Core Module: Nature of Religion and Belief Systems

OverviewStudents learn about religion as a worldview that acknowledges the supernatural dimension and has a belief in a divine being or powers beyond the human and/or dwelling within the individual
Key Questions:

  • What is a worldview?
  • What is an example of a religious worldview?
  • Notes:
  • Religion is composed of beliefs and practises that provide meaning and purposes to adherents.
    • Transcends their world and limitations
  • Achieved through religion having a worldview - the way in which a society views the world. In religion, the worldview is determined by the principal beliefs of the religion
  • Society determines the way which someone views the world - provides a set of cultural assumptions that culminate in the forming of a worldview
  • Worldview = perception/conception of the world. Consists of meaning, purpose, belonging and identity
  • Religions have their own worldviews
    • Buddhism - sees time as a cycle and the world is one part of that cycle
    • Christianity, Judaism & Islam - see time as linear (has a beginning and an end
  • Summary :A worldview refers to the way in which a particular group of people or an individual views the world. The four elements of a worldview are meaning, purpose, belonging and identity. Religions have their own worldview - they tell adherents how they should view the world.
    Supernatural DimensionStudents learn to define the supernatural dimension
    Key Questions:

    • What is the supernatural dimension?
    • What is an example of a supernatural dimension?
    Notes:

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    • Most religions have a supernatural dimension which forms part of the religious worldview.
    • Refers to the existence of a being or powers beyond the natural world or the world of humans
      • Has powers and abilities that exceed those of humans
    • For example, in Christianity and Judaism, God is beyond the human capabilities of the mundane. Therefore, He is the supernatural dimension
    Summary :A supernatural dimension refers to a power or being that is beyond human limitation and comprehension. Most religions have a supernatural dimension, such as Christianity, whose supernatural dimension is the existence of God in the Trinity.
    Religious WorldviewsStudents learn to discuss a transcendent religious worldview which has belief in a divine power and/or powers beyond the human and discuss an immanent religious worldview which has a belief in divine being of powers dwelling within the individual
    Key Questions:

    • What is a transcendent religious worldview?
    • What is an example of a religion that has a transcendent worldview?
    • What is an immanent religious worldview?
    • What is an example of a religion that has an immanent worldview?
    • How can religions contain both transcendent and immanent elements?

    Notes:

    Transcendent Religious Worldview

    • Beliefs in divine powers that exceed human limitations - the deity or the supernatural dimension is not on Earth, but beyond or above it
    • Adherents turn to the divine and beyond the physical world as a way to escape the concerns of the material world
    • Adherents, therefore, are able to focus their attention on heavenly matters, rather than the physical concerns of the natural world

      Immanent Religious Worldview

      • The divine powers and being are present within the natural world, or within humans themselves.
        • Especially made evident through adherents' daily activities and actions
      • The God or gods are present within, rather than above or beyond, the natural world. Adherents use each other or other aspects of the world to express their spirituality

        A Combination of Immanent and Transcendent Elements

        • Religions may have both religious and transcendent elements, or the whole religion can be firmly either transcendent or immanent
        • For example, the different aspects of the religion may be either transcendent or immanent, or the God can exist in several forms, some of which are transcendent and some are immanent
        • EG - CHRISTIANITY: the transcendent God, who can not be seen or held by humans, sent His only Son who was the immanent Him on the Earth.
        • EG - JUDAISM: the transcendent God was incomprehensible to adherents, however, He held close relationships with Abraham and Moses, showing elements of immanence
    Summary :Religious worldviews can be further divided into transcendent and immanent. A transcendent worldview refers to one in which the supernatural being is beyond the human world, an example of which is the Jewish God. An immanent religious worldview refers to the presence of the supernatural being in or within the world, an example is Jesus Christ, who walked the world. Religions may contain both transcendent and immanent elements.
    OverviewStudents learn about the characteristics of religion: beliefs and believers, sacred texts and writings, ethics, rituals and ceremonies
    Key Questions:

    • What are the four characteristics of religion?
    Notes:

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    • Religions provide a source of meaning to explain the uncertainties of reality
    • They do this through four main characteristics: beliefs & believers, sacred texts & writings, ethics and rituals & ceremonies
    Summary :Religion provides a sense of meaning and identity to adherents through the four elements of beliefs & believers, sacred texts & writings, ethics and rituals & ceremonies.
    Beliefs and BelieversStudents learn to define the characteristics of religion
    Key Questions:

