Exploring Religious Meaning / Edition 6

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Overview

This book provides readers with the tools and resources for exploring the many dimensions of religion as a central reality of human life. It provides a functional definition of religion that suggests that religion is important to everyone because each person's life is shaped by, and all persons are concerned about, occasions in their lives that threaten or promote fulfillment of the individual's basic values and commitments. Chapter coverage includes the six major world religions as they relate to: traditions, artistic expression, ways of conceiving the divine, the problem of evil, understanding the self, sin and guilt, death and the self, salvation and redemption, interpersonal relations, corporate expressions of ethical concerns, social stability and social change, human response to the natural process, and order and origins. For anyone interested in the formal study of religion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Very comprehensive in terms of topics covered." — Anne Wetherilt, Emmanuel College

"I find the selections introducing the world's religions very helpful and one of the strongest parts of the book .... I find it very helpful to have this stretched all through the texts and it offers a way to teach this class that allows it to be an interesting introduction." — Jeffrey C. Pugh, Elon University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130923868
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 6
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE OR SOME WAYS OF USING THIS TEXT

Exploring Religious Meaning is intended to serve as a set of tools and resources for exploring the many dimensions of religion as a central reality of human life. It was designed with introductory courses in religion, religion and culture, religion and society, and the humanities in mind. It has also been used successfully as a main or supplementary text for courses in comparative religion, sociology of religion, and philosophy of religion. It is indexed and formatted in ways that suggest a variety of uses. It can be used readily for independent study.

The book's design suggests an approach to inquiry that may be called inductive and integrative. Many of the readings are taken from Scriptures and classic literature of the world's religions. Others, presented in a variety of ways, are drawn from classic and contemporary sources that interpret religion in its various dimensions—theological, psychological, sociological, philosophical, cultural, and practical. Some are drawn from areas of contemporary -culture in which religious experience and commitment are actualized, appreciated, or criticized.

The authors of Exploring Religious Meaning do not always agree among themselves on questions of interpretation. Readers will no doubt find themselves questioning or disagreeing with points of view expressed in sources or interpretative commentary. We hope that individual readers will be stimulated to address their own questions and formulate their own responses in studying the issues. Questions and discussion points are connected with readings more closely than in earlier editions. We believe they will be moreuseful.

To understand religion, religious phenomena must be seen in their contexts as manifested in the lives of societies and individuals. Traditional practices, organizational structures, doctrinal formulations handed down from generation to generation are important aspects of religion that receive attention in this text. Important too are individual experiences of feeling and response movements of innovation, protest and reform, and the emergence of new patterns that may modify, give new life to, or eclipse the old and established.

In the first chapter, a functional definition of religion is proposed. This definition suggests that religion is important to everyone because each person's life is shaped by—and all persons are concerned about—events that confront them with occasions that threaten or promote fulfillment of the individual's most basic values and commitments. Such basic commitments express what the individual most desires, how that person defines the meaning and value of existence. Basic commitments that involve the person's deepest loyalties, feelings, and beliefs about what is worth trying to acquire or preserve are—according to our proposed definition of religion—religious.

Exploring Religious Meaning began as an attempt in the late 1960s to communicate and illuminate religious concepts, practices, and traditions in ways that would effectively speak both to students who had religious interest and commitments and to others who had little experience of or even interest in the subject. Materials in the book have been updated many times since then. Probably the two greatest changes, beginning with the second edition, were (1) the addition of a separate chapter giving connected accounts of eight of the world's major religious traditions and (2) greater attention to unity and clarity in the structure of the book. Each subsequent edition has seen the addition of more information about individual religious traditions, including the major religions, new religious movements, and religion in ancient or simpler societies. These will be found throughout the book. Also, each edition has seen the development of a strengthened context of interpretation, giving greater clarity and a more complete set of tools for interpretation.

Chapters and Units in this new edition have been thoroughly updated. Several Units, including those dealing with religion and the arts, gender issues, religion in modernizing and postmodern societies, shamanism, magic, myth, war and peace, different ways in which religions interpret evil, and science and religion have been significantly revised, updated, expanded, and made, we believe, more adequate and relevant. A new chapter, combining materials from previously existing chapters but utilizing materials dropped from the fifth edition, restored at the request of users of the text and given a thorough updating, has been installed. This chapter deals with questions of belief, faith and reason, authority and tradition.

Recent events on the world scale are examined as they are related to terrorism and its relationship to conflict arising from certain kinds of religious reactions or responses to globalization. The integrity of religious traditions and positions is respected throughout the text. At the same time the effects on religion of a modernizing technologically dominated world order and the effects of religion on contemporary societies are explored.

