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Summary of World Views about Church

Alan Murray's picture

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    Aren’t churches, mosques, temples etc irrelevant to real life?
    Aren’t worship and prayer out of date in the modern world?
    Do I need to go to church/mosque to follow my faith?
    Is church a building or group of people?
    Is community feeling a good thing?

The worldviews represented here recognise that human communities have always met together for worship and praise, teaching and discussion, prayer and contemplation.  Religious groups whether from the ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’ traditions have emphasised the transcendent aspect of such gathering, while non-religious groups have emphasised the ethical and human aspects.
Specific buildings (such as churches and mosques) or holy or special places, such as shrines or gathering places by a tree or water-source are also important in all traditions, often with shared use for religious activities and non-religious (such as discussion and decision-making).  Common Themes which emerged are:
    •    Group activity is important in all human communities
    •    All worldviews share the view that co-operation and empathy are essential virtues in all communities
    •    Modern life has generated new forms of community (eg single-interest groups, facebook groups, wonder groups) - both in and across traditional communities
    •    Communities are not the same as institutuions or buildings
    •    Communities may have bad aspects - keeping people out, excluding, not including, putting pressure on people to conform to bad ways
    •    These attitudes lead to socially divisive behaviour (eg class, caste, the ‘saved’), conflict and even war
    •    Communities often bring diverse groups together through shared activities (eg meals, meetings, sport/dance)

The Humanist contribution recognises that:
    •    Humans are basically social animals, and group activities are important
    •    Humanists extend social connections beyond the community to all races and nations
    •    The ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others as yourself enables co-operation for the common good
    •    Communities can be oppressive of those within who are ‘different’ or of outsiders
    •    This should be resisted

The Jewish contribution focuses on:
    •    A powerful sense of community has been essential to Jewish survival over the centuries
    •    Synagogues are essential to the community as well as for religious activities and social action
    •    Inward-looking, exclusive communities are less common in modern Judaism
    •    Most religious rituals can be performed at home and/or in the family
    •    In today’s society, people belong to a variety of different communities and groups based on interest, etc

The Muslim contribution points out that:
    •    The mosque is important as a place of community meeting as well as worship
    •    But daily rituals and prayers can be carried out anywhere
    •    The mosque masjid and congregation/community janni should be welcoming to all
    •    It should also be a centre for social action and pastoral care

The Sikh perspective gives priority to:
    •    The human body as the ‘temple’ where worship and prayer take place
    •    The Gurdwara is where the scriptures are kept and meetings take place for social as well as religious purposes
    •    the Gurdwara is also a place for eating - free food for the poor and old people

The Buddhist contribution looks at the link between the words:
    •    ‘temple’ and ‘contemplation’ - from the same root - and for the same purpose
    •    Groups can help many of us to focus our minds and support us
    •    Buildings, ie temples, can be helpful, but are not necessary for meditation and reflection
    •    Group pressure can also lead us away from the right path
    •    Your body can be a temple - through attention to the four ‘divine dwellings’:- loving kindness, compassion, joy for others, being balanced

The Christian contribution points out some advantages/disadvantages of congregations:
    •    Full of people from diverse and contrasting backgrounds, but with a common purpose
    •    Sometimes churches are divided, with jealousies, in-groups and outsiders
    •    Jesus called very diverse groups - women, working classes, sinners, tax collectors
    •    Communities can be places where people don’t just tolerate, but love each other

The Hindu perspective points out:
    •    The absence of any large institutional structures like a church, but the existence of many sects, cults and local traditions
    •    Much religious observance takes place in the home
    •    The hereditary hierarchical caste system never had sanction from scriptures of authority
    •    This social stratification can best be described as an atrocity in the name of religion
    •    Dr Ambedkar, the key architect of the Indian constitution asserted that caste was never sanctioned by religion