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Matthew Olson
Dr. Catron
World Religions
30 April 2014
What is religion?
Religion is the field that seeks ultiate !ruth. "t dares to ask and answer the e#istential
$uestion% Why? Wh& do we e#ist' What are we here for'
"ne(ita)l&* this eans that religion ser(es as the priar& atri# in whi+h to think. Religion is
the filter to the water that is life* purging it of +ontainants and deli(ering it in its purest for. "n
Christianit&* this realit& of the Chur+h is hinted at )& John 16:13% the ,ol& -pirit leads ,er into
all !ruth. Religion is* then* a s+ien+e* in that it is .a s&steati+all& organi/ed )od& of
knowledge0 and it seeks to anal&/e and stud&.
Meanwhile* s+ien+e* as odernl& defined* fails in its ultiate la+k of o)1e+ti(it&. -+ien+e
2here* eaning the su of the lesser s+ien+es3 +an )e helpful in +odif&ing what religion has
alread& re(ealed* )ut it is perpetuall& stu+k in su)1e+ti(it& and sha+kled )& radi+al ideologies.
Does not religion ha(e this sae pro)le* though' "n soe +ases* sure* )ut not ne+essaril& in all
4 and onl& if the religion is false. Religion proposes things as infalli)le5 s+ien+e offers ideas as
pro)a)le. Religion* if trul& the o)1e+t of di(ine re(elation* ust alwa&s )e right. -+ien+e* e(en
though it +an )e +orre+t* +an also $ui+kl& )a+ktra+k into error* )e+ause it has no an+hor. !rue
religion* therefore* is superior to all of the lesser s+ien+es.
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As su+h* like -t. 6eter7s 8ist 2a Catholi+ )log3 sa&s* .!heolog& 4 ore spe+ifi+all& the -a+red
Do+trine of the Catholi+ Chur+h 4 is the ar+hite+toni+ stud& that is ost properl& wisdo*
)e+ause the 7knowledge of di(ine things7 sheds light on the appropriate order of all other things.
9ow* let us )e +lear. :od is not onl& known through his self;re(elation in <esus Christ and in
-+ripture* )ut also in the iprint of the Creator upon Creation. ,en+e* the Catholi+ Chur+h finds
herself guarding and elu+idating )oth -a+red -+ripture and 9ature.0
Religion is +harged with using its uni$ue insight in order to )etter the world. !he Chur+h* of
+ourse* has done this.
9ow* would " +hara+teri/e &self as de(out' Well* one of the -e(en =irtues is humility.
Would a trul& hu)le person )rag of their supposed huilit&' " think not. !herefore* " a (er&
relu+tant to answer with a spe+ifi+ .&es0 or .no0. ,owe(er* " +an offer that " )elie(e in the
re$uireents of the religion that " espouse.
Wh&' "n our (er& old;Roan* (er& anti;Christian age of oral relati(is* insta)ilit&* and
self;gratifi+ation* " found &self alone and ept& after a s+arring e#perien+e. -o* " sought the
+ounsel of philosoph& and histor& 4 surel&* en had answered & $uestions )efore> 4 and " was*
after seeingl& endless struggles with &self and others* finall& +oforted )& Catholi+is
alone. !he Chur+h )e+ae (indi+ated in & heart. ?or ,er )eaut& and intelle+t and +ourage* "
will )e fore(er grateful.
M& o(erar+hing point is this% that religion is wonderful* and it suari/es the epitoe* the
crme de la crme* of thought.
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Identify and summarize the teachings of two Hindu yogis. What was their impact?
6araahansa @ogananda 2)orn Mukunda 8al :hosh3* fro e(en his &outh* was seen as
rearka)le. As he aged and tra(eled* he wrote and le+tured ore and ore* attra+ting a +ult
following of .noral0 people* other &ogis* and +ele)rities.
