Understanding the differences between world religions is a common research paper topic in the world of sociology. Since different religions of the world uses their own sacred document(s) for practice, it is no wonder that they are profoundly different, yet similar at the same time. The following sample sociology paper on differences between world religions shows just how a great writer would go about making an argument.
Discuss Some of The Differences We Find Between the Major Religions of The World
With regards to religion, there are many different characteristics across various cultures. One major difference is how they interpret divine beings, or Gods. Some, like Christians, are monotheistic because they believe in a single God. Other religions are polytheistic, because they believe in many different Gods such as India where there are millions of Gods. This influences praying rituals and sub groups that may focus more on one single God rather than others. Rites of passage are also important. These are transitional periods from one social status to another. Within Judaism, the Barmitzvah transitions young boys into men where they have to take on other responsibilities and society views the, differently. Within African cultures, each village or tribe may have their own local religious rituals as well. Despite these sharp differences, there are also some similarities.
One major similarity is that most religions have some sort of organizational structure. This means that it is an established institution that exists separately of the people involved. Leading these organizations are clerical members and priests. Priests join the ranks by either going through training programs or apprenticeships. While the exact rituals by which religious leaders are initiated or conduct their work may be different, the main element of having a core infrastructure with designated leaders is still present throughout various cultures. Another major set of commonalities is that they all share common stories, use symbols (such as a crucifix in Christianity or the Star of David in Judaism), have rituals and undergo change. This is because the core function of religion is to transmit information and beliefs onto the next generation. Thus, using symbols and anecdotal stories (written or verbal) is the most efficient means of carrying the ideas over to new members. The shared belief of supernatural beings is also common. Most religions believe in some form of higher power.
The Anthropology of American Religious Beliefs
There are a multitude of religious backgrounds in contemporary American society, most of which stemming from citizens’ ability to practice such beliefs without any serious social ramifications. Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Buddhists have all reiterated and expressed their religious beliefs in the United States, illustrating the ways in which different cultures live their lives in the country. In this paper, I will analyze the cultural differences between a variety of religious Americans, specifically highlighting the ideological differences between conceptions of polytheism and monotheism, as well as beliefs pertaining to traditional values. While nearly every religion in the United States is grounded in similar attitudes towards human existence and life, there are many subtle differences between such institutions, exemplifying the vast anthropological conceptions of God and human beings found in the country.
Various religions maintain different connotations of baptism and youth education from one another, indicative of cross-cultural beliefs between American citizens and human beings. Many Jewish people believe that when their son or daughter has reached the age of thirteen, he or she is to become “a child of commandment” by having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, respectively (Feldman 109). These beliefs, which have been fabricated into Judaism for thousands of years, highlight the religious organizations’ conception of manhood during childrens’ early teen years. Furthermore, they illustrate the wide variety of religious conceptualizations in contemporary American society. As such, many young Jewish teens are asked to play a larger role in family activities and taking care of younger siblings during the years immediately following their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, unlike other cultures, which often have different conceptions of ‘manhood’ and youth education and adherence to family guidelines (Feldman 111). Thus, many Jewish-Americans, unlike the country’s other wide array of religions, have different views on life and young people than their peers, emphasizing that religion can separate humans into distinct cultural boundaries.
Mormon Faith and the LDS
Conversely, members of the Mormon Church, or individuals of LDS faith, do not share similar beliefs in teen growth, believing that when a child is eight, he or she is to be baptized, again illustrating how different religious backgrounds affect child-rearing and other cultural norms. There are many different values that can be placed in conjunction with this information. For one, many other Christian religions believe that a person is to be baptized soon after birth, not several years later (Cannell 342). Mormons, however, feel that when a child is eight he or she is representative of Christ’s original mission (and his ethical values) and is therefore adequately prepared for baptism.
In juxtaposition with Judaism, Mormons also believe that young men, upon reaching their nineteenth birthday, should take up missionary work and travel to a designated region of the world for two years to spread the Gospel (Cannell 346-7). Many Mormon families believe that by doing missionary work, one will be enabled to properly prepare themselves for the afterlife, as well as give others an opportunity to understand their religions’ teachings (Cannell 2005). These values are not held by many other cultures in the United States, as other American young adults have different cultural guidelines upon turning nineteen. Nonetheless, to those of LDS faith, missionary work is often a crucial component of both one’s social status amongst the Church hierarchy, as well as an individual’s personal connection with God.
