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World Religion ch 1.docx

Course Code
Henry Shiu

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World Religion
Chapter One: About Religion
Massive standing stones
Horseshoe pattern opening towards sun and capped with lintels
Alter for sacrifices
Between 3500-4000 years ago
Three Worlds
Sky, earth and underworld
Upper most level (sky), home of deities
Apparent movement of the sun, stars and planets across the sky
Led early humans to believe that the heavenly bodies were living entities animated by their own
individual spirits gods and goddesses
In heavens: Sky Father, Creator and King of Heaven
Under the earth lived the spirits of serpents or reptilian monsters evil
Between the sky and the underworld lay earth where humans live
Sacred places
Mountains and hill tops closest to sky
Humans feel unusual feelings of energy and power
Middle East had ritual centers
Offering food, drink, praise, and prayer
Animal Spirit
Killing animals with respect
‘Power objects’ bulls, bears, lions, and eagles
People have attributed magical properties to objects
Ex. Bear claws or eagle feather, wearing them as amulets or hanging them in the doorways
Death and Burial
Corpse head facing east rebirth in another realm
Grave goods help dead in afterlife
The dead (spirit) guiding the living

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Ex. Japanese Obon, Mexican Day of the Dead and etc.
Why are Humans Religious?
Grow out of human experiences
Hope for a good afterlife
Uncertainty of surrounding natural events to the sense of control over nature
Religion emerges through the experiences of good and bad powers that are sensed in dreams, sacred places,
and in certain humans and animals
Has emotional dimensions and intellectual dimensions
It is an ancient aspect of human experience that it has become part of human nature
Ten Waves of Religion
Some religious ideas may actually have been carried from their places of origin to other cultures
Others may have developed more or less independently, in response to changing environmental or social,
or economic conditions
Major ‘waves’ have introduced new religious concepts and practices to different human cultures
Wave 1: Shamanism
Medicine man
Shaman came from Asian culture
A person who acts as an intermediary between humans and the
spirit world
Hunting Rituals
Dance ritual for hunting
Why? Appease the spirits of hunted species and successful hunt
Rituals reflect humans’ concern over future food supply
Coping with Unfriendly Spirits
Unfriendly spirits (in forms of monsters or mythical beasts) were
particularly concerted with those who ventured into their territory as
hunters or gatherers
Strategies? Usually based on what works with humans
People suffered from diseases and pain

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The Shaman
Called to the role by his/her psychic abilities
Vision or near death experience
Go through vision quest confront terrifying apparitions
Enter trance state (chanting or drumming)
Spirits serve Shamans
It can over take body too
Wave 2: Connecting to the Cosmos
Discerning the Cosmic Cycles
Priests track down seasons and determine best time for planting
Track movements of sun
Neolithic era paid attention to phases of the moon and constellations
Astrology cycle of seasons
Favoured high places
Ex. Pyramids and stupas
Scholars refer to this kind of symbolic link between earth and sky as an
axis mundi (world axis)
Animals and Gods
Neolithic era: certain animals with specific deities
A woman flanked with 2 felines
Egyptians had a cat goddess Bast
Hindu goddess Durga
The Bull God
Zeus form of white bull
Greek temples often display bull horns near their alters
Nandi sacred mount for Shiva
Wave 3: Temple Religion
Shaping traditions (Judaism, Chinese religion, and Hinduism
Indo-European Priests
May have originated from Black Sea
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