Relgion and Literature

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  • Created by: Maary123
  • Created on: 06-06-15 13:21

What is it?

Written material with artistic merit.

Works of creative imagination.

POETRY - composition in verse of language that has a deliberate pattern

PROSE - ordinary writing:

- fiction: based on imagination

- non-fiction: factual

DRAMA - a dramatic work intended for performance by actors

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RELIGIOUS literature

- about God/ religion/ belief/ teachings

- praises God

- educates positively about religion

Deals with relgious THEMES or includes a religious VIEW of the world (a particular understanding of:

  • the meaning of life
  • the importance of human beings in the world
  • the origins of the world itself

- usually SPECIFIC to its religion

- based on R beliefs and/ or science

- usually contains what the R or RB claims to be tru about the existence of God, origin of universe, and/ or purpose and meaning of life.

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  • Bible (CH)
  • Qur'an (MUS)
  • Torah (J)
  • Tipituka (BUD)

2. BOOKS OF TEACHINGS - the Haddith (MU), commentaries on the Bible, the Talmuds (JU)

3. RELGIOUS FICTION - the Chronicles of Narnia (CSLewis)

4. RELIGIOUS POETRY - Diary of a Church Mouse (Jon Betjemen)


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What is the point in it?

What happens to my soul when I die?

What is the purpose to my existence?

Why is there so much suffering?

Is there such thing as a miracle?

What is God like?

Why did the universe come to exist?

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Influences on lit

  • Felt driven to write
  • Influenced by a mesage that they want to share with society
  • A desire to change things they think are wrong
  • Want political change


  • Writers experience moment =s when they have become aware of the underlying truths of the world
  • Then feel they need to communicate the revelation with others/ express what they felt by words
  • Seek to explore what is meant by spirituality and spiritual experiences in their writing

          - the supernatural     - conflict betwee ngood and evil


  • writers examine spiritual questions related to aspects of religious belief eg:
  • whether God exists, how to get into the afterlife
  • they share their experiences and findings with others to help THEM find the answers to rel/ spiritual qus
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Writers belived to have received revelations directly from God/ Allah

  • QUR'AN:literal - the RECITATION
  • In the cave of HIRA in the hills outside MECCA
  • main text of Islam
  • verbally revealed by God to the PROPHET MOHAMMED through the angel GABRIEL
  • in stages over 23 years
  • these revelations are seen by Muslims as the HOLY WORD OF GOD
  • 7th century AD
  • Allah is completely unknowable, no one can ever know him or speak to him directly to his face - so word revealed by angel Gabriel, who read off a copy in heaven to Mohammed, eternal authority
  • has been translated into different languages, but Muslims believe these are different VERSIONS of the Qur'an, not translations in the literal sense.  So they believe that ONLY the Arabic version is the direct word of God
  • believe that the Q is the complete and authentic record of the original revelations, claimed by the prophet to be the literal word of God. 
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Qur'an 2

  • it was arranged in the current form by the direct insturctions of the prophet himself, he recited it to his SCRIBES - he was illiterate


  • Laws of life
  • morals
  • accounts of Biblical figures
  • the five pillars
  • no one has authority to alter the Q since every word in it is the literal word of God
  • importance to muslims/ treated:
  • mus commemorate anually the beginning of the Q's revelation on the Night of Destiny, during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the month in which they FAST from sunrise till sunset
  • the first SURA of the Q is repeated in DAILY PRAYERS and other occassions
  • some believe that they must perform as SPIRITUAL CLEANSING with water before touching the Q
  • worn-out copies of the Q are wrapped in in beautiful cloth and stored indefintely in a SAFE PLACE, buried in a MOSQUE or muslim CEMETERY, or BURNED and the ASHES buried or scattered over water
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Qur'an 3

  • the only DIVINELY REVEALED religious scripture
  • for Muslims the Qur'an is exactly perfect > a mix of new and old test AND human beings - so BEST
  • muslims believe the teachings are SACRED as they are the word of God and ABSOLUTELY AUTHORITATIVE
  • has formed the backbone of mus, one of the world;s major Rs
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Revelation cont.

