I’m not really sure why I didn’t realize just how much religion I was signing up for when I registered for my classes during spring quarter – but there’s a lot of religion in my classes this quarter. I suppose the term in each of the course titles should have given me the heads up.
Any way, so far my Introduction to World Religions class is more about the world view of everything, and the importance of understanding history in order to be able to attempt to form and participate in a functioning society tomorrow, rather than any particular religion(s).
My Religion, Society and Self class, on the other hand, is proving to be a little bit more into the philosophy of religion itself (Ironic since it’s the only 5 credit non-philosophy class I’m taking). The premise of the class is very similar to the premise of my World Religions class, which is that we need to know our story in order to participate in the world in the future. However, it’s taking a more specific approach. Whereas my World Religions professor is looking at all the dots that make the main big dot, This teacher is going over specific views of the world.
So far, after reading two chapters into the text book, Rethinking Religion: A Concise Introduction, it’s talking about the reasons why we have religion. The author, Will Deming, begins by talking about the importance of studying religion as well as the philosophical reason it came about. Considering that it influences how our cultures have developed, it’s fascinating to realize how much we neglect it.
He defines religion as the “orientation of ultimate reality.”
I spent some time thinking about this –really thinking about it. What struck me was the use of the word “orientation.” I wanted to examine what that meant to me. It means to become acquainted. It causes me to think about when new students begin school, there is an orientation which shows them their resources, where things are, and how to go about their college experience. Or perhaps when a person is hired on to a corporation, they might attend an orientation which tells the company’s history and philosophy. So the orientation of reality in this definition would be to become acquainted with the layout, philosophy, and history of reality.
Sounds about right.
Religion tells us our myths, our why-so stories, and our attitudes towards existence. For example, in an interview with Joseph Cambell, he explains that in western religions we’ve separated ourselves from nature, viewing it as a source or original sin; though in the East, there is an evolution with nature. They accept that the world is shared.
The separation of nature idea is that if we were lured into temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (it was the snake, and the snake is part of nature, and the fruit was of nature as well), then is what gave us original sin. We are born with this sin, which is our nature, and we must reject our nature in order to live in virtue.
How does this effect our society? Well, look at how we treat the natural world. Look at every one that has no qualms pouring chemicals down the drain, throwing their trash out the window, raping the earth for its oil, for its resources, giving little thought to the future of it. Look at how well we destroy the earth. Would this attitude have been gained had we not viewed nature as the source of sin?
This is just what is being said between the two classes. However, it’s an interesting thought.
Now, let’s look at the cultures of Native Americans. Beliefs throughout the land incorporated the earth into their every day living. They relied on the land, the rivers and seas to survive, and thus honored them. They honored the animals they ate, they materials that grew, the seasons that brought new years. They honored all of it. Before Europeans settled, they were healthy, and so was the land. In more modern times, the Native Americans that have adopted the American life style, the way we eat – have higher rates of heart and immune system diseases as well as diabetes.