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What Is Religion?

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The idea of religion can have different meaning to different people. What people believe can be based off of morals, culture, life experiences, science, ect. Seeing as there are many different aspects to the path of one's religion allows for definitions of religion to differ from person to person as well. This is why religion is very difficult to define. However, through studying some diverse religions I am able to see similarities between them. Even though individuals may have different views on what religion is, I see religion as a system of beliefs that adds meaning to its follower's lives. The followers can learn their place and significance in the universe due to the teachings they follow. In addition, religion is the how they journey through the present life toward the religion's ultimate goal; through practice and worship of a higher power. While looking at two religions we have studied, Theravada Buddhism and Islam, one can see how both religions' doctrines and practice can be encompassed into this definition.

Any religion must have a set of beliefs to follow and look to for guidance. One belief both these religions have in common is they both believe in one higher power. Islam worships Allah, while Theravada Buddhists worship Buddha. Islam believers worship Allah only and have consequences for sins and disbelievers. Theravada Buddhists see Buddha as their teacher of Dharma (teachings of the Buddha). Although each of these higher powers have somewhat different teachings, the teachings ultimately result in how they want to see their followers live their life. Through both these higher powers, believers also can discover who they are as they walk their religious path of life.

Each of these religions have similar beliefs when it comes to how their followers believe they should live their life as well. They both think that good deeds should be completed in life and their wrong doings have consequences later in the religious path. Followers of the Islamic faith believe that through one's life they should only be performing good deeds and should be faithful to their religion only. The consequence for wrong doings results in residing in hell after ones death, while believers who perform good deeds are granted into the garden of paradise. Within Islam's sacred text, the Qur'an, states, "God will admit those who believe and do good deeds to the gardens graced with flowing streams; the disbelievers may take their fill of pleasure in this world, and eat as cattle do, but the fire will be their home." (333) The consequences of individuals wrong doings in Islam are clearly unwanted, which is why there is a set out belief that one should be kind and carry out positive actions for the hope of making it into a good after life.

Theravada Buddhism incorporates the idea of good and bad deeds as well through karma. Karma is the idea that there is a chain of causation from each life to the lives that will follow. Buddhists doctrine allows for believers to think their wrong doings will not allow them to reach the ultimate goal. Instead karma will follow them to each continuing life, making their life less enjoyable as it could be if the followers had only performed good deeds through their life. This guidance of how to live one's present life allows for individual followers



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