History and features of religion

Religion is one of the main components of any civilization. There is not a single people that does not have any religious beliefs. Even atheism is just the other side of religion.

What kind of power is this, why has it been living for many millennia in the consciousness of all mankind? Why is there no person on Earth who has not heard this word? The traditional explanation for the term «religion» is belief in a god or gods. But it is not so. Firstly, some ancient peoples did not have gods as such — they worshiped sacred stones, trees, animals, the souls of deceased ancestors.

Magic is also a kind of religion, but it does not imply the presence of a god. Also, in some religions (Confucianism, Buddhism), the object of worship is a person who has reached the level of holiness.

What are the features of religion, what is its essence? The origin of the term itself is explained in different ways. The most common are two points of view: from the Latin word religio (holiness, piety) and from the Latin relegare (to bind, to unite). In any case, this phenomenon appeared in ancient times. Theologians and some scholars believe that religion has been inherent in humanity since its inception. But apparently this is not the case. Religious beliefs appeared at a certain stage in the development of mankind at the moment of its transition from a wild, semi-animal state to, albeit primitive, but still civilization.

People’s ideas about gods and religious beliefs have changed over time among different nations. The most primitive forms of religion are animism (belief in spirits), shamanism, magic, and so on. With the development of civilization, gods appear, who were personified forces of nature, as well as phenomena on which the life of a person of those times depended.

Religions in ancient civilizations

In ancient civilizations, religions were polytheistic, that is, there were many gods. In Ancient Egypt, China, India, Mesopotamia, among the peoples of South and Central America, in Ancient Greece and Rome, the gods essentially constituted a whole clan, like an ordinary human community or clan.

Each of them was responsible for a certain area of ​​human life or a natural phenomenon. The gods began to be divided into evil and good, depending on what they were responsible for. Later, monotheistic religions appeared, in which there is only one god. In particular, such is the Jewish faith in the one god Yahweh. This is the oldest monotheistic religion. Later, other beliefs appeared in her footsteps.

There are currently three world religions. They are called so because they cover not one country or people, but a significant part of the globe, and also are not associated with the national or ethnic identity of the believer. These are Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. The latter appeared in the 6th century BC. e., it was founded by Gautama Buddha, who was later deified. Christianity arose in the 1st century, Islam — in the 7th century.

In addition to world religions, national religions, which are characteristic of any one nation or state, occupy an important place in world culture. These include Shintoism (Japan), Judaism (Israel, as well as Jews around the world), Hinduism (India).

Within major religions, there are various trends and trends. As you know, Christianity is subdivided into Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism; Islam — into Shiite and Sunni directions; Buddhism — to Tantrism, Hinayana and Mahayana. Also, within each of the directions, there are various sects, groupings, trends. In recent decades, all kinds of newly formed religions have appeared.

What is the role of religion in the cultural life of mankind, why cannot it do without religious beliefs? Many scientists have tried to answer this question for many centuries. The interpretations of religion are very diverse. For example, the atheist and materialist Ludwig Feuerbach believed religion to be the result of man’s alienation of his “I”, the transfer of his essence to some higher being. According to Emile Durkheim, religion is based on the desire of people for something sacred, with the highest and indisputable authority. This something is deity. The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud saw in religious beliefs a manifestation of neurosis.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels believed that religion is a fantastic display in the human mind of the forces of nature and various elements. Marxists believe that religious faith stems from a lack of knowledge — man compensates for his inability to explain various phenomena in the life of nature, society, and the universe by believing in the supernatural. By the way, Marx’s famous aphorism “religion is the opium of the people” (and not “for the people,” as they often say!) Means that the people consoles themselves with religious inventions instead of seeking the truth.

Although atheists have fought religion for centuries and convinced of its failure, this form of human consciousness not only continues to exist, but occupies a very strong position. The number of believers is estimated at billions. What is the power of religion, what is its essence?

First of all, it is necessary to determine the characteristic features of religion, its difference from other forms of human consciousness. The first feature is the division of the world into a material component and a supernatural force. Secondly, these two hypostases are interconnected. The third feature is the recognition of the priority of the spiritual supernatural world over the material one. In fact, the supernatural is not considered such a believer, he is convinced of the real existence of otherworldly forces. Religion, unlike science, is based not on exact knowledge, but on faith, conviction.

In any religion, there are three main components — feeling, ritual and organization. Religious feeling is precisely the conviction in the existence of higher forces that govern nature, society and the life of an individual.

A religious feeling presupposes a set of ideas about gods, spirits, angels, demons and other otherworldly beings, as well as the corresponding psychological and emotional attitude of the believer. A religious ritual or cult is a set of actions by which a believer communicates with God and defends himself from evil forces. This includes prayers, sacrifices, ceremonies, holidays, and other rituals. A religious organization is a way of bringing believers together for worship. This is a church, sect, community and so on.

Faith is not unique to religious beliefs. You can, for example, believe in reason, in the ideals of communism, in a market economy, in your beloved leader, in the power of science. Faith implies the belief in the existence of something in the absence of precise evidence of this existence. But religion differs from other manifestations of faith precisely by the worship of otherworldly, unearthly, immaterial entities. It not only does not require proof of the existence of God or Satan, but the very search for such evidence considers it blasphemous. Religious consciousness is inherent in the believer, it is the way of his spiritual existence, the basis of his worldview. For the believer, the divine sphere is incomprehensible to man in principle, it is mysterious, inaccessible. An ordinary person is not able to come close to understanding it,

Only God can be an ideal and a model, but man is imperfect in principle. This is the ideological foundation of any religion.

However, a person can somehow influence otherworldly forces. God can be asked, cajoled, persuaded by performing a certain ritual for this. You can fight off Satan and demons with a prayer, some sacred object (for example, a cross, holy water).

The teachings of the largest religions are formalized in special books that are sacred for believers and each word of which is recognized as true and not subject to doubt. Such books, for example, are the Bible, Koran, Torah, Vedas. The formulas of these books are recognized as dogmas, that is, the inviolable and unchangeable basic provisions of the doctrine. Holy books play a huge role in the system of religious teaching. They are interpreted and studied in depth by specialists called theologians or theologians.

In ancient cultures, theology was the exclusive business of the priests. For example, in ancient Egypt, only they had the right to read and compose religious texts and interpret the will of the gods. The priests formed a closed caste, into which outsiders were not allowed.

The knowledge of the priests was closed not only to the people, but even to the aristocrats.

Now theology is an important component of any religion, although the former isolation is no longer there. On the contrary, every believer is obliged to read and know the sacred books. Believers must take certain actions to establish a connection with God and earn his grace. These are not only prayers and rituals, but also practical actions.

These include, for example, donating to the church, helping the poor, charity, and promoting religious values. Practical activity complements spiritual, as a result of which the merging of man with God is achieved. The fulfillment of religious covenants serves as the basis for the transition of a person after death to a new happy life.

The doctrine of the afterlife is characteristic of all religions. According to church dogmas, a believer who fulfills all the prescriptions of the sacred books and leads a righteous life can count on going to heaven, while sinners will be punished. Belief in an afterlife shapes certain behaviors as well as life values ​​and ideals. In an indirect form, all this manifests itself in culture, art, in everyday life.

Thus, religion is a form of human culture, which manifests itself in a special sensory perception of the surrounding reality, as created by divine power and controlled by it.

Including feeling, cult and organization, religion forms a special system of values ​​that governs behavior and the entire life of a person.

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