A. M. Yerokhin, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, assistant professor,
North Caucasus Federal University,
Attempts to eradicate religion violently are not successful [1, p. 50–62]. Confirmation of this view comes from the history of the Soviet state which made atheistic education and fight against religion an important component of ideological control over minds of people. Despite religious persecution religious beliefs remained this eventually led to mitigation of these persecutions, and further, after fall of the Soviet regime – to the full rehabilitation of religion [2, p. 49–16]. Now the political elite of the Russian state even tries to draw upon church, having turned Orthodoxy into a certain substitute of the state ideology [7, p. 82–89].
Despite seeming clarity of a concept of religions without concept of God. Religion is not faith in supernatural as the majority of religions arose when opposition natural and supernatural was not realized by people. Religion cannot be identified also with faith in posthumous existence of the person as not all religions imply such faith. At last, it is impossible to reduce religion entity to faith phenomenon itself (opposite to perfect knowledge) as faith penetrates all forms of human existence. Without faith in correctness of norms existing in the society interaction between people is impossible. Values, beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes, not always having religious character, are based on faith [3, p. 7–10]. Life of society in general would be impossible without faith penetrating the human relations [6, p. 15–18]. Without this spontaneous faith people could not interact. Elements of faith are also in scientific knowledge. Thus, faith itself cannot be a specific sign of religion [5, p. 142–146].
Dew to R. Otto and E. Durkheim's works defining of religion by means of a concept sacral (sacred) became widespread in modern science. Any religion means opposition of sacral and temporal. On the basis of that fact many researchers, for example E. Durkheim, M. Eliade, R. Kayua, defined religion as a set of beliefs and actions connected with what is understood as sacral.
However recently a number of scientists (i.e. western phenomenologist of religion Zh. Vaardenburg and Russian religious studies scholar E. Torchinov) have called into doubt the definitions connected with phenomenon of sacred and its opposition to temporal. Without revealing details of theoretical discussions lets note only the fact that no matter how religions differ in sacred and temporal any religion assumes some differences between the ideas and actions having special sense and importance, and objects in the semantic and valuable plan which are less significant. Those objects – which are allocated with the greatest importance - are sacred objects.
Therefore it is necessary to proceed from understanding of religion as a complex of ideas and actions correlated to what is understood as sacred [8, p. 31–34].
Sacral is something forbidden, allocated with certain special force, special qualities. At the same time sacral objects are sacral not in itself, but because sacral was shown in them. These objects are hierophany – demonstration of sacral.
Sacral can exist in different forms. M. Eliade specified that sacral is masculine and feminine. These types of sacral are opposite. So, in many archaic societies woman couldn't participate in secret ceremonies of men or even approached the place of their holding. Even presence of the woman could destroy sanctity of the held rituals. (There was also a mirror situation - when presence of men at female secret ceremonies destroyed their effectiveness and therefore it wasn't allowed).
The major characteristic of sacral is its duality: it can be both salutary, and dangerous. In archaic cultures the phenomenon of sacral is connected with a concept of ritual purity and impurity. Sacral could be a source not only of benefit, but also filth. For example, sacral (forbidden, dangerous, bearing filth) was a criminal, a violator of sacred traditions and foundations. The person who has come back from a travel or a military campaign, that is visited unfamiliar, and therefore dangerous places could be considered as a source of filth. The woman during certain periods of life was considered as dirty (for example, after the delivery). In archaic beliefs everything that has been connected with blood, disease and death was considered as dirty (dirty not in hygienic sense but in sense of concentration of huge harmful force, negative sacral). There was a set of rituals of clarification directed to disposal of filth.
The dual character of sacral is reflected in religious beliefs and myths. There are useful and harmful spirits. In world religions – Islam, Christianity – along with God (a positive pole sacral) there is Satan, the arch – foe bearing responsibility for the world evil. But in Abrahamic religions sacral finds the ethical nature of absolute good and benefit. This term is applied in relation to God, angels, religious devotees, but not to Satan and his attendants though the belief in their force remains.
Places of concentration of sacral (the temple in general or its certain rooms, the hut of the shaman, the image of a totem) are forbidden for ordinary people. Sacral (no matter how it understood) in representations of the religious person are a fundamental principle of life. Therefore people seek to join sacral, consecrate foundations of the existence. In traditional cultures any important event meant the appeal to sacral were followed by certain rituals and ceremonies.
Actually, all ancient societies led social institutes and significant kinds of activity to sacral samples – acts of gods, heroes, mythical ancestors who have established once these samples [4, p. 45–49]. Moral standards were also sacral. Each ancient city had a temple where god – the patron of the place was worshipped.
Ancient cities (and any settlements) was thought by their inhabitants as sacral, consecrated space outside which chaos began, disordered, inhabited by unknown and dangerous spirits.
Any religion expresses the idea of sacral as antipode and, at the same time, ontologic basis of ordinary existence. But if in one religion the sacral beginning penetrates the whole world and it is near a person (Shamanism, Hinduism, Shintoism), in others (Christianity, Islam) – sacral is taken outside, it becomes transcendental.
In such religions as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, sacral gains the nature of moral perfection, purity, absolute benefit. But in the majority of ancient religions sacral is first of all power source. Its moral measurement isn't of great importance.
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