Essay on Basic Components of Religion – Though religion is a universal phenomenon it is understood differently by different people. On religion, opinions differ from the great religious leader down to an ordinary man. There is no consensus about the nature of religion.
Sociologists are yet to find a satisfactory explanation of religion. Writers have defined religion in various ways. A few definitions may be mentioned here.
1. Durkheim in his book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life defines religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden.”
2. James G. Frazer, in his The Golden Bough considered religion a belief in “powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life.”
3. Edward Sapir, an American anthropologist, says that “the essence of religion consists in man’s never-ceasing attempt to discover a road to spiritual serenity across the perplexities and dangers of daily life”.
4. MacIver and Page have defined, “Religion as we understand the term, implies a relationship not merely between man and man but also between man and some higher power.”
5. According to Ogburn, “Religion is an attitude towards superhuman powers.”
6. Max Muller defines religion as “a mental faculty or disposition which enables man to apprehend the infinite”.
7. Thomas F. O’Dea, a functional theorist, defines religion as “the manipulation of non-empirical or supra-empirical means for non-empirical or supra-empirical ends”. He further adds, “Religion offers what is felt to be a way of entering into a relationship with the supra-empirical aspects of reality, be they conceived as God, gods, or otherwise”.
Basic Components of Religion
(i) Ffefiefin Supernatural Forces:
Religion is a matter of belief ft is a belief in supernatural or superhuman forces. Some people believe in several kinds of forces and accordingly worship them all. They are called polytheists. Some others believe in only one force, or the God or the Almighty. He is formless and shapeless. They consider Him omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. They worship Him in different ways. They are called monotheists.
(ii) Man’s Adjustment with the Supernatural Forces:
Man believes that he is at the mercy of the supernatural forces. He expresses his subordination to them by means of prayers, hymns, and other acts. Worship is the essence of religion. Man believes that his disrespect to and negligence of them would bring him disaster. He is, hence, engaged in endless endeavour to adjust himself with the divinity or the supernatural. His adjustment is one sided.
(iii) Acts, Defined as Righteous and Sinful or Sacred and the Profane;
Religion considers some acts as righteous and sacred and encourages such acts. It regards some other acts as sinful and profane and denounces such acts. Behaving in accordance with the religious code or standards is righteous; going against them is sinful.
The good or the righteous acts are believed to bring man good results, while the sinful acts result in disaster. As Durkheim says, a distinction between the sacred and the profane is made in all the societies. The conceptions of heaven and hell are woven around the righteous and the sinful acts.
(iv) Some Methods of Salvation:
Every religion has its own explanation regarding salvation. It is regarded as ultimate aim of a devotee. The Buddhists called it Nirvana, a process of becoming one with the God.
The Hindus termed Mukti or Moksha-release from the chain of birth and death. They have prescribed four paths for its attainment-the Yoga Marga, the Jnana Marga, the Bhakti Marga and the Karma Marga.