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What, When, Where, How, Who?
Introduction, Basic Definitions and Related Concepts:
A religion is a set of beliefs and practices often organized around supernatural and moral claims, and often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. In the frame of European religious thought, religions present a common quality, the "hallmark of patriarchal religious thought": the division of the world in two comprehensive domains, one sacred, the other profane. Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy. Religion is also often described as a "way of life". The development of religion has taken many forms in various cultures. "Organized religion" generally refers to an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion with a prescribed set of beliefs, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization). Other religions believe in personal revelation. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system," but is more socially defined than that of personal convictions. The English word religion is in use since the 13th century, loaned from Anglo-French religiun (11th century), ultimately from the Latin religio, "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety, the res divinae". The ultimate origins of Latin religio are obscure. Prayer is the act of attempting to communicate, commonly with a sequence of words, with a deity or spirit for the purpose of worshipping, requesting guidance, requesting assistance, confessing sins, as an act of reparation or to express one's thoughts and emotions. The words of the prayer may take the form of intercession, a hymn, incantation or a spontaneous utterance in the person's praying words. Secularly, the term can also be used as an alternative to "hope". Pray entered Middle English as preyen, prayen,and preien around 1290, recorded in The early South-English Legendary I. 112/200: And preide is fader wel ȝerne, in the sense of "to ask earnestly." The next recorded use in 1300 is simply "to pray." It came from the Old French preier, "to request" (first seen in La Séquence de Ste. Eulalie, ca. 880) In modern French prier, "to pray," the stem-vowel is leveled under that of the stem-stressed forms, il prie, etc. The origin of the word before this time is less certain. Compare the Italian Pregare "to ask" or more rarely "pray for something" and Spanish preguntar "ask." One possibility is the Late Latin precare (as seen in Priscian), classical Latin precari "to entreat, pray" from Latin precari, from precor, from prec-, prex "request, entreaty, prayer." Precor was used by Virgil, Livy, Cicero, and Ovid in the accusative. Dative forms are also found in Livy and Aurelius Propertius. With pro in the ablative, it is found in Plinius Valerianus’s physic, and Aurelius Augustinus’s Epistulae. It also could be used for a thing. A ritual is a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws because of the perceived efficacy of those actions A ritual may be performed at regular intervals, or on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community; in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for it; either in public, in private, or before specific people. A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states. The purposes of rituals are varied; they include compliance with religious obligations or ideals, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one's affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event — or, sometimes, just for the pleasure of the ritual itself. Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, oaths of allegiance, coronations, and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties and veteran parades, Christmas shopping, and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello are rituals. In any case, an essential feature of a ritual is that the actions and their symbolism are not arbitrarily chosen by the performers, nor dictated by logic or necessity, but either are prescribed and imposed upon the performers by some external source or are inherited unconsciously from social traditions. Due to their symbolic nature, there are hardly any limits to the kind of actions that may be incorporated in a ritual. The rites of past and present societies have typically involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, processions, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, and much more. Religious rituals have also included animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, ritual suicide, and ritual murder. Law is a system of rules usually enforced through a set of institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading swaptions on a derivatives market. Property law defines rights and obligations related to transfer and title of personal and real property, for instance, in mortgaging or renting a home. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security, such as pension funds. Tort law allows claims for compensation when someone or their property is injured or harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a penal code, criminal law offers means by which the state prosecutes and punishes the perpetrator. Constitutional law provides a framework for creating laws, protecting people's human rights, and electing political representatives. Administrative law relates to the activities of administrative agencies of government. International law regulates affairs between sovereign nation-states in everything from trade to the environment to military action. "The rule of law", wrote the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350 BC, "is better than the rule of any individual." Legal systems around the world elaborate legal rights and responsibilities in different ways. A basic distinction is made between civil law jurisdictions and systems using common law. The word tradition comes from the Latin word traditio which means "to hand down" or "to hand over." It is used in a number of ways in the English language: Beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next, often orally. For example, we can speak of the tradition of sending birth announcements. A set of customs or practices. For example, we can speak of Christmas traditions. A broad religious movement made up of religious denominations or church bodies that have a common history, customs, culture, and, to some extent, body of teachings. For example, one can speak of Islam's Sufi tradition or Christianity's Lutheran tradition. However, on a more basic theoretical level, tradition(s) can be seen as information or composed of information. For that which is brought into the present from the past, in a particular societal context, is information. This is even more fundamental than particular acts or practices even if repeated over a long sequence of time. For such acts or practices, once performed, disappear unless they have been transformed into some manner of communicable information. A tradition is a practice, custom, or story that is memorized and passed down from generation to generation, originally without the need for a writing system. Tools to aid this process include poetic devices