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How Historians Study History by Use of Religion Essay


Every discipline has its own subject matter. In the case of the history discipline, the main subject matter is the past (Hepp 5). In the discipline, past facts and interpretations give meaning to the things that shape people’s current way of life.

Facts refer to “persons, places, things, and events that people agree are true or have happened” (Hepp 3) while interpretations refer to “the processes of selecting facts and making sense of them” (Hepp 3). Some of the things of the past, which determine the way people act, and what they believe in include people’s culture and religions.

By inferring that people’s actions and beliefs are shaped by culture, it means that the people’s “customs, institutions and achievements” (Hepp 24) influence their beliefs and actions. On the hand, religion encompasses “a belief in and the worship of a superhuman controlling power” (Hepp 24).

Since the thesis of this paper is how historians study history by deploying religion, the paper will answer this by focusing on how beliefs and worshiping super deities impact people’s actions and way of life.

One of the fundamental aspects that define differing societies is their inability to fully embrace each other. This means that they indulge in conflicts with one another. A historian seeking to understand why some communities or societies have animosities with one another would endeavor to garner facts of the likely historical circumstances that may lead to conflicts among the two societies under concern.

Subscripting to different religions is one of such incredible departures that may prompt people to engage in conflicts. For instance, the battle between Palestinians and Israelites may be attributed to their religious historical differences (Hepp 24).

Similar religion-ignited conflicts were also observed among Catholics and the Protestants (Fernandez-Armesto 502). However, it is crucial to note that not all conflicts that are experienced in the world surface themselves as having been ignited by religious differences. Rather, such battles surface as conflicts over a certain tangible material such as land even though the perspectives of religion may be enshrined in the conflict.

History is concerned about the narrative past of the way of life of people and how it not only impacts their past but also their present way of life. Therefore, it is substantive to argue that historians investigate the cultural artifacts of people. Such artifacts are inseparable from religion (Fernandez-Armesto 225).

This makes people to have different beliefs even though they may believe in the same God. To exemplify this argument, Hepp argues, “the god of Christianity is not only the god of Judaism but also the god of Islam” (32).

This means that cultural artifacts of people such as the heroes of the religion or the prophets who interpreted the religion create the boundaries in what the people subscribing to particular religion believe in.

Therefore, historians seeking to understand and explain the differences between ways of life of people that are differentiated along their religious affiliations will not seek to base facts on the super deity that the members of a given religion worship but on the religious heroines who attached meaning of what a person subscribing to particular religion demands to do. For instance, Islam “revealed its final form by Prophet Mohammad” (BBC Para.7) while Christianity is “based on the teachings of Jesus Christ” (BBC Para. 5).

Indeed, rationalization of people’s actions is based on religious faith inclinations. Even though this may not be the case in the modern world in which people embrace change, in the traditional world, this argument may be sufficiently true.

Hepp reinforces this argument when he argues, “in a traditional society, where change is often seen as bad, people turn first to religion to make sense of their world” (33). Consequently, religion has played central roles in making people’s cultural history.

The development of the world civilization is owed to the existence of differing religions. For instance, it is immensely difficult to study the development of both social and economic pillars of regions such Asia specifically in countries such as India without referring to Buddhism and Hinduism (Fernandez-Armesto 332).

In this perspective, Hepp particularly believes that both religions “share a common heritage and both have key roles in the historical development of eastern civilizations centered on India and spreading throughout Asia” (37). Similarly, western religions also have common paradigms that are shared amid the religious divide. They all share the belief in a common deity of Judaism.

Religions stand as ample foundations on which historians can base historical facts of people in a bid to trace changes in the ways of interaction as time progresses from the time of inception of the religions to their current state. Unlike the modern age where people have become integrated and united, the history of how different religions started is a subtle indicator that people were traditionally segregated either on racial or tribal lines.

For instance, Hinduism was a tribal religion when it started in about 4000 years ago (Hepp 38). Essentially, the Aryan tribe, which was nomadic, subscribed to the region. It is based on three pillars. These are the belief in multiples gods, “a castle system of fixed social classes, and the belief in almost endless cycle of reincarnation” (Hepp 38).

Even though it entailed a small region established on tribal basis, it has now grown to attract membership of about 900 million people across the world. Similarly, Judaism also started as a tribal region.

This means that the main mechanism of increasing membership was through growth of the tribes subscribing to the religion. While it was only open to people sharing common ethnic backgrounds and cultural traits, as time advanced, it opened up to welcome even people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

The two examples make it clear that, apart from the modern technological developments, which have made people more integrated, evolvement of religion constitutes an additional mechanism of integrating people across the globe despite the fact that differences in between religions exist (Fernandez-Armesto 417).

Therefore, historians’ attempts to study history through deployment of religion as one of the scholarly facets remain valid and instrumental. Without religion, mechanisms of tying people of different social and ethic divides together would significantly be reduced.

Consequently, it could be immensely hard to have places, things, events, and persons that a collective number of people significantly perceive as true. Therefore, studying about the past of the various people would end up being hard since it is almost impossible to study the past of people across the world by studying people individually.

Conclusively, the focus of the paper was to develop an argument on the manner in which religion capacitates historians to study history. In this end, the paper held that religion enables historians to trace the variations of the interactive process of people besides fostering development for world civilizations.

It also forms the foundation of understanding the present ways of life of people based on their past occupations. Additionally, it aids in explaining why some people would engage in conflicts with others.

Works Cited

BBC. Religions: Featured Religions and Beliefs, 2012. Web. www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. The World – A Brief History, Combined Volume. New Jersey, NJ: Pearson, 2009. Print. Hepp, John. Lecture Notes: Historical Foundations of the Modern world. The US: Wilkes University. Print.

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