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The Nature of Religion

Define the supernatural dimension

DEFINITION: Belief in a divine being or power greater than humankind and the natural world.
Different religions have their own unique responses to the question of the exact nature of the
supernatural dimension.
The Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe that the supernatural dimension is a
single divine being or power. This doctrine or belief is known as monotheism.
The two Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, derive from an understanding of a number of
divine beings or powers, a belief known as polytheism.

Discuss a transcendent religious worldview which has a belief in a divine power and/or powers
beyond the human

A transcendent worldview is one which has a belief in a divine power or powers beyond the

The three Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam emphasise the idea of God being
revealed to humankind from beyond the human spirit.

For example, Muslims believe that the will of Allah has been revealed to the Prophet Mohammed
and is contained in the writings of the Koran. This is a transcendent worldview because the divine
being is seen to be separate and outside of the human and revealed to humankind through an

Discuss an immanent religious worldview which has a belief in a divine being or powers dwelling
within the individual

An immanent worldview holds the belief that supernatural powers or divine beings dwell within the
For the two Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, the emphasis is on the finding of truth from
within the human spirit.
For example Buddhists follow the Eightfold Path prescribed by the Buddha in order to reach
Enlightenment. This is an immanent religious worldview because the divine power is believed to be
found within the human and awaits discovery through following the prescribed path.

Define the characteristics of religion (beliefs, believers, sacred texts and writings, ethics and
rituals and ceremonies)
Beliefs and believers:

It is the belief in a deity or in a power beyond the individual that often defines a religion. A religion
may have the belief of one God (monotheistic), more than one God (polytheistic), spirits, angels
demons, ancestors (Aboriginals in particular) and many other beliefs. Beliefs are often about how
earth and humans came into being and there purpose of life and about the relationship that us as
humans share with the world and higher beings, which depends on whether the religion has a
transcendence or immanent view.

Sacred texts and writings

Essential in establishing a religion

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary


These texts are believed to have been written by the deity or one that was inspired by the deity of
that religion, hence why it is considered to be sacred.
Three main types of sacred stories are; myths, about the creation of the universe, Legends about
sacred and important figures and Parables that have layers of meaning that we try to base our
lives upon its teachings.


Are the codes that followers of that religion live by and conduct what is morally correct in society
hence, which is why it changes with every religion.
These morals are often originated from sacred texts, ancestors and so on.
Rituals are ceremonies that have significant religious meaning to a religious belief. They are
events that are often recurring and are a prescribed pattern of religious conducts.

Explore the ways in which these characteristics (beliefs, believers, sacred texts and writings,
ethics and rituals and ceremonies) interact to create a dynamic, living religion

Dynamic Religion is one with energy, ambition, new ideas and practical achievements. It also
needs to be able to evolve to the social norms of the time, constantly refreshing itself. A living
religion is one that is practical and immersed in everyday human existence.
Religions need to constantly adapt their believers and beliefs, sacred texts and writings, ethics,
rituals and ceremonies to the modern day. When all these characteristics are interacting creatively,
they nurture a dynamic, living religion with remains relevant in the social and cultural landscape.

Appreciate the contribution of religion to: individuals and society and culture

Religion enters the minds and hearts of the individual, giving them moral guidelines to live their
everyday life while giving them an ultimate purpose in life, beyond the material to the spiritual and

Society and Culture

Religion influences the society in which it actively engages with. The characteristics of religions
also influence the morals and ethics behind law.
Historically, religion has contributed to art, literature, language and food.

Australian Aboriginal Beliefs and Spiritualties- The Dreaming

Out the nature of the Breaming in relation to: origins of the universe, sacred sites, stories of the
Dreaming and symbolism and art.
Origins of the universe
There is no sense of a creator or creation, the Ancestral Beings travelled and created the plants,
animals and then they became the landforms and sacred sites. There is no issue over whether
there was a great creator of the Ancestors but rather that they all simply existed.
Sacred sites
Sacred sites are the places or land features that are believed had been or had been visited by the
Ancestral Beings. The Dreaming tells of the Ancestral Beings wandering the land, adding to and
changing it, giving birth to sacred sites
These land features include waterholes, rivers or seas, rock formations, caves and most of the
land. Every landmark in the environment has a story from the dreaming attached to it.

