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Picasso

Picasso

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Share in this thread articles you find interesting and informative about religions.


[FIELDSET="The Rise of the Tao"]

YIN XINHUI reached the peak of Mount Yi and surveyed the chaos. The 47-year-old Taoist abbess was on a sacred mission: to consecrate a newly rebuilt temple to one of her religion’s most important deities, the Jade Emperor. But there were as yet no stairs, just a muddy path up to the pavilion, which sat on a rock outcropping 3,400 feet above a valley. A team of workers was busy laying stone steps, while others planted sod, trees and flowers. Inside the temple, a breeze blew through windows that were still without glass, while red paint flecked the stone floor.

“Tomorrow,” she said slowly, calculating the logistics. “They don’t have much ready. . . .” Fortunately, a dozen of her nuns had followed her up the path. Dressed in white tunics and black trousers, their hair in topknots, the nuns enthusiastically began unpacking everything they would need for the next day’s ceremony: 15 sacred scriptures, three golden crowns, three bells, two cordless microphones, two lutes, a zither, a drum, a cymbal and a sword. Soon the nuns were plucking and strumming with the confidence of veteran performers. Others set up the altar and hung their temple’s banner outside, announcing that for the next few days, Abbess Yin’s exacting religious standards would hold sway on this mountain.

The temple she was to consecrate was born of more worldly concerns. Mount Yi is in a poor part of China, and Communist Party officials had hit upon tourism as a way to move forward. They fenced in the main mountain, built a road to the summit and declared it a scenic park. But few tourists were willing to pay for a chance to hike up a rocky mountain. Enter religion. China is in the midst of a religious revival, and people will pay to visit holy sites. So the local government set out to rebuild the temple, which was wrecked by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, modestly rebuilt then torn down when the park was first constructed. Officials commissioned a 30-foot statue of the Jade Emperor, had it hauled to the peak and encased in the brilliant red pavilion. They then built a bell and a drum tower, as well as another set of halls devoted to minor deities.

All that was missing was a soul. For that, the temple had to be properly consecrated. The officials got in touch with Abbess Yin, widely regarded as a leading expert in Taoist ritual, and soon she was driving the 350 miles from her nunnery to Mount Yi.

As her rehearsals drew to a close, the abbess went over the next day’s schedule with a local official. All was in good shape, he said, except for one detail. Government officials were due to give speeches at 10:30 a.m. She would have to be finished by then, he said.

“No,” she replied. “Then it won’t be authentic. It takes four hours.” Could she start earlier and wrap up by then? No, the sun won’t be in the right position, she replied. The official peered up from the schedule and took a good look at her — who was this?

Abbess Yin smiled good-naturedly. At a little over five feet tall, she was solidly built, with a full, smooth face tanned from spending much of her life outdoors in the mountains. Her dress was always the same plain blue robe, and she did not wear jewelry or display other signs of wealth. She shunned electronics; her temple did not have a phone or Internet access. But over the past 20 years she had accomplished a remarkable feat, rebuilding her own nunnery on one of Taoism’s most important mountains. Unlike the temple here on Mount Yi — and hundreds of others across China — she had rejected tourism as a way to pay for the reconstruction of her nunnery, relying instead on donors who were drawn to her aura of earnest religiosity. She knew the real value of an authentic consecration ceremony and wasn’t about to back down.

The official tried again, emphasizing the government’s own rituals: “But they have planned to be here at 10:30. The speeches last 45 minutes, and then they have lunch. It is a banquet. It cannot be changed.”

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  • Picasso

    Picasso

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    [FIELDSET=""Une exploitation religieuse des souffrances du peuple""]
    Trois questions à Laënnec Hurbon*, docteur en théologie et en sociologie, spécialiste des rapports entre religion, culture et politique dans la Caraïbe.

    Le séisme du 12 janvier 2010 n'a pas seulement détruit Haïti mais a aussi bouleversé les âmes. Retour sur les changements qu'a impliqué l'arrivée massive de prédicateurs évangéliques sur l'île, imputant les malheurs de la population aux pratiques vaudoues, et sur la nécessité de l'émergence d'un Etat de droit laïc capable de subvenir aux besoins primaires des Haïtiens, tout en garantissant la liberté de culte.

    Dans quelle mesure le discours des pentecôtistes trouve-t-il un écho dans la population haïtienne?

    Le pentecôtisme est un mouvement religieux qui connaît un succès croissant non seulement en Haïti, mais aussi à travers le monde, notamment en Amérique du Sud et en Amérique centrale, en Afrique noire et même en Asie. On dirait que ce mouvement est congruent à la mondialisation, c’est une religion de l’émotion, qui laisse peu de place au dogme. L’individu qui se convertit devient en quelque sorte contemporain de "l’événement" de la Pentecôte dont parlent les textes des Evangiles, il peut ressentir par la transe la présence de l’Esprit saint dans son corps.

    Plus...[/FIELDSET]
     
    Darwish

    Darwish

    Well-Known Member
    [FIELDSET="A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus"]

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

    A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus

    (John P.) Meier's series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus begins by invoking the methods of modern historical research to "recover, recapture, or reconstruct" the "historical Jesus." Meier suggests that such research might admit agreement of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and agnostic scholars as to "who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended" (v. 1, 1991, p. 1).

    Volume 1 (1991) differentiates the historical Jesus from the Biblical Jesus. It analyzes sources, including the New Testament and non-canonical works. The latter include the agrapha, the apocryphal gospels (such as the Gospel of Thomas), Josephus, and other Jewish and second-century Roman works. For deciding what comes from Jesus as distinct from early Christian tradition it proposes these primary criteria (pp. 168-77):

    1. The criterion of embarrassment: Why invent what would invite difficulty for the early church?
    2. The criterion of discontinuity: Why reject as words or deeds of Jesus what cannot be derived from the Judaism of Jesus' time or the early church?
    3. The criterion of multiple attestation: Is it more plausible to deny words, sayings, or deeds attributed to Jesus in more than one independent literary source (e.g., Mark, Q, Paul, and John) or literary genre (e.g., parable, miracle story, or prophecy)?
    4. The criterion of coherence: Given the claims to historicity from any of the above criteria, are different sayings or deeds evidently inconsistent?
    5. The criterion of rejection and execution: If Jesus' ministry came to a violent, public end, what of Jesus' words or deeds could have alienated people, especially powerful people?
    The criteria are to be used in concert for mutual correction. Still, any claim is only to the probable, not the certain. The rest of Volume 1 discusses the origins of Jesus as to formative years, "external" influences (language, education, and socioeconomic status), and "internal" influences (family ties and marital and lay status). The volume concludes with a survey of Jesus' life chronology.[3]

    Volume 2 (1994) is in three main parts:

