God and Ultimate reality


Talcott parsons

Cultural anthropologists suggested that religion has evolved primarily to help us deal with difficulties situations and experiences in human life.

He focoused mainily on pain and suffering, even though this is a problem which envolves everyone it it is also a problem that religion has developed to help us deal with it.

Religion can be seen to provide-

  • Comfort
  • Hope
  • Other nurturing qualities

Having a religion could be seen to help you work through pain to reach a better end goal.

Religion could be seen to settle the facts that we have hard times in life as everything will be OK in the afterlife-

'Religion is the opium of the people.'

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A different set of marginal experiences, those that can bring risk and insecurities into our lives- birth, weddings and wars.

Religion can be seen to help us through unfamiliar times as it surrounds us with traditions and familiarities, giving us a sense of control.

God is seen in so many different lights and to help with so many issues even if they are contradicting.

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Modern sociologist sees religion as a way of settling or unsettling society.

Religion is 'social cement'- it is there to help us bond together as communities of people and so to form stable societies.

The way in which religion brings us together is to hilight a central point or a focous, something bigger then ourselves that we feel it right to submit to.

By this submission we all end up keeping the same moral principles, thus creating a harmonious society.

Durkheim on Modern society-

  • Modern society lackes a central point to which society is focused- everything is open for individuals to question .
  • Sense of rootlessness- lack of foundations- 'anomie'
  • Religion lies as a focal point for society- totem polls.
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Great founder of psychology, he comments on the origins and functions of religion within the human psyche.

Thought of as the founder of psychoanalysis- the 'Darwin of the mind'.

He helps us to that the mind is similar to rock layers with layers for years and experiences of ones life.

The contious mind represents the tip of the iceburd and there are 3 key points-

  • ego- self
  • id- past memories and oppressed anxieties. 
  • super ego-nagging voice of parents and our conscience- the self we think we should be

Freud saw God as wish-fulfilment

  • A child like projection for our desire for a comforting father figure.
  • 'illution fufuilment'.
  • Religion is a sickness
  • The 'Oedipus complex'- desire of mother and father and child's jealousy then remorse.
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Religion must have evolved in such a way that it holds the key to our phycological and spiritual wholeness.

  • Mental illnesses then adopt religious= cure
  • subconscious minds creates connections- religious experiences and dreams are messages and clues form the subconscious to guide us towards the reconciliation of our inner conflicts and the achievements of individuation.
  • Winin dreams and myths people depicted certain key figures- 'ARCHETYPES'.
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The historical and geographical origins of religio

  • 500 different religions global
  • 21,000 different denominantions of christianity.
  • Could be said to have a natural evolutionary progression from animism to polytheism then to monotheism.


  • The fertile crescent is seen as the gathering place of thoes of montheistic beleifs in the 2nd and 3ed Millenia BC.


  • Sumerians-city based civilisation
  • Semites- from the syrian desert
  • Hurrians
  • Indo-Europeans- Spoke greek
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Ultimate reality and Hinduism

  • There are 12 attributes of God said to have created the world.
  • Translates as 'boyond the indus'
  • Invented by 19Th century Europeans.
  • No founder or specific Creed to follow.
  • It can be Polytheistic, monotheistic, absolutely everything's, as it proposes a unity for a vast number of concepts.

There was a shift from particular rituals having special significance to the idea of Karma-

  • This is where every action has significance as part of a part of a complex network of social and moral duties.
  • Filling your duties then allowed you to have 'good karma'
  • Having good karma contributes to your chance of a higher rebirth, visa verse.
  • The wheel of rebirth through which the soul 'atman'passes from one life to the next according to ounces karma.

The wheel of rebith

  • Are experiences in life are characterized by suffering 'dukkha' and illusion 'maya'.
  • The only escape from the wheel or rebirth is to be at one with Brahman ( the ultimate spiritual reality) and achieve liberation 'moksha'.

From this point traditions started to develope they included-

  • Vedantic
  • Ramanuja-monkey and cat school.
  • Yogic- yoga
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Development of God within the Hebrew tradition.

All evidence for the Jewish understanding of God comes from the Hebrew scriptures- Christians call the old testament.

Before the formal literature of the old testament much was conversed in oral communication.

These scriptures fall into 3 groups

  • Law ( Torah)
  • Prophets 
  • Writings
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Book 1- Law ( Torah)

Sometimes know as the '5 books of Moses'.

Many of the books including-

  • Exodus and Levviticus all refer to Moses, his libiration of the enslaved Hebrews of Egypt.
  • The 10 commandments- depicted to Moses on Mount Sinai.
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Book 2- Prophets

  • The ongoing story of the people of Israel after Moses returns them to the promised land.
  • Joshua, Judges and Kings.
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Book 3- The writings

  • Not finalised until the time of Christ, however includes some ancient elements.
  • Includes Psalms 
  • Proverbs and other books of wisdom.
  • Includes the text about the Jewish peoples return from exile in Babylon- However, a large amount of the Hebrew scriptures has been edited and compiled in what some may believe an inaccurate order.
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The Documentary Hypothesis- Julius Wellhausen

During the 19th century Old testament scholars teased apart parts of the various sources that went into the Torah and earlier historical writings.


