Home GENERAL STUDIES MEANING, TYPES AND IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

MEANING, TYPES AND IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

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People throughout the world have been a member in certain associations or groups, political party or Religion. These are  formed by people with different purposes either for airing their problems to the government (political parties), for solving socio-economic constrains in the society such as diseases (HIV/AIDS), fund raising groups,  and for unifying people against constrains  like gender problems, environmental problems and so forth.

Thus, these groups have been formed on political, economic, social and belief bases. A religion is like an association which base on belief. But, before going in detail the concept of the term religion will be conceptualized, nature of religion will identified and finally functions and importance of religious tolerance in the society will be shown.

Meaning and nature of religion

Religion concept her been defined different by anthropologists, sociologist, philosophers and theologists as follows

An anthropologist Anthony Wallace (1966:5) defined a religion as a belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, power and force .To anthropologists two concepts have been put in place which is belief associated with supernatural beings and rituals. In this regards belief is defined as a trust or accept as true, ritual can be defined as an order especially of religious ceremony.

Therefore, a religion is something which is accepted by people on the present of supernatural being who is believed by the people through a certain ritual.

But according to the Advanced Learners Dictionary of the firth edition (1995) defined religion as a belief in the existence of God or Gods especially the belief that they created the universe and gave human beings their spiritual nature which continue to exist after the death of the body.

Therefore, with these definitions attending to worshipping places by the group of certain religion revisit to an introduction part of this concept. It can be a body of a belief which is followed by a group of people for prayer (in worshipping places).

Nature of religions

The nature of religion is an essential qualities or character. The following are nature of religion as follows.

1. Religion has a peculiar ritual which includes liturgical orders- these include the sequences of words and actions invented prior to the current performance of the ritual in which they occur.

2. Religions have pillars and or principles which are to be followed by the follower correctively called the ethics (Religion ethics). For example an Islamic religion believes in five pillars of faith and believes Prophet Mohammed as the last messenger in the world, while Christian believes on Jesus Christ.

3. Religion belief orients in metaphysics which tries to seek about existence of God and ability of God to the universe, also religions tries to trace the origin of man, if man was created or formed from simplest cell? What is the source of universe? Who is God? In brief religion tries to ask question which go beyond the matter reality (universe)

Types of Religion

Four types of religions have been identified which includes

Shamanic

Communal

Olympian

Monotheistic

This has been put by Wallace (1966).

To Wallace Shamanic is the type of religions without a full time religion officials but a part time religious figure who mediate between people and supernatural beings and forces. Shaman is general term encompassing curers (witch doctors), spiritualists, astrologers, poem readers and other, diviners.

Communal religions is other type of religion concerning with community rituals such as harvesting ceremonies and collective rites of passage, also it operate without full-time religious specialists,  communal religion believes in several deities (polytheism) who control aspects of nature.

The other type of religions according to Wallace is Olympian religions, arose with state organization and marked social stratification, also encompasses professional priesthood  like the state itself, the priest hood is hierarchically and bureaucratically organized. It derived its word from Olympus home of classical Greek Gods. Olympian religions are polytheistic include many gods with specialized functions for example god of war, the sea, and death. Olympian religion was prominent in the religions of many non industrial nation- states including the Aztecs of Mexico, several Africans and Asian kingdoms and classical Greece and Rome.

The forth type of religions according to Wallace is monotheism. In monotheism, all supernatural phenomena are manifestations of, or are under the control of a single eternal omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent supreme being. Monotheism has priesthoods and nations of divine power. Other kind of religions which believe on monotheism include Christianity, Islamic, Judaism but other religions, like Satanism, Hinduism and Shinto are either Olympian religion, communal or shamanic. But, all in all these religion of world are monotheism or polytheism.

The known religions of the world today

Through it has been revealed that some religion bases on traditions, others believe on many gods and others believe on single omniscient God. But at the moment the well known religions which are reflecting people’s belief include the following.

Christianity Religion

This is the most dominant and widely spread kind of religion in the world. Christians centers their teaching on one God, a true living God who is found in trinity, Jesus Christ to be the only begotten son through whom everybody in the world will inherit the kingdom of God, no one else. However, within Christianity there two branches of Christians, Protestants and Roman Catholics together with Anglican. In the group of Protestants there are several denominations such as Lutheran, Adventist church, Baptist church, Jehovah Witness, Pentecostal Church, and Moravian.

