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Elements of Religious Traditions

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Concerning the study religious traditions, many critical issues will need a close attention to identify the distinctions between them. One critical issue is how the religious traditions are passed along from generation to generation. Many developed world religions have an established sacred text as well as an oral tradition. In some cases, these oral traditions have been written down. For instance, in Judaism, the tradition of the Oral Torah and the written Torah. The written Torah became the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible as known today. The Oral Torah has also been written down in established commentaries in the Talmud. However, many non-developed religions have not written down their oral traditions. In fact, there are still some traditions that do not have a written sacred text, and so their entire religious tradition is passed down orally from generation to generation. These unwritten traditions become more difficult to study and to follow over time.

Another critical issue is to determine what the teaching, text, story or myth is doing for the religion and how it is functioning. Religion gives an individual a sense of purpose and security. The belief in a divine power provides comfort to believers whether the religion is an established doctrine or a mythical story that has been passed down orally through generations. What a religion says usually functions in a couple of common ways; they define the group as a community and bring a sense of unity to the group. Religions has two majors believes or theory. The first is that they explain how the world and the universe were created. For example, in the Shinto religion of Japan, the origins of the Japanese islands are explained by the divine couple Izanagi and Izanami stirring up the ocean floor with a trident from the heavens, and the drippings became the Japanese islands. The Japanese people are also the descendants of these semi-divine beings. So the second theory explains the polemical topic of human origin. In many religions, some basic traditions exist. For instance, many religions believe that only one God exists, rather than multiple gods. This idea is evident not only in Christianity, but also in Judaism and Islam as well. In these religions, the common factor is that God s the origin and source of all existence.

Religions usually organize around a couple of themes, and the key critical issues come from these. One major theme is the religious rituals or actions surrounding important moments in the life cycle, such as birth, age, marriage, conceiving a child, growing old, and dying. Life transitions are usually surrounded by religious actions that give a transcendent meaning and help the individual and the community through these changes (Gollnick, 2005). For example, the vision quest of the Lakota people is an example of a transition from the Lakota boy to manhood. In his connection with the sacred, the Lakota boy will receive a guiding spirit, who will be with him and guide him through his adult life.

Another critical issue concerning religious practices is how they function for giving both the individual and the community access to the sacred, especially at important times for the community. For an agricultural community, these important times may be seasonal, such as planting, and harvest time. The winter and summer may be times when the community celebrates the seasonal progressions of nature with religious practices, which makes these times sacred. As an example, the Christian celebration of



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