    • What is a belief?
    • What is a believer?
    • What is an example of a religious belief and believer?
    Notes:

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    • Beliefs refer to the acceptance of something that exist, or, in the case of religion, refer to the attitudes towards mythological, supernatural, or spiritual aspects of a religion
    • Believers refer to the adherents of the particular religion, who follow these beliefs
    • Beliefs and believers ensure that the faith is sustained and continues to propagate itself
    • Christianity's beliefs include the Holy Trinity, the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and the divine inspiration of the Bible
    • Judaism's beliefs include the belief in one God and the covenant between Abraham and God
    Summary :Beliefs refer to the acceptance of something that exists and believers are those who abide by these beliefs. Christianity's beliefs include the Trinity and Jesus Christ, while Judaism's beliefs include the Covenant and the existence of the sole God.
    Sacred Texts and WritingsStudents learn to define the characteristics of religion
    Key Questions:

    • What is a sacred text?
    • What is the purpose of a sacred text?
    • What are examples of religious sacred texts?
    Notes:

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    • All religions have a body of oral or written text, or both, that provide the foundation for the beliefs, ethics and rituals of the religion.
      • The book is predominantly a guide for adherents to apply the teachings of the religion to their own lives
    • Christianity has sacred texts (Bible) that communicate God's will and teachings to His people on Earth.
      • Reading the text allows adherents to know God and His will
    • Sacred texts maintain the integrity of the principal beliefs of the religion
    • Christianity's sacred text, the Bible, contains the Old and New Testaments.
      • Contains psalms, parables (e.g. Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37), recounts of Jesus' life, creation story (Genesis 1)
    • Judaism's sacred text (Tanakh), contains 3 main sections - Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim.
      • Contains poetry, creation, stories, laws and commandments
    Summary :Sacred texts can be either oral or written and provide the foundation for beliefs and ethics of a religion, guiding adherents and maintaining the principal beliefs. Christianity's sacred texts comprise of the Bible, while Judaism's sacred texts include the Tanakh
    EthicsStudents learn to define the characteristics of religion
    Key Questions:

    • What are ethics?
    • What is the purpose of ethics?
    • What are some examples of religious ethics?
    Notes:

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    • A set of moral principles that dictate the lives of adherents, providing a guide as to right and wrong
      • Shows adherents what to do and what to refrain from doing
    • Provide direction and clarification to adherents who apply them
    • Christianity's ethics include
      • Acts - guide to the way Christians should behave in society
      • 10 Commandments: Exodus 20
      • Jesus' Commandment of Love: Matthew 22:37-40
      • Beatitudes: Matthew 5: 1-12
    Summary :Ethics refer to the guide that informs adherents of how to live their lives in a manner according to the principal beliefs of the religion. Christianity's ethics include the 10 Commandments, Jesus' Commandment of Love and the Beatitudes.
    Rituals and CeremoniesStudents learn to define the characteristics of religion
    Key Questions:

    • What is a ritual, what is a ceremony?
    • What is the purpose of rituals and ceremonies?
    • What are examples of religious rituals/ceremonies?
    Notes:

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    • Refer to a set of actions or gestures, performed in a given order, that reflect beliefs, texts or events recorded in a religion's sacred texts
      • Linked to superhuman beings or events. EG - CHRISTIANITY: make God present in the world
    • Christianity's rituals and ceremonies include mass, the Eucharist and the 7 sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, Reconciliation)
    • Judaism's rituals and ceremonies include Shabbat (weekly meal starting on rest day) and synagogue and prayer (which draw adherents closer to their communities)
    Summary :A ritual or ceremony refers to a system of gestures or actions performed in a particular manner that link adherents to their supreme beings in a physical way. Christianity's rituals include sacraments and the mass, while Judaism's rituals include the Shabbat and the Passover.
    A Dynamic, Living ReligionStudents learn to explore the ways in which these characteristics interact to create a dynamic, living religion
    Key Questions:

    • What is a dynamic, living religious tradition?
    • What is the importance of having a dynamic, living religious tradition?
    • How do the characteristics of religion interact to form a dynamic, living religion?
    Notes:

