Religion and the Modern World

St Peter's

Syrian Orthodox church

Wailing Wall

Pakistan Mosque

Indian Temple

Photos 32 World Religion Photos. 1973-1998 Kryss Katsiavriades

The Wisdom of the Buddha
"All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage...If a man speaks with a pure thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him."

- from "Twin Verses" in
Anthology of World Scriptures by
R. Van Voorst (2000:91)

No doubt, the terrible tragedies that have befallen Israel, the United States, Afghanistan, and other countries at the beginning of this new century have made religion a hot topic in people's minds. Throughout history, one finds that  most people and nations have acted in varying accordance with their known religious beliefs in conducting their private lives and in relating with those outside of the self, the family, the group, even the nation.

Although a sizeable but unknown percentage of the American population, for instance, is said to be composed of atheists or non-members of any religious groups, religion or spiritual longing and interpretation is deeply ingrained in the customs and habits of different cultures worldwide.

Some countries have official religion for the land, or so-called state religions. Those who adhere to the principle of separating matters of government from spiritual matters nonetheless have religious underpinnings in their systems of governance, ethics and law.

In the Philippines, no individual passes from birth to death without experiencing the impact of religion in daily affairs, whether he belongs to a certain group or not. One observer notes:

"The results of 400 years of Catholicism were mixed -- ranging from deep theological understanding by the educated elite to a more superficial understanding by the rural and urban masses. The latter is commonly referred to as Filipino folk Christianity..." (Miller, 1982)

Religion - or the profession of a body of faith or beliefs organized into doctrines and  manifested in a collection of norms and rites - intended to guide particular behaviors or interpretation of particular events - performed a vital function in ancient world and which continues to this day. In earlier epochs, religion was present among our ancestors as they performed elaborate and mythical rites in anticipation of, or gratitude for, things like victory, rain or a good harvest. It helped to make unexpected or strange phenomena intelligible at a time of raw and unsophisticated knowledge. In the Philippines,

"(t)he pre-Hispanic belief system of the Filipinos consisted of a pantheon of gods, spirits, creatures, and men that guarded the streams, fields, tress, mountains, forests and houses. Bathala, who created eath and man, was superior to theses other gods and spirits." (Miller 1982)

More importantly, religious and religious-like beliefs enabled ancient peoples to adjust, adapt, and harness natural resources and powers and, along with science, give birth to the modern world and its ways of living. But the influence of religion is seen not only in religious customs; religion, through moral codes and precepts, has pre-defined political and social arrangements within nations and between nations of the world. Now more than ever, matters of the spirit must be understood as they are converging with matters of material existence in an increasingly globalized world.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

- from the Book of Micah  (Revised Standard Version,Christian Bible)

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