Islamic Religion

This is also the most world wide spread kind of religion whose teachings base on one God (Allah) who is indivisible and Prophet Muhammad as his last messenger in the world. Muslims do believes in five pillars of faith which are proclaiming that there is one God (Allah) who is indivisible, to pay Zakkah, fasting during ramadhan, to perform pilgrimage at holy mosque in Mecca and to pray five times in a day.

JUDAISM

This is the least spread kind of religion in the world; Judaism is believed to be a special religion for one race of people Jews. It center belief on true God. Judaism is not differed with Christian teaching, but there is a deep belief that Judaism and Israelites is the most chosen people by God. The justification of this comes from the holy book like the Bible.

Shinto

This is the least world wide spread kind of religion. It is dominant in Japan. It bases on God with some traditional rituals.

Satanism

It is unacceptable kind of religion in the world. It believes to have started in United States of America (USA) and spread to other nations. Its teaching centers on opposing Christianity and other religions. It prays to evils and encourages people to enjoy life on earth, to members there is no a hell or everlasting fire after death.

Buddhism

Buddism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practice, largely based on teaching to Siddartha Gautama who lived between (563BCE) there are two types of Buddhism one Thersvada (the school of elders) and Mahayana (the great vehicle). This teaching for example Theravada is based on teaching of elders from ancient teaching. It was founded in India and widespread in countries like Sri – lanka, Southern Asia like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana refers to the path of seeking complete enlightment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Mahayana spread from India to other parts like China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Tibet and Nepal. Briefly Buddism teaching centers on Dhama (teaching) ethical precepts, support of monastic community, mind fullness practice of meditation and devotional practices.

However, these kind of religions above have thousands of sect or denominations on which under Christianity religion there are denominations such as Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Adventist church, Anglican church, Baptist church, Moravian while in Islamic religion there are two sects/denominations such as Shiite and Sunni and in Buddism there are Thersvada and Mahayana.

IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

Religion plays a great role in the given society or country. The following are the importance of religion:-

1.Religion helps to stimulate the society about the importance of everybody to participate fully in productive and legal works. This situation promotes the society development from individual to national level. Laziness is strictly prohibited or discouraged through different verses of the holy books like Bible and Quran.

2.Religion helps in provision of important social services such as education, health services and so forth. Religions such as Christians and Islam have many educational and health services institutions which serves the society.

3.Also it helps to unite the society from family to national level. It put more emphasis on love, peace respect and cooperation. It is love that makes people to help each other. Where there is no a conflict or misunderstanding between people. Where there is peace there is also cooperation between people. Peace, respect and cooperation are pillars of nation unity which start at family to the national level as well as at International level.

4.Moreover, religion helps to awaken people awareness about their right and responsibilities as good citizens within their communities and nation as well, for example, during general election especially under multiparty, religious leaders played a great role by educating their followers on the important of registering, voting or being voted and participating in campaign rallies.

IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION

5.Religion plays a great role in the provision of humanitarian assistance to societies when needed. For example religion institution assists people affected catastrophes such as floods, drought and civil war stricken areas. The victims have been supplied with food, clothes and shelter.

6.Religion promotes the enforcement of law and obedience and therefore assists in minimization of crimes in the society. Religion leaders preach about love, peace, respect and justice in the societies by referring to some holy books. For example, Christian refers to the Bible and Muslim to Quran.

7.Religion provides entertainment; education is always imparted through songs and by using mass media such as radio and televisions. People do relax and become educated through religion songs (gospel songs) sometimes promote some beautiful carvings and drawing like that of Saints, Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary.

8.Religion also can be used on an issue pertaining state administration. For example some state are purely ruled by certain religion principles like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and some Northern province of Nigeria. These are ruled by Islamic Sharia but Christianity dominated states include Vatican and European nations.

Negative functions of religion

In some countries religion has led social stratification. For example in Indian there is a caste system basing on religion. The caste system demarcates the people into classes, but in other places like North and South Sudan reveals. Conflicts have reported in historical perspectives between the Northern Muslim (Arabs Muslim- Janjawid) and the Southern blacks who are Christians. Also in Nigeria conflicts have been widespread because of religion example in 2010 several killing in Jos plateau have reported. This has been caused with long – run conflicts between the Southern Christian and the Northern Muslims.

Killing of people, because some religious forbid people to use any medicines when happens they are sick. Others are fundamentalists or extremist in nature which encourage followers to engage in violence for example fundamental Muslims engage in suicides bombing in many countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. Also the Jehovah witness denomination prevents the followers to use any medicine when they feel sick. Consequently, followers have been always died.