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    • In order for a religion to remain relevant and sustain itself, it must constantly refresh the four characteristics that comprise the religion itself.
      • If it fails to do this, the religion loses relevance in a modern world and stagnates
    • Dynamic, living religions are ones that stimulate change and constantly refresh themselves, in order to remain immersed in mundane activities and society
    • Through the interactions between the four characteristics of religion, the Faith remains relevant to adherents and society. As a result, the characteristics are interdependent when forming the dynamic religion
    • For example, believers read sacred texts to formulate their own interpretation of the religion. The sacred texts also inform ethical teachings and rituals and ceremonies, which believers use to express their Faith
    • As adherents develop over time, their interpretation of the sacred texts change due to outside influences and personal preference, causing the beliefs and ethics formulated from them to vary between years.
    Summary :A dynamic, living religion refers to a religion which constantly refreshes itself to engage and maintain contemporary adherents. These religions are immersed in daily activity and can survive the test of time. While the beliefs and ethics of a religion rarely change, the interpretation of them done through the adherents does, forming a religion that constantly refreshes itself to suit modern need.
    OverviewStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • What is the purpose of religion?
    • What are the five enduring questions of human existence?
    Notes:

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    • Religions seek to provide meaning to adherents by containing an understanding of a being that is greater than the human person. Religion helps to understand difficult concepts of mundane existence
    • Religions answer the 5 enduring questions of humanity
      • Who am I
      • What is my purpose?
      • Is there a supreme being?
      • Why is there pain and suffering?
      • Is there life after death?
    Summary :Religions provide a sense of meaning and purpose to adherents through answering the five enduring questions of human existence - who am I, what is my purpose, is there a supreme being, why is there pain and suffering and is there life after death.
    Who am I/What is my PurposeStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • What does the question of who am I/what is my purpose entail?
    • How do religions provide an answer to this question?
    Notes:

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    • Adherents consider their meaning and purpose of their earthly life through asking themselves these questions
    • Adherents of a religion will often find their identity through aligning themselves with their supreme being, seeking to emulate their actions and beliefs
      • Guided by moral precepts and ethics of the religious tradition
    • EG - CHRISTIANITY - adherents walk the Earth in order to carry out God's will and perfect plan for humanity. All people are loved by God and should seek to love Him as well
    Summary :This question leads adherents to consider their true meaning in life. Religions answer this question through providing a supreme being that adherents can align themselves and their actions to.
    Is There a Supreme BeingStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • What does the question of is there a supreme being entail?
    • How do religions provide an answer to this question?

    Notes:

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    • Supreme beings are integral to many religions, affirming the belief in a transcendent world (one that goes beyond the world that humans live on)
    • The existence of a supreme being guides adherents to better themselves, through the enacting of teachings and ethics that the supreme being has created
    • Alfred North Whitehead claims without religious vision "human life is….a bagatelle of transient experience"
    • EG - CHRISTIANITY - the God of Christianity exists in three aspects (Father, Son, Holy Spirit - Trinity) and provides a guide for adherents to follow through His Son, Jesus Christ.
    Summary :Most religions include a supreme being, which affirms the existence of a transcendent world. Religions answer this question through their belief.
    Why is there Pain & SufferingStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • What does the question of why is there pain and suffering entail?
    • How do religions provide an answer to this question?
    Notes:

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    • Suffering refers to pain which is caused by the presence of evil within the world and the ignorance and neglect that humans demonstrate to each other
    • This has prompted questions regarding the nature of God, human existence, the universe and humanity itself
    • EG - CHRISTIANITY - pain and suffering is caused by the abuse of freedom that God has given the people of the Earth. When freedom is used correctly, great things come from it. However, sin caused by abuse of freedom leads to pain and suffering
      • Redemptive suffering - offering sufferings to Christ as a redeemer of sins
    Summary :Humans consider the presence of suffering and pain on earth, and its purpose. Religions answer this question by detailing the nature of God, human existence and the nature of humanity.
    Is there Life after DeathStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • What does the question of is there life after death entail?
    • How do religions provide an answer to this question?

    Notes:

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    • Death - the ending of human existence. The origins of death, what happens to life after death and rituals concerning death are all present within religions
    • Death is considered to be a pattern of human existence across many religions. This is demonstrated through concepts such as resurrection and reincarnation, which detail the pattern's repetition and continuation
    • Religion aims to provide a deeper meaning of life to adherents by helping them comprehend the mystery of their existence and what happens when they die
    • EG - CHRISTIANITY - after death, human souls go to either heaven or hell, depending on their actions whilst on Earth (Matthew 25:31-46 - Parable of Sheep and Goats "he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.")
    Summary :Humans consider what happens to them after their die, tying in with the question of 'what is my purpose in life'. Religions often encompass the belief in the afterlife or what happens as a result of their actions whilst on Earth.
    Religion, Human Morality and Society & CultureStudents learn to appreciate the contribution of religion to individuals, society and culture
    Key Questions:

