Studying religion
Studying religion

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1 What is religion: video

1.1 The videos: religion in Liverpool

The following clips take a look at religion in Liverpool. You will hear people with different beliefs speaking for themselves. This will provide you with the ‘raw data’ of religion as lived.

The clips are intended to provoke reflection and discussion, including disagreement, about the topic of religion.

At its simplest level the video clips provide descriptive insights into the beliefs and practices of a range of communities in the city of Liverpool. It thus provides a visual accompaniment to the general descriptions – of a range of contemporary British beliefs and practices. The video, however, poses the question ‘What is religion?‘ and, although it covers a number of groups that are conventionally labelled ‘religions’, it also refers throughout to Transcendental Meditation which insists it is not a form of religion. By exploring similarities and differences between the groups represented in the video, including Transcendental Meditation, the video indicates the starting point for a definition of religion.

As you watch the programme, do bear in mind that the coverage of forms of religion found in Liverpool and divisions within religions is limited and inevitably selective. For example, Judaism is seen from the perspective of an Orthodox community, although Reform Judaism is also practised in Liverpool, and no coverage is given to Afro-Caribbean religions, Chinese religions, and Sikhism, although all these contribute to the religious life of the city. On the other hand, you may note that a greater prominence has been given to Christianity, although here too Non-Conformism is not included. Liverpool, however, is distinguished by the completion of two cathedrals in the post-war period, one Anglican and the other Roman Catholic. It seemed important to reflect this in the programme, alongside a sequence in a more intimate parish church, partly as an evocation of Liverpool today and partly because the programme ends with a brief reflection upon the inroads of secularisation in the late twentieth century. This is addressed from a Christian stance because the preservation of Sunday on religious grounds is, of course, a Christian concern. Whether, rather than ceasing to preserve the status of Sunday, equal provision should be given to the special days of other religions is a no less important question and one which is touched on indirectly through the testimony of Jews and Muslims who comment on the implications of observing their special days in a society which still attaches something of a privileged position to Sundays.

In the programme you will hear Sunder Chopra referring to Krishna and Rama in his account of Hinduism. Krishna and Rama are believed to be human forms taken by the Hindu deity, Vishnu, who is believed to be the lord and sustainer of the world. It is the custom for Hindus to worship Vishnu through the forms Vishnu took at different times to restore righteousness in society; and, of these forms, Krishna and Rama are the most popular. Stories about them are found in many of the best-loved Hindu scriptures, and Krishna and Rama are frequently depicted with their respective consorts, Radha and Sita. You will also hear a reference to Maharishi (pronounced ‘Maharshi’) in the description of Transcendental Meditation; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian teacher, founded the Transcendental Meditation movement.

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