World Religions and Belief Systems: Definition of Terms

World Religions and Belief Systems: Definition of Terms
In the subject Introduction to World Religions and Belief Systems, the learners are expected to demonstrate understanding of belief system or worldview, Religion, Spirituality, Philosophy of Religion, Theology, the elements of religion, belief system, and spirituality. Being familiar with the following terms and concepts are very important as an introduction:
1.  ‘Materialism’ is the philosophical doctrine that physical matter is the only ultimate reality. It maintains that all that exists is reducible to matter or to qualities or upshots of matter.
2. Theists believe that unlike opposing ethical theories, theistic moral system (which is also called ‘moral supernaturalism’) can satisfactorily explain the existence of objective ethical values and moral laws.
3. Worldview is more than culture as it extends to perceptions of time and space, of happiness and of well-being. In fact, the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a culture stem from its worldviews.
4. Derived from the German term ‘weltanschauung,’ the term ‘worldview’ refers to the cluster of beliefs an individual holds about the most significant concepts of life such as God, the cosmos (universe), and humanity. These beliefs, which may or may not be true, form a general picture, a broad-spectrum outlook, or a grand perspective on life and the world.
5. ‘Spirituality’ is one’s integrative view of life. It involves a quest for the meaning and ultimate value of life as opposed to an instrumentalist or materialistic attitude to life.
6.  The word ‘philosophy’ came from the Greek words ‘philo’ (love) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom) and is thus literally defined as “the love of wisdom”. Considered by some as ‘the mother of all branches of knowledge’, it may be defined as the systematic examination of principles and presuppositions of any field of inquiry, including religion.
7. “Seekers” are those people who are looking for a spiritual home but contemplate recovering earlier religious identities. These SBNRs embrace the “spiritual but not religious" label and are eager to find a completely new religious identity or alternative spiritual group that they can ultimately commit to.
8. Belief systems are often deemed as convictions, often in the form of supernatural or religious beliefs, though they may also take the form of scientific views, or any philosophical belief relating to the sphere of daily life.
9. Religious scriptures are the so-called sacred texts which religions consider to be central to their faith. Religious texts may be utilized to “evoke a deeper connection with the divine, convey spiritual truths, promote mystical experience, foster communal identity, and to guide individual and communal spiritual practice” (“Religious Text,” n.d.).
10. Generally, a ‘ritual’ is a “sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence” (“Ritual,” n.d.).  Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community.
11. Other polytheists are ‘kathenotheists,’ that is, worshiping different gods or goddesses at different times.
12. The term ‘monotheism’ comes from the Greek ‘μόνος’ (‘monos’) meaning “single” and ‘θεός’ (‘theos’) meaning ‘god.’ It characterizes the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—religions that had grown up in opposition to polytheism. (for the monotheist religions, read about 3 Major Religions of the World)
13. The spiritual dimension (spirit) is described as a unifying force within individuals, integrating and transcending all other dimensions. This dimension is also described as God-consciousness, or related to a deity or supreme values.
14. This worldview finds its roots in empiricism, which claims that all valid knowledge is derived from experience, and in positivism, which denies all metaphysical concepts. Ethically, naturalism proposes that morality must be limited to non-spiritual context since it denies any supernatural end for humankind.
15. A religion is also viewed as “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to an order of existence” (“Religion,” n.d.). Many religions possess holy scriptures, narratives, or sacred accounts that aim to explain the origin and meaning of life and the universe.
16. Webster’s dictionary defines theology as “the science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. . . the science of Christian faith and life.” In the fifth-century, the philosopher Augustine defined theology as “rational discussion respecting the deity” (“Theology,” n.d.).
17. ‘Philosophy of religion’ refers to the philosophical study of the main themes and concepts involved in religions. It may also include an enquiry into the religious significance of historical events (e.g., the Holocaust) and the general features of the cosmos, the laws of nature, and the occurrence of conscious life.
18. A ‘mosque’ is a place of worship for followers of Islam. Many mosques” have elaborate domes, minarets, and prayer halls, in varying styles of architecture … The mosque serves as a place where Muslims can come together for ‘salat’ (prayer) as well as a center for information, education, social welfare, and dispute settlement” (“Mosque,” n.d.).
19. Monism is a philosophical, cosmological, and metaphysical stand which proposes an ultimate unity of all things, and that all seeming differences, distinctions, divisions, and separations are ultimately only apparent or partial aspects of an ultimate whole. It is a theological stance that “all is one, that there are no fundamental divisions, and that a unified set of laws underlie all of nature.
20. Evolutionists claim that the existence of all life is explained by natural selection which for them is a “blind, unconscious, no purpose, no mind, no vision, no foresight, no sight at all, automatic process” (Dawkins, 2000, p. 14). In other words, all life allegedly originated through intrinsically directionless series of processes as opposed to the planned and decisive creation by God ... Continue reading.

The article in this link tackles about 25 concepts and terms that are also important in studying world religions and belief systems



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