Other writers RECORDED REVELATIONS that they received through a SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, and help belivers deepen their understanding of the holy books and teachings of their R.

Some received revealtions THROUGH GOD, inspiring them to communicate his message using thier own words (GURU GRANTH SAHID).

Many BUDDHIST lit is based on the enlightenment that OTHERS have achieved (main GOAL).

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  • Holy books inspire writers to COMMENT on specific writings or passages, these commentaries are written to help people study these writings


  • eg: many biographies about prophet mohammed's life

- the writer's RELIGIOUS BELIEFS may also be a source of inspiration and form a THEME of their fictional writing

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Often written as an act of devotion.

Many POEMS are intended to show the writers LOVE of GOd or a religious figure (eg: Book of PSALMS (CH AND J) contains POEMS IN PRAISE OF GOD

Sometimes PLAYS are performed as an ACT OF DEVOTION or to teach others how and why they should get closer to God!

CASE: OBERAMMERGAU - PASSION PLAYS (about the life and death of Jesus - suffering, death, resurrection)

  • Inspired, devotion
  • to share knowledge and love of the faith and spread ideas
  • actors feel PASSIONATE (devotion)
  • don't have to be religious to enjoy it
  • when an outbreak of plague swept throught Europe, the people of Oberammergau, Austria, vowed that if their village was spared, they would perform a play based on the suffering, death and resurrectin of JC every 10 years
  • 2000 actors on stage.      costume.     orchestra music THROUGHOUT
  • DREAM to participate (for inhabitants of the village)
  • 5 and a 1/2 hours!!!! tremendous amount of devotion
  • 380 years on, STILL performed every 10 years, EVERY DAY FOR SIX WEEKS!!! (devotion from actors and village)
  • act of devotion to be part of it
  • 1/2 a million visitors, foreigners from around the world
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Holy Books

The most important AUTHORITY, which helps people to trust God and their religion.


  • give the WORD OF GOD
  • provide RULES for following the faith, LAWS on how to live
  • worship is based on them, FOCUS OF worship
  • VALUABLE bc some copies are very old/ expensive
  • give HISTORICAL BACKGROUND to many religions
  • central to the religion
  • viewed as INSPIRED BY God/ revealed
  • often describe God and his actions throughout history
  • Bud: explain words of the founder
  • treated with GREAT RESPECT: - hands washed before use, - kept on high shelf/ special container/ cover, - jews KISS the torah
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Views on AUTHORITY (Holy Books)

The most important authority, which helps people to trust God and their religion.

RBs disagree about the authority of their holy book as the Word of God.


  • direct word of God
  • no errors bc the writers RECORDED God's revelations word for word
  • every word the literal truth


  • non literal view
  • writers INTERPRETED God's message and included their OWN personalities and syles in the writing
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66 books written over many centuries

divided into SECTIONS: NT, OT

christians agree that the Bible is in some way the WORD OF GOD, but do NOT agree that it is the ONLY source of knowledge about God

eg: RCC accepts an ORAL TRADITION passed down from Jesus through the church as ANOTHER source of knowledge about God

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Holy Books

Are the most purchased and shop-lifted objects

  • Bible often embelleshed in GOLD in churches
  • People can DOWNLOAD the book, read with friends and family
  • Accessible to ALL AGE GROUPS - Action Bible (comic book), Lego Movie Bible, for adults: written in modern language 'The Message', the 'Street Bible' for the homeless (simpole language)
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Books on teaching

Books from leading figure to help them understand thier holy book or be told how to live according to its teachings.

  • Bud: Dalai Lama: 'Beyond Religion' 'Dalai Lama's little book of wisdom'
  • Bud: 'Dhamma': contains the teachings of the Buddha about the universal truth and the universal law.
  • CH: Bible commentaries explain the bible
  • J: Talmud: a commentary by Jewish religious teachers on how the law is to be followed

Books of teaching can help people in their faith...

