Religion: A Cosmic, Multdimensional and Life-Enhancing Force

Article excerpt

Opening remarks

An important aspect of this conference on Open-Space: The African Christian Diaspora in Europe and the quest for human community is that of looking for strategies to cushion the impact of African migration into Europe and indeed that of the European society to the migrants themselves. Migration across international borders is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. As we move into the new millennium, we can expect that the rate of migration and the number of people who will be looking forward to migrate to a new country will rise sharply.

The African diaspora is especially expected to gain added momentum. How will this trend impact the migrants and the host societies? is it expected that migration will contribute to new human relations among the races of humankind? What role will religion play in the, integration or disintegration of the societies of the new millennium? These questions are easier asked than answered. The following seeks to examine these hard questions and, where possible, to make suggestions.

The concept of "religion"

Religion is one of the concepts, which have been defined in various ways. [1] Many definitions of religion often fall under criticism because they are perceived to emphasize one aspect of religion and disregard other aspects.

Throughout the history of the study of religion, attempts to define religion are usually confronted by a number of problems. One of the problems that comes to the fore is that if the definition is narrow then it risks omitting certain forms of religion. In the same manner, if the definition is broad, then the definition is likely to include forms of beliefs and practices which may not necessarily have any religious element. [2]

Religion here is understood to be the arrangement and system of symbols that integrate society. It is the force that energizes cultural symbols. It is a system of authoritative beliefs about the world.

Religion is a social phenomenon in the sense that it exists in one form or another in almost every human society and is strongest when it is organized around a cluster of shared beliefs and practices. Religion is a crucial activity of human society. It can influence harmony or discord. The function of religion can be expressed through the following statements:

* Religion influences the way an individual perceives reality.

* Religion is significant because it provides meaning and a cosmic view to life.

* Religion provides the individual with a particular status in life, giving the individual a sense of belonging and specifies the role and position of the individual in society.

As a phenomenon, religion is an activity of concern to many people. It is a concern that pervades all areas of life and is in fact an active pursuit of many people. For instance, religion commands large amounts of believers' resources such as human emotions, physical strength, time, money, and material goods among others. Writing about the overriding capacity of religion, Meredith B. McGuire states:

Religion is one of the most powerful, deeply felt and influential forces in human society. It has shaped people's relationships with each other, influencing family, community, economic and political life. Religious values motivate human action, and religious groups organize their collective religious expressions. Religion is a significant aspect of social life, and the social dimension is an important part of religion. [3]

Religion is a key component in people's lives because, as a dominant concern of many people, religion pervades all areas of the individual's life experience. The individual who observes religion is thereby a product of religion and society. Both religion and society are in existence before the individual is born, and they remain after the individual is dead and forgotten.

The multidimensionality of religion

To say that religion is multidimensional means that religion can be understood differently from one individual to another and from one society to another. …