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Week 2 Notes

by: Zoie Motycka

Week 2 Notes RELS 160

Zoie Motycka
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About this Document

Religious beliefs, symbolism in myths, functions & types of myths, theories of myths.
Introduction to Religion in Culture
Peggy Shaffer
Class Notes
religious myths




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Zoie Motycka on Saturday January 30, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to RELS 160 at Ball State University taught by Peggy Shaffer in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 48 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Religion in Culture in Religious Studies at Ball State University.


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Date Created: 01/30/16
RELS 160/week 2 notes Religious Beliefs What does it mean if someone in a specific religion “believes” something? Example: what does it mean to say Christians “believe” in heaven? 1) A physical place behind pearly white gates 2) A place that has everything you found good in this life 3) Separate layers based on how deserving one is 4) An endless presence with one’s god 5) Paradise on earth, a great life 6) To live on in the memories of loved ones The belief in heaven can mean many very different things to different people. Gombrich classified beliefs into two different types: Cognitive: what people of a certain religion are supposed to believe; reflect what people say about their beliefs Affective: what people of a certain religion actually believe; based on feeling; reflect what people do about their beliefs Gombrich thinks there should be more emphasis on cognitive (what people are supposed to believe according to their religion) -Example: around 75% of Americans consider themselves members of Christianity (which is based on a belief in a particular god), but only 60% of Americans agree that they are absolutely certain there is a personal god. The portion of Christians who are not positive that there is a god exists know they should believe in a god, but still have some doubts. ______________________________________________________________________________ Symbol: an object or idea used to represent something else Metaphor: the application of a word or phrase to an object or Simile: figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared using the word “like” Parable: symbolic story & extended metaphor, intended to teach a lesson Myth: symbolic story & extended story. Explain big ideas of religion For academic studies of religion, myths are metaphorically & symbolically true, but factually & literally false Common Uses of Symbolism in Religious Myths 1. Unseen ultimate or reality a. Frequently symbolized as Fathers & Mothers 2. Associations w/height a. Spiritually superior “place” on high i. Heaven, paradise ii. Where gods reside iii. Sometimes place good people go after they die 3. Vertical symbols a. Used to connect earth to unseen heavens & the gods b. Mountains, trees, pillars of fire, water or smoke 4. Area beneath earth a. Underworld b. Dangerous place where evil resides c. Sometimes seen as place where bad people go when they die Types of Myths 1) Cosmogonic: about the beginning of the universe 2) Etiological: explain why something came to be or got the way it is now 3) Eschatological: about the end of history or destruction of the world 4) myths of lesser endings 5) myths about death & the life after death 6) myths about divine, semidivine & demonic beings 7) myths about heroes & saviors 8) myths about transformations & incarnations 9) myths about kings, wise men & wise women, ascetics, martyrs & saints Functions of Myths Manifest: intended & obvious function of myth or ritual Latent: in contrast to latent functions; hidden & often unintended functions of myth or ritual Hierophanic: reveal something sacred or holy Numinous: experiences of awe, mystery, dread & finiteness before majestic overwhelming power that is wholly; beyond human reason to understand these Ritualistic: explain & justify ritual actions Cosmological: render a picture of the universe Ideology: set of doctrines or beliefs that form basis of political, economic or religious system Theories of Myths Myth & ritual theory: states there is necessary link between myth & ritual & we cannot understand one without the other Rationalistic theory: states that myths are attempts to explain things Functionalistic theory: claims that meaning of myth is equivalent to its function Symbolic theory: claims that meaning is symbolic & there is hidden meaning beneath literal surface Phenomenological theory: advocates comparative method for understanding myths Structuralistic theory: claims there is underlying logical structures that organize myth & religion Relationships Between Religion & Science -oppose each other -exist separately -exist in dialogue & exchange opinions w/each other -are attached Animism: belief that all or most things are animated by a soul or spirit Polytheism: belief in & worship of many gods Totem: most often sacred animal or plant representing power of social group often thought of st as the 1 ancestor Pantheon: collection of gods & goddesses organized as a family tree Anthropomorphic: “in human form”; refers to tendency of many religions to picture gods in human form Henotheism: belief that many gods may exist, but people should worship only the 1 that shows special concern for them & their interests Demon: superhuman beings midway between humans & gods, often described as evil & harmful, but also can be good & helpful Unitarianism: belief that God’s nature is an absolute, simple unity Trinitarianism: teaching that God’s nature is tri-unity rather than a simple unity Pantheism: view that the essence of the universe is divine Agnosticism: belief that knowledge of God’s existence isn’t possible Atheism: view that God does not exist as a being external to human thought


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