Religion Is Truly a Lived Experience In Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Religion is truly a lived experience. In today's volatile world, with world events hinging on various interpretations of religious texts perhaps more than in any other time in human history save, perhaps, during the Crusades, humanity is increasingly aware that religion is not a stoic object of study. Rather, it is a living breathing force in which we live and which inhabits us, whether we seek it or not.

Robert Orsi's edited work, "Gods of the City," provides vivid evidence of how and why religion is a lived experience. The best example of this, perhaps, lies in Karen McCarthy Brown's "Ecological Dissonance and Ritual Accommodation in Haitian Vodou." Here, Brown chronicle the unique religious subtexts and culture of Haitians living in New York.

Mama Lola, a Brooklyn Vodou priestess I have worked with for more than fifteen years, originally thought that her move away from Haiti would be a move away from the Vodou spirits as well. At that time, she said, 'I don't think I'm going to need no spirit in New York.' Yet whenever she tells this story, she quickly adds, 'And I was wrong!' Mama Lola found that the same pain and struggle that required the help of Vodou spirits in Haiti were present in New York, although in different forms, and if the problems were there, the spirits had to be there too. But how could the spirits be active in New York if they were tied to the particular spaces and places of Haiti? Mama Lola's solution to this cosmo-logistical problem is, on the surface at least, deceptively simple. 'The spirit is a wind,' she says. 'Everywhere I go, they going too... To protect me.' (Orsi, 79)

Here, Brown provides a perfect example of the nature of the force Orsi tries to compile into his volume. The spirit of religion transcends space entirely. Mama Lola thought she had no need for religion when she moved from Haiti to New York, but she found immediately that she was wrong.

In fact, perhaps she found a greater need for Vodou away from her homeland, now living in her newly adopted homeland. In New York, she resumed her connectivity to religion by becoming a Vodou priestess. Here, Brown illustrates the fact that yes, perhaps religion transcends issues of space, but perhaps more accurately, humans create their own sense of space with religion, their own sense of community.

For Mama Lola, the Haitian spirits easily convert to her new York life as they, like the wind, follow her to protect her. But rather than comment only on the spiritual, Brown notes the practical effect that religion has had on a sense of community in Haitian circles in New York:

There is another, perhaps more important, way in which Mama Lola and many other Haitians living in New York remain in touch with the spirits: they return to Haiti. While Haitians in New York may suffer the melancholy that comes from being away from home, they do not suffer the trauma of cosmic proportions that their African ancestors did when they realized that home was irrevocably lost. Even the sizeable number of Haitians in New York City who are undocumented aliens, and therefore cannot at the present time travel back and forth between New York and Haiti, have reason to hope that this will not always be their condition." (ibid)

In the exploration portion of this paper, the paper will further examine how exactly religion impacts every day life and how it maintains a sense of the past.

Essay 1b

Robert Orsi's compilation truly demonstrates how religious activity sustains an understanding and awareness of the past. For Orsi and the authors in "Gods of the City," the importance of religion is not so much to find a pathway to eternity, or a route to salvation; rather, it is a method to ground oneself in one's past, to sustain a belief in culture more than in any group of deities.

In order to explore this idea, this paper will closely examine Karen McCarthy Brown's "Ecological Dissonance and Ritual Accommodation in Haitian Vodou" chapter of Orsi's book. We may begin with a critical paragraph:

The significance of the earth is, in the final analysis, its ability to connect human beings with their ancestors and with the Vodou spirits. The soil, which contains both the bones of the ancestors and the seeds of the next harvest, provides the context for exchange among the living, the dead, and the spirits. The living need the spirits to come from Ginen, the watery world below the earth, and to possess their "horses" in order for those spirits to gain voice and body. The living need the blessings, advice, and protection that only these embodied spirits can give. The spirits and ancestors, in turn, need to be nourished by the praise, the gratitude, and, most of all, the libations and food offerings that only the living can provide." (Orsi, 84)

Here, religion and spirits contribute directly to a connection to history and to their ancestors. That is the key to the Haitians' belief: Even if they are far from home, and even if they cannot return to their motherland, they are connected through a living, breathing immersion in their religion, in their belief in Vodou and their spirituality.

Indeed, those are the blessings of which Brown speaks: the ability to connect to ancestors through spirituality. In this manner, the ancestors are constantly a part of the Haitians' lives.

Brown successfully actually grounds the spirituality and religion in the actual soil. That is the clearest assessment of how religion sustains an idea of the past and of ancestors; and this is how the Haitians go about being religious.

And although Brown and Orsi provide the evidence of Haitians' religion grounded through and for the past, this interpretation translates across cultures and religions. Hindus, for instance, are incredibly awed by their past and their ancestors, and they too ground their spirituality and religion in the actual soil, but planting ancestors' spirits in the soil in their homes' compounds.

In Hawaii, gravesites are often constructed at the place of an ancestor's death, and spirituality is grounded in those sites. This is very similar to Brown's observations of Haitian religion and spirituality.