@ogananda started a foration s+hool for &oung )o&s* wanting to instill his orals into future
generations. ,e taught an alleged unit& )etween <esus Christ and Ahaga(an Brishna 2the ,indu
)eing of war3* too* seeking to proote inter;religious dialogue. And* dou)ling down on +lassi+al
,induis* he insisted that suffering is rooted in ha(ing a isunderstanding of and o(er;ephasis
on the self* rather than the e#ternal* or the one :od. ,e said* .@ou are walking on the earth as in
a drea. Our world is a drea within a drea5 &ou ust reali/e that to find :od is the onl& goal*
the onl& purpose* for whi+h &ou are here. ?or ,i alone &ou e#ist. ,i &ou ust find.0
!he an had a powerful ipa+t. ,is .-elf;Reali/ation ?ellowship0 is o(er hundreds of
teples and has trained an& &ogis in his theolog&. ,is Autobiography of a Yogi* eanwhile*
la&s out Castern theolog& in an a++essi)le fashion.
When he died of heart failure in 1DE2* he was greatl& honored )& his followers* who said that
he had entered mahasamadhi 2+ons+ious lea(ing of the )od& upon enlightenent3. "t is
soeties +laied )& the that @ogananda7s +orpse is in+orrupti)le 4 like the )odies of soe
Catholi+ saints 4 )ut this does not appear to )e the +ase. -till* that should not detra+t fro the
fa+t that he was of an interesting +hara+ter.
Maharishi Mahesh @ogi 2)orn Mahesh 6rasad =ara3 was .the guru to the Aeatles0 and +ae
fro an upper;+aste fail&* )ut at his +ore* " hope* he felt like 1ust another &ogi.
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!he Maharishi was an interesting gu&. ,e de(eloped .trans+endental editation0 and
heralded it into assi(e popularit&. Additionall&* he founded the 9atural 8aw 6art& and fielded
+andidates for politi+al offi+e throughout the world.
,is ipa+t* though likel& lesser than that of @ogananda* was great. ,induis will fore(er feel
the effe+ts of his editation te+hni$ue* due to assi(e s+holarl& and pu)li+ interest in it. !oda&*
his organi/ation is worth at least hundreds of illions 2if not )illions3 of dollars. !hough plagued
)& a++usations of rape and finan+ial fraud* his eor& has &et persisted in the +ons+ious of )oth
his parti+ular followers and all of odern ,induis.
What do " think of this' Well* there is insight to )e found in Castern theolog&* as noted )&
Catholi+ author Wa&ne !easdale in A Monk in the World. "n fa+t* " ight 1ust look o(er
@oganandaFs )ook.
Identify practices of modern uddhist worship. What might the uddha thin! of them?
Auddhist worship takes an& fors. "t has e(ol(ed +onsidera)l& o(er tie* alost
+opletel& apart fro the Auddha7s tea+hings.
!he worship of the an& bodhisattvas 2.enlightened )eings03 has plagued and is ke& to the
religion. =a1ra&ana Auddhis* espe+iall&* has an enorous pantheon of these deities* whi+h are
honored )& s&)oli+ o(eents in mandalas 2sa+red ar+hite+ture3.
!ied into that* offering flowers* in+ense* et+.* around sa+red iages and representations 2murti
or thangka3 is also +oon toda&. !his ight* at first* see to )e a waste and in +ontradi+tion of
the Auddhist prin+iple of deta+hent* )ut " think that the pra+ti+e is defensi)le. 9o one
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+oplains when one lea(es ites at the )urial site of a lo(ed one 4 what* of real su)stan+e*
differentiates that so greatl& fro well;intentioned offerings' Definitel&* there is nothing wrong
with (eneration of or respe+t for great people or things.
