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THE NATURE OF RELIGION
RELIGION is a universal and pervasive
phenomenon, a part of the cultural
system, because it is assumed to
meet some basic need of human
being. Religion has persisted and still
exerts a great influence in lives of
Religion is interwoven with the social,
economic, and political life of the people.
It is properly one of the areas of interest
to a sociologist because of its influence
on the individual and its functions in
society. A sociologist’s main concern in
the study if religion is not to establish the
truth or falsity of a certain religion but to
look into it’s structure, organization, and
role and to observe how it affects and
influences an individual or society.
What is Religion?
Religion comes from the Latin word religare,
which means, “to bind together”. In the
religion of preliterate societies, the various
phenomena of nature are associated with a
number of different personalities, and in
many instances, numerous nature deities
are honoured. In other religions, the
supernatural beings is conceived as a spirit,
one and indivisible, and in nature yet
distinct from it.
Religion according to some philosophers:
Defines religion as a unified system
of beliefs and practices relative to
sacred things, that is to say, things
set apart and forbidden-beliefs and
practices which unite into one single
moral community called a church.
Religion embodies beliefs or
representations which express the nature
of sacred things as well as rites prescribing
how a person should behave in the
presence of sacred objects.
Avers that the deepest roots of any religion
lies in the experience of the social and
moral community which professes it.
All religions involves a set of symbols
which arouses feelings of reverence or
awe and are linked to rituals or
ceremonial such as church services
practiced by a community of believers.
There may be personalized gods, a
“divine force” or figure who is regarded
with reverence and love.
Religion in all societies, whether
preliterate or modern, has more or less
institutionalized ways in which
individuals and groups express their
awe of the unknown and by which
they satisfy their sharply felt needs for
adjustment to and communion with
the supernatural realm (Hertzler
Mana explains every extraordinary
phenomena – why trees grow fast, why a
man has an unusual skill or power, or
why the harvest is bountiful. This power
exists invisibly throughout the universe
and may be possessed by gods, human
beings, the forces of nature, and natural
objects such as pools, rivers, sticks and
stones, and is to be feared, worshipped,
There are different beliefs in the world like
the “Totemism”- the worship of plants
and animals and the “Animism”- belief in
spirits and souls of natural objects.
In the Philippines, Aetas of Negros Oriental
believe that unseen beings inhabit trees,
streams, and springs. These spirits have
no names but they are feared and
respected. The general term given to
them is enkanto or taglogar.
- noted that Ifugaos have nature and
culture gods, rice culture deities, and
gods of reproduction or fetus
makers. Their universe is divided into
five regions: the Skyworld, the
Underworld, the Downstream
Region, the Upstream Region, and
1. ECCLESIA- It has an elaborate formal bureaucratic
structure with its hierarchy of church officials and
well-developed dogmas and rituals.
- Emphasis is placed on the sacraments
and on the creed.
- It determines and stabilizers the social
Catholic Church in Spain, the Anglican Church in
England, and Islam in Saudi Arabia.
2. SECT- it is usually a group that has
broken away from a parent church.
- Dogmas and rituals are less
- It is intolerant of secular world
and other religious groups.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day
Adventists, the Mormons.
3. DENOMINATION- is “a sect which has
cooled down and become an institutionalized
body rather than an active protest group.”
- Sects which survived over a
considerable period of time settle down to
The Philippines Independent Church (Aglipayan),
the Iglesia ni Kristo, and Protestant groups
(Methodist, the Lutherans, Presbyterians)
4. CULT- usually a small-size group which is very
loosely organized and transient.
- They usually seek emotional rather than
intellectual satisfaction, hence, they do not
develop an extensive and coherent body of
Rizalistas of Luzon, the cargo-cults in Southern
Luzon and the Visayas, the Sapilada, Lapiang
Malaya, led by Valentin de los Santos and the
Good Wisdom for All Nations, led by Aliler
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
What relationship exists between science and
A number of persons believe that science
and religion are in conflict with or are
diametrically opposed to each other.
Example the case when the Polish
astronomer Copernicus advanced his
theory about the solar system. Another
point of difference between religion and
science concerns the questions of
evolution, creation, and the Bible.
Science deals with observable phenomena and
studies certain aspects of nature by empirical
tests and observations guided by objective
attitude. Science as certain the nature of the
observable world while religion decides what
is ultimately good. Science tries to
understand the explanation of a
phenomenon by systematizing knowledge in
the light of what are known. If science does
not have an answer, religion has. It is then
possible for a person to believe in God and
yet be a good scientist.
The goal of science is to pursue the
truth through empirical methods.
Religion revolves around existential
propositions like the origin of the
world, life after death, the nature of
heaven, salvation, and the revealed
character of the Bible. In the last
analysis, religion and science can be
reconciled; they are not diametrically
opposed to each other.
FUNCTIONS OF RELIGION
Religion has many functions for the individual
who believes in it and for society as a whole.
1.Religion gives one “peace of
- For example, in times of crisis or
when we have a problem, by
communicating with our deity or
through our prayers, it satisfies our
spiritual and emotional needs.
2. Religion allays the fears and
anxieties of individuals by
reassuring them of the care and
protection of their deity.
- It removes the fears and anxieties of an
individual by giving them a comfort and
consolation of their religion and by
reassuring them the love, care and
protection of God.
3. Religion delineates what is right
and what is wrong and prescribes a
system of reward and punishment.
- Expectations of what would results
from doing good, fear of sin, a concept
of the life here after, and concepts of
heaven and hell motivate an individual
to do what is good in order to be at
peace with his or her maker.