But the soil, in Brown's assessment, not only grounds in the past, but looks to the future as well. That is exactly what a "living religion" entails. This returns us to Mama Lola: The wind, the spirit, follows her and represents not only a connection to her past and to her ancestors, but also her faith in her future. Her future is physically tied to the wind, physically tied to her spirituality.

This tie to both the past and the future results automatically in a more secure present. This secure present helps Brown's Haitians and all other cultures with feelings of displacement and longing. Take, for instance, the following paragraph:

Africans enslaved in Haiti knew they could not return to their homeland. This realization was traumatic for many reasons. High on the list was loss of contact with the land, literally with the earth of the homeland, and therefore with the protection of the ancestors buried in that earth. The profundity of the loss may help to explain the significant cosmological shift that accompanied it:

Africa was "spiritualized" and transposed to the New World where it became an invisible but directly accessible parallel world lying beneath the feet of displaced Africans. It is a matter of some importance that, with Africa lodged there, both the Vodou spirits and the ancestors could once again receive the libations poured for them. In contemporary Haiti, people use the word "Ginen" to refer both to the continent of Africa that lies across the Atlantic and to the home of the spirits and the ancestors that is found in the water beneath the earth on which they stand." (Orsi, 82)

Here, Brown details the link that spirituality provides from the past to the future. The Ginen term, for instance, does not refer to a past in a distant motherland; rather, like for Mama Lola, the term Ginen is something that follows a culture wherever it may currently reside.

Terms and beliefs such as the Ginen define the present through linking the past and the future. After all, as Brown comments, Africa was spiritualized and transposed to fit a current model of life that did not even exist in Africa.

On the level of everyday life, this translates into a displaced group of people acting eclectically in their belief structure and day-to-day meanderings. A Haitian crossing guard, for instance, in New York, performing a job that does not even exist in his native Africa, and exists in very little capacity in Haiti, still links to his past beliefs through a transposable religious spirituality.

That is the true value of a living religion. Rather than being grounded solely in a past that in reality does not exist for practitioners of Vodou, the religion is grounded in…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Religion Is Truly A Lived Experience In" (2003, March 28) Retrieved December 9, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/religion-is-truly-a-lived-experience-in-145911

"Religion Is Truly A Lived Experience In" 28 March 2003. Web.9 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/religion-is-truly-a-lived-experience-in-145911>

"Religion Is Truly A Lived Experience In", 28 March 2003, Accessed.9 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/religion-is-truly-a-lived-experience-in-145911

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Religion in the Modern World Religion Modern

    Religion in the Modern World Religion Modern World Religion is something that is as old as man. It means "almost everything because religions deal with the whole of human life -- and death" (Bowker 2006). Since the beginning of mankind, individuals have searched themselves and others, contemplated the universe and all its elements, and religions are what were formed through these personal and public explorations. But what exactly are religions? What does

  • Religion the Church of Scientology the First

    Religion the Church of Scientology The first pre-publication excerpt, entitled "Dianetics, A New Science of The Mind," from a new speculative non-fiction work by L. Ron Hubbard appeared in the May 1950 issue of the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was prefaced by a note from the magazine's editor stating "I want to assure every reader, most positively and unequivocally, that this article is not a hoax, joke, or anything

  • Religion Interview I Interviewed a

    As a matter of fact, she seems very open to new ideas and theories, as she was able to discuss my beliefs with me in a very open manner. Although Carol claims she does not strongly adhere to her original fundamentalist beliefs, she still belongs to the Baptist Church. She raised two children with the husband she found at Bob Jones and her family attended and still attends church together.

  • Social Work Assessment From My

    Therefore, today's society in the United States is diverse, which is something a social worker needs to understand and know how to deal with each diverse group. Furthermore, through research, it has been discovered most ethnic groups that live in the United States consist of young people, which means by staying in this country, they grow accustom to their surroundings. Once they have grown accustom to living here, they

  • Religion & Life Cycle Different Religious Visions

    Religion & Life Cycle Different religious visions, different life cycles: The religious experience according to Rosenstock-Huessey and the Medicine Rite Religion has always been the binding force that enabled humanity to create meaning in their lives and maintain unity among them. As a way of expressing spiritual reality, religion is instrumental in providing humanity a way of converting into concrete form (i.e., rituals and religious symbols) the different emotions associated to one's

  • Religion Augustine Divine Grace and

    In Chapter 5, the great churchman informs us that Water is in fact an apt designation for the Divinity, better than any of the other elements. Water possess the unique properties of being more moveable than earth (though less movable than air) while at the same time being essential to the creation and sustaining of life, as in the way water must be added to the soil in order for

  • Religion How Could God Do

    They angered God, and as God has done throughout the ages, He punished the Jews. Many of them retain their faith and hope in God, and retained it even during their time in the concentration camps - it was the only thing that helped them to survive when all other hope had died. On the other hand, many Jews saw the camps as a place where they lost their


Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved