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There are many religious responses to such a question. For example, as a Christian, I might say that there is evil in the world and this starvation etc is part of it. We need to help these people materially, educationally, spiritually regardless of our own political or economic aims because GOD created these people and JESUS asks us to care for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.Look at the huge number of different religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Rastafarianism, Zoroastrianism and so on. Look at our society and its art, movies, books, poetry, music and so on. Much of this concerns itself with the fundamental questions mentioned above. A common theme in novels and movies is “good versus evil” think of “Star Wars”. Articles in newspapers & magazines – discussing theology, ethics, abortion, euthanasia, invitro fertilization, ecology, sexuality, morality. People all over the world are interested in these topics. “Dear Abby” letters in magazines – people asking for help with relationships, happiness, beauty, love. Science itself is the search for truth. While physicists today seek a “Theory of Everything”, many scientists are quick to admit that science at its very best can answer only certain questions. It cannot answer the fundamental questions of life and its meaning. It should by now be obvious why a study of religion is essential for all people. To summarize the many reasons that can be quoted in answer to the question “Why Study Religion” we can say: To understand the religious nature of humankind. To overcome our ignorance. To comprehend our culture. To help us develop our own religious belief or philosophy of life. To achieve a global perspective and in so doing understand and accept our fellow human beings everywhere. The suggestion that there is such a thing as human nature implies a specific stance with relation to what a human being is. Do humans have something like a nature? If so, in what does human nature consist? These questions can not be answered from a sole description of specific characteristics, which is one of the main reasons there is a continuous debate over this issue. To say something about what a human being essentially (or in nature) is, implies saying something about what humans ought to be. Consequently, there is always a kind of normative selfreference in the way the question "What is human nature?" is answered. It is not simply a question of how humans are to understand this or that case, but an articulation of how humans understand, or ought to understand, themselves. Theories about human nature state something about the place of humans in nature. They also try to define what specifically makes a human being different from other living things. However, as made clear by theologian WolfhartPannenberg in Anthropology in Theological Perspective (1985), one has to distinguish between the human being as part of nature, and the nature of the human being. These two issues do not necessarily coincide. The former implies a descriptive approach and investigates different empirical and phenomenological aspects that help people better understand their place in nature. The latter is a more normative issue, related to the destiny of humanity in general, as well as to the individual's future and the meaning of the individual life. Its importance is thus also related to interpretation of the place of human beings in history and culture. Taken separately, these approaches offer a basis for the interpretation of human nature from a more naturalistic or humanistic view. Consequently, the sciences usually offer more material relevant to the understanding of the place of humans in nature than for answering questions about human destiny. A theory about human nature that also takes into consideration an understanding of the human place in nature usually has to account for some or all of the following issues: What specifically makes the human being as a species different from other species? What does it mean to be a person? Do human beings have free will? How does one understand morality, religion, and culture? How are these elements related to language and to human selfconsciousness (subjectivity)? Is religion necessarily connected to humanity? Are humans able to act on reasons and principles that cannot be reduced to causes? What is one to think of death? What is the basis for human dignity? Some of these questions can be seen as attempts to differentiate between issues that, in the past, were discussed with reference to the difference between body and soul. Human nature in nonWestern world religions The variety of ways to understand human nature is expressed also in different world religions. In Hinduism and Buddhism human nature is partly understood from the perspective of the self as part of all that is, and given the task of becoming the nonself. Like other pantheistic religions, both Hinduism and Buddhism affirm that human beings are related to all that is and, simultaneously, how the self is essentially divine. Beyond the empirical human is the human essence, atman, which is identical with the ultimate reality, Brahman. To overcome individuality and to become part of the encompassing world is the aim of human life. This can be done by transcending the world of the senses. This aim is realized when the self dissolves into the whole after death, but also can be anticipated in different forms of meditational practices. Whereas Hinduism and Buddhism emphasize how human nature is related to divine nature, the self is generally thought of as distinct from the divine in Semitic religions such as Islam and Judaism. Islam is the religion that most strongly stresses the distinction between God and the world; humanity is seen as dependent upon God and God's will. As in Judaism, God is the creator of humans. The aim of humanity is to realize this dependence and live accordingly—i.e., in gratitude toward God. In Islam, sin is understood as disobedience (ma'siya) and not as rooted in human nature. This is different from the most dominant traditions in Christianity. An original aspect of Islam is that all humans are understood as to be born Muslim. It is the cultural environment that changes their essentially Muslim nature in to something else The Bible offers no developed theory about human nature. Genesis 