Obviously, many religions in America do not seek to expand their organizations through intensive missionary work; however, to Mormons, such action is a necessary aspect of living a well-lived life, and is thus taken up by many within the Church, changing one’s sexual promiscuity, marital status, and other youth issues in the process. Mormons’ beliefs in missionary work has led many young adults, especially those who return from a successful mission at the age of twenty-one, to behave much different than their peers during these intermediate years. In fact, it has also been noted that people of LDS faith tend to marry at often younger ages than Americans with other religious beliefs, mainly because of a cultural environment that promotes such behavior in accordance with strong and illustrious family values (Cannell 337). Thus, because of Mormons specific religious beliefs and cultural attitudes, many young Americans of LDS faith often act differently than their Jewish and Christian counterparts, providing a vital example of the power culture has on human activity, as other seemingly identical American families carry far different beliefs on youth marriage and education.
Religious Beliefs of the United States
The United States is full of different cultures and beliefs pertaining to God, as many religious institutions that hold a place in the country have alternative views on infinite power and beings. One of the key anthropological differences between such religious ideals stems from specific conceptualizations of God. For example, while Judaism, Mormonism, and Islam all conceive God in a singular monotheistic sense, Buddhists and Hindus to do not share similar beliefs. Like ancient Greeks and many other religions introduced before the common era, polytheism, or a belief in multiple Gods instead of a singular supreme being, also has significant weight in various American religions.
Buddhists, who began immigration to the United States in the nineteenth-century, have often reiterated their polytheistic beliefs as a form of religious harmony, as often times, it seems there is no real absolute truth that dictates polytheistic thinking and beliefs (Sanderson and Roberts 2008). Moreover, many American Buddhists, unlike other Christian sects, maintain a more flexible outlook on an individual’s education and more secular outlook on government and politics (Sanderson and Roberts 459). Thus, there are innate cultural differences in viewing God as plural or singular. To many polytheistic religions, their belief in multiple Gods also illustrates a conception of higher beings in a less strict matter than their
The differences between polytheism and monotheism also help illustrate broader cultural trends. The fact that Buddhists and other religions, which preach a tolerance and understanding of multiple Gods, also have a tendency to be less violent is indicative of their core values and beliefs. Furthermore, because such people have a more general and encompassing view of God, they have had less internal disputes than their monotheistic counterparts (Sanderson and Roberts 2008). The conclusions that can be drawn from the cultural beliefs pertinent to different religions are shocking; even religions that believe in a singular God have far more radical views of the their faith in the United States. While many Buddhists have had troubles and quarrels between different local sects throughout the country, their problems are nothing in comparison to many Muslim extremists, whose violent and aggressive monotheistic beliefs have been the cause of many internal ailments and problems for the last several years.
Muslims and Islam
It is first important to note the differences between Muslim extremists (the sect interested in violence) and those simply interconnected to Islam. As with any religion, extremists have the potential to take ideological stances and positions on issues that are extremely contradictory to a religious institution’s long and short-term goals. In the case of Muslim extremism, however, such actions have often served to hamper Islamic credibility in the United States, often leaving many of the faith to be judged as culturally inferior. However, like Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity, Muslims maintain a belief in a monotheistic God, and such a belief, different from that of polytheistic religions such as Buddhism, often reiterate a staunchly polarized view of a higher being. These cultural differences have spurred many internal problems for such religions; various Mormon, Christian, and Muslim Americans have all been excommunicated from their churches for believing in ‘different’ connotations of their beliefs, exemplifying a large cultural trend between monotheism and polytheism. Hence these cultural differences suggest that humans have various conceptions of God, and that such cultural backgrounds may influence an individual in different ways (explore another post about the world view of Islam)
Religion can influence human beings in a variety of ways. Some Americans, especially those with more secular outlooks on politics and government, may also have religious beliefs that are less strong and more interpretative. On the other hand, many religions preach specific doctrines which are adhered to strongly, thus helping to influence and sometimes dictate a person’s life. These cultural differences are not only a crucial component of American life, but also of human life as well; religion has the power to highlight various concerns amongst humans and offers insight into longstanding cultural traditions and where they have initially derived.
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