When I end my studies this semester, I am drawn to a meditation on my journey of researching religions from a metaphysical point of view and taking a more academic view of the world’s main religions. In my early childhood, I was told to value other people’s religious views, but I never really knew what it meant beyond the fact that I wasn’t allowed to make fun of the way other people practiced their faith. This course has given me a different sense of showing regard for other people’s religious views. From our first studies of the world’s religions and the commonalities they all share, I learned that some of the ideas that I once held as true, I saw in a different light and from a different point of view. From my first essay, I learned about how all religions are inclusive and not exclusive in the way they deal with people. All religions, as I wrote in my first essay, have a commonality that “harmony and unity are among the things that each champion” and that “Each encourages people within that faith not to cause harm others in any way just as they would wish not to be harmed.” These are values that I have learned are common to all religions no matter where, or by whom, they are practiced believe in fervently. From the beginning, I have also come to understand that no religion is “the” religion. All of them are equal across the generations and traditions with which they are practiced.
In the course of reading on various subject presented during this course, I have also learned a lot about the history and traditions of religions around the world. I was particularly touched and amazed by the oral traditions of the Native Americans who kept, and still keep, their culture, religion and beliefs alive through passing the stories down from generation to generation. I have also been able to understand that sometimes “there were no written documents related to religious ideas” and additionally that “people believed that spoken word was part of the speaker’s life.” This is a practice that has not changed significantly over the centuries. Although modern influences have lessened the importance of these practices and the use of written language has also contributed to the downfall of tradition, it lives on.
In studying about the three main religions practiced in the modern world, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, I have gained a greater respect for their tenets and beliefs and how they intertwine with modern society. Studying about the struggles within the Christian religion over the centuries, I have learned that “power is not good for anyone in the society because it is likely to compromise morality.” This is true with religions as well as with society as a whole. Religions are practiced by frail and often flawed human beings whose personal beliefs often interfere with there being able to remain true to the precepts of their religion. Judaism is another religion that has beliefs rooted in thousands of years of existence. For example, Jews believe rituals play a significant role in life because it sanctifies the existence of humankind. Jews are devout when it comes to their rituals and practices. As for the Islamic religion, I was interested in the fact that Islam experienced a “Golden Age” just when Christianity was going through the Dark Ages and the things that went along with that. Learning of the interconnectivity of all three religions has been an eye-opening experience for me.
One of the most important and enlightening parts of this course though has to be the Integrated Life Practice (ILP) sessions. Prior to choosing ILP, I did some research into what an ILP was. I was informed by reading the descriptions of ILP by Terry Patten where he said ILP was a “tool that one can utilize to consciously elevate their awareness” and I was also greatly encouraged by the fact that ILP plan basically is a plan developed by an individual to improve the quality of his/her life. My experiences with ILP were all positive. My enrollment in the Body Mind Movement Training Program was instrumental in providing me with a basis for what I needed to improve my life. The experiences I gathered in the course of the ILP were very beneficial to me as a person. One of the most important lessons I learned during the ILP was that I had a negative attitude towards the examined life because I believed that flexibility in life was part of the western culture. I learned that western culture does have some underlying principles and does not mean absolute liberalism as I had believed. Overall, the experiences I obtained in the ILP have changed my perception towards my body, spirituality, philosophy and other people, especially those who are committed to religion and culture.
To wrap this assessment up, I think that through this course I have learned much about what the spiritual and philosophical worlds have to offer us in our daily lives. I have learned that religious beliefs are deeply rooted in our being and that they provide us with a compass of sorts around which to live our daily lives. I have also learned that while all of us are unique, we all share certain traits that bind us together as human beings. Our need for community, our religious beliefs, and our basic belief in the righteousness of a Supreme Being, no matter in what form they appear, are things that make us uniquely human. I have been enriched by this course both spiritually and philosophically and have shed a lot of the toxicity with which I used to live my life. Learning that life’s problems are not as big as I used to believe will be one of the big take-aways from my experiences in this class. Lastly, I am indebted to Provost and his ideas for opening up my eyes to an alternate path and view of life in general.