    • How does religion influence society and its cultural beliefs?
    Notes:

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    • Religion can form basis of laws and common societal practises, through the ethical guidance they provide. They can underpin justice, society and law frameworks
    • Each religion typically has their own moral precept, central to all religious teachings and ethics
      • Christianity - 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'
      • Judaism - 'what is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man'
      • Other religions have similar teachings, which are central to their dogma
    • Religion is an everchanging force, and therefore provides a mechanism for change within society. Dynamic religions often influence society due to their wide-spread nature in areas of culture, food and dress.
    Summary :Religions form the basic understanding of society through formulating ethical and moral systems for humans. The moral precepts that guide religions can often be seen in actions of our world and elements of religion can be seen in law, government and justice systems. Religion can also be used as a catalyst for change, due to their dynamic and widespread nature.
    OverviewRecognise the importance of the Dreaming for the life of Aboriginal peoples
    Key Questions:

    • What is Aboriginal spirituality?
    • What does metatemporal mean?
    • What is the role of the Dreaming?
    • What is the nature of the Dreaming?
    Notes:

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    • Aboriginal spirituality is based on the Dreaming; the centre of Aboriginal life and religion. It details spiritual beliefs of creation and existence
    • The Dreaming is metatemporal - the past, present and future are all intertwined and come together to form the complete, present reality.
      • The Aboriginal people are shaped by their past, present and future
    • The Dreaming concerns all understanding and determines relationships and responsibilities within the Aboriginal clans
    • The Dreaming is not a god, but rather a way of being that is inextricably linked to the land
      • Immanent worldview, as it is part of the land which exists in parallel with the Aboriginal people
    Summary :The Dreaming is a truly immanent concept that influences Aboriginal life in all aspects, through the concept of kinship and relationships. It is a metatemporal concept, meaning aspects of the past, present and future combine to form what is known as reality today.
    Nature of the DreamingOutline the nature of the Dreaming in relation to the origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the Dreaming, symbolism and art
    Key Questions:

    • What is the nature of the Dreaming?
    • How does the Dreaming influence the beliefs of Aboriginal people?
    • What is the importance of the Dreaming?
    Notes:

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    • An eternal connection between ancestral spirits and the Aboriginal people, detailed through song, stories, art and ceremonies

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      • Details the journal of ancestral beings and the connection they hold with the Aboriginal people

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        The Dreaming. Source: aboriginalart.com

    Summary :The Dreaming serves as a connection between the Ancestral spirits and the Aboriginal people, communicated in an oral form. As such, the Dreaming justifies existence and provides guidance to adherents on every aspect of their life.
    Origins of the UniverseOutline the nature of the Dreaming in relation to the origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the Dreaming, symbolism and art
    Key Questions:

    • How does the Dreaming relate to the origins of the universe?
    Notes:

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    • Dreaming explains how the world came to be - through the ancestral beings. There is no, one universal creation story - every tribe has their own version of creation
    • It is believed the universe already existed, and ancestral spirits began transforming it to create world order.
    • The Dreaming and creation stories explain why things are the way they are, the way in which people should behave and the proceedings of sacred rituals
    Summary :The Dreaming explains the creation of the world by the Ancestral Spirits, explaining why things are made the way they are the acceptable behaviour of humans.
    Sacred Sites and StoriesOutline the nature of the Dreaming in relation to the origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the Dreaming, symbolism and art
    Key Questions:

    • What is the significance of sacred sites?
    • Why are some pieces of land considered Sacred?
    • What is an example of an Aboriginal sacred site?
    • What is the relationship between the Dreaming and the lore?
    Notes:

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    • All land is sacred to Aboriginal people, however, particular sites hold greater significance to them than others
      • These are called sacred sites - often places where importance events happened or where ancestral beings reside
    • Rituals take place on these sacred sites, as they are believed to be places of sanctity for all Aboriginal people
    • Different Aboriginal groups have different sacred sites, as each site corresponds with an event or happening that occurs during the Dreaming
    • EG - ULURU - Uluru is one of the most famous Aboriginal sacred sites, however, Australian people do not always respect it
      • In a gesture of respect to Aboriginal elders, Uluru will no longer be able to be climbed as of October. However, many people wish for it to remain open for profit
      • Aboriginal leaders, too, are often divided - some are supported financially by tourists and have interests in keeping the rock open. However, respect should be shown to traditional Aboriginal beliefs
    • Dreaming stories, whilst detailing creation, also function as the law (lore) of a particular tribe. They can also formulate an ethical system which is obeyed by all members of a particular tribe
    Summary :Whilst all land is sacred to Aboriginal people, places where Ancestral beings reside or places of rituals are especially important and are given the name 'sacred site'. An example of one such site is Uluru. The Dreaming stories provide 'law' for the Aboriginal people - an ethical system obeyed by all people.
    KinshipOutline the nature of the Dreaming in relation to the origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the Dreaming, symbolism and art
    Key Questions:

    • What is kinship?
    • What is the purpose of kinship?
    • What actions are governed by kinship?
    • How is kinship determined?
    Notes:

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    • Refers to the system of belonging and relationships within a clan. These relationships detail responsibilities, which form a network of reciprocal obligations
      • Kinship is not only within the family - it is extended to those part of an Aboriginal person's totem as well
    • Kinship ties inform the life of Aboriginal people - it stems from the dreaming, meaning it is to be obeyed, and formulates code of conduct, behaviour and pattern of life
    • Kinship relationships also include the responsibility of passing knowledge down from elder to the younger generation in order to keep all informed of traditional beliefs
    • Transmitting knowledge down from generation to generation allows custodianship of the land, sacred sites and relationships to remain active
    Summary :Kinship is shaped by the Dreaming and is a central concept to all Aboriginal people. It dictates a network of reciprocal obligations, inclusive of treatment of land, behaviour and the transmitting of the Dreaming from elder to child. Therefore, kinship dictates all aspects of Aboriginal life and ensures that the spirituality remains alive and refreshed.
    Symbolism, Art and DiversityOutline the nature of the Dreaming in relation to the origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the Dreaming, symbolism and art and discuss the diversity of the Dreaming for Aboriginal people
    Key Questions:

    • How is the Dreaming conveyed?
    • What is the significance of symbolism and art to the Aboriginal people?
    • What is meant by 'country' and 'mother'?
    Notes:

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    • Aboriginal art and symbolism is a common way of informing people of the relationships between the people and the law, values, customs, ceremonies and obligations
    • The stories told through symbolism and art are universal for all Aboriginal people - words and education are not needed to understand the rich heritage
    • The music, art, dance and symbolism allows Dreaming and folklore stories to be passed down from elder to the younger generation
    • The passing down of stories is an oral action - one conveyed through symbolism, art and music.
    • The passing down of this knowledge is not written and this is a key part of the spirituality, passing knowledge regarding country and natural origins
    • Each tribe has their own Dreaming story associated with their area or country - each story is unique and told in a special way
      • Country - the area in which an Aboriginal person belongs to
      • Mother - the land of Australia
    Summary :The Dreaming is largely an oral tradition - it is communicated across generations through employing the use of symbolism and art. Mediums for conveyance include song, poetry, dance and art. Aboriginal people often use the words mother and country to describe the land, with the latter referring to their local area.
    Inextricable Connection of the Land, Identity and DreamingInvestigate the inextricable connection of the Dreaming, the land and identity
    Key Questions:

    • What is the meaning of inextricable?
    • What is the significance of the land?
    • What is the significance of the Dreaming?
    • How do the land and Dreaming shape Aboriginal identity?
    Notes:

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    • The Aboriginal people share a connection with the land that can never be broken, as it connects them to the spirits who dwell within it
    • The land is a physical medium through which the Dreaming is communicated, creating an inextricable connection between the Dreaming and the land
    • Aboriginal people believe that the land is intimately associated with spiritual beliefs and their conveyance
      • The land is 'impregnated with the power of ancestor spirits'
    • The dreaming performs the following functions for Aboriginal people: how to make things, how to operate love music, a passport to the land, lives of ancestors, why the land looks like it does, ethical behaviour, rituals, food gathering and preparation, why the people exist and tribal responsibilities
    • Aboriginal people have a way of life that is inclusive of all things - they are part of one, big family which includes the land itself
    • No life is older than the land - therefore, the land should be treated with love and respect, as anyone would treat their family
    • The carers of the family must look after the land. Everyone is part of the same family, so no one is ever lonely
    Summary :The land, identity and Dreaming are inextricable - the land is a physical medium through which the Dreaming is conveyed and house ancestral spirits. Further, the Dreaming influences kinship, providing the Aboriginal people with a sense of identity. Much emphasis is placed on the land, with Aboriginal people believing it to be part of a large family and they have custodianship over it.
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