!he +ir+ua)ulating 2+ir+ling around3 of the stupas* in the eantie* has an& adherents
within Auddhis. 2Stupas are sites of editation that +ontain Auddhist reli+s andGor are solel&
dedi+ated to +oeorating Auddhist saints.3 !his pra+ti+e has pre+eden+e in Christianit&* too%
in Catholi+is* priests soeties +ir+le around altars while in+ensing the with a thuri)le* and
re(ered reli+s o++asionall& re+ei(e siilar treatent. While su+h a+ts ight see odd to outside
o)ser(ers* it helps to think of the as outward e#pressions of +entering the self around the
Di(ine.
One pra+ti+e that " ha(e personall& o)ser(ed in !hera(ada Auddhis is that of the golden
pra&er lea(es. !hroughout the &ear* pra+titioners 2t&pi+all&* after aking a onetar& donation3
write their desires onto these etalli+ lea(es and pla+e the on a ritual tree. On+e an& lea(es
are gathered together* the& are sent off to (ar&ing fa+ilities and in+orporated into the outerost
la&ers of Auddhist statues. !hus* in powerful s&)olis* their pra&ers are fused dire+tl& into
their +on+ept of di(init&.
!he ter .puja0 en+opasses all of these fors of Auddhist worship. Also +o(ered )& the
ter is the eseri/ing Pali +hant* ritual )owing* and so on.
Whether or not -iddhartha :autaa 2.the Auddha03 would wholeheartedl& appro(e of these
pra+ti+es ust alwa&s )e unknown* for +lear reasons. Aut one +an spe+ulate that he would take
great pleasure 2wait* is he allowed to ha(e that'3 in the fa+t that his general tea+hings ha(e so
an& de(otees.
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"ontrast "onfucianism and #aoism. Which might $e $etter?
Confu+ianis was de(ised )& Confu+ius 2.Master Bong03* its o)(ious naesake* during the
period of EE1;4ID A.C. !his religion andates a +on+ern for +ounit& and deands fidelit& to
the -tate. "t tea+hes along the following% .!he superior an* when resting in safet&* does not
forget that danger a& +oe. When in a state of se+urit& he does not forget the possi)ilit& of
ruin. When all is orderl&* he does not forget that disorder a& +oe. !hus his person is not
endangered* and his -tates and all their +lans are preser(ed.0
!aois* +reated )& the &sterious .8ao/i0 soetie during E00;300 A.C.* tea+hes that
ultiate power is found through nature% essentiall&* it7s a kind of pseudo;paganis. !he +entral
s+riptures ake up the aodejing 2.!he -+ripture of the Wa&03. !he ideal follower is the
new)orn )a)&* seen as un+orrupted )& the +orrupt world. "t* like Christianit&* tea+hes that we are
ade up of three things% jing 2ph&si+al .essen+e03* !i 2.life for+e*0 or soul3* and shen 2.spirit03.
Rituall&* di(ination and +orporal ortifi+ation are present in !aois* while Confu+ianis
downpla&s &sti+is to a ere footnote and tries its )est to sta& in the sipli+it& of ere
philosoph&. Aoth* though* aintain +on+epts of sa+rifi+e% !aois does so in a ore spiritual
sense* and Confu+ianis does so in a ore ethi+al sense.
6oliti+all&* Confu+ianis fa(ors strong 2ideall&* )ene(olent3 go(ernent and !aois fa(ors
anar+his and a laisse"#faire st&le. Confu+ianis* histori+all&* has )een the doinant religion in
Chinese politi+s 4 perfe+t for Mao* " would sa&>
Whi+h do " find prefera)le' Aoth* of +ourse* ha(e their flaws* )ut " +annot )ring &self to
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either. Confu+ianis tugs at & inner fas+ist* and !aois appeals to an innate selfishness* )ut
)oth are untena)le.
Confu+ianis is 1ust too deanding. As soeone who sees faith as aking up the -tate*
rather than as under or inferior to it* it would )e ipossi)le for e to gi(e lo&alt& to
deonstra)l& falli)le go(ernent. Jnder that religion* " would likel& )e for+ed to (iolate &
whole world(iew.
