Thursday, August 20, 2009

Forms of Religion

Religion has great social force and a factor responsible for social integration. Though it has done much disservice to the society, yet so far no society has been in a position to completely wipe out religion. Religion has changed many forms and some of them may be defined and discussed as under:
Concept of Holy:
Concept of holy is perhaps the first consideration in religion. It was distinction between unholy and holy which brought religion into picture. According to Kingsley Davis, “Religious beliefs embracing ideas, myths, legends and dogmas, are notions concerning holy and unholy things”.
Superstitions:
In each society people believe in certain superstitions. In the past there were many superstitions in which the people had blind faith but with the advancement of scientific age many superstitions have been uprooted. But even now in underdeveloped and undeveloped nations superstitions play an important role. Briefly speaking superstition may be called a conviction which has no relation with the event.
Super-empirical:
Then the religion began to be symbolised and gradually many things began to symbolise religion. Plants, flag, colour, word, place, act all began to express religion in one form or the other. Super-empirical realities may be categorised into three categories namely subjective e.g. peace, salvation and nirvana, ascendental ends such as immorality, purification and imaginary creatures and objects such as gods, spirits, heavens, and hells. In the words of Kingsley Davis, “The characteristics of these realities are their intangibility. Since they cannot be observed directly, they can only be represented or symbolised by sensory reality”.
Animism:
It propounds the existence of some supra physical beings within the body of every living being. It is a belief in the spirits of the dead. It is believed that the spirits communicate with men and that they visit the people in sleep. It is also believed that supra-physical being survive after the death of physical beings and that the form can do harm or good to the latter. In the words of Samuel Koening, “Tylor considered this concept an almost inevitable result of such universal phenomena as dream…Death, hallucinations, and epileptic fits as well as such phenomena as reflections, shadows and echoes, were other factors stimulating a belief in spirits………primitive man was thus led to animism, which according to Tylor, lies at the basis of all religions”. In our modern society, however, faith in animism is considerably reduced.
Magic:
Magic may conveniently be defined as manipulation by which an effect is sought through the action of unseen powers. In the words of Kingsley Davis, “The relation between religion on the one hand and magic (whether white or black) on the other is necessarily a close one yet the two spheres can be distinguished”. Both religion and magic refer to supernatural realm but differ from each other about the kinds of ends pursued, types of attitudes involved, and the particular kind of super-naturalism required and the pattern of behaviour exhibited. Magical practices are not validated by scientific knowledge. Magic can be imitative as well as contagious. In the case of former an individual imitates what he wishes to happen whereas in the latter case it is presumed that whatsoever would come into contact with the supernatural power will be controlled by that.
Totemism:
In it a tribe has a faith in a particular, animal to which it adores or worships. The tribe associates itself in many ways that animal and in fact that tribe considers itself to be the descent of that animal. They attach super-empirical meaning to that animal and do not kill that. Religion comes in contact with totemism when sacrifices are made for pleasing that animal or adoring it.
Rituals:
Rituals are external sides of religious and have sacredness attached to it. By some thinkers it is believed that rituals are more important than the religion itself because these strengthen one’s faith in religion and religious practices. In every society certain ceremonies and rituals are observed at the time of marriage, birth as well as death. These satisfy our emotions. Though today some of these ceremonies may appear purposeless, yet it must be understood that each ritual and ceremony has some logic behind it, though today we may fail to understand them.
Fetishism:
Sometimes we adore a material thing on account of its mysterious power. The people adore that to the extent of sacredness attached to it, and also according to the extent to which desires of the processor are fulfilled.
Expressions of Religion:
Religion can be expressed in three ways namely (a) Theoretical expression; (b) Practical expression and (c) Sociological expression. Theoretical expression include myths and doctrines whereas practical expression mean all such actions which flow from and are also determined by religious experience, Sociological expressions are both personal as well as communal because we know that though religion is a collective affairs but contribution of individual to religion cannot be underestimated.
Conclusion:
We thus find that religion is found in different societies in all forms and that it is only the extent to which its observance differs. Thus in Hindu society religion and ceremonies as well as rituals may be more important than what these are in American and British societies. But religious ceremonies and rituals are observed in almost all the societies on such important occasions as birth, marriage and death.

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