Key points to note-

  • Some strands are consistently Elohim
  • Others are Yahweh.
  • Within these two strands there are often two parallel accounts of the same story- SUCH AS THE CREATION STORY.


  • Oldest source 950BC
  • Describes a human like God-YHWH


  • 850BC
  • Describes a MORE human like God called Elohim, then after the account of the burning bush he is known as YAHWEH.

Other two strands are Deutonomy and P which could have been woven together.

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The development of the idea of God.- The impact of


Abraham is one of the most important characters of the Hebrew scriptures, his experience helped to convert people to the monotheistic idea of Christianity. 

The story of Abraham included-

  • He stated after Gods instruction to venture across the fertile crescent into the land of Canaan, with protection from God.
  • God makes a covenant (promise) for a son, if Abraham is obedient and loyal.
  • If Abraham does this he and his family will be blessed and live in the promised land.
  • Abrahams' promise is sealed by animal sacrifice ( a common practice in the period)

Abrahams God appears as-

  • Relitively mild
  • Anthropomorphic God
  • As a friend
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The story of Moses


This is a very dramatic expereince of God-

  • Been rescued from death as a baby
  • Grows up as a prince
  • He sticks up for the slaves ( his people)
  • Runs away in excile where he meets God at the top of a mountine.
  • He notices a burning bush which is not being burnt up.
  • God is first reveled as holy- Otto would call it a numinius expereince.
  • He calls Moses to do a task of dilivering his people- whe Moses asked what his name is he says- 'I am who i am', this suggests that his nature can not be captured or defined. 
  • Having lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God appears to Moses once again and gives his laws on a tablet of stone.- The idea of this being on a mountine hilights Gods Trancendence and imminance.
  • God is surrounded by a cloud- mystery and a feeling of things being uclear when in a clound.

Charactoristics of Moses God-

  • Trancendednt- above all humans.
  • Judgmental and 'angry'- Murder of the Egyptions first born.
  •  God of war.
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Impact of the prophets on the image of God.-Isaiah

Isaiah- Describes his experience of encountering the holiness in a temple as 'mysterium tremendum fascinanas'- Otto

-Being painfulluy awar of his own sin and misconduct

-Isaiah sees it as being cleansed by God

'Your hands are governed in blood wash them and make them clean'.

Isaiah's God is the first time he appears to be on the side of the weak and oppressed-God notices every instance of swindling, cruelty and exploitation.

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He was speaking at the same time as the 'Southen King of Judah'.

  • At this time the Israelites are still practicing ritual and symbolic practices.
  • He was concerened with the inner meaning of religion

'What i want i want is love not sacrifice, inner knowledge of God, not burnt offerings'.

  • Amos highlights God never ending mercy
  • God instructed Amos to marry a temple prostitute, when she left him Amos saw this as a similar feeling to how God feels when his people turns there back on him.
  • Despite the law saying he should divorce his wife he went and won her back, he felt this was an in site into God's mercy and Tenderness. 
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God of the Deuteronomist

These are the 5 books of the bible that include the 10 commandments.

Despite the destruction of the Northern temple polytheistic worship continued.

King Josiah attempted to change this-

  • He found a 'book of law'-622BC-This is seen to be the book of Deuteronomy which is where the laws are summarised.
  • He read it and then ordered his people to read it as well.
  • The teachings were not completely monotheistic however they are getting close to it.
  • Josiah's attempt to purge away the polytheism was to take down any symbol's or statues from all the temples and places of worship.

Unfortunately after these efforts people went back to there polytheistic ways, People were warned of Gods impending doom- This showed God in a powerful and threatening light.

-This resulted in the empier failing- dispite this Jeremiah ( Josiah's prediceser) said God had not abandened them he was there to comfort them and they needed to learn there lesson.


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The impact of the Exile on Gods image-

God is clearly seen as a monotheistic God- Second Isaiah'

'I am not Yahweh-there is no other God besides me. No god was formed before me, nor will be after me.'

Gods power is seen as far superior to all the Babylonian Gods and he is the affirmed creator.

This God is very cleaver and truly transcendent-'my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways.'

The exile gave room to speculation about suffering and also about the Jewish nation's exclusive relationship with God.

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jesus and the view of the synoptic gospels

2 dominant images come through in Matthew, Mark and Luke- God is a father and God as a king.

  • -First talked about as 'ABBA' an indirect meaning of father.
  • He can be viewed as a personal and intimate God with whom personal relationships can be developed.


  • The world is known as the 'Kingdome of God'.
  • He is not an autocratic king rather a king of healing and understanding.
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