And Mi+hael :reghorn sa&s of the latter* .!hus* e(en though the ter !ao is used of Christ in
the Chinese translation of <ohn7s :ospel* we should not infer that !aois and Christianit& are
reall& a)out the sae thing. !he& are not. Christianit& pro+lais a personal Creator who is
orall& outraged )& an7s sinfulness and will one da& 1udge the world in righteousness
2%omans 1:1&'(:63. !aois pro+lais an ipersonal +reati(e prin+iple whi+h akes no oral
distin+tion )etween right and wrong and whi+h 1udges no one.0 -o* !aois is out.
" suppose that* if for+ed to +hoose* " would settle for the saner Confu+ianis.
Islam
M& (iew of $slam has +hanged little o(er & tie of stud&.
!he Ara)ian religion is :od;+entered and has rules on oralit&* surel&* )ut there are
pro)les. $slam is steeped in (iolen+e and it dreas of +on$uering the world* +laiing a .right0
to +ontrol territories like .the +it& of ,ir$il0 2Constantinople3 and .%omiyya0 2Roe3.
And sharia law* while )enefi+ial at first in unif&ing and soewhat +i(ili/ing the an& pagan
tri)es of the Middle Cast* is now a hindran+e to huanit&* a ena+e to ankind. Sharia /ones in
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Aritain* for e#aple* ha(e alread& set up stri+t* unlawful )ans against al+ohol* ga)ling* drugs*
usi+* and soking. @et* the go(ernent there has pro(en either unwilling or una)le to stop
the. !opping that off* "slai+ law is rapidl& )eing re+ogni/ed in Aritish 1urispruden+e. " ask
desperatel&% will su+h e(er end'
9ow* we ha(e jihad al#nikah 2inspired )& sura )* ayat ()* sura 33* ayat +,* and ore3 4 .se#
jihad0 4 under whi+h woen are for+ed to parti+ipate in jihad )& sa+rifi+ing their )odies to the
lusts of the "slai+ ilitant. !he pra+ti+e is egged;on )& proinent ias and +an )e found in
the idst of e(er& jihad war /one of at least the last 20 &ears. !unisia7s 2Musli3 "nterior
Minister sa&s of these a)used woen* .!he& ha(e se#ual relations with 20* 30* 100 ilitants and
the& +oe )a+k )earing the fruits of se#ual +onta+t Lpregnan+&M in the nae of se# jihad.0 !his is
insanit&>
!here are also* " ust adit* things that )ond $slam to & thought* though.
" think that Catholi+s and Muslis +an +onne+t a lot on Marian theolog&. We agree on her
(irginit& 2sura 3* ayat )-5 sura 1.* ayat (,3* and we also appear to agree on her sinlessness
2sura 3* ayat 365 sura 3* ayat )(3. -he was .+hosen0 and .purified0 )& :od* a++ording to the
Nur7an. 2"f onl& 6rotestants would understand all of this>3 Jnfortunatel&* the Nur7an
isrepresents her pla+e in our theolog&* sa&ing that we )elie(e her to )e a e)er of the !rinit&
2sura +* ayat 1163>
"n addition to that* Catholi+s and Muslis agree signifi+antl& on ortal 2serious3 (s. (enial
2less serious3 sin. !he Ai)le professes that .there is a sin that is not ortal0 21 John +:1-3. !he
Nur7an +on+urs* sa&ing that we are forgi(en and +leansed of (enial sin as long as we sta& awa&
fro ortal sin 2sura +3* ayats 31/3(3. " agree +opletel&>
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With all of this in ind* "sla should +ertainl& )e studied* )ut " )elie(e with e$ual +ertaint&
that it should not )e adired.
What religion is most world/accommodating?
Catholi+is 2)& this* " ean* Christianit& in its truest and uni(ersal for3 is the ost
a++oodating religion 4 )& far* in fa+t.