1: 26–28 describes human beings as created in the image of God (imago Dei); this description has given rise to many different interpretations through the history of doctrine. Whoever is made in the image of God is given the task of representing God as the steward of creation, thereby reminding others of God and taking care of God's creation on God's behalf. Hence, human beings are understood in terms of their relation with God; it is this relation that is thought to make humans unique compared to other species. In Psalm 8, humans are placed between the angels and God, indicating their high rank in the order of creation. Humans are accordingly responsible to God. Simultaneously, they are themselves part of nature; they are made of earth, and without the lifegiving breath of God they return to dust. The Bible depicts human life as dependent on the continuous creative activity of God. Humans are not understood in terms of the Greek dichotomy between soul and body, but human life is viewed from different perspectives, such as flesh, body, heart—all notions that can also take on different spiritual meanings. There is a positive affirmation of human embodiment in the Hebrew Bible, echoed in the New Testament teachings on the resurrection of the body and the human need for bodily health, as well as spiritual salvation. One could suggest that human nature from a JudeoChristian point of view is to be an embodied image of God. This position is affirmed in Christianity, where Jesus Christ is seen as the true human being, and thus reveals what humans are meant to be. When entering into dialogue with Greek modes of thought, Christian theologians had to articulate the relationship of humans with God from points of view offered by existing philosophical knowledge. This challenged theology to develop an understanding of what it meant to be created in the image of God. The dominating point of view through the Middle Ages became that human nature is unique in rational faculties, understanding, consciousness, and spirit. This view, as expressed by Augustine of Hippo, draws on Platonism, which emphasized rationality and the eternity of the human soul. It also included the view developed by Aristotle in ancient Greece and by Thomas Aquinas during the Middle Ages that put humans on the same level as the rest of nature, but with rationality as the speciesunique skill. The eighthcentury theologian Johannes Damascenus expresses the prevalent understanding of human nature in the Middle ages: The human being is the image of God because it has reason and free will and is able to be its own master. Philosophical patterns for a theory of human nature Two main philosophical trends have had a major influence on understandings of human nature. From the ancient Greek philosopher Plato onwards, the human being alone is able to understand and grasp rationally the world as it is in itself, beyond every change. This ability derives from the rational faculties, expressed in the ability to think. Thus, human nature is closely linked to the ability to think, and to act with thinking as a guide. Plato articulated the paradigm for a rationalist understanding of human nature. He assumed a dichotomy between body and soul. The soul is the site of reason, and as such it is understood as eternal and (partly and potentially) independent of the body. The body, on the other hand, is mortal and will die. The central struggle in a person's life is to gain control over the physical by means of the rational. As a consequence, Plato sees the flourishing of human nature in its ability to control life with rational means. The importance of this paradigm is most clearly seen in the seventeenth century rationalism of the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who maintains a sharp dichotomy of body and soul. Descartes claims that while the external world (res extensa) operates by mechanistic principles, this is not the case with humans, who are guided by reason. Animals are without reason and hence to be understood according to mechanistic causation only. This view separates the human being sharply from the rest of nature, and suggests that what is specifically human cannot be investigated by the same principles that were utilized by the emerging modern natural sciences. Philosophically, theories of human nature before the Enlightenment are either rationalist or empiricist in outlook. The empiricist outlook puts more stress on human experience as a condition that shapes actual fulfillment in human life. Hence, one's participation in nature is given a larger role when it comes to determining who a person is. This approach also put more emphasis on the continuity of humans with the rest of nature, and, combined with the experimental approach to investigation of nature, it contributed greatly to the development of modern science. As a result, human nature is here regarded as part of nature, and not something unique. This view is consonant with a religious position that sees the human soul as a function of a complex physical organism rather than as an independent substance. Touch on ideas such as: The concept of God, the purpose and meaning of life, the afterlife, ethics and morals etc In this paper, I explore the traditional religious account of what can make a life meaningful, namely, the view that one's life acquires significance insofar as one fulfils a purpose God has assigned. Call this view ‘purpose theory’. In the literature, there are objections purporting to show that purpose theory entails the logical absurdities that God is not moral, omnipotent, or eternal. I show that there are versions of purpose theory which are not vulnerable to these reductio arguments. However, I then contend that there is a problem facing purpose theory which no version can avoid. I argue that the best reason for holding a Godcentred theory of life's meaning logically precludes the possibility of purpose theory being the correct version of it. More specifically, I argue that if a relationship with God is necessary for one's life to acquire meaning, this must be because God would have properties such as atemporality and simplicity, perfections which are incompatible with purposiveness. I conclude that religious thinkers have good reason to develop other theories of the way God could confer meaning on our lives.
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