CREDOS : Religion

Robert Vint

The word "re-ligion" means "reconnection." Throughout history, people have experienced awe and wonder in response to the world and have sought to understand these feelings, or to reconnect to th-eir source. Whilst modern science seeks logical understanding of the world and its origin, the religious practitioner instead seeks to reconnect with this origin. Religions provide methods for making this reconnection. Spiritual practices such as prayer and contemplation towards a direct encounter with reality. Since reality (that which exists) is ultimately beyond words, religion is universally communicated through myths (stories that are symbolically true) and the arts (architecture and statues).

How one perceives reality determines how one behaves towards it; thus the religious experience gives rise both to metaphysics and to ethics. In an increasingly multicultural world, it is important to ask whether all the religions really contradict one another or whether they are simply different paths leading to a single reality. Whilst it may be impossible to answer this question in words, it is possible to discern many common elements behind religious diversity.

Prof Ninian Smart, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, has identified seven of these: A practical or ritual dimension is usually adhered to; there is a central emotional experience — a feeling of awe, joy or peace; religion usually has a story or a myth; there is often a formal doctrine; there is an ethical dimension underlying doctrinal elements; there is usually a social dimension; the material side of the religion, expressed as the bui-lding of places worship. — Religions of the World