Religion has been difficult to define since time immemorial. This is because most definitions introduced by various theologians could not wholly enclose all the religious aspects. Thus many people have agreed on a general view that religion should not be defined since the more it is defined, the greater the explanations raise controversy among various doctrines. However it is clear that religion contains complex matters beyond the agreed verbal doctrine. The three major religious orientations are sacramental, prophetic, and mystical. In all the major world religions, one of the three can be found. Sacramental orientations are mostly found in the Roman Catholicism, Christianity and Buddhism (McCullough et al.
212). Prophetic orientations are depicted in Judaism, protestant Christianity and Islam, whereas mystical orientations are witnessed mostly in Hinduism and Taoism (McCullough et al. 212).
Most religions that bear some sort of mystical orientation have an identifying characteristic of trying to search for a union that has some greater reality than them. Additionally, many of them have a deep rooted belief that the latter can be achieved through meditation (McCullough et al. 214). Thus most of them have a culture that wholly practices rituals that act to decrease the sense of the singular self and acts to unite the individual with the creator or with nature. This identifying religious orientation can also be found in other religions with identifying social orientations.
Sacramental orientations inculcate in the individual the correct and right path to salvation, which can only be achieved through the practice of stipulated rituals and ceremonies. The orientation is not only limited to Christian religions but it is prevalent in many other tribal religions as well (McCullough et al. 214). Most of the tribal religions believe that one can influence the natural process by performing various rituals and ceremonies. The latter form a big part of the sacramental orientation but are wholly excluded in the prophetic orientation (McCullough et al. 212).
Thirdly the prophetic orientation inculcates various values in the individual among them; contact with the divine and the supreme being that can only be achieved after the individual has had an upright and straight moral upbringing, while obeying the laid down moral codes (McCullough et al. 217). This propagates the belief that humans could be more important than every other being including God, for instance a speaker or any other prophet that talks as directed by God. This includes ministries in various churches or public speakers who talk on God’s behalf. In conclusion, most people are very familiar with the sacramental orientation. Notably, those who have had a Christian upbringing can easily comprehend why some rituals such as the last supper, the Ash Wednesday and the birth of the messiah are taken with seriousness and commemorated. Additionally, the moral codes are overly emphasized in Christianity in comparison to other doctrines such as Catholicism.
The mystical orientation however is fascinating for most people and especially in Christianity, although a few believers of the religion tend to understand its moral concept. Many people read of the mystical orientations of other religions, including their own, not for internalizing but for fascination purposes. Religion especially in the contemporary world has been “simplified” to some extent and few people follow the “old rules”; for instance the commandments of Moses in the bible. Thus for many people it is all about the greatest commandments; ‘love your God with all your heart, body, mind and soul’ and the second greatest – ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’.
McCullough, Michael. E., Hoyt William T.
, Larson, David B. and Koenig Harold G. “Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review.
” Health Psychology, 19; 2000: 211–22. Print