Global religions have blended practices with traditional or indigenous practices. Mainstream religious practices have elements of spiritual, religious, and cultural beliefs and practices adopted from native religious practices. For example, as Buddhism spread it adopted the customs and practices of local deities (Warren, 2012). This implies that to understand the different forms of religions requires the consideration of religious elements, which are manifested as seven dimensions of religious traditions. These include mythic, experiential, ethical, ritual, social, and doctrinal (Brodd, 2009). These are often identified as worship, ritual pilgrimage, leadership, stories, texts, teachings, myths, and doctrines.
Religious traditions have adopted different aspects of traditional myths, stories, and doctrines to create their identities. Often religions doctrinal belief is composed of the creeds, teachings, stories, and doctrines originating from their traditional experience. Brodd (2009) finds that most religious doctrines have a firm foundation in traditional myths, by making rational sense of the experiences myths defy. Religions that are founded on doctrines will record their doctrines in sacred scriptures or texts, along with the accompanying myths and the encounters or revelations of the religious experiences of the founders of the religion (Warren, 2012). Religious myths are historical stories without proven historical and rational basis, but are not necessarily irrational or false nor do they conflict science or history. Myths are used by religions as sources of sacred truths, creating a powerful history for the religion (Wilson, 2000). Myths are an important element of traditional religions be it Islam, Christianity, or Buddhism, since they adopt the form of sacred stories passed down generations by word of mouth or recorded in religious scripture. Religions use myths to create fundamental knowledge of the way to live and the nature of things (Brodd, 2009). The most common myth existing in all traditional religions is the origin of man and the world. The mythic idea that God created the world and humans and by nature, humans are meant to have dominion over the world and other creatures. This is a myth without historical or scientific basis but holds a sacred truth held by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike.
Another important element of traditional religions is their practices or ways of doing things depicted in terms of ritual, worship, pilgrimage, prayer, faith, experiential, ethics and morals. In any religion, worship is a common practice adopting various forms. Often, forms of worship are carried out in formal rituals or practices accepted as a tradition by the religion (Martin, 2006). Traditional religious rituals, beliefs, and worship will mimic a sacred story or myth (Martin, 2006). For example, the Muslims will try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, trying to re-enact various aspects of Muhammad’s sacred story of his journey to Mecca (Brodd, 2009).
In addition, worship, rituals, and prayers are elements symbolizing the faith of a religious experience. However, in religious theory faith is also an element of a religious doctrine as described by stories concerning religious faith. For example, in Christianity, Apostle Paul explains in the New Testament, that faith is related to the experience of the Holy Spirit and involves more than intellectual belief (Moore, 2005). Theistic religions experience faith as god as holy presence, characterized by emotions, fascination, and the awe-inspiring fear (Warren, 2012). For example, the revelation of God to Moses in form of a burning bush that led to fascination and fear of God (Moore, 2005). In non-theistic religions, the faith and god experience adopt the form of mystics or mysticism. A common traditional religion that uses mysticism in its faith and god believe is Hinduism and religions like Buddhism. In Hinduism, the faith and god experience is by having an individual becoming one with the divine by inward contemplation (Moore, 2005). This implies that faith and the experience of god in different religions forms the basis for their varied forms of worship, prayer, and rituals. For this reason, the Hindu will adopt contemplation and meditation to worship God or pray.
It is also noted that traditional religions will experience different forms of worship and carry out unique prayer and ritual practices depending on their individual experiential experiences (Martin, 2006). In all religions, experiential practices begin with religious experiences of individuals, who become the founders and leaders of the religions. For example, Prince Gautama experienced enlightenment under a bodhi tree, and became the Buddha, giving birth to Buddhism. Muhammad experienced revelations from Allah, leading to the formation of Islam (Brood, 2009). In the recent past, Christianity especially protestant and evangelical churches have given rise to new evangelical movements arising from experiences of individuals, who break away from the main church.
Often, members of a religion in a community practice these rituals, worship, myths, and creeds. All forms of religions naturally are composed of communities or a social interaction of people with shared beliefs, faith, God experiences, creeds, and doctrines. This religious social construct forms the organization of religions, with a distinct leadership hierarchy. The main responsibility of leadership of religions is the maintenance of the rituals, doctrines, creeds, teachings, prayers, worship, religious ethics, and morals (Wilson, 2000). The leadership is required since religions devote a lot of attention and efforts in the maintenance of ethics and morals among its followers and community. Ethical and moral dimensions of any traditional religion entails teachings on the principles of appropriate individual behavior, life, and community living (Clayton, 2004). For example, the Christian tradition is based on the Ten Commandments, while the Buddhist ideal is compassion similar to Christian love for one’s neighbor.
Brodd, J. (2009). “World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery.” Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, Christian Brothers Publications.
Clayton, J. (2004). Universal Human Rights and Traditional Religious Values. Society, 41(2), 36-41.
Martin, L.H. (2006). Cognitive Science, Ritual, and The Hellenistic Mystery Religions. Religion & Theology, 13(3/4), 383-395.
Moore, A. (2005). Christianity: Worship, Festivals, and Ceremonies from around the World / Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions: Worship, Festivals, and Ceremonies from around the World/Islam: Worship, Festivals, and Ceremonies from around the Worldâ€¦. School Library Journal, 51(10), 180-182.
Warren, M. (2012). “World Religions.” Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Wilson, J.F. (2000). African Religions and Philosophy. World Philosophers & Their Works, 1-3.
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