Religion is more than just words on a piece of paper; it is something that is meant to be immersed in if you wish to understand it. As such, the keyword that was chosen for this assignment was “experience”. People often believe that you can tell a lot about religion based on the scriptures, dogmas, and other printed documents it has released (Seipp 730). However, what this course has shown us that it is people and not documents that truly define a religion. For example, how can Scripture describe the horrors of the Holocaust? How can it explain what gave hope to the hopeless and helped people hold onto their humanity in the face of their impending demise?
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The trip to the Jewish cultural museum revealed the horrors that people experienced at the hands of the Third Reich, yet it also showed instances of self-sacrifice and the enduring spirit of the Jewish population in the face of utter annihilation (Nesfield 44). Throughout their horrific imprisonment, they steadfastly held onto their faith and drew strength from it, resulting in those that have died before they were freed.
Stories like this help to get a better idea of what religion is truly about. The followers of the religion can look through Scripture, read the religious commandments and go through hundreds of published documents, but what matters is how they apply what they are taught (Rowland 71). It is in the application of Scripture and dogma that you can understand what religion is about, and the best way to do so is through experience. Interacting with members of the faith, knowing their accomplishments, understanding the obstacles and challenges they had to go through and seeing what they have endured gives you a better context of how religion has influenced people and whether it has done positively or negatively (Schellekens 121).
Based on the class experience encountering the Jewish religion in the museum trip and its impact on the Jewish people, it can be stated that the impact of Judaism on the Jewish people has been relatively positive. It has helped them to endure and survive in conditions that should have resulted in their annihilation. It gave them the strength to survive as in that power there is a subtle honor that shines in dire circumstances. The trip to the museum showed instances where people willingly gave up their lives for their fellows and did so simply because it was the right thing to do.
In the end, religion is more than just dogma and Scripture, it is more than the summary of its parts, it is an experience that consists of an amalgam of thousands upon thousands of people participating in the same ideal and faith that religion stands for (Kashner 10).
One interesting aspect that can be derived from this exercise is the understanding that being a part of religion involves more than just stating that you are Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Are you truly a part of religion if you are doing none of the practices that it ascribes to? Going along the same argument that experiencing religion is the best way to understand it, being a part of religion also means that you should try immersing yourself in it as well (Moyn 203). Praying and reading religious text does not mean being part of religion; instead, manifesting its practices in your way and doing what you can to experience its full gamut of effects is the best way to know what your religion is about and whether it is truly right for you.
Kashner, Zoe. “Surviving The Holocaust.” Junior Scholastic 117.5 (2014): 10. Print.
Moyn, Samuel. “Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust As Historical Understanding.” Central European History (Cambridge University Press / UK) 46.1 (2013): 203. Print.
Nesfield, Victoria. “Keeping Holocaust Education Relevant In A Changing Landscape: Seventy Years On.” Research In Education 94 (2015): 44-54. Print.
Rowland, Antony. “Reading Holocaust Poetry: Singularity And Geoffrey Hill’s ‘September Song’.” Textual Practice 30.1 (2016): 69-88. Print.
Schellekens, Jona. “Accession Days And Holidays: The Origins Of The Jewish Festival Of Purim.” Journal Of Biblical Literature 128.1 (2009): 115-134. Print.
Seipp, Adam R. “Buchenwald Stories: Testimony, Military History, And The American Encounter With The Holocaust.” Journal Of Military History 79.3 (2015): 721-744. Print.