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary


Stories of the Dreaming

These recall the journeys of the Ancestral Beings and their interaction with people and their giving
of land to certain tribes.
Storytelling to the aboriginals is at the heart the dreaming.
They use storytelling for all sorts of uses, such as educating children about all the ancestral beings
and the supernatural world.
They tell stories of how the earth and the land came into shape, how to behave and all the laws of
the dreaming.
Symbolism and art
Art and ritual tell stories and preserve the sacred laws handed down. The art of the ceremonies
does not usually last past the ceremony itself but it reminds the people of the way the Ancestors
shaped the environment, laid down the law, land and responsibilities which the aboriginal people
must live out.
The layers of meaning within the dreaming are full of mythological symbolism; the stories of the
dreaming contain deeper meaning to those who are well versed with the land, the people and the
Discuss the diversity of the Dreaming for Aboriginal peoples

Whilst all Aboriginal people have a core understanding of the Dreaming as a source of spiritual and
temporal identity, it is represented and celebrated differently between groups and peoples. (Over
900 aboriginal nations).
The Dreaming is manifested in songs, sacred sites, traditional paintings and particularly rituals.
The Dreaming is fully re-created in the present time and space
Each area has a particular plant/ animal which is a totem for that group of Aboriginal people.
Because of this, the people have a kinship with that spirit and are the spiritual 'owners' of that area
of land. The people are responsible for that area of land and, along with their kinship with the
ancestral spirit, their identity is formed.
Therefore, diverse from geographical locations, differing dialects, interpretations in art, song, ritual,
different totems and emphasis on different spirits or aspects of the Dreaming.
Example: Kangal people have the barramundi as their totem whilst the Bangariny have the brown
Recognise the importance of the Dreaming for the life of Aboriginal peoples

In Aboriginal spirituality, the supernatural and the natural are not separate but integrated in
everyday existence. Therefore, the deepest and highest reality and meaning is already fulfilled in
normal life through an affirmation of the dreaming. It is the dreaming that provides this value and
purpose in life.
Important in accepting the wholeness of life and creation. The Dreaming is vital to understanding
creation, suffering and life and celebrating this reality e.g. allows reverence and respect for death.
Leads to a reverence for life.
The Dreaming is life, in all its aspects. Therefore, the Dreaming is not separate or distinct from
daily living. Its importance lies in its nature in encompassing every part of reality. There is nothing
more or beyond the Dreaming.
Acknowledging and celebrating the Dreaming provides morals and laws. This in turn leads to the
preservation and enhancement of life. Creates responsibility.

Investigate the inextricable connection of the Dreaming, the land and identity

The formation of an Aboriginal persons identity is composed of four fundamental elements; their
belief system, spirituality, family and the land. Without any of these elements, Aboriginal life ceases
to exist.

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary


The dreaming is the central source of all understanding; it is believed to be the key link in forming
an Aboriginal identity. The Dreaming is present in all aspects of life, and therefore, all living things
are connected.
The land is considered a living entity. It is the physical link between reality and the spiritual world.
As Aboriginal people believe they form part of the land and the land forms part of them, the
relationship between humans and the environment is inextricable.
The identity of an Aboriginal person is formed through every aspect of the dreaming represented
through the land.
The Dreaming establishes the moral, social and psychological bond and interdependence between
humans (identity), ancestral beings (spirituality) and the natural environment (the land).