such as rhyme and alliteration. The word mythology (from Greek μυθολογία) refers to a body of folklore/myths/legends that a particular culture believes to be true and that use the supernatural to interpret natural events and to explain the nature of the universe and humanity. Mythology also refers to the branch of knowledge dealing with the collection, study and interpretation of myths, also known as mythography. The term mythology has been in use since at least the 15th century, and means "the study or exposition of myths". The additional meaning of "body of myths" itself dates to 1781. (In extended use, the word can also refer to collective or personal ideological or socially constructed received wisdom, as in "At least since Tocqueville compared American society to 'a vast lottery', our mythology of business has celebrated risk-taking.") The adjective mythical dates to 1678. Myth in general use is often interchangeable with legend or allegory, but some scholars strictly distinguish the terms. The term has been used in English since the 19th century. The newest edition of the OED distinguishes the meanings "A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces or creatures, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon", citing the Westminster Review of 1830 as the first English attestation. "As a mass noun: such stories collectively or as a genre." (1840) "A widespread but untrue or erroneous story or belief". (1849) "A person or thing held in awe or generally referred to with near reverential admiration on the basis of popularly repeated stories (whether real or fictitious)." (1853) "A popular conception of a person or thing which exaggerates or idealizes the truth." (1928) In contrast to the OED's definition of a myth as a "traditional story", most folklorists apply the term to only one group of traditional stories. Faith is a profound belief or trust in a particular truth, or in a doctrine that expresses such a truth. Formal usage of the word "faith" is largely reserved for concepts of religion, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality (therefore spirituality and spiritual immortality), or else in a Supreme Being and their role as a guide for people moving into an experience of such reality. Informal usage of the word "faith" can be quite broad, and may be used standardly in place of either as "trust," "belief," or "hope". For example, the word "faith" can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general. (For informal uses of the word "faith", see Faith (word)). As with "trust," faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes.
exists a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the
validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason
and evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs
rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C. S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned
ideas, despite moods to the contrary.
Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός – mystikos- 'seeing with the eyes closed, an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries; μυστήρια – mysteria meaning "initiation") is the pursuit of achieving communion, identity with, or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of dimensional realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world goes beyond current logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a Mystic. In many cases, the purpose of mysticism and mystical disciplines such as meditation, is to reach a state of return or re-integration with the Godhead. A common theme in mysticism is that the mystic and all of reality are One. The purpose of mystical practices is to achieve that oneness in experience, to achieve a larger identity and re-identify with the all that is. The state of oneness has many names depending on the mystical system: Illumination, Union (Christianity), Irfan (Islam), Nirvana (Buddhism), Moksha (Jainism), Samadhi (Hinduism), to name a few. Unio Mystica is a term meaning 'Mystical Union' describing the concept common to all mystical traditions - Kabbalah, Sufism, Vedanta, Esoteric Christianity etc - that of the union of the individual human soul with the Godhead. The term "mysticism" is often used to refer to beliefs which go beyond the purely exoteric practices of mainstream religions, while still being related to or based in a mainstream religious doctrine. For example, Kabbalah is a significant mystical movement within Judaism, and Sufism is a significant mystical movement within Islam. Gnosticism refers to various mystical sects of classical / late antiquity that were influenced by Platonism, Judaism and Christianity. Some have argued that Christianity itself was a mystical sect that arose out of Judaism. Non-traditional knowledge and ritual are considered as Esotericism, for example Buddhism's Vajrayana. Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. The history of the word experience aligns it closely with the concept of experiment. The concept of experience generally refers to know-how or procedural knowledge, rather than propositional knowledge. Philosophers dub knowledge based on experience "empirical knowledge" or "a posteriori knowledge". The interrogation of experience also has a long tradition in continental philosophy. The German term Erfahrung, which is translated as 'experience' into English has, however, a slightly different implication, given that it is associated with the coherency of life's experiences. A person with considerable experience in a certain field can gain a reputation as an expert. Certain religious traditions, such as in certain types of Buddhism, Surat Shabd Yoga and mysticism) and educational paradigms with, for example, the conditioning of boot camps, stress the experimental nature of human epistemology. This stands in contrast to traditions of dogma, logic or reasoning. Activities such as tourism, extreme sports and recreational drug use also tend to stress the importance of experience. The word "experience" may refer, somewhat ambiguously, both to mentally unprocessed immediately-perceived events as well as to the purported wisdom gained in subsequent reflection on those events or interpretation of them. Most wisdom-experience accumulates over a period of time, though one can also experience (and gain general wisdom-experience from) a single specific momentary event. One may also differentiate between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experience(s). The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of West as opposed to East; Christianity as opposed to Islam; many have claimed to identify cultural fault lines across the continent. There are many cultural innovations and movements, often at odds with each other, such as Christian proselytism or Humanism. Thus the question of "common culture" or "common values" is far more complex than it seems.
Christianity being the dominant feature in shaping European culture for at least the last 1700 years. Modern philosophical thought has very much been influenced by Christian philosophers such as St Thomas Aquinas and Erasmus.
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