4. Religion integrates and promotes
- The religious rites and ceremonies
usually involving mass singing or mass
prayers unite members of the society
and enhance solidarity. In Catholicism,
the were united to celebrate some
special or traditional occasions such as
“Misa de Gallo” and “Misa de
5. Religion performs welfare, education,
and recreation functions.
- Religious Organizations carry out or
build up some welfare activities and
social programs, they also operate
charitable institutions, hospitals,
orphanages, medical clinics, and etc.
They also provide schools for the
Religion can be divisive face in
It may also be a disintegrating
It may eventually lead to
Existing in the Philippines are diverse religions resulting in
a pluralistic patterns.
The Spanish conquistadores who came to the
country in 1521 introduced Catholicism and
since then, the religion has dominated the
country, affecting its mores, exerting
influences upon secular power and enjoying
considerable prestige. Before the people
believed in spirits called anitos which were a
hierarchy of deities in a type of animistic
religion still found among some cultural
communities. These beliefs also continue to
permeate the lives of people in the rural
Arab traders introduced Islam to the
Philippines, a religion which gained a
stronghold in Mindanao and Sulu. Islam
imposes certain cultural norms which
have set its followers apart from the
Christians. It revolves around the social
teachings of the Koran. The relationship
between the Muslim and Christian
Filipinos may be characterized by mutual
suspicion and antagonism. There have
been limited cleavages.
The Protestants have contributed their
share of leaders in the various sectors
of society. The latest contribution is
the election of the first Protestant
president, Fidel V. Ramos, on May
11,1992 (Castro 1992:46). The
relationship between Catholics and
Christian have improved through the
years and toleration of each other’s
faith may be observed.
Another religious group is the Iglesia ni
Kristo founded by Felix Manalo in
1914. Through the years, it has
stabilized itself and developed a
bureaucratic formal organization.
Various sects like the Jehovah’s
Witnesses, the Mormons and the
Seventh Day Adventists have also
Another group which is becoming popular
is the “Born Again” or Charismatic group
whose followers say that they are simply
Christian believers; to them, the Bible is
the only source of the Christian faith, and
they are not bound by tradition and
other doctrines. They consider
Christianity as a way of life, a personal
relationship with the lord, Jesus Christ.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH
In keeping with democratic principles, there
is separation of Church and State in the
Philippines, a condition which has existed
since the Revolutionary period as decreed
in the Malolos Constitution and
incorporated in the subsequent
Constitutions. Article II Section 6 of the
1987 Constitution expressly provides:
“The separation of Church and State shall
This reasserts, with minor differences in wording
and capitalization, a declaration made in
Article XV, Section 15 of the 1973
Constitution. Similarly, Article III, Section 5
declares, "No law shall be made respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof. The free exercise and
enjoyment of religious profession and
worship, without discrimination or preference,
shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall
be required for the exercise of civil or political
rights.” echoing Article IV, Section 8 of the
1973 constitution verbatim.
In spite of the conversion of the country to
Roman Catholicism, rural people are still
oriented toward local traditions and the pre-
Christian beliefs in spirits and charms, the
mangkukulam, the anting-anting, the nuno
sa punso, the aswang, and the like. The rural
folks continue to placate the malevolent
spirits to whose displeasure they attribute
disease, crop failures, or any other
Social anthropologists have used the term
“folk Catholicism” to describe this situation. A
distinction may be made between official
Catholicism, non-official Catholicism, and folk
1. Official Catholicism
- refers to the doctrines and rituals, which are
prescribed, approved of, and maintained as
Sign of the Cross and Communion.
2. Non-Official Catholicism
- comprises the elements, which are
viewed as harmless but suspect and
unorthodox by officially designated
Walking to the altar on one’s knees,
going to pilgrimages, dancing before the
images of saints.
- includes the non-official
elements, but only where these
beliefs or practices are of
popular derivation and are
sanctioned in the community
where it is found.
1.Pal- According to him, the barrio
folk revolves around the will of
Supreme God- Bathala. Everything
which happens - birth, marriage,
death, good crops, accidents are
attributed to the will of Bathala.
This reflects the fatalistic attitude of
2.Arens- According to him, there is a
widespread observance of animistic
rituals in planting, harvesting,
fishing, building houses, and taking
care of the sick. There was the
widespread belief in encantados
(spirits) residing in trees and
widespread use of anting-anting
(amulets and talismans) with
Christian prayers and beliefs.
3.Nydegger- He made similar
observations in the study of
Tarong, a barrio in Ilocos. People
recognize God as omnipotent
and supreme, their relation with
Him is powerless and remote as
there is no contact with Him
except in the Poblacion Church.
- Is the Catholic principle of Justice and the
feudal attitude the lord may tax those
whom he protects. There is the alumnus
of a Catholic school who marries and
maintains a querida but forbids his wife
to go out with another man and drives
her out of the house on suspicion of
unfaithfulness. The split is between the
Catholic rules regarding marriage and the
FAITH HEALING AND THE OCCULT
Occult is derived from Latin word occultus, means
mysterious thing and practices related to
supernatural forces beyond the five senses.
Including under Occult are the following:
Practices and beliefs in astrology
Crystal ball gazing
- a person who is believed to possess
- who can foretell the future through the
use of cards, palm reading or crystal ball
- is a person who serves as a medium for
Religion, Social Change and Social
Like any other social institution, the Church has
not escaped the impact of industrialization and
modernization. In the face of these social
changes, religion persists as a dynamic and
powerful force in the lives of some devout
The Catholic Church has steadfastly held its stand
against abortion, the use of artificial means of
birth control, divorce, and the admission of
women into the priesthood, and upholds the
practice of celibacy among priests and nuns.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,
because when he has stood the test, he will
receive the crown of life that God has
promised to those who love him."