    Jesus' relationship to John the Baptist (as 'mentor')
    Jesus' message of the kingdom of God
    accounts of Jesus' miracles in ancient and modern minds.
    The kingdom of God in the second part (pp. 235-506) is examined as to:

    the Old Testament, related writings, and Qumran
    Jesus' proclamation of a future kingdom
    the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus' words and deeds as already present in his ministry (pp. 451-53).
    The third part applies the same criteria of historicity to miracle stories as to other aspects of Jesus' life. Rather than adopting say an exclusively agnostic or Christian perspective or relying on philosophical arguments whether miracles can occur, it poses narrower data-based historical questions (pp. 510-11, 517). Meier is quoted in a 1997 interview as saying: "The proper stance of a historian is, 'I neither claim beforehand that miracles are possible, nor do I claim beforehand they are not possible.'"[4] Meier finds that Jesus' performance of extraordinary deeds deemed miracles at the time is supported most impressively by the criteria of multiple attestation and the coherence of Jesus' deeds and words (p. 630). In moving from the global question of miracles to the particular, Meier examines each miracle story by broad category. That examination drives the conclusion that no single theory explains all such stories with equal assurance and applicability. Rather, it is suggested that some stories have no historical basis (such as the cursing of the fig tree) and that other stories likely go back to events in the life of Jesus (though theological judgment is required to affirm any miracle) (p. 968). At the global level again, Jesus as healer is as well supported as almost anything about the historical Jesus. In the Gospels, the activity of Jesus as miracle worker looms large in attracting attention to himself and reinforces his eschatological message. Such activity, Meier suggests, might have added to the concern of authorities that culminated in Jesus' death (p. 970).[5]

    Volume 3 (2001) places Jesus in the context of his followers, the crowds, and his competitors (including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Samaritans, scribes, and Zealots) in first-century Palestine.[6]

    Volume 4 (2009) deals with the ministry of the historical Jesus in relation to Mosaic Law, such subjects as divorce, oaths, and observance of the Sabbath and purity rules, and the various love commandments in the Gospels.[7]

    John P. Meier - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    John Paul Meier is a Biblical scholar and Catholic priest. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and College (B.A., 1964), Gregorian University [Rome] (S.T.L, 1968), and the Biblical Institute [Rome] (S.S.D., 1976). He is author of the series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (4 v.), six other books, and more than 60 scholarly articles.[1]

    Meier is professor of New Testament and holder of the William K. Warren Foundation Chair in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.[2][1] Before coming to Notre Dame, he was professor of New Testament at The Catholic University of America.



    [/FIELDSET]
     
    Picasso

    Picasso

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    [FIELDSET="Religion"]

    I INTRODUCTION

    Religion, sacred engagement with that which is believed to be a spiritual reality. Religion is a worldwide phenomenon that has played a part in all human culture and so is a much broader, more complex category than the set of beliefs or practices found in any single religious tradition. An adequate understanding of religion must take into account its distinctive qualities and patterns as a form of human experience, as well as the similarities and differences in religions across human cultures.

    In all cultures, human beings make a practice of interacting with what are taken to be spiritual powers. These powers may be in the form of gods, spirits, ancestors, or any kind of sacred reality with which humans believe themselves to be connected. Sometimes a spiritual power is understood broadly as an all-embracing reality (see Pantheism), and sometimes it is approached through its manifestation in special symbols. It may be regarded as external to the self, internal, or both. People interact with such a presence in a sacred manner—that is, with reverence and care. Religion is the term most commonly used to designate this complex and diverse realm of human experience.

    II DEFINITIONS

    The word religion is derived from the Latin noun religio, which denotes both earnest observance of ritual obligations and an inward spirit of reverence. In modern usage, religion covers a wide spectrum of meanings that reflect the enormous variety of ways the term can be interpreted. At one extreme, many committed believers recognize only their own tradition as a religion, understanding expressions such as worship and prayer to refer exclusively to the practices of their tradition. Although many believers stop short of claiming an exclusive status for their tradition, they may nevertheless use vague or idealizing terms in defining religion—for example, “true love of God,” or “the path of enlightenment.” At the other extreme, religion may be equated with ignorance, fanaticism, or wishful thinking.

    By defining religion as a sacred engagement with what is taken to be a spiritual reality, it is possible to consider the importance of religion in human life without making claims about what it really is or ought to be. Religion is not an object with a single, fixed meaning, or even a zone with clear boundaries. It is an aspect of human experience that may intersect, incorporate, or transcend other aspects of life and society. Such a definition avoids the drawbacks of limiting the investigation of religion to Western or biblical categories such as monotheism (belief in one god only) or to church structure, which are not universal. For example, in tribal societies, religion—unlike the Christian church—usually is not a separate institution but pervades the whole of public and private life. In Buddhism, gods are not as central as the idea of a Buddha (fully enlightened human being). In many traditional cultures the idea of a sacred cosmic order is the most prominent religious belief. Because of this variety, some scholars prefer to use a general term such as the sacred to designate the common foundation of religious life.

    Religion in this understanding includes a complex of activities that cannot be reduced to any single aspect of human experience. It is a part of individual life but also of group dynamics. Religion includes patterns of behavior but also patterns of language and thought. It is sometimes a highly organized institution that sets itself apart from a culture, and it is sometimes an integral part of a culture. Religious experience may be expressed in visual symbols, dance and performance, elaborate philosophical systems, legendary and imaginative stories, formal ceremonies, meditative techniques, and detailed rules of ethical conduct and law. Each of these elements assumes innumerable cultural forms. In some ways there are as many forms of religious expression as there are human cultural environments.

    III HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS STUDY

    When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1963 against the practice of prayer in public schools, it recommended at the same time that the study of religion should be part of every student’s education. In Europe, new materials for the study of religion were gathered when European explorers first began to make extensive contact with non-Western cultures. Over the past four centuries, innumerable philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists have proposed theories of religion. The common factor in their various perspectives is the perception that religion need not be studied from a sectarian or partisan standpoint but may be approached impartially, as a subject for scholarly investigation.

    A Antiquity

    The first recorded Western attempts to understand and document religious phenomena were made by the Greeks and Romans. As early as the 6th century bc, Greek philosopher Xenophanes noted that different cultures visualized the gods in different ways. In the following century, Greek historian Herodotus recorded the wide range of religious practices he encountered in his travels, comparing the religious observances of various cultures, such as sacrifice and worship, with their Greek equivalents. Roman historians Julius Caesar and Cornelius Tacitus similarly recorded the rites and customs of peoples that they met on their military campaigns.

    B Ages of Exploration and Enlightenment

    Although the systematic study of religions did not emerge until the latter half of the 19th century, the groundwork was laid in the three preceding centuries. In the 16th century, Western knowledge of other cultures increased dramatically through extensive trade and exploration. Explorers and missionaries reported in detail on the range of religious beliefs and practices around the world. As a result, a great deal of traditional bias against non-Christian religions was challenged as early as the 16th and 17th centuries.

    In the Age of Enlightenment (early and mid-18th century), thinkers took a special interest in what they termed natural religion—the inborn capacity of all humans to arrive at a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to act on that belief. To thinkers of the Enlightenment, natural religion compared favorably with the supernatural religion of the Bible. For example, French philosopher Voltaire condemned the social effects of revealed religion (religion that is communicated through supernatural authorities such as prophets or sacred scriptures), and German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder argued that every culture possesses a unique spirit that is part of its religion and its language. In a critique of biblical history, Scottish philosopher David Hume demonstrated the historical difficulties involved in tracing all human cultures to the offspring of the biblical patriarch Noah or in asserting that monotheism is the original form of religion.

    C The 19th and 20th Centuries

    In the mid-19th century, German scholar Friedrich Max Müller, who has been called the father of comparative religion, became the most prominent advocate of historical and linguistic analysis in the study of religion. Beginning in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the scriptures of many non-Western traditions had been translated and published, offering a view of faiths that previously had been inaccessible. In addition, archaeological excavations had revealed new features—including some scriptural texts—of previously obscure religions, such as those of the ancient Middle East. Presented with this mass of information, Müller undertook a critical, historically based investigation of world religious traditions. Although his approach emphasized the view that all traditions were the product of historical development, Müller believed comparative study would demonstrate that every religion possessed some measure of truth.

    By the end of the 19th century, scholars were making religion an object of systematic inquiry. Müller’s comparative approach was adopted in many European and Japanese universities, and as a result the common features of world religions (such as gods, prayer, priesthood, and creation myths) were the subjects of sustained scholarly investigation. In addition, field anthropologists had begun to compile firsthand accounts of the religions of peoples who previously had been dismissed as savages. The study of tribal religions contributed a great deal to the general analysis of the role of religion in human societies.

    By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scholars had begun to pose basic questions about the origin and development of religious ideas. Scholars questioned how religion began and the stages of its evolution. Some maintained that it originated with a belief in spirits (animism), then evolved into the notion that there were many gods (polytheism), and ultimately emerged as the ideal of a single god (monotheism). Others held that religion began in a sense of awe at the impressive activities of nature (see Nature Worship), in a feeling of reverence for the spirits of the dead (see Ancestor Worship), or in an attempt to overcome mortality (see Immortality). Many other important questions about the nature of religion were addressed during this period: Can religion be divided into so-called primitive and higher types? Is religion a product of psychological needs and projections? Is it a function of political and social control? Such questions have continued to generate a large number of theories.

    IV RELIGIOUS LIFE

    Religious life reflects an individual’s attempt to live in accordance with the precepts of a religious tradition. For example, Buddhists imitate the Buddha; Christians strive to be Christ-like (see Jesus Christ); and followers of the mystical Dao (or Tao, the Chinese term for the ultimate way of the universe) practice noninterference with the natural course of things (see Daoism). Religious experience also reflects the variety of cultural expressions in general: It can be formal or spontaneous, solemn or festive, hierarchical or egalitarian; it can emphasize submission or liberation; it can be devotional or contemplative; it can involve fear or joy; it can be comforting or disruptive; it can encourage reliance on powers outside oneself or on personal responsibility.

    The idea that sacredness is an individual experience and the idea that it is influenced by environmental factors are not necessarily in conflict. Religious life is given distinctive form both by the power of a community’s social bonds and its traditional objects of veneration, and by an individual’s personal interaction with those objects. In addition, mythic language and ritual serve as a focus for religious experience. The attempt to isolate the distinctive qualities of religion can be seen in the work of a number of influential thinkers. Considered together, these approaches offer a representative picture of the ways in which modern investigators have understood the place of the sacred in human life.

    A Religion as a Function of Society

    In many cases, the things that people consider sacred are determined by the community to which they belong. The holiest things in the world to one group—its gods, saviors, scriptures, or sacraments—are not necessarily seen as sacred absolutes by another group. The notion that sacredness is a value that a given society places on objects, that such objects shape and generate the religious feelings of its members, and that religiousness is therefore a function of social belonging was first suggested by French sociologist ةmile Durkheim. According to his classic theory, set forth in Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse: Le système totemique en Australie (1912; translated as The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1965), the distinguishing mark of religion in its most basic form is not belief in divinity or in the supernatural but the existence of objects considered to be sacred by a group of people.

    In Durkheim’s view, it is the authority and beliefs of a society that make things sacred or nonsacred (in his terminology, profane). Religion is consequently best understood neither as the result of supernatural revelation (although Durkheim recognizes that this may be a personal view held by the member of a religion), nor as an illusion or set of mistaken ideas (which might be the viewpoint of a skeptical outsider who does not accept the religious beliefs). Rather, religion is best understood as the power of a society to make things sacred or profane in the lives of its individual members. According to Durkheim, the social and religious power of sacredness are one and the same, since to hold something sacred is to demonstrate one’s commitment to and respect for the authority of one’s tradition.

    Sacred things are those objects and symbols, including principles and beliefs, that must be preserved from violation because they represent all that is of most value to the community. All cultures hold something sacred. In secular Western societies, the sacred might be embodied in certain principles, such as individual rights, freedom, justice, or equality. In Durkheim’s view, therefore, religion is not a matter of claims about the universe that are either true or false, but is the normal way that a society constructs and maintains its cherished tradition and moral values.

    B Religion as Numinous Experience

    A very different approach, emphasizing individual experience, was developed by German theologian Rudolf Otto. In Das Heilige (1917; The Idea of the Holy, 1958), Otto argues that the experience of the numinous (Latin numen,”spiritual power”) is the distinctive core of religiousness. Such experience is marked by a sense of awe in the face of the mysterious other reality that dramatically intersects our limited, vulnerable existence. According to Otto, it is this reality that religious traditions symbolize by concepts such as God. The numinous can be experienced as something fearful and alienating, but also as something comforting with which one feels a certain communion or continuity. Religious ideas such as the wrath of God or the peace of God express these different aspects of numinous experience. In Otto’s view, the capacity for such awareness lies within each person, and it is the purpose of religious language and observance to shape and elicit this awareness. In formulating this approach, Otto followed in the tradition of earlier thinkers such as German theologian and philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher. In his book ـber die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verنchtern (1799; On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, 1893), Schleiermacher argued that religiousness is only secondarily a matter of doctrine or morality; he claimed that it is primarily a matter of intuitive feeling, an immediate experience that was prior to language itself, and a sense of the infinite.

    C Religion as an Individual Phenomenon

    For many people, religion is best understood at the level of individual spiritual life. An influential book employing this approach is The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), by American philosopher and psychologist William James. James attempted to study all the different forms that religious experience can take, from extreme asceticism (practice of self-denial) and mystical union with the divine, to modern techniques of positive thinking. He gave special attention to conversion experiences, or life-changing encounters with spiritual forces.

