Is religion a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny or is it a system of symbols, myths, doctrines, ethics and rituals for the expression of ultimate relevance (Carmody, 2008).

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Religion is the human quest for experience of, and response to the holy or sacred and a combination of all individuals desire to attain the promise of a better life than that here on earth, human spirituality. Religion is the voluntary subjection of oneself to God (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913). Religious beliefs are the mental state in which faith is placed in a creed related to the supernatural, sacred, or divine.

The beliefs that what one does in the former life will follow to the next life and good karma will help obtain higher forms of life in the reincarnation. Hinduism, Buddhism, Janineism, Sikhism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism beliefs in reincarnation, that the soul continues to live from the death of the old to be reborn in the new and to break this cycle is to achieve enlightenment or nirvana (Valea, 2009)

Or the beliefs of the Greek that their Gods and Goddess appear in human form and Hinduism avatars appear in human and animal form to rid the world of oppression (Das, 2009).

Zoroaster, Buddha, Gautama and Jesus have been deemed incarnations of God. Sacred text and scriptures play an important role in many religions. Depending on the religion, the text or scriptures are believed to have originated from God or Goddess that revealed a revelation or compositions for an original founder of the religion or early leaders or prophets and are now considered to be divinely inspired.

The sacred writings of Hinduism, including the Vedas and Upanishads, sacred text of Judaism, the Hebrew Bible that has not changed but also Christians considered sacred by Christians as the Old Testament and incorporated with the New Testament. There is also the Quran, the sacred book revealing the words of Allah given to Mohammed through the voice of Gabriel (Carmody, 2008).

Symbolic images can tell us a lot about the religion, history and spirit of a culture as well as identifying a person’s faith. The Cross a common symbol in Christianity represents the suffering of Jesus; in ancient Egypt, India and Tibet the Cross was considered to be a symbol of reproduction. In modern Christianity, the cross represents Trinity.

The three shorter sections represent the Three Persons of Trinity and the longer section represents One Divinity. The five pointed star representing the five pillars of Islam, Shahadah, Salah, Zakah, Siam and Hadj; the six pointed Star of David, the star of the creator, which stands for the six days that God created earth.

The six points representing the six attributes of God: wisdom, love, justice, mercy, power, and majesty. This same symbol is also used by modern Judaism of Israel. Rituals in religion symbolize the way individuals recognize significant events, deeds and activities in their lives.

Specifically in religion, rituals are used to reinforce the basic common beliefs of a community. Performed in a sacred place, away from the ordinary world, rituals are intentionally separated from the secular to allow the rituals to enhance their belief. As an example, A Catholic mass is a symbolic ritual in accordance of the “last supper” of Jesus, by extension, an affirmation of the acceptance of his teachings by “partaking of the host” (O’Neil, 2009).

Compassion, humility, and hope, all personal virtues, moral principles that guide religions and set the standards of ethical moral conduct to attain a higher state of being. “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself,” the ethical moral code for Judaism (Leviticus 19:18); “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” Christianity’s ethical moral code (Matthew 7:12).

The ethical code for all religions is the care for our fellow man, to feel and share in their pain and suffering (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) through compassion in imitation of God’s compassion for his children; in the belief that compassion will bring them closer to God. Karuna the virtue of Buddhism, understanding and identifying with the suffering of all human beings or daya, Hinduism compassion, these ethical standards set the precedents of compassion for our fellow man.

Humility, the respect for the Ultimate whether it be for God, Allah, Moses or the hundreds of other names our creator is known as, thankful for all of the blessings that the ultimate has bestowed upon his children. Christianity, “Blessed be the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5); Islam’s observance of the five pillars of faith (Carmody, 2008); Taoism respect of nature and Buddhists release of anger and learning to live life free from attachments, all signs of humility and respect deserving of the creator.

Part II
Religion supplies cosmologies, moral frameworks, institutions, rituals, traditions and other identity supporting answers to satisfy the human basic need of a sense of belonging, self- esteem and self actualization (Seuel, 1999). Beliefs, practices and rituals give meaning and shape ritual performances.

Ritual enactments, strengthens and reaffirms the group’s belief as well as the individual’s belief. Through rituals and practices, the group collectively remembers its shared meanings which both the individual and the group renew the sense of unity and the members identity as well as the group and its goals (Carmody, 2008)).

