Monday, December 3, 2007

Religion in World History-Introduction

I think its important to keep in mind that this unit is all about religion in world history, NOT a study of specific religious beliefs. As such, its really important to keep in mind the theme of the unit, which is...

"Religion: The way people construct reality."

This issue of constructing reality is what makes religion so important to world history. Saying that religion is a set of beliefs diminishes the impact that religion has on people. Religion is the basis on which people create their entire worldview. For example (I used this example in period A)...

If I were holding a pencil above a desk and thinking about dropping it, before I did so, I would KNOW what was going to happen. The pencil would fall out of my hand, hit the desk, and make a noise. Even before I did that, I would be sure in my mind that this is what was going to happen. This is not a "belief," its a known fact. If I dropped the pencil and it somehow became suspended in mid-air, my entire world view would be shattered. It would be the craziest thing to ever happen to me. They would write bad movies about this "phenomenon." That is how sure we are of gravity.

For the majority of human history, people were as certain about religion as I am about what will happen when I drop a pencil. It was simply truth that we can take for granted-there are no other options. As such, this is why they believed the sun came up in the morning, why good things (and bad things) happened, and why they should live the life they lived. It is an essential part of world history, because it formed the basis on which so many people did what they did.

But here's the weird thing-I know the pencil will fall because I've seen it happen time and time again. There weren't a bunch of people who got together 2,000 years ago and decided "when you drop a pencil, it will make a noise." But that IS what happened in many religions. What people take for granted as religious truth is the compiled decisions of humans throughout the previous 5,000 years. So what does this mean? It means that religion, over time, means very different things for different people, even people who are in the same religion. A Christian living in 500 AD had a VERY different idea of what the rules of their faith were when compared to a Christian in 2007. Religion is an ever-evolving process that both shapes and is shaped by human beings. Now that's reality.

10 comments:

arielle homer said...

I think it was really cool how people say that each religion has the same ideas, only the each have their own twist on it.
Also I think it is interesting and I never really thought about it this way, that religion is how every person view's their individual reality..

Mackenzie Jones said...

I liked Ari's comment, it is really cool how everybody has a different view on their own reality, and it is very ironic that people still fight about and have conflict about different religions. Since everyone has a different view no ones view should be more superior than the other. PEOPLE SHOULD JUST GET ALONG, haha.

Josh Milgrom said...

it is amazing to me that there is the possibility of the Jewish religion as being created from the cult of Akhenaton. I had never known this as in my sunday school classes I was simply taught that Judaism was the first monotheistic religion, nothing more and nothing less. If in fact that akehanton's cult is proven to have been the foundation for the creation of the Jewish religion than imagine how religious beliefs might change because of this.

Alex rachlin said...

I think that the meaning of the unit, how religion is the way people construct reality, can really make an impact on the way we look at each topic. For instance, if we look at the Akhenaton situation, we can see how he shaped the way people think using his creation of monotheism. he transformed the future into a monotheistic view from a polytheistic view. Referring to Ari's comment, each religion does have the same basic idea, for each one branched off from one another. But, it is because of these views that different conflicts occur in the world today. Now referring to Josh's comment, religion is created from ideas. Just as Islam uses Jewish prophets and Akhenaton wanted his people to have the monotheistic faith. though he might have failed miserably, the idea is what carried on for hundreds of years until it was brought into actual form through the main three monotheistic religions today (or at least that is what is believed today).

Alex Rachlin said...

I think that the meaning of the unit, how religion is the way people construct reality, can really make an impact on the way we look at each topic. For instance, if we look at the Akhenaton situation, we can see how he shaped the way people think using his creation of monotheism. he transformed the future into a monotheistic view from a polytheistic view. Referring to Ari's comment, each religion does have the same basic idea, for each one branched off from one another. But, it is because of these views that different conflicts occur in the world today. Now referring to Josh's comment, religion is created from ideas. Just as Islam uses Jewish prophets and Akhenaton wanted his people to have the monotheistic faith. though he might have failed miserably, the idea is what carried on for hundreds of years until it was brought into actual form through the main three monotheistic religions today (or at least that is what is believed today).

Alex Rachlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Rachlin said...

sorry it was weird on me...

Josh Milgrom said...

Though religion did play an extremely large role in the beggining of the crusades. You really need to look at the other factors that came itno play if the Christiaans led by pope urban did in fact take over the holy land and the rest of the middle east. The "hot" trade route at the time was the silk road, and yep, the center of it ran directly through the middle east. So if the Christians had taken the holy land and the rest of the middle east, they would have had control of the center of the silk road which would mean they control the trade which means that they are getting a lot of money out of it. Pope Urban no doubt thought about this when he came up with his plan to begin the cursades, for if he controoled the trade, then he would gain a ton of money to do with as he pleased.

Leah Kahn said...

I love how many aspects there are of religion. It is shown throughout history in so many different lights. It is shown as a power tool by multiple leaders. It is also a way to bring people together and give them a common belief. The question of whether religion is in our hard-wiring or just created by humans when they had enough time to focus on it, can only be debated. Personally, I have no idea which one is true.

What I do know is that religion has stayed a huge factor in the lives of humans for thousands of years. Wars have broken out because of it. Obviously people care a great deal about their individual faith, both mono and polytheistic. Monotheism is built to spread its religion. Polytheism is much more understanding of different beliefs. If only all religions today could survive with the openness of a polytheist.

METAL FARMER said...

Joshmosh,
Yes there may have been more to Pope Urban's decision than just religion, but after learning about dominionism and the ideals of Christianity, its hard to believe that the majority of this decision came from just politics. If a Christian is on a boat and 10 people are drowning it is obligatory in his eyes to attempt to save all of them. If he fails, their deaths are his fault. In Pope Urban's Case, there are millions of Muslims that are dooming themselves, and it is his responsibility to try and save all of them, or else their faults will be placed on him. You fail to adress your points with the standard of the time period.

METAL FARMER