The significance of religious meanings on our lives is hard to overstate. Inextricably interweaving all aspects of our existence, they can provide an ideological matrix within which these aspects coexist and inter-relate. In doing so, they fundamentally define ourselves and those ‘like us’, and concomitantly ‘others’ who are ‘not like us’.
Unfortunately, history is littered with past and present examples of how this existential othering has resulted in conflict and contention—sometimes on massive scales. History is also littered with differing theorists’ assertions for why such seemingly intractable and profoundly deep conflicts arise. Is it because of the nature of the religious tradition, itself? Is it more due to the interpretation/position of the adherent? Is it because of a more fundamental human quest pursuit for iconic immortality?
In this article we look at several theorists’ arguments and discuss a model that points to an interplay between four key dynamics as a means of exploring and apprehending the how’s and why’s of religious and spiritual implications—particularly in the deeply contentious divisions they can engender and the paths to conciliation they can pave. It is a model that draws from the most basic psychological othering of the infant and expands that dynamic to all societal levels. It then interleafs the intricacy and persistence of the complex social dynamics that emerge at the various social levels and explores how they play out over time. Against this backdrop of the interplay of emergent characteristics the factors specific to religious traditions are introduced and a discussion of differing theoretical arguments are explored.
|Keywords:||Religious, Spirituality, Existential, Othering|
Program Director, Master of Social Work, School of Global Studies Social Science and Planning, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Coordinator, Indigenous Research & Research Fellow, College of Design & Social Context and The Design Research Institute, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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