    James documented his study with hundreds of cases in which individuals reported that they had experienced contact with something divine or transcendent and that their lives had been changed decisively. Many of these episodes came in the form of a sudden and unsolicited consciousness of spiritual unity or insight. They were mystical experiences and were ineffable (incapable of being described in words). James also hypothesized the existence of a wider, subconscious dimension of the self that could help account for the source of apparently supernatural visions, voices, and revelations. The notion of a creative unconscious, understood as an element of the mind surrounding the individual ego and often expressed through religious symbols, was also described by the influential Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

    D Religion as Experience Mediated by the Sacred

    Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade, who taught at the University of Chicago from 1957 to 1985, emphasized that religious people experience the ordinary world differently from nonreligious people because they view it as a sacred place. In Eliade’s view, believing in the divine foundations of life transforms the significance of natural objects and activities. He believed that for homo religiosus (Latin for “religious man,” a term used by Eliade to designate a person who lives according to a religious worldview), time, space, the earth, the sky, and the human body can all come to have a symbolic, religious meaning. Like Rudolf Otto, Eliade held that the study of religion must not reduce its subject matter to something merely social or psychological, but must take seriously the idea that in the believer’s world the experience of sacredness defines a distinctive reality.

    For Eliade, myth and ritual represent the central language by means of which religious worlds are structured (see Mythology). In his approach, myth is not merely fiction or folktale but the powerful words and stories that recount the actions of gods and founders and the guidelines they set down for human life. In this sense, myth describes not what is simply fantastic but what is most real, naming the spiritual forces that established the world and that continue to permeate it. Religion has its own language to describe the spiritual order of the universe, just as science has its descriptions of the physical world. Moreover, the purpose of describing the divine time of origins is not only to provide an explanation for how the world began, but also to provide a reference point—in a sense, a script—for living in the present world. Religious people aspire to live in the time of divine origins: For observing Jews, Friday night is not only Friday night, but also the beginning of the Sabbath as instituted by the Creator at the beginning of time; and for observing Christians, Christmas becomes the time of the birth of Christ. Ritual times and places create opportunities for religious people to come into contact with the sacred and its regenerative power.

    V PATTERNS IN RELIGIOUS LIFE

    When religion is observed across many cultures, certain common themes and patterns of activity appear. Significant differences within those patterns are also evident.

    A Sacred Histories

    Most religious systems are organized around certain past events and models. Each religion has its own account of the history of the world—the great time when gods, creators, sages, ancestors, saviors, founders, or heroes established or revealed the essential elements of the religion. These collective memories are ordinarily preserved in carefully maintained oral traditions or in the classic accounts known as scriptures or sacred writings. In Christian histories, the key event of the past is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, whose teachings, death, and resurrection set the model for the meaning of Christian life. In Judaism the great time was the Exodus (the flight from Egypt under Moses) and the subsequent receiving of the Law at Mount Sinai (see Ten Commandments). The enlightenment experience of the Buddha and the revelation of the Qur'an (Koran) (Islamic scripture) to the prophet Muhammad are defining events in Buddhism and Islam, respectively. The Islamic calendar begins with the birth of Islam in ad 622 (see Hegira), the Christian calendar begins with the birth of Christ, and the Jewish calendar begins with the biblical time of the Creation itself.

    B Renewal Observances

    Religions provide for continual renewal by setting aside special times for their adherents to recollect and demonstrate what they hold sacred. These occasions may take place annually, monthly, weekly, daily, or even hourly. Muslims are expected to pause for prayer at five different times every day, and during the holy month of Ramadan—which honors the month when the Qur'an was first revealed—they are expected to observe a fast (see Fasting) every day from sunrise to sunset. For Jews, the High Holy Days—a ten-day period in autumn celebrating the new year and concluding with the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)—is a major time of spiritual renewal, as is Passover in the spring. Jews dedicate the seventh, or Sabbath, day to recalling the divine basis of life. Christians follow a similar seven-day cycle but give special prestige to Sunday, honoring the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which, according to the Christian scriptures, occurred on the first day of the week. Every religion, large or small, has regular major festivals and observances that celebrate and display its fundamental commitments and that intensify and renew the spiritual memory of its followers.

    C Sacred Space

    Religions not only create sacred times that define the calendar and occur throughout the year, intersecting with ordinary time, they also establish special places that localize the sacred in the midst of ordinary space. Sometimes these are places of natural beauty or imposing power, such as mountains, caves, or rivers. They may also be sites that commemorate great religious events of the past—for example, the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna; the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment; or the spot where Muhammad is believed to have journeyed to heaven (memorialized by the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem). Sometimes they are places where miraculous spiritual appearances are believed to have occurred, as in the case of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France. They may also be shrines and temples built to house the gods or their representative symbols, such as the Parthenon in Greece, which was dedicated to Athena, patron goddess of Athens. Holy places also become objects of pilgrimage, such as the Kaaba, the holiest shrine of Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. For Muslims, the Kaaba is the symbol of true monotheistic religion and is believed to have been built by biblical patriarch Abraham. All Muslims are expected to visit it at some time in their lives. Sometimes the act of building a sacred place occurs each time the rite is performed and is thus part of the ritual itself, as in the case of the annual Native American Sun Dance ceremonies, for which a new lodge is erected each year.

    The use of space reveals a great deal about a religious worldview. Some structures, such as Pueblo kivas (ceremonial chambers), are built into the ground, acknowledging the earth as the place from which human beings emerged and as the source of sustenance for the Pueblo’s agricultural society (see Native American Religions). Others, such as the European gothic cathedrals, through their delicate architecture and skyward reach, suggest the transcendence of the divine realm. Shinto shrines in Japan express reverence for nature in the harmonious way they blend with the natural environment. On the other hand, some so-called megachurches (churches with huge congregations) of modern North America have taken the form of corporate office complexes geared for efficiency of organized service. Some holy places are understood to be the actual dwelling place of the god. Others—as in certain branches of Protestant tradition—are understood to be primarily places of gathering for the faithful (see Protestantism: Beliefs and Practices). In such cases, a plain architectural style follows naturally from the desire to de-emphasize the importance of the physical building itself.

    D Religion in Life

    Religious cultures generally ascribe spiritual significance to all parts of their worlds. This is especially obvious in rites of passage. Through ritual, each major change in life is incorporated into the domain of the sacred. For example, birth rites might involve bestowing the blessings of the god on the child or giving the child a special religious name. Rites of entry into adulthood also connect the individual to the sacred tradition of the culture. For example, in Buddhist Thailand, young men become sons of Buddha through a ceremony in which they reenact key parts of the historical Buddha’s search for enlightenment (see Theravada Buddhism). In Jewish bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, adolescents, having reached the age of 13, read from the Torah, the primary scripture of Judaism. Christian youths participate in First Communion, in which they take part in the Eucharist (a ceremony involving blessed bread and wine, which represent the body and blood of Christ) for the first time. Weddings and funerals are two other ceremonies of passage laden with sacred meaning.

    All of life—including food, work, suffering, human relations, sexuality and marriage, education, the arts, and government—can be given religious significance. Many religions have detailed rules of purity that bear on every aspect of behavior. In this way, the religious reality—whether conceived as a divine commandment, the will of God, Buddha nature, or the Tao—is acknowledged to be the true and proper basis of all life.

    E Interaction with Spiritual Beings

    Religious cultures provide their members with established, patterned ways of interacting with spiritual beings. Such communication is often the center of religious practice. Perhaps the most widely practiced forms are petitionary prayer (prayer that contains a request), offerings and sacrifices, purification and penance, and worship. Sometimes these are regular events, and sometimes they are performed in times of special need, such as illness, drought, infertility, or war—times when human beings find themselves especially dependent on or subject to the forces of the universe that are beyond their control. At other times, religions have forms of communion, such as the Christian Eucharist or meditation on the presence of a supreme being. Reciting the name of the Buddha is the primary religious practice in Pure Land Buddhism, and this practice has parallels among other religious groups, such as the Sikhs.

    The gods, in turn, are believed to make their will, power, or presence known to humans in a variety of ways, including prophecy, states of trance, dreams and visions, divination, healings, special signs and miracles, intuition, mystical experiences, and embodiment in the lives of special individuals. In many societies, possession (control of a person’s body by a spiritual entity) is a common form of interchange with the spirit world. Through intensive training, a shaman acquires the ability to enter trance states and negotiate with gods and spirits. In so-called possession rites, spirits are believed to enter the bodies of devotees. Divination, or techniques for reading the will and timing of the gods through the shape or significations of physical objects, is also widespread. Relationship with the divinity can also be expressed in terms of moral behavior. In this case, service to the gods means devotedly adhering to their revealed precepts for conduct and their standards of spiritual life in general. In some religions, individuals cultivate a lifelong personal relationship with their deity.

    F Rituals and Symbols

    Ritual is a form of communication in its own right. Rituals involve performance and symbolic bodily actions, displayed in a tangible, visible way. They have the power to focus experience and thus function to intensify the sense of the sacred. Rituals can be as simple as bowing one’s head before a meal, chanting a certain phrase, or removing footwear. At the other extreme, they can involve intricate ceremonies performed by teams of priests and lasting several days. Rituals reveal the sacred through specific, symbolic actions and objects, including processions, special clothing, special sounds—for example chanting—or silences, masks, symbolic objects, and special foods. Some religions use rituals to great effect, while others assign them a lesser role. Where ritual is central, there is usually a priesthood (see Priest). This is the case in the Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity (see Roman Catholic Church; Orthodox Church) as well as in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shinto. Jews, Muslims, and many Protestant churches do not have a priesthood as such because they emphasize a direct faith and consideration of scripture (training in which is required for rabbis, imams, and ministers).

    Religions differ in their use of images. Jews, Muslims, and puritanical forms of Protestantism prohibit images of God in order to preserve the transcendence and holiness of the divine. But images of holy persons or of the deity are important objects of veneration in Catholicism, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity (in which they are called icons), and in most other religions (see Idolatry).

    G Holiness, Inward Transformation, and Salvation

    Most major religions provide paths that deliver individuals from the bondage of sin, immorality, ignorance, and other types of impurity or disharmony and lead them toward a state of purity of soul, spiritual knowledge, wisdom, godliness, enlightenment, or even eternal life. Religions typically hold that human beings have a higher nature that exists in tension with a lower nature, and the religions offer ways to redeem the former from the latter. Even within a single religious tradition there may be different versions of this process. Some emphasize the separation of the spiritual part of the self from worldly attachments, while others emphasize living harmoniously in relation to nature, self, and divinity.

    Two corresponding religious ideals can be discerned from the different ways in which religions consider salvation. On one hand, the saved or truly religious person may be one who has achieved liberation from the material world and has reached a heavenly state of afterlife (such as heaven) or a supreme state of consciousness (such as nirvana). On the other hand, this person may be one who has come to embody the virtues of holiness, however they are defined by the particular religion, while still living on earth. Monasticism arose in some religions, such as Buddhism and the classical forms of Christianity, although it has no place in others, including Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism. Many religious virtues—such as love, self-control, compassion, nonviolence, and wisdom—appear in more than one religion, but differences in belief systems can give varying significance to these virtues. All the historic religions address the need for individual holiness in some form and can point to saints, mystics, or spiritual exemplars who fully embody the ideals of their traditions.

    VI RELIGION IN THE MODERN WORLD

    Modernity has posed acute challenges to traditional religions. In the 1960s membership in mainstream Christian denominations began to decline, and candidates for the priesthood were less numerous. For a large number of people in modern societies, religion is neither good nor bad but simply irrelevant, given the many alternative ways to find meaning in various forms of cultural pursuits, ethical ideals, and lifestyles. These challenges to religion are partly a result of the prestige of science. The sciences describe a universe without reference to deities, the soul, or spiritual meaning. In addition, critical studies of biblical history have demonstrated that the Bible is not unique among ancient religious and historical documents (see Biblical Criticism). For example, the biblical stories of the Garden of Eden and the Deluge (universal flood) are common to other ancient Middle Eastern religions. Other factors that have contributed to a decline in religious participation in the modern world include the presentation of religion as a prescientific form of superstitious thinking, as a source of political control and divisiveness, as a confirmation of established patriarchal values, or as an emotional crutch. In addition, many families are no longer able to maintain stable religious traditions because they are disconnected from traditional, supportive religions or as a result of mixed or nonreligious marriages. Another influence has been the loss of community and social commitment that has followed in the wake of increased mobility. Frequent changes of location can result in a sense of impermanence or instability. This is particularly true of a move from town to city, which often results in the loss of stable community structure. Social uprooting can lead to religious uprooting because religious affiliation is closely related to social ties.

    Despite all these factors, religion has not disappeared, and in many places it is thriving. Although secularization has had its effects, religion has been kept alive as a result, in part, of the adaptation of religion to secular values; the repositioning of conservative religion in direct opposition to secular values; and the emergence of new religious movements that meet the specific and diverse spiritual needs of people in contemporary society.

    In many instances, religion has been able to adapt to modernity by accommodating the diversity of contemporary culture. Many religious traditions have broadened the concept of God to allow for the coexistence of various faiths, have acknowledged gender equality by ordaining women, and have adopted outward characteristics of modern culture in general. Many groups have benefited from the use of electronic media and networking, and some have developed religious functions for the Internet, including electronic prayer groups. Modern marketing techniques have been employed to increase membership. Many churches incorporate the latest kinds of support groups, counseling techniques, and popular music.

    Evangelicalism in its various forms, including fundamentalism, offers a different response to modernity. Conservative movements, which have appeared internationally in every major religious tradition, have gained vitality by protesting what they see as the conspicuous absence of moral values in secular society. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, such movements present scripture as a source of doctrinal certainty and of moral absolutes. Against the secularism of the day, evangelical movements have succeeded in creating their own alternative cultures and have acquired considerable political influence.