Part 3
Religious groups are shaped by individuals who customize their religious needs instead of blindly adopting the beliefs taught by the church. The religion of ancient Israel was shaped by the preexisting religious culture of the ancient Near East and Christianity was shaped by first century Judaism. The uniqueness of the Christian religion, wrapped in the mystery of how and why Jesus inspired a religion separate and distinct from first century Judaism of the present (Idinopulos, 1998).

Part 4
Scientology – the doctrines and beliefs of a religious movement founded by L. Ron Hubbard with emphasis on man’s immortal spirit, reincarnation and an extra scientific method of psychotherapy (dianetics).

Its tenets are an individual is an immortal spiritual being; experiences extend well beyond a single lifetime; capabilities are unlimited, even if not yet realized; and man is basically good, seeking to survive and survival depends upon himself and his fellow and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe (Hubbard, 2008).

The official symbol of Scientology is an S imposed over two triangles. The S represents Scientology and the two triangles represent important concepts in the religion. The bottom triangle represents affinity, reality and communication which together equate understanding. The top triangle represents knowledge, responsibility and control.

The eight pointed cross is another symbol utilized by this sec which represents the eight parts of dynamics of life. The eight dynamics of life according to Scientology are (1) self in the middle extending to (2) family and sex, (3) groups, (4) mankind, (5) all life forms, (6) the physical universe, (7) spirituality and (8) infinity of the Supreme Being (Robinson & Buttnor, 2008).

Scientology has a set of religious ethics that set the basic principles of moral behavior. There is also an Auditors Code that provides ethical guidelines for pastoral practices that governs the conduct of the Scientologist ministers and the Code of Honour that gives the ethical ideas that all Scientologists can aspire to. (Chidester, n.d.). Ethical behavior is seen as the next step in spiritual growth and is related to all religious beliefs and practices.

Although I was not able to observe the religion personally, through the research I have gathered, Scientology does seem to qualify as a religion. However, through further investigation this sec does not qualify as a religion in my opinion. A religion gives thanks to the Creator, Ultimate, Allah or the other dozens of names that refer to God, yet in Scientology everything is about bettering one self.

This is the prayer that ends every Scientology service: “May the author of the universe enable all men to reach an understanding of their spiritual nature.” “May awareness and understanding of life expand, so that all may come to know the author of the universe.”

“And may others also reach this understanding which brings Total Freedom. “At this time we think of those whose liberty is threatened; of those who have suffered imprisonment for their beliefs; of those who are enslaved or martyred, and for all those who are brutalized, trapped or attacked.”

“We pray that human rights will be preserved so that all people may believe and worship freely, so that freedom will once again be seen in our land.” “Freedom from war, and poverty, and want; freedom to be; freedom to do and freedom to have. “Freedom to use and understand man’s potential – a potential that is God-given and Godlike.” “And freedom to achieve that understanding and awareness that is Total Freedom.” “May God let it be so.”

This prayer, while nice, is centered on an individual’s freedom to himself but yet it seems to emphasize that man is almost God like. There is nothing in the prayer giving thanks for what one has but wanting more. Although the prayer does include other individuals to be free from life’s unpleasant actions, there is nothing that indicates that God is the one the prayer is directed to.

An interview with Laurie Hamilton, a second generation scientologist, who is also a “clear” and “OT” (a “clear” is a person deemed to be free of negative influences and an “OT” is a person that is free from the reactive mind), states that Scientology is not about formulaic worship of anything and prayer is generally not called for as a part of the religions practice. While they do acknowledge a Supreme Being, Creator or Author of the Universe, they do not however claim or assume there is an entity that is exalted that owes them or that they owe the exalted for what they have been gifted with, which is life (Hamilton, 2006).

This particular sec religious practice takes away the individual identity by removing all negative aspects of the individuals past life and incorporating the groups shared meaning that all men are good and have the ability to reach a higher plane of existence once they have completed the auditing process.

The auditing process basically consists of one person asking the other person questions while the individual holds electrodes in the hands. Similar to a lie dector, the E-meter registers when the interviewee has answered a question that has caused distress in the past of current life.

The auditor focuses in on the distress and rids it from the body. Through these practices individual Scientologists, recovering these god-like abilities (and encouraging and assisting others to do so as well) is the primary goal of participation in Scientology.

The "levels" through which a participant progresses make up what is called "The Bridge to Total Freedom." Progress through all the levels of the "Bridge" often takes many years of dedicated study and practice, and the cost in fees for services for the Bridge is currently estimated at approximately $300,000 - $500,000 in US dollars.