WRITE:  Before reading the assigned materials for Week 1, write a 2 – 3 page “Self Insight” essay.  Your essay should begin with an Introduction, end with a Conclusion, and include at least one paragraph in your own words on each of the following questions: 1) What is your definition of religion?  2) What is your definition of faith? 3) What is your prominent image(s) of God? 4) Why do suffering and evil exist?  5) What is your understanding of prayer, and why do people pray?
Religion is an opportunity for humans to connect with the spiritual world that exists within and beyond themselves. When a community is part of a religion, the members will share common belief systems that encompasses different rituals, rules, and moral obligations which they believe will bring them closer to a divine God or a higher power. This culture of worship is passed over generations and has been a part of the human existence since the beginning of time. Those who participate in a religious group are searching for unity, love, and acceptance from other members of their religion as well as God.
Faith is the trust of someone or something without knowing the outcome. In the context of religion, faith is a strong belief in the teachings of the religion and of the higher power that encompasses that religion without a promise of proof. Those who have faith in God, have confidence that God will not let them down. They believe God will lead them in the right direction in life if they are faithful and live by the guidelines set forth by religious texts.

The prominent mental image of God for me is light in the sky. God takes on the form of a white light with the warmth of love and healing. An all-knowing Father who is the protector of all his children. God can also be seen through the prominent images of Jesus portrayed by the Bible. These images of a man with long hair and a white robe who is known as Jesus can be seen as the human embodiment God.
Suffering and evil exist because humans refuse to put themselves in the shoes of others. Humans who can ignore the suffering of others because it is not directly affecting themselves or their loved ones are often times the ones who can also cause that suffering. Humans have an innate longing to achieve material and social success that puts them in a position to be evil to those who stand in their way. Those who blindly follow without questioning the morality of a situation are in a position to perpetuate evil and suffering upon others.

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Humans pray to establish their faith to God. The ritual of prayer is a way to follow the obligations of a religion with the expectation of establishing a closer relationship with God. Humans will also pray in times of need or suffering in an attempt to get the spiritual world to fulfill a request in the physical world. In some cases, to pray is to have faith that someone is listening to that prayer; In other cases, people pray to themselves to help themselves accomplish a personal purpose.

Religion, faith and prayer can often times be confused with tradition; but just because someone’s ancestors were of a certain religion does not mean that that person will be religious or share the same religious beliefs. Attempts can be made to force religion onto people but what exists in your heart is always your own choice.