Religion In Our Lives

Religion In Our Lives


Religion seems to find its way into almost every aspect of our lives.
In the United States, the political mainstream describes a "separation of church
and state," in order to separate this profound force of religion from the public
lives of its citizens. Thus, the freedom to worship any religion remains a
private and personal issue. However, in this imperfect world, it becomes
virtually impossible to achieve this kind of separation. Some subtle examples
of this can be seen right here on campus. The intriguing yet simple New England
architecture that we see all around us, is the result of the Old World Puritan
religion. Also on campus, Rollins Chapel, supposedly a "universal place of
worship", is structurally shaped like a cross, the symbol of the crucifixion of
Jesus. Delving deep into these religious symbols, there exists a common thread
uniting all religions. The aspect of community becomes the "heart and soul" of
almost all religious groups around the world. It is this upon which George
Weckman focuses his article.
The author defines the characteristics of a community in a number of
ways. For one, he claims that some sort of initiation or "entrance ritual"
needs to occur in order to mark the acceptance of an individual into the
community as a whole. In addition to these entrance rituals, the individual
will, most likely, participate in other types of rituals throughout his life.
This may include his eventual departure from the community, such as death.
Secondly, the author emphasizes the fact that communities often possess clearly
defined ritual activities that are unique to their own particular community. He
goes on to say, "Gathering as a group for such rites is perhaps the most
persistent aspect of religious community, and is arguably its reason for being."
Thus, the author emphasizes the manner in which ritual activity and
communal "togetherness" form the basis of community. I'd like to agree with
Weckman's view, but I feel that it can go beyond its present position. Weckman
gives the reader the impression that communities form only as a result of their
union through religion. However, it is quite possible that religious
communities are the "cause" and not the "effect" of religious experience. As is
the case with many tribal religions, the community becomes the central force
that "designs" the religion. Throughout Africa, many animistic religions have
developed as a result of their immediate environment. Weckman touches upon this
subject, "Where nature and its processes are the focal point of religious
attention, the community is conceived and structured with reference to the
natural world." (Weckman, 567) I disagree with his point here. The author
fails to relate the cause of the naturalistic religion to the community itself.
Arguably, it is the community that formulates the religion of the society. This,
in turn, further emphasizes the importance of community structure.
In addition, I'd also like to argue that sometimes the community
actually becomes more important than the actual religion itself. For example,
Reformed Judaism has become the opposite extreme of orthodoxy, where its members
actually feel more connected to the community than to the beliefs of Judaism
itself. From personal experience, I can honestly state that this is the belief
of some individuals. Judaism is a very defined religion. In many extremely
orthodox communities, such as the Hasidim, religious beliefs strictly define the
person. In somewhat of a contrast, a Reformed Jew becomes more inclined to
accept the beliefs of those around him. Although this may be an extreme
generalization, I believe that the aspect of community may be more important and
influential in many people's lives than the author suggests in the article.
Finally, according to the author, a religious community often has
defined status or social distinction, and these distinctions often manifest
themselves in the way the people live their religious lives. Weckman makes the
point very clear by stating:

"Ones role in the family or ones lineage may also determine religious status,
and one's political office or status as a leader in the society at large tends
to take on religious significance." (Weckman, 567)

I'd have to agree with Weckman's view here. A prime example of this
would be the caste system in India. The status of every individual is validated
by its role in the religious society. This is also the case with many Muslim
governments. The actions of many of the "Muslim nations" are dictated greatly
by the Islamic community.
The most important point conveyed by Weckman is his reference to the "
two groups" of religious communities. He refers to these two groups as natural
and specific religious communities. He writes:

"One of the clearest distinctions to be made among religious communities is that
between groups