The first category is the origin of all things which pertains to cosmology or cosmogony. This is about a religious tradition’s ideas or beliefs about the origin of the physical universe. It is beliefs about the source of the stars, planets, and all physical things.
It answers the question of why the physical universe came into being and sometimes in general terms the how of the universe, but it does not provide a scientific exclamation. A special note is that this category is the one that many students think means origin of the religion. Let me assure you, it does not. What it means is: what is the story of myth that the religion holds about the origin the universe?
The religion or tradition’s cosmogony also may refer to certain categories in the relation to the nature of God or the way that it views human nature. Many religions focus on the connection between the ultimate reality and human beings in relation to that reality being the source of all that exists. Every tradition confronts the reality of human mortality by having beliefs about the afterlife.
This relationship can also be seen as the relationship of humans to time. Eastern traditions typically understand this existence in terms of cyclical or circular ideas in terms of reincarnation from a past life. Western monotheistic traditions take a non-cyclical view, a linear view, with a specific beginning and an end point at some point after death.
Epistemology is a way of looking at: how do we know things? And Eastern and Western views are different. Epistemology involves a theory of knowledge, how you can know something? Thus, the epistemology in the Eastern cultures is more holistic. It is knowledge that is obtained through an awareness of the connection among all things and the integration of all things. We see this in Buddhist or Daoist thought especially. The integrative way of knowing has many impacts on the way that religious traditions in the East understand ethics, their view of human nature, their view of good and evil, the afterlife, etc. For example, Jains very much avoid harming any living creature at all because they believe that every creature, even a microscopic tiny little organism has the equal right to life and should be honored.
In the West, the culture there has a categorical way of knowing. Epistemology is the West is known through distinct categories or the orders of an individual and uniqueness of that individual. And on the other hand, there are distinctions between individuals which are characteristic of the West. These categories relate to far-reaching impacts on the Western view of human nature, good and evil, salvation, the afterlife, etc. These are just a few of the categories in our chart.
But I will be happy to help you understand any of the categories that you find confusing. I’m here to help you. So, be sure to ask.
Nature of God Creator Text
Today were going to examine how various religions understand the nature of God or gods by using certain categories and attributes to describe them. One type of category is the theological, that is, how does the religion think about God or gods?
There are four common theological views.
One: some religious traditions are polytheistic, meaning multiple gods. Usually, this involves a primary God or impersonal cosmic force, which is seen as the creator, plus other gods which govern one or more aspects of the universe or human existence.
Polytheistic religions are also panentheistic, that is, involving the belief that the divine omnipresence is in all things, it is present in every part of nature, but also exists beyond it.
Panentheists are distinguished from pantheists, who believe that the nature itself is divine.
Two: some religious traditions are non-theistic, that is, the existence of God or God is not part of their belief system. They consider it irrelevant. Non-theism, though, should not be confused with atheism, which is the belief that God does not exist.
Three: some religious views are deistic. And this acknowledges that there is a transcendent first cause for the universe, but this cause does not have specific attributes beyond being the creator.
Four: other traditions hold the belief in only one God, and this is understood as a personal God who has revealed his attributes in nature.
Now, having looked at categories, we will examine attributes or characteristics that the religions ascribe to the God or gods. Examples of attributes might be: creator, omnipotent one, Omniscience, omnipresence, all loving, just, merciful etc.
In Shinto, as an example, the religious tradition of Japan, it’s a polytheistic and pantheistic tradition that acknowledges many gods that have specialized identities and roles. Rice is a staple of the Japanese diet, and so it should be no surprise that there are many shrines devoted to Inari, the god of rice, more than any of the other gods.
Another category in a worldview chart asked the question, how to various religions see good and evil? Religious traditions had various understandings of good and evil that reflect their understanding of human nature and their notion of God or gods.
Some religious traditions believe that good and evil are necessary aspects of human existence, and that the good cannot even be understood apart from an understanding of evil.
The Yin and the Yang are examples of this in Taoism. Creative and destructive forces in nature are viewed in some religious traditions as part of the Cosmic order. Good and evil can also be seen in earthly, mundane events in some traditions, as well as forces that operate at a spiritual level beyond human perception.
All religious traditions acknowledge the universal attribute of free will for every individual, and thus, everyone has the ability to choose between right and wrong. Moreover, everyone has the innate to capacity for understanding right and wrong, although the origin and nature of good and evil are understood variously by the religious traditions.
In general, existence of good and evil is often tied to the religious beliefs about how to pursue a spiritual awareness or enlightened consciousness. What this means is that as a person grows in enlightenment or spirituality it’s assumed that they will either transcend good and evil, or become one with the good.
Each religion sees good and evil and the nature of God or gods differently. These differences are a key understanding of what the religions are all about, and that’s why we’re here.
View of Human Nature (Way of Life) Text
How do religious people within a tradition live out their doctrines, beliefs, rituals, practices, and sacred Scriptures etc., to define their religion? Strictly speaking each religion is a man-made institution, that is, centered on these beliefs and rituals. These practices are commonly accepted by all of the adherents. As a man-made institution religion that is a system of beliefs can be distinguished from how the individual regulates his or her daily life in accordance with the beliefs, which is the "practice."
Religious beliefs can determine how life is to be understood as a way of life. This way of life idea includes but is more than religious ethics thus a religious person may base their life on their understanding of self, ultimate reality, and the world around them. Religious life could include a respect for and reverence for the natural world especially when one believes that the Divine is found in every part of nature. This way of life can include thoughts, speech, decisions, and actions that are motivated by a desire to align one's life with that cosmic order. The wish to align life with that cosmic order determines how many individuals relate his or her relationships, in regulating their ethical behavior, for example in actions such as not lying or stealing, or, in contrast, promoting other actions which include forgiveness, compassion, mercy and charity.
Some religious groups stand out as a result of their kind of way of life, for example, the Amish are easily identified by their traditional clothing, horse and buggy, their rejection of modern technological convenience, as well as their tight-knit community where everyone comes together to help raise a barn, etc. The Amish Way of life is a reflection of their deeply held beliefs.
Other religious traditions understand ultimately reality and the origins of the universe as a personal God. They see God as absolute, timeless, and unchanging as a person. Some polytheistic religions maintain a belief in panoply of these personal gods, to whom adherents might pray, perform rituals, or other practices in worship or devotion.
Some religions promote this display of paintings or statues or other visible representations of the God or saints. For example, a Roman Catholic might look at a statue of Mary or of Jesus, or a stained glass of the disciples in a church building, and this reminds them of the personal nature of their faith and worship.
Pantheistic religious tradition recognizes the presence of the divine throughout nature, and they tie this world view into their ethics. They promote environmental awareness, responsibility for and stewardship of the world, plants, animals, etc. Adherents to these religions seek to live ethical lives that reflect the natural order. Thus, they promote empathy, compassion, and peace in their relationships with others, and this is considered an expression of worship.
Religious ethics also can include accepting one's role within the relationships of the community, such as family member, parent, spouse, child, neighbor, co-worker, etc. This also includes respect for those who are older, depending on the culture, and the religious tradition, and it might even involve ancestor veneration.
Thus, we have seen how beliefs shape behavior; that beliefs shape practices. Religious beliefs shape how people live.