We have retained the basic structure of the book, which persons who use it have told us works well. Units with materials that sometimes overlap, adding new contents while enriching previously developed ones, contribute to continuity and enhance comprehension. Each chapter deals with a major topic or subtopic by means of a brief introductory discussion followed by a series of units that explore facets of the topic. Some of the units raise major questions related to the topic. Other units deal comparatively with ways in which different religious (or religious and secular) traditions treat one major aspect of religion. Some treat or illustrate one major theme or topic in depth. Several units compare ways in which two or more religious traditions respond to a human issue or experience or concept. Each exploration of a topic is intended to enrich or supplement the others.

The book's structure gives a large degree of freedom to instructors and readers. Some may choose to omit chapters or units or combine units from one chapter with units from another. Exploring Religious Meaning uses a rather modest set of theoretical tools that we have found useful in studying religion within a single society as well as in global context. These include a functional definition of religion adapted from such theologians, philosophers, and behavioral scientists as Martin Luther, Paul Tillich, H. Richard Niebuhr, William Blackstone, and Clifford Geertz among others. A creed/code/cult/community typology adapted from Joseph Fichter and other sociologists of religion is utilized. A typology of religious groups familiar from the work of Ernst Troeltsch but frequently modified and developed, recently by Bainbridge and Stark, is invoked. A typology of five orientations to religion is explained and examined. Instructors should feel free to evaluate these theoretical tools and introduce others.

We want to thank reviewers of the fifth edition, users of the book asked by our publisher for evaluations and suggestions for improvement. They responded with extremely useful critiques. We have incorporated most of their suggestions. We continue to be grateful to Jacques Bakke for illustrations that contribute much to the book. We are indebted to our many students in academic settings where we have taught. Several of these are now engaged professionally in teaching in areas of religious studies. Their suggestions, criticism, and encouragement have been valuable.

We also wish to express our gratitude to the religion editors and their staff members who through the years have continually supported and facilitated this text's several editions. Without their confidence and encouragement recurring revisions would not be accomplished.

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Table of Contents

Preface.

I. RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS.

1. Toward a Definition of Religion.

2. Religious Traditions.

II. EXPERIENCING RELIGION.

3. Religious Experience.

4. Elements of Religious Experience.

5. Religion in Artistic Expression.

III. THE DIVINE.

6. Knowledge, Belief, Authority, and Tradition.

7. Ways of Conceiving the Divine.

IV. THE SELF AND RELIGION.

8. Evil: Its Reality and Meaning.

9. Understanding the Self.

10. Freedom and the Self.

11. Sin and Guilt.

12. Death and the Self.

13. Salvation and Redemption.

V. RELIGION AND THE SOCIOCULTURAL CONTEXT.

14. The Religious Matrix of Interpersonal Relations.

15. Corporate Expressions of Ethical Concerns.

16. Religious Traditions and Social Stability.

17. Religious Traditions and Social Change.

VI. RELIGION AND THE NATURAL ORDER.

18. Human Response to the Natural Process.

19. Order and Origins.

Index of Religious Traditions.

Index of Names and Subjects.

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Preface

PREFACE OR SOME WAYS OF USING THIS TEXT

Exploring Religious Meaning is intended to serve as a set of tools and resources for exploring the many dimensions of religion as a central reality of human life. It was designed with introductory courses in religion, religion and culture, religion and society, and the humanities in mind. It has also been used successfully as a main or supplementary text for courses in comparative religion, sociology of religion, and philosophy of religion. It is indexed and formatted in ways that suggest a variety of uses. It can be used readily for independent study.

The book's design suggests an approach to inquiry that may be called inductive and integrative. Many of the readings are taken from Scriptures and classic literature of the world's religions. Others, presented in a variety of ways, are drawn from classic and contemporary sources that interpret religion in its various dimensions—theological, psychological, sociological, philosophical, cultural, and practical. Some are drawn from areas of contemporary -culture in which religious experience and commitment are actualized, appreciated, or criticized.

The authors of Exploring Religious Meaning do not always agree among themselves on questions of interpretation. Readers will no doubt find themselves questioning or disagreeing with points of view expressed in sources or interpretative commentary. We hope that individual readers will be stimulated to address their own questions and formulate their own responses in studying the issues. Questions and discussion points are connected with readings more closely than in earlier editions. We believe they will be more useful.

To understand religion, religious phenomena must be seen in their contexts as manifested in the lives of societies and individuals. Traditional practices, organizational structures, doctrinal formulations handed down from generation to generation are important aspects of religion that receive attention in this text. Important too are individual experiences of feeling and response movements of innovation, protest and reform, and the emergence of new patterns that may modify, give new life to, or eclipse the old and established.