    For all its challenges to traditional religious identity, modernity has at the same time created new spiritual opportunities. Thousands of new religious movements emerged around the world in the 20th century, offering alternative forms of community to people otherwise removed from past associations and disenchanted with modern values. Collectively, these new religions offer a large number of options, addressing virtually every conceivable type of spiritual need. In a sense, modernity has created needs and problems for which new movements are able to present themselves as solutions. Some offer ethnic revitalization; others, techniques of meditation and self-improvement; and still others, the power of alternative or spiritual forms of healing. Buddhist- and Hindu-derived movements continue to have considerable followings among Westerners searching for truths beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition (see Zen; Hare Krishna). Further, in a world where home life has become less stable, an international movement such as the Unification Church emphasizes the holiness and divine restoration of the institution of the family.

    Currently, one of the most rapidly growing religious movements is Pentecostalism, which takes its name from the festival day when the first Christian community felt the power of the Holy Spirit pour out on them (see Pentecostal Churches). Pentecostalism’s grass roots services provide direct, ecstatic spiritual experiences. A quite different but also widespread form of spirituality is that of the so-called New Age Movement, which offers individuals the opportunity to reconnect with mystical dimensions of the self and thus with the wider cosmos—relationships that are typically obscured by secular culture and often are not addressed in biblical traditions.


    Contributed By:
    William E. Paden
    Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. [/FIELDSET]
     
    Picasso

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    [FIELDSET="Christians and Muslims unite in Algiers' cathedral"]


    This week, Our Lady of Africa cathedral re-opened in the Algerian capital, Algiers, following years of renovations, and for many in the country, the 19th Century building has come to mean much more than a religious symbol.

    For a country whose population is more than 99% Muslim, the opening ceremony for Algeria's Roman Catholic cathedral attracted an enormous crowd.

    The usually tranquil veranda in front of the church was swarming with cars and people, and traffic snaked back all the way down the hairpin bends that you must climb to reach the cliff on which it stands above the Bay of Algiers.

    More...[/FIELDSET]
     
    Darwish

    Darwish

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    A summary of Jews/Iraelites with the name Jesus in antiquity

    For conservative Christians, Jesus is the name given by the Angel to Mary and thus is a unique name for the one and only: Christ

    Some claim that Jesus Christ, has nothing to do with Judaism or Jews. A claim that is based on arabo-centric visions or similar nationalitic principles and on some ideologies some arabic parties formulate based on anti-judaic feelings...

    In any case, antiquity writings survived to tell us about the Jews of Palestine and Josephus is one of those antiquity hitorians that gave the global context in which the jews were living in Palestine under the roman empire. And the major events and personalities of the Jewish communities.

    These accounts helped demystifying the uniqueness of Christ first name and to make Christian scholarship head toward more objective visions and analysis rather than old christian formulas...

    Let us take a look at the name Jesus in the history of the Israelites. Just like the name Ali for the Shiaas, Jesus was a name that was identified with Jewish heroism.

    The archetypal Jewish hero was Joshua (the successor of Moses) otherwise known as Yeshua ben Nun (‘Jesus of the fish’). Since the name Jesus (Yeshua or Yeshu in Hebrew, Ioshu in Greek, source of the English spelling) originally was a title (meaning ‘saviour’, derived from ‘Yahweh Saves’) probably every band in the Jewish resistance had its own hero figure sporting this moniker, among others.

    Josephus, the first century Jewish historian mentions no fewer than nineteen different Yeshuas/Jesii, about half of them contemporaries of the supposed Christ! In his Antiquities, of the twenty-eight high priests who held office from the reign of Herod the Great to the fall of the Temple, no fewer than four bore the name Jesus: Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus and Jesus ben Gamaliel. Even Saint Paul makes reference to a rival magician, preaching ‘another Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 11,4). The surfeit of early Jesuses includes:

    Jesus ben Sirach. This Jesus was reputedly the author of the Book of Sirach (aka 'Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach'), part of Old Testament Apocrypha. Ben Sirach, writing in Greek about 180 BC, brought together Jewish 'wisdom' and Homeric-style heroes.

    Jesus ben Pandira. A wonder-worker during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (106-79 BC), one of the most ruthless of the Maccabean kings. Imprudently, this Jesus launched into a career of end-time prophesy and agitation which upset the king. He met his own premature end-time by being hung on a tree – and on the eve of a Passover. Scholars have speculated this Jesus founded the Essene sect.

    Jesus ben Ananias. Beginning in 62AD, this Jesus had caused disquiet in Jerusalem with a non-stop doom-laden mantra of ‘Woe to the city’. He prophesied rather vaguely:

    "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against the whole people."
    (Josephus, Wars 6:3)

    Arrested and flogged by the Romans, he was released as nothing more dangerous than a mad man. He died during the siege of Jerusalem from a rock hurled by a Roman catapult.

    Jesus ben Saphat. In the insurrection of 68AD that wrought havoc in Galilee, this Jesus had led the rebels in Tiberias. When the city was about to fall to Vespasian’s legionaries he fled north to Tarichea on the Sea of Galilee.

    Jesus ben Gamala. During 68/69 AD this Jesus was a leader of the ‘peace party’ in the civil war wrecking Judaea. From the walls of Jerusalem he had remonstrated with the besieging Idumeans (led by ‘James and John, sons of Susa’). It did him no good. When the Idumeans breached the walls he was put to death and his body thrown to the dogs and carrion birds.

    Jesus ben Thebuth. A priest who, in the final capitulation of the upper city in 69AD, saved his own skin by surrendering the treasures of the Temple, which included two holy candlesticks, goblets of pure gold, sacred curtains and robes of the high priests. The booty figured prominently in the Triumph held for Vespasian and his son Titus.

    Jesus ben Stada was a Judean agitator who gave the Romans a headache in the early years of the second century. He met his end in the town of Lydda (twenty five miles from Jerusalem) at the hands of a Roman crucifixion crew. And given the scale that Roman retribution could reach – at the height of the siege of Jerusalem the Romans were crucifying upwards of five hundred captives a day before the city walls – dead heroes called Jesus would (quite literally) have been thick on the ground. Not one merits a full-stop in the great universal history.

    And then the Gospels tell us about yet another controversial Jewish galelian rebel called Jesus of Nazareth... However Antiquity hitorians are obscure as for mentioning the Christian Jesus, the most famous Jesus of all times...
     
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    [FIELDSET="Why did my brother become an extreme Islamist?"]
    It was in a national newspaper that my step-brother Richard's transformation into an extreme Islamist called Salahuddin was revealed to me.

    The article was about "the most dangerous man in Britain", Anjem Choudary. He was the leader of the now banned Islam4UK, an extremist Islamist group intent on implementing Sharia law across the UK.

    A few paragraphs down was Richard's name and that of our hometown, Weymouth, in Dorset.

    Apparently he was Mr Choudary's newest protege.

    He had chosen his new name carefully, and its irony is chillingly revealing.

    More...

    [/FIELDSET]
     
    Picasso

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    [FIELDSET="Le pragmatisme religieux des Japonais"]


    L'attitude des Japonais face aux désastres frappant leur archipel force l'admiration du monde entier. Jean-Pierre Berthon, chargé de recherches sur le Japon CNRS, répond à nos questions sur l'importance de la religion dans ce monde spirituel foisonnant.