  • the specific teachings are often EXPLAINED and APPLIED TO THE MODERN WORLD, so that a believer can live a relgious life
  • religious leaders are ROLE MODELS, so their words have a great influence on belivers
  • these works EXPLAIN the holy books, so FULL MEANING is gained
  • explain how to deal with issues NOT MENTIONED in holy books
  • a believer might gain RELIGIOUS INSIGHT/ ENLIGHTENMENT by reading these
  • they are an aid in worship,        - answers questions/ arguments which challenge R
  • the can EDUCATE (eg HISTORY of an R and its CUSTOMS)
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Fiction with a religious meesage

Some writers convey religious messages in fictional stories, INFLUENCED BY THEIR BELIEFS

Those reading may not realise there is a religious message, but may still be aware of MORAL TEACHING or the stuggle between good and evil within the story

By indireactly communicating religious beliefs, fiction can help believers REINFORCE their beliefs, and alos perhaps LEAD non-religious people into ACCEPTING RELIGIOUS BELIEFS!


R fiction is usually an allegory = a fictional story in which CHARACTERS and EVENTS represent figures and events associated with a particular religion by suggestive resemblances.

CSLewis - The Chronicles Of Narnia - Christian allegory

  • the lion the witch and the wardrobe, 1950
  • dedicated to his granddaughter, Lucy
  • all time 100 novels - TIME magazine list
  • published in 47 days
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Narnia cont.

  • lewis = professor of medieval lit at oxford uni
  • literature converted HIM to a christian
  • childen fantasy novel
  • starts in 1940, ww2, evacuees . pevensy chiildren - large english country house
  • INSPIRED by a picture he had in his mind of a mythical creature since he was 16.  also inspired by the Bible
  • wardrobe = the longing of every human being for there to be an afterlife
  • aslan = JESUS: sacrifices his own life to save edmund, rises again to lead the forces of good and defeat evil.  sacrifices himself for a traitor who may deserve death = ch believe that jesus sacrificed himself for sinners.
  • white witch = satan/ evil or a servant of satan > claims the lives of narnians who sin = devil claims sinners souls
  • 4 children = humans
  • lucy and susan = the women at the tomb > they tend aslans body after he dies and are the first to see him after his resurrection
  • LWW focuses on one of the seven deadly sins: GLUTTONY - edmund is fixated on turkish delight, and goes into the service of the white witch = adam and eve sinned when they ate from the tree of knowledge
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teaches morals: greed

reaches a wider aud than holy books -FILM

slight variation on the christian legend -

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Poetry with R mesage

Many find it easier to express their religious beliefs and feelings in poetry

PSALMS of David are 150 poems and prayers in the Bible

  • They examine the relationship between God and his creation, and many praise God
  • love of God can be demonstrated in LOVE poetry
  • express devotion to God/ Allah
  • can encourage people to follow the ways of the R
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Case study


  • member of C of E
  • used his poetry to put forward his ch beliefs


  • the BBC asked Betjeman to write a weekly diary of a church mouse to be played on the radio
  • he was inspired by this request and his OWN FAITH to write a poem addressing the issue of FALLING CHURCH ATTENDANCE


  • falling church attendance
  • difficulties with having faith
  • greed/ selfishness
  • hypocrisy
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Case study


  • he had become aware of falling church attendance and people's struggle to believe
  • he saw a clash with how the C of E TAUGHT people to behave, and how they ACTUALLY behaved.  thought many were becoming greedy and selfish


  • BEGINNING: mouse describes its LONELY and HUNGRY life in the church for most of the year
  • surprised that there is not even left over food at the three major festivals: christmas, easter, whitsun.
  • 'christmas and easter may be feasts, for congregatins and for priests, and so many whitsun, all the same, they do not fill my meagre frame'
  • through the symbolism of a meagre diet and loneliness, he points out that churches are EMPTY, even at the most important festivals of the year!!!!
  • empty when they should be full, but full at harvest festival.  not a specific
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