In the first chapter, a functional definition of religion is proposed. This definition suggests that religion is important to everyone because each person's life is shaped by—and all persons are concerned about—events that confront them with occasions that threaten or promote fulfillment of the individual's most basic values and commitments. Such basic commitments express what the individual most desires, how that person defines the meaning and value of existence. Basic commitments that involve the person's deepest loyalties, feelings, and beliefs about what is worth trying to acquire or preserve are—according to our proposed definition of religion—religious.

Exploring Religious Meaning began as an attempt in the late 1960s to communicate and illuminate religious concepts, practices, and traditions in ways that would effectively speak both to students who had religious interest and commitments and to others who had little experience of or even interest in the subject. Materials in the book have been updated many times since then. Probably the two greatest changes, beginning with the second edition, were (1) the addition of a separate chapter giving connected accounts of eight of the world's major religious traditions and (2) greater attention to unity and clarity in the structure of the book. Each subsequent edition has seen the addition of more information about individual religious traditions, including the major religions, new religious movements, and religion in ancient or simpler societies. These will be found throughout the book. Also, each edition has seen the development of a strengthened context of interpretation, giving greater clarity and a more complete set of tools for interpretation.

Chapters and Units in this new edition have been thoroughly updated. Several Units, including those dealing with religion and the arts, gender issues, religion in modernizing and postmodern societies, shamanism, magic, myth, war and peace, different ways in which religions interpret evil, and science and religion have been significantly revised, updated, expanded, and made, we believe, more adequate and relevant. A new chapter, combining materials from previously existing chapters but utilizing materials dropped from the fifth edition, restored at the request of users of the text and given a thorough updating, has been installed. This chapter deals with questions of belief, faith and reason, authority and tradition.

Recent events on the world scale are examined as they are related to terrorism and its relationship to conflict arising from certain kinds of religious reactions or responses to globalization. The integrity of religious traditions and positions is respected throughout the text. At the same time the effects on religion of a modernizing technologically dominated world order and the effects of religion on contemporary societies are explored.

We have retained the basic structure of the book, which persons who use it have told us works well. Units with materials that sometimes overlap, adding new contents while enriching previously developed ones, contribute to continuity and enhance comprehension. Each chapter deals with a major topic or subtopic by means of a brief introductory discussion followed by a series of units that explore facets of the topic. Some of the units raise major questions related to the topic. Other units deal comparatively with ways in which different religious (or religious and secular) traditions treat one major aspect of religion. Some treat or illustrate one major theme or topic in depth. Several units compare ways in which two or more religious traditions respond to a human issue or experience or concept. Each exploration of a topic is intended to enrich or supplement the others.

The book's structure gives a large degree of freedom to instructors and readers. Some may choose to omit chapters or units or combine units from one chapter with units from another.

Exploring Religious Meaning uses a rather modest set of theoretical tools that we have found useful in studying religion within a single society as well as in global context. These include a functional definition of religion adapted from such theologians, philosophers, and behavioral scientists as Martin Luther, Paul Tillich, H. Richard Niebuhr, William Blackstone, and Clifford Geertz among others. A creed/code/cult/community typology adapted from Joseph Fichter and other sociologists of religion is utilized. A typology of religious groups familiar from the work of Ernst Troeltsch but frequently modified and developed, recently by Bainbridge and Stark, is invoked. A typology of five orientations to religion is explained and examined. Instructors should feel free to evaluate these theoretical tools and introduce others.

We want to thank reviewers of the fifth edition, users of the book asked by our publisher for evaluations and suggestions for improvement. They responded with extremely useful critiques. We have incorporated most of their suggestions. We continue to be grateful to Jacques Bakke for illustrations that contribute much to the book. We are indebted to our many students in academic settings where we have taught. Several of these are now engaged professionally in teaching in areas of religious studies. Their suggestions, criticism, and encouragement have been valuable.

We also wish to express our gratitude to the religion editors and their staff members who through the years have continually supported and facilitated this text's several editions. Without their confidence and encouragement recurring revisions would not be accomplished.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

PREFACE OR SOME WAYS OF USING THIS TEXT

Exploring Religious Meaning is intended to serve as a set of tools and resources for exploring the many dimensions of religion as a central reality of human life. It was designed with introductory courses in religion, religion and culture, religion and society, and the humanities in mind. It has also been used successfully as a main or supplementary text for courses in comparative religion, sociology of religion, and philosophy of religion. It is indexed and formatted in ways that suggest a variety of uses. It can be used readily for independent study.

The book's design suggests an approach to inquiry that may be called inductive and integrative. Many of the readings are taken from Scriptures and classic literature of the world's religions. Others, presented in a variety of ways, are drawn from classic and contemporary sources that interpret religion in its various dimensions—theological, psychological, sociological, philosophical, cultural, and practical. Some are drawn from areas of contemporary -culture in which religious experience and commitment are actualized, appreciated, or criticized.