    Selon les statistiques officielles de l'Agence pour les affaires culturelles du Ministère de l'éducation, la culture, des sports, des sciences et des technologies japonais, il y a eu 205 millions adhésions à des organismes religieux en 2007, soit 160 % de la population. Comment expliquez-vous ce phénomène?

    Plus...[/FIELDSET]
     
    Picasso

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    [FIELDSET="D'une foi à l'autre, le mystère de la conversion"]



    Dans l'ouvrage D’une foi à l’autre, portraits de convertis, Béatrice Guélpa tente de cerner un peu mieux le chemin parcouru par des convertis de toutes religions, de toutes origines, de toutes cultures. A chaque fois, cette même interrogation : qu’est-ce qui pousse quelqu’un à renier sa foi d’origine - ou son absence de foi - pour se tourner vers une nouvelle voie religieuse?

    C’est un sujet énigmatique, que les religions n’évoquent que dans un sens : du point de vue de ceux qui rejoignent la foi concernée. Alors pourquoi se convertir? Peut-être qu’à l’origine, il s’agit toujours de la même quête : le besoin de retrouver du sens, de se donner un but, d’interroger ce qui fonde son existence. Les conversions ont toutes en commun cette recherche spirituelle, l’envie de retrouver le fil de la transcendance qui s’est, pour de multiples raisons, peu à peu distendu.

    Plus...[/FIELDSET]
     
    Muki

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    I am highly influenced by Taoist philosophy. I've read the Tao Te Ching multiple times and every time I read it I learn something new. It is a great source of knowledge on how to live in harmony with nature and your surroundings. I highly recommend it. I am not a believer in the supernatural, but I do believe in the philosophical aspect of Taoism, because it is a great source of education.

    I would like to share the following excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, which deals with how relative ideas are to each other, rather than the norm of things being "opposites":

    [FIELDSET="2"]
    When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad.

    Being and non-being create each other.
    Difficult and easy support each other.
    Long and short define each other.
    High and low depend on each other.
    Before and after follow each other.

    Therefore the Master
    acts without doing anything
    and teaches without saying anything.
    Things arise and she lets them come;
    things disappear and she lets them go.
    She has but doesn't possess,
    acts but doesn't expect.
    When her work is done, she forgets it.
    That is why it lasts forever.[/FIELDSET]
     
    Dark Angel

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    I am highly influenced by Taoist philosophy. I've read the Tao Te Ching multiple times and every time I read it I learn something new. It is a great source of knowledge on how to live in harmony with nature and your surroundings. I highly recommend it. I am not a believer in the supernatural, but I do believe in the philosophical aspect of Taoism, because it is a great source of education.

    I would like to share the following excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, which deals with how relative ideas are to each other, rather than the norm of things being "opposites":

    [FIELDSET="2"]
    When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad.

    Being and non-being create each other.
    Difficult and easy support each other.
    Long and short define each other.
    High and low depend on each other.
    Before and after follow each other.

    Therefore the Master
    acts without doing anything
    and teaches without saying anything.
    Things arise and she lets them come;
    things disappear and she lets them go.
    She has but doesn't possess,
    acts but doesn't expect.
    When her work is done, she forgets it.
    That is why it lasts forever.[/FIELDSET]
    will you be offended if i said this is obvious, meaningless and just a ramble?
     
    Picasso

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    Religion can be explained as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    Featured religions and beliefs
     
    Picasso

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    John Hick

    Professor John Harwood Hick (born Yorkshire, England, 1922) is a philosopher of religion and theologian. In philosophical theology, he has made contributions in the areas of theodicy, eschatology, and Christology, and in the philosophy of religion he has contributed to the areas of epistemology of religion and religious pluralism.
     
    Picasso

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    La fin d’un monde

    Frédéric Lenoir - publié le 01/11/2011

    La fin du monde aura-t-elle lieu le 21 décembre 2012 ? Longtemps je n’ai prêté aucune attention à la fameuse prophétie attribuée aux Mayas. Mais, depuis quelques mois, de nombreuses personnes m’interrogent sur la question, m’assurant souvent que leurs adolescents sont angoissés par les informations qu’ils lisent sur Internet ou marqués par 2012, le film catastrophe hollywoodien. La prophétie maya est-elle authentique ? Y a-t-il d’autres prophéties religieuses de la fin imminente du monde, comme on peut le lire sur la Toile ? Que disent les religions de la fin des temps ? Le dossier de ce numéro répond à ces questions. Mais le succès de cette rumeur autour du 21 décembre 2012 en appelle une autre : comment expliquer l’angoisse de nombre de nos contemporains, pour la plupart non religieux, et pour qui une telle rumeur apparaît plausible ? Je vois deux explications.

    Nous vivons tout d’abord une époque particulièrement angoissante, où l’homme a le sentiment d’être à bord d’un bolide dont il a perdu le contrôle. De fait, plus aucune institution, plus aucun ةtat ne semble en mesure de freiner la course vers l’inconnu – et peut-être l’abîme – dans laquelle nous précipitent l’idéologie consumériste et la mondialisation économique sous l’égide du capitalisme ultralibéral : accentuations dramatiques des inégalités ; catastrophes écologiques menaçant l’ensemble de la planète ; spéculation financière incontrôlée qui fragilise toute l’économie mondiale devenue globale. Il y a ensuite les bouleversements de nos modes de vie qui ont fait de l’homme occidental un déraciné amnésique, mais tout aussi incapable de se projeter dans le futur. Nos modes de vies ont sans doute plus changé au cours du siècle écoulé qu’ils n’avaient changé au cours des trois ou quatre millénaires précédents. L’Européen « d’avant » vivait majoritairement à la campagne, il était observateur de la nature, enraciné dans un monde rural lent et solidaire, ainsi que dans des traditions séculaires. Il en allait de même pour l’homme du Moyen-آge ou de l’homme de l’Antiquité. L’Européen d’aujourd’hui est très majoritairement citadin ; il se sent relié à la planète entière, mais il est sans attaches locales fortes ; il mène une existence individualiste dans un rythme effréné et s’est le plus souvent coupé des traditions séculaires de ses pères. Il faut sans doute remonter au tournant du néolithique (vers 10 000 ans avant notre ère au Proche-Orient et vers 3 000 ans avant notre ère en Europe), lorsque les hommes ont quitté une vie nomade de chasseurs-cueilleurs et se sont sédentarisés dans des villages en développant l’agriculture et l’élevage, pour trouver une révolution aussi radicale que celle que nous sommes en train de vivre. Cela n’est pas sans conséquences profondes sur notre psychisme. La vitesse avec laquelle cette révolution s’est produite engendre incertitude, perte des repères fondamentaux, précarisation des liens sociaux. Elle est source d’inquiétude, d’angoisse, d’un sentiment confus de fragilité de l’individu comme des communautés humaines, d’où une sensibilité accrue aux thématiques de destruction, de dislocation, d’anéantissement.