It has created laziness to some followers who misinterpret scriptures. For example from the Bible they misinterpret some verses which says “ Let the people not to trouble about tomorrow that they eats or drinks let them search first the kingdom of God and others will be multiplied.” With this quotation many followers stays without working, they do spend a lot of time on preaching  and working, consequently ,they becomes poor and dependants.

However, religion plays a great role in shaping human behaviors and belief. Besides religion assists much in addressing socio-economic impediments facing man. For proper functioning of a religion the call on religion tolerance should be encouraged, also priests and religious leaders from all sects or denominations should assist their followers to interpret some scriptures properly, as well as leading them faithfully.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN THE SOCIETY

Within a given state or nation like Tanzania there are different religions. Each religion has got own followers who are living together in the society therefore religious tolerance is very crucial in motivating mutual understanding within the society.

What is Religion Tolerance?

Is the condition of accepting or permitting others religious beliefs and practice which disagree with one’s own. For example in Tanzania there are several religions such as Christianity and Muslims. The doctrine, beliefs and liturgy of these religious differs. Besides; religion, culture and background differ, thus people should tolerate each other in order to avoid conflicts in the society.

Importance of Religion Tolerance

As already explained above religion tolerance is very crucial because it is made by the people who live in homogeneous society and thus should tolerates to each other.

The following are   importance of religion tolerance.

1.Religious tolerance facilities the presence of peace harmony and national unity at large.

2.Religious tolerance assists the government to administer and rule the citizen easily. Because wherever there is tolerance there is peace and hence forth the government is easily to unify people and administers them very easily.

3.Religious tolerance assists the people to share the scarce resources together like health services, education and others. For example in many countries where there is religion tolerance people from one religion use other religion resources like school and hospitals.

4.Religion tolerance assist in avoiding some conflicts based on faith and doctrine. Wherever there is religious tolerance no any follower from one religion will challenge or provide other religion based on preaching style, practice and culture.

5.Religion tolerance eliminates government favoritism and people despising other religion. With religious tolerance the government tries to eliminate biases and thus citizen follows their government. For example Tanzania as a country is not dominated with any Religion or no religious influences have interfered in government matter.

6.Religion tolerance assists the society to have good neighborhood and cooperation is socio – economic problems. The religion understanding bring cooperation and good neighborhood in solving socio – economic problem such as wedding, fund raising, funerals, good communication and others.

Religious Tolerance in Tanzania

In Tanzania there are many religions at the moment. The following are important of practicing religious tolerance in Tanzania.

1.Uses of resources together for example Muslims uses the Christians schools and health services same like the Christians use very rarely the Muslims resources.

2.In Tanzania there is cooperation and good neighbourhood among of people from different sects or religion. They cooperate in societal problems such as funerals, wedding and fund raising.

3.The government of Tanzania allows the operation of all religion without intervention. Because Tanzania government is not run by any religion. Therefore is independent from the operation of religion.

4.In Tanzania there are no many conflict reported because of religion doctrine and belief though in the past some conflict between Christian and Muslim have witnessed.

5.Celebrating some  religion festival together like Christmas  and Idd Fitri or Hadji

Some Religious intolerance in Tanzania

Though some importance of religion tolerance shown above, there have been some incidents of religious intolerance. This has observed within a religion (intra religious intolerance), one religion and other (inter religion intolerance) and state with religion (state v/s Religious intolerance)

Intra Religious Intolerance

Intra religious intolerance is a situation whereby a religion tolerance is absent by member of the same religion (mainly between different sects in the same religion). Many studies have revealed that no necessary for a religious intolerance to occur from different religions, but within a religion it is possible.

The main cause of intra – religious intolerance include the following

Access of power and conflict. When there is a power struggle between the members of a certain religious group, there will be a great possibility of the occurrence of a conlict in a country. For example; Mwananchi newspaper, April, 12 – 18, 1993 reported the conflict which occurred at one of the ELCT church (at Mount Meru Dioses in Arusha).

The report was about the power struggle between the Meru people and the Chagga. Meru claimed that Chagga are controllers of the Northern Dioces and thus they favoured the Chagga to the detrimental of Meru area. Also in Islamic religion the struggle for power has been revealed especially when contesting for BAKWATA leadership the conflicts have been inevitable.