!he depth and si/e of the Chur+h* as well as its ipa+ts on +ulture* for+e an& serious student
to step )a+k and pa& at least a )it of attention.
6erhaps ost would agree that the Chur+h was 1ustified in ,er strong opposition to the
paganis of old Roe. -he firl& protested the +ries of 9ero and widespread a)orti(e and
+ontra+epti(e pra+ti+es like .e#posure0 2infants )eing left to the eleents and .e#posed0 to die3.
During the Middle Ages* +ontinuing in this )ene(olent (ein* the Chur+h )rought a)out
in+reased litera+& rates* and -he +onsistentl& prooted the arts. And* far fro hiding it* -he
ade the Ai)le 4 the ost popular )ook in histor& 4 ore a++essi)le* painstakingl& hand;writing
+opies into (erna+ular languages. !hose Ages do not e#a+tl& sound .Dark0 to e.
During the Renaissan+e* knowledge was spread to the .9ew World0 and the s+ien+es were
deepened. "n addition* " find it ne+essar& to point out that the Chur+h ne(er .sold sal(ation0* like
-he is a++used of doing in this period. !he 6rotestant understanding on this usuall& relies on the
assault of +hara+ters% people like <ohann !et/el are rightfull& deoni/ed for a)using the s&ste
of indulgen+es. Aut this a)use was not a do+trinal pro)le of the Chur+h5 rather* it was a
dis+iplinar& pro)le of en. "ndulgen+es sipl& reo(e the teporal punishent due for past
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sin O the& are not a .:et out of ,ell free0 +ard O and e(en when the& were .sold0 2as in*
(oluntar& donations were re+ei(ed3 the& re$uired soe sort of penan+e. "ndulgen+es onl& ha(e a
sal(ator& effe+ti(eness 2reittan+e of tie in 6urgator&3 if the re+ipient is alread& destined for
,ea(en. -o* it would see that the fuss is all a)out nothing.
Man& of this Aod&7s good deeds go unentioned and unnoti+ed% 6ope -t. 8eo " 2the :reat3
+on(in+ed Attila the ,un to spare Roe* 6ope "nno+ent """ ordered against the in(asion of
Constantinople )& the troops of the $ui+kl&;e#+ouni+ated ?ourth Crusade* 6ope Ale#ander
"= +ountered silliness )& for)idding trials against supposed .wit+h+raft0* 6ope -i#tus "= outright
+ondened the e#+esses of the -panish "n$uisition* 6ope Ale#ander =" warl& in(ited and ade
arrangeents for the <ewish (i+tis of that "n$uisition into Roe 2and sa(ed the +it& fro Bing
Charles =""">3* 6ope 6ius "P oderni/ed and refored the 6apal -tates 2)efore he was
o(erthrown )& the "talian re(olutionaries3* et+.
And* +ontra; the inherent anti;intelle+tualis in 6rotestantis* the Chur+h 4 fore(er
independent* atronl&* and alost .a)o(e;it;all0 4 in(ented the s+ientifi+ ethod* laun+hed the
uni(ersit& s&ste* esta)lished reasona)le legal s&stes* and stood as a shining )ulwark against
unfounded superstition.
All should seek to in+rease the powers and 1urisdi+tion of this e#traordinar& "nstitution to the
fullest +apa+it&* )e+ause all should re+ogni/e the ipa+t that -he has had and +an ha(e on the
world. Do+uents like &umanae 'itae and (vangelium 'itae urge respe+t for the san+tit& of life*
%erum )ovarum and *uadragesimo Anno offer e+onoi+ prin+iples rooted in solid orals* and
so on. "f onl& we would follow the path that the Chur+h has set forth>
!ie and tie again* the Chur+h* the Mater et Magistra 2Mother and !ea+her3* has shown
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,erself to )e $uite a++oodating. More than an& other entit&* -he has stood up for all of
ankind.