    Une chose me paraît certaine : nous ne vivons pas les symptômes de la fin du monde, mais de la fin d’un monde. Celui du monde traditionnel plusieurs fois millénaire que je viens de décrire avec tous les schémas de pensée qui lui étaient associés, mais aussi celui du monde ultra-individualiste et consumériste qui lui a succédé, dans lequel nous sommes encore plongés, qui donne tant de signes d’essoufflement et montre ses vraies limites pour un progrès véritable de l’homme et des sociétés. Bergson disait que nous aurions besoin d’un « supplément d’âme » pour faire face aux défis nouveaux. Nous pouvons en effet voir dans cette crise profonde non seulement une série de catastrophes écologiques, économiques et sociales annoncées, mais aussi la chance d’un sursaut, d’un renouveau humaniste et spirituel, par un éveil de la conscience et un sens plus aiguisé de la responsabilité individuelle et collective.
     
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    Sur les traces du sacré

    Frédéric Lenoir - publié le 01/01/2012





    Notre dossier met en évidence un fait important : l’expérience spirituelle sous ses formes très diverses – prière, transe chamanique, méditation – a une inscription corporelle dans le cerveau. Au-delà du débat philosophique qui en découle et des interprétations matérialistes ou spiritualistes que l’on peut en faire, je retiens un autre enseignement de ce fait. C’est que la spiritualité est d’abord, et avant tout, une expérience vécue qui touche l’esprit autant que le corps. Selon le conditionnement culturel de chacun, elle renverra à des objets ou à des repré*sentations très différentes : rencontre avec Dieu, avec une force ou un absolu indicible, avec la profondeur mystérieuse de l’esprit. Mais ces représentations auront toujours pour point commun de susciter un ébranlement de l’être, un élargissement de la conscience et bien souvent du cœur. Le sacré, quel que soit le nom ou la forme qu’on lui donne, transforme celui qui l’éprouve. Et il le bouleverse dans tout son être : corps émotionnel, psyché, esprit. De nombreux croyants ne font pourtant pas cette expérience. Pour eux, la religion est avant tout un marqueur identitaire personnel et collectif, une morale, un *ensemble de croyances et de règles à observer. Bref, la religion est réduite à sa dimension sociale et culturelle.

    On peut pointer dans l’histoire le moment où cette dimension sociale de la religion est apparue et l’a peu à peu emporté sur l’expérience personnelle : le passage de la vie nomade, où l’homme vivait en communion avec la nature, à la vie sédentaire, où il a créé des cités et a remplacé les esprits de la nature – avec lesquels il entrait en contact grâce à des états modifiés de conscience – par les dieux de la cité à qui il a offert des sacrifices. L’étymologie même du mot sacrifice – « faire le sacré » – montre bien que le sacré ne s’éprouve plus : il se fait à travers un geste rituel (offrande aux dieux) censé garantir l’ordre du monde et protéger la cité. Et ce geste est délégué par le peuple, devenu nombreux, à un clergé spécialisé. La religion revêt dès lors une dimension essentiellement sociale et politique : elle crée du lien et soude une communauté autour de grandes croyances, de règles éthiques et de rituels partagés.

    C’est en réaction à cette dimension trop extérieure et collective que vont apparaître dans toutes les civilisations, vers le milieu du premier millénaire avant notre ère, des sages très divers qui entendent réhabiliter l’expérience personnelle du sacré : Lao Tseu en Chine, les auteurs des Upanishads et le Bouddha en Inde, Zoroastre en Perse, les initiateurs des cultes à mystères et Pythagore en Grèce, les prophètes d’Israël jusqu’à Jésus. Ces courants spirituels naissent bien souvent au sein des traditions religieuses qu’ils tendent à transformer en les contestant de l’intérieur. Cette extraordinaire poussée de mysticisme, qui ne cesse d’étonner les historiens par sa convergence et sa synchronicité dans les différentes cultures du monde, va bouleverser les religions en y introduisant une dimension personnelle qui renoue par bien des aspects avec l’expérience du sacré sauvage des sociétés primitives. Et je suis frappé de voir combien notre époque ressemble à cette période antique : c’est cette même dimension qui intéresse de plus en plus nos contemporains, dont beaucoup ont pris leurs distances avec la religion qu’ils jugent trop froide, sociale, extérieure. C’est tout le paradoxe d’une ultramodernité qui tente de renouer avec les formes les plus archaïques du sacré : un sacré qui s’éprouve plus qu’il ne se « fait ». Le XXIe siècle est donc à la fois religieux par la résurgence identitaire face aux peurs engendrées par une mondialisation trop rapide, mais aussi spirituel par ce besoin d’expérience et de transformation de l’être que ressentent de nombreux individus, qu’ils soient religieux ou non.
     
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    [FIELDSET="Bishnoï"]
    Les Bishnoïs (ou Vishnoï) - de bish, « vingt » et noï, « neuf » en rajasthani, une forme dialectale du hindî -, sont les membres d'une communauté vishnouïte créée par le maître, le guru Jambeshwar Bhagavan, appelé communément Jambaji (1451-1536), surtout présente dans l'ةtat du Rajasthan, majoritairement dans les régions de Jodhpur et de Bîkâner, et dans une moindre mesure dans l'ةtat voisin de l'Haryana en Inde. Les Bishnoïs sont des hindous vaishnav qui suivent vingt-neuf principes, d'où leur nom, édictés par leur gourou et se caractérisent par leur végétarisme, leur respect strict de toute forme de vie (non-violence, ahimsâ), leur protection des animaux ainsi que des arbres, leur adoption d'une tenue vestimentaire particulière1. On les définit souvent comme ayant une forte conscience écologique. Les Bishnoïs vivaient paisiblement dans des villages isolés loin des centres de peuplement, mais depuis une dizaine d'années, ils sont de plus en plus nombreux à vivre en ville. Ils seraient environ 700 000 dans l'ouest de l'Inde. Ce sont les rares hindous à enterrer leurs morts, du fait du bois qu'il faudrait couper pour la crémation2 (les sadhus vishnouites, eux aussi, à la différence des autres hindous, ne sont pas brûlés après leur mort, mais enterrés, généralement en position assise ; le site où ils sont enterrés devient un endroit sacré 3).

    La gazelle indienne ou chinkara (Gazella bennettii) est particulièrement vénérée par les Bishnoïs ; en effet, leur maître Jambeshwar Bhagavan leur déclara qu'il se réincarnerait indéfiniment en chinkara après sa mort (le guru des Bishnoïs vivait dans une région où la sadhvi Karni Mata vivait aussi, et qui se manifeste selon ses dévots, et avec le reste de sa famille, en rats blancs). Sa présence signale souvent un village ou un temple proche de la communauté où on la trouve communément déambulant en toute confiance entre les maisons. Il arrive souvent encore de nos jours que les femmes bishnoïes allaitent les faons orphelins de cette espèce ou de l'antilope cervicapre qui est également un animal caractéristique du désert du Thar où vit de nombreux membres de la communauté bishnoïe.

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