Religious Identity Religious Identity cannot be comprehended without the milieu information of the two words that create the term. Religion can be described as, ‘a system of thoughts, feelings and actions, shared by a group of people, that provides them with an object (s) of devotion; a code of conduct, that provides guidelines to judging of individual and group consequences of their various actions and a framework, that forms reference by which society may relate to, and to the wider universe. ’ (Bryan Chosley Shepherd; The University of Texas at Austin. Sociology 3) Religion concerns itself with the Known, the Unknown, the natural and the unexpected.
It acknowledges the mysterious, the extraordinary and the supernatural. Religious consciousness generally recognizes a sacred, transcendent order; creating ways/guidelines of dealing with the unpredictable and inexplicable elements of the Human experience. On the other hand, the term Identity refers to the self-understandings; people tell others of themselves, and then try acting as they had defined themselves. These self-understandings, especially those emotionally related to the teller are what can be wholly termed to refer to Identity. Religious identity thus refers to “a people’s ways of relating to their religion, including their association with a certain religious community, the strength of their belief in the preferred religion, and their ways of demonstrating those beliefs in their day to day lives. ” (Knippenberg 24) It can be equated to membership to a religious grouping or community, this being regardless of the person’s religious activity or participation (Lim 345).
It may be referred to as a specific type of Identity formation focusing mainly on group membership and the importance of the membership as pertaining to self-conception of the individual.
Similar to either cultural or ethnic identities, the religious context provides generally a perception from which to view the world, a set of principles of guiding one’s lifestyle and the myriad of opportunities available of socialization with different people, generational differences regarded. As a whole, religious identity is affected by factors such as a person’s gender, generational status and ethnicity (Knippenberg 56). Religion is intricately intertwined with various aspects in the socio-cultural arena, that the above three factors are always present in the shaping of an individual’s religious identity.
Ethnic differences; according to the Social Identity Theory, emerge when individuals of ethnic minority groups feel threatened in terms of identity, thus reasons for their emphasis on their social identities as a means of maintaining positive self-conception.
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