Outline the historical and cultural context in which Buddhism began

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Nepal around 560 BCE

He was very wealth and he grew up surrounded by the best that money could buy
Buddhism begins with Hinduism as it was a Hindu monastery that Gautama fled to when he first
rejected the wealth of his upbringing

Examine the principle event so the Buddhas life, including the enlightenment
Explain why the Buddha is the model of Buddhist life

Acts as a model of Buddhist life through guiding Buddhists on beliefs, actions and attitudes.
The key events in his life explain and demonstrate vital teachings and reveal the Buddhist outlook
and approach to life.
When Buddha first ventured from his palace home and experienced suffering (old, sick,
dead, poverty) he came to the realisation that nothing was permanent.
An understanding of impermanency (Dukkha) is vital in comprehending the cycle of
samsara and karma- the wheel of life where beings are in a constantly transient state (live,
die, reborn)
The ignorance of Siddartha prior to his exposure to suffering is reflective of humanitys
ignorance to the true nature of suffering. He actively sought to remove this suffering and
did so through discovering Nirvana.
His decision to leave home and forfeit his worldly pleasures including his riches and
comforts demonstrate the ability and need to prevent attachment. (attachment leads to
sufferingFour Noble Truths)
After leaving home at 29, he spends 6 years leading the life of an ascetic and undergoing
self mortification, he realises this is futile and does not lead to enlightenment.
. Aiding in understanding the third noble truth, Buddhas experience of enlightenment
affirms the ability to stop suffering and break free of the cycle of Samsara.
Buddha acts as role model to all Buddhists regardless of their level of severity. The teachings he
demonstrates are universal and may simply be adopted to varying degrees. E.g. giving up
attachments, whilst members of the Sangha take this to its furthest interpretation through living in
monasteries, giving up all personal possessions and only taking food that is offered by the
community, everyday Buddhists can also adopt these values, they avoid obsession and
dependence on material objects like wealth. In this way, Buddha acts as a model for all Buddhists.

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary


Describe the early formation for the Sangha within the first five years, including Mahapajapatis
request for a female Sangha
Identify the importance of the first two councils in the development of Buddhism
Outline the unique features of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.
Principle Beliefs:
Define the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Describe the significance of the Four Noble Truths
Examine the beliefs of Annica, Dukkha and Anatta
Recognise the connection between Karma and Samsara
Outline the importance of Nirvana in Buddhism
Sacred Texts and Writings
Identify the importance of: Tripitaka, Lotus of the Good Law and the Tibetan book of the Dead
Examine extracts from the Tripitaka, Lotus of the Good Law and the Tibetan book of the Dead
which demonstrate the principal beliefs of Buddhism
Core Ethical Teachings:
Outline the principal ethical teachings in Buddhism (The Five Precepts and the Vinaya)
Describe the importance of ethical teachings in the life of adherents (The Five Precepts and the
Personal Devotion in the Home
Outline puja as celebrate in the home.
Outline the life of Abraham

Abraham was the first of the three great patriarchs of the Jewish people, the father of Isaac and
the grandfather of Jacob
His original home was in the city of Ur on the Euphrates River where he lived with his wife Sarah
and the rest of the family
Abrahams family then moved to Harran due to the social disorder and war in Ur
When Abrahams father died, he became a nomadic wanderer in the land of Canaan
There was a famine so Abraham and his tribal group moved to Egypt where grain was more readily
available but God told Abraham to move back to Canaan where Abraham would build a great
Sarah conceived a child called Isaac and when Isaac was a young boy Abraham was told by God
to sacrifice him on a mountain
It was a test of Abrahams trust in God and when he complied, God repeated his promise to
Abrahams absolute faith in God was expressed in the Covenant and the words of the agreement
were accompanied by an external sign- the circumcision of all males belonging to Abrahams clan

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary


This rite is called the berit and is a sign that Abraham is both physical and spiritual ancestor of all
Jewish people.

Describe the Covenant with the Patriarchs, including the promises of the a People and a Land
Outline the story of the Exodus and the giving of the Law (Torah)at Sinai, including the Ten
Outline the unique features of Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism and Progressive
Principle Beliefs:
Discuss the belief in the one God and the attributes of God
Outline the concept of a divinely inspired moral law
Identify the importance of Covenant for the Jewish people
Sacred Texts and Writing
Identify the importance of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud
Examine extracts from the Hebrew Scripture which demonstrate the principal beliefs of Judaism
Core Ethical Teachings
Outline the principal ethical teachings of Judaism (LOOK AT SYLLABUS)
Describe the importance of ethical teaching sin the life of adherents
Describe the importance of Shabbat

Jananee Sundarakumar | Studies of Religion | Preliminary