A Four-Sided Model of Religion
Religion is a cultural and personal belief system that binds a community together. It typically deals with the supernatural or spiritual, whether in a literal sense such as believing in a heaven after death, or in a symbolic way such as attaining nirvana. It often involves a set of moral principles and values, as well as specific practices and symbols such as holy books, sacred rites, prayer, sacraments, holy days, and icons. It also has a central figure or prophet, such as Jesus for Christianity, Muhammad for Islam, and Buddha for Buddhism. It can even be a philosophy such as that of Siddartha Gautama (Sa
Despite its complexity, it can be useful for educators to think of religion as a four-sided model. Along with the traditional notions of the true, the beautiful, and the good, there is a need to recognize the always-presumed material culture of the social group that constitutes it, which often has a profound effect on what its members believe, how they practice, and what they regard as sacred.
It may seem avant garde today to talk of religion as a “constellation,” or “assemblage,” or a “network” that operates in a variety of ways, but it was not that unusual in antiquity to treat it in this manner. It was a common element in Christian theology, where the concepts of fides, fiducia, and fidelitas were used to describe various dimensions of religious practice.