Other conflicts are caused by interpretations and understanding of belief. Also conflict within a religion according to Tambila and Sivalon (2001) can be caused with some people to misinterpret the scripture and hence differ in understanding such a belief. For example within the Christian religion, the Protestants do challenge Roman Catholic on translation of the Bible. But also in Islamic religion the two sects of Shiah and Sunni do challenge each other. Consequently, it leads to intra religious intolerance and conflict.

Inter – Religious Intolerance

Inter – religious intolerance is the situation whereby conflict emerge between two different religions. This is mostly reported type of intolerance in Tanzania. The conflict has been between Islamic and Christian religions.

The main causes of intolerance are:-

1.Humiliate each other through public preaching. These humiliation cause conflicts for example in recent years the Muslim follower named Dibagula provoked Christian publically claiming that Jesus is not God. The situation triggered the conflict between the two religions.

2.Muslims were against Christianity about selling of pork in their settlement or over pork butcheries in some parts of Dar-es-Salaam. It consequently led Muslims vandalizing three pork butcheries on Friday 9, 1995 (Mwananchi April 2 – 18:1993)

3.Also there are some incidents of intolerance between Muslims and Christians example recently the church was blown in Zanzibar.

4.Muslims allegations about government favoritism on Christianity. Muslims have been claiming that many Christians have been offered high ranks in the government and that the numbers of students’ admission at high learning institutions have been favoring Christian. This also shows the absence of tolerance between these religions.

5.Muslim and Christian’s family struggle against a deceased person. There has been struggles to died person if it appear that he/she has a close relationship with these two religion. Previously there was a case at Kisutu Court to decide which religious could bury the body. This misunderstanding causes conflicts (intolerance)

State and Religious Intolerance

Besides intra and inter religions intolerance the state also can be intolerance with a religion.

According to Rubanza and Tambila (2001) revealed some causes:

1.Allowing operation of pork butcheries is area which are heavily populated with Muslims which consequently led the riot of Muslims

2.The Mwembechai crisis of 1998 at Mwembechai mosque and surrounding this involved a police to shoot two people to death, wounding many others and arresting many Muslims. The conflict was the culmination of several events which pitted Muslims against Christian and against the state.

3.The discriminatory against Muslim in matter pertaining education and unemployment of many Muslims compared to Christian.

4.Refusal by government to set up Kadhi courts.

5.Prohibition of public cooperative preaching.

Even though there existence of religious tolerance in Tanzania it is party practiced as we can revisit general election in Tanzania many religion voted basing on religious favoritism. Besides there are some institution which cannot admit or employ a person from other religion. Thus, religion tolerance should be encouraged from family to a National level for the betterment of Tanzanians in the future

SECULARISM

Secularism also called Secularity is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institution and religious dignitaries (the attainment of such is termed secularity).

It can also be defined as the idea of something being not religious or not connected to religious affairs. An example of this is the government of Tanzania, which is independent of any religion in many states.

REVISION QUESTIONS

1. (a)What is philosophy

(b)How man relates to philosophy and religion

2. What are significances of philosophy discipline to man?

3. Use the ideas of Plato and Aristotle and their significances in Tanzania society.

4. How ideas of Plato influence the world community in politics democracy state and

5. Most African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and J. K. Nyerere chose to lead their countries through socialism ideas, with five points explain why this idea was not favourable to the development.

6. Why V. I. Lenin and Marx Karl referred to as fathers of communism and socialism in the world

7. How the work of Marx signified in capitalism communism and scientific socialism

8. Identify branches of philosophy

9. How the philosophies of Marx and Lenin influenced Tanzania in socio-economic paradigm.

10. Why religion cannot be separated from philosophy?

REVISION QUESTIONS

11. Explain the philosophy of Nkrumah and Nyerere on Africa. Socialism, Africa Unity and democracy.

12. Identify the contribution of Nyerere’s ideas in the development of Tanzania.

13. What are nature of religion

14. Identify explain the recognized religion in the world.

15. Even though religion functions positively can also do it negatively. Justify with example

16. (a) What is religious tolerance?

(b) Identify some importance of religious tolerance

17. With evidences reveal the religion intolerance in Tanzania

18. Give six strategies that were employed by Kwame Nkrumah in the process of unifying Africa

19. What are precipitants of religious intolerance?

20. What is secularism

21. Give the importance of secularism in Tanzania

22. Identify the background of Karl Marx.

23. What relationship exists between Religion and Philosophy?

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