New Religious Movements & Religion in the Twenty-First Century

When studied, compared, and scrutinized, every religion – though said to be basically similar in that all believe and worship a god/gods – is actually different from each other in many respects. Before tackling diversities however, it is better to start with similarities. Many people view all adherents of any religions share at the very least certain commonalities such as historical roots, practices/rituals, and doctrines. In other words, to be considered religious, one must be a follower of a certain form of ritual/practice prescribed by a founder or guru, a worshiper or believer of a god – whatever or whoever that god might be.

When looked at the surface, this might be true. However, looking closely and seeking out the nuances, one can find real diversities. For example, for a Jew and a Muslim, Christianity is a religion represented by Vatican and the pope as its representative. To the eyes of these two, no differences whatsoever are detected between a devout Roman Catholic and a Protestant and a Mormon. Of course when investigated, marked differences come to the surface and the initial seemingly unified similarities are gone. Actually, differences are underscored every time there occurs along the way a deviation from the fundamentals of any religion. In the history of Christianity alone, schisms are either a deviation or a return to its roots (Adherents.com, 2007).

Effects of Religious Pluralism

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Religious pluralism and interfaith movement are recently advocated by proponents from different religions with certain political aims. For instance, during Holy Week in 1971, there were many demonstrations conducted by different religious groups to voice their antiwar protests. Professor Robert McAfee Brown of Stanford University was among those arrested for blocking the way to a draft board office in Berkeley, California. He said he chose to preach his sermon “not in a church but on a pavement, not with words but with a deed” (Microsoft Encarta, 2007). Though there are certain benefits to it in terms of rights, there are also disadvantages and innumerable damages that may have paved the way for further confusion in the future.

In what ways has learning about world religions influenced the way you think about religion? Why is it important to learn about other peoples’ beliefs and attitudes? How will you utilize this information in the future?

Knowledge of World religions

Knowledge of the different religions of the world and their adherents’ beliefs and practices is necessary for a better understanding of different peoples and cultures. Religious tolerance means differently when taken in the light of this endeavor. The ability to understand world religions and appreciate people because of their different persuasions and beliefs mean a more empathic and compassionate stance towards any group, ethnic or religious assemblage. Those who differ from us will not be seen as enemies, which oftentimes have become a common experience (Adherents.com, 2007).

Reference:

________ Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2008 < http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html>

________ Microsoft Encarta. 2007.

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