The authors of Exploring Religious Meaning do not always agree among themselves on questions of interpretation. Readers will no doubt find themselves questioning or disagreeing with points of view expressed in sources or interpretative commentary. We hope that individual readers will be stimulated to address their own questions and formulate their own responses in studying the issues. Questions and discussion points are connected with readings more closely than in earlier editions. We believe they will be moreuseful.

To understand religion, religious phenomena must be seen in their contexts as manifested in the lives of societies and individuals. Traditional practices, organizational structures, doctrinal formulations handed down from generation to generation are important aspects of religion that receive attention in this text. Important too are individual experiences of feeling and response movements of innovation, protest and reform, and the emergence of new patterns that may modify, give new life to, or eclipse the old and established.

In the first chapter, a functional definition of religion is proposed. This definition suggests that religion is important to everyone because each person's life is shaped by—and all persons are concerned about—events that confront them with occasions that threaten or promote fulfillment of the individual's most basic values and commitments. Such basic commitments express what the individual most desires, how that person defines the meaning and value of existence. Basic commitments that involve the person's deepest loyalties, feelings, and beliefs about what is worth trying to acquire or preserve are—according to our proposed definition of religion—religious.

Exploring Religious Meaning began as an attempt in the late 1960s to communicate and illuminate religious concepts, practices, and traditions in ways that would effectively speak both to students who had religious interest and commitments and to others who had little experience of or even interest in the subject. Materials in the book have been updated many times since then. Probably the two greatest changes, beginning with the second edition, were (1) the addition of a separate chapter giving connected accounts of eight of the world's major religious traditions and (2) greater attention to unity and clarity in the structure of the book. Each subsequent edition has seen the addition of more information about individual religious traditions, including the major religions, new religious movements, and religion in ancient or simpler societies. These will be found throughout the book. Also, each edition has seen the development of a strengthened context of interpretation, giving greater clarity and a more complete set of tools for interpretation.

Chapters and Units in this new edition have been thoroughly updated. Several Units, including those dealing with religion and the arts, gender issues, religion in modernizing and postmodern societies, shamanism, magic, myth, war and peace, different ways in which religions interpret evil, and science and religion have been significantly revised, updated, expanded, and made, we believe, more adequate and relevant. A new chapter, combining materials from previously existing chapters but utilizing materials dropped from the fifth edition, restored at the request of users of the text and given a thorough updating, has been installed. This chapter deals with questions of belief, faith and reason, authority and tradition.

Recent events on the world scale are examined as they are related to terrorism and its relationship to conflict arising from certain kinds of religious reactions or responses to globalization. The integrity of religious traditions and positions is respected throughout the text. At the same time the effects on religion of a modernizing technologically dominated world order and the effects of religion on contemporary societies are explored.

We have retained the basic structure of the book, which persons who use it have told us works well. Units with materials that sometimes overlap, adding new contents while enriching previously developed ones, contribute to continuity and enhance comprehension. Each chapter deals with a major topic or subtopic by means of a brief introductory discussion followed by a series of units that explore facets of the topic. Some of the units raise major questions related to the topic. Other units deal comparatively with ways in which different religious (or religious and secular) traditions treat one major aspect of religion. Some treat or illustrate one major theme or topic in depth. Several units compare ways in which two or more religious traditions respond to a human issue or experience or concept. Each exploration of a topic is intended to enrich or supplement the others.

The book's structure gives a large degree of freedom to instructors and readers. Some may choose to omit chapters or units or combine units from one chapter with units from another. Exploring Religious Meaning uses a rather modest set of theoretical tools that we have found useful in studying religion within a single society as well as in global context. These include a functional definition of religion adapted from such theologians, philosophers, and behavioral scientists as Martin Luther, Paul Tillich, H. Richard Niebuhr, William Blackstone, and Clifford Geertz among others. A creed/code/cult/community typology adapted from Joseph Fichter and other sociologists of religion is utilized. A typology of religious groups familiar from the work of Ernst Troeltsch but frequently modified and developed, recently by Bainbridge and Stark, is invoked. A typology of five orientations to religion is explained and examined. Instructors should feel free to evaluate these theoretical tools and introduce others.

We want to thank reviewers of the fifth edition, users of the book asked by our publisher for evaluations and suggestions for improvement. They responded with extremely useful critiques. We have incorporated most of their suggestions. We continue to be grateful to Jacques Bakke for illustrations that contribute much to the book. We are indebted to our many students in academic settings where we have taught. Several of these are now engaged professionally in teaching in areas of religious studies. Their suggestions, criticism, and encouragement have been valuable.

We also wish to express our gratitude to the religion editors and their staff members who through the years have continually supported and facilitated this text's several editions. Without their confidence and encouragement recurring revisions would not be accomplished.

Read More Show Less

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