack of courage to perform activities, individuals are able to utilize these teachings to improve their ability to work as well as face challenges. This results to the followers being self-determined and confident.
Although the essay puts emphasis on only two religions, basically all religions have similar foundations. Some beliefs are common to all religions. For instance, one is not supposed to kill. Influenced by their place of birth and logic, individuals embrace religions for their own personal comfort and morality. Whichever religion they all shape people in the same manner, since they all preach the same gospel.