Human Nature from Religious Perspective

Abstract

People act according to certain beliefs and according to their view of human nature in the context of relations with God, with other people, and with the natural world. This paper aims to explain the importance of discussing the view of human nature, to describe the significance of this view in many religions, and to explain how these different views can influence people’s relations within the social environment. It is important to state that the view of human nature differs significantly in such religions as Indigenous ones, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and modern religions. Still, this view influences how the adherents of different religions discuss their personal will and God’s will and how they see their freedom, their life path, and their life goal.

Introduction

In spite of the fact that persons are unique individuals, each person acts or behaves according to certain beliefs and set rules that are characteristic for this person’s cultural and religious views. The scope within which this person can act, influence the situation, and make decisions is usually determined by not only social norms but also by the religious views of human nature (Pojman, 2006, p. 52). The view of human nature is the important aspect of any religion because this view determines the relation of the person to God, to other persons, to the nature, and to the whole world. Thus, it is necessary to explain the importance of focusing on the discussion of this aspect; to describe the significance of the view of human nature in many different religions; and to explain how these different views can influence the development of people’s relations within the social environment.

Rationale for Focusing on the View of Human Nature

The view of human nature should be selected among the other important religious concepts and notions, such as the origin of all things, the nature of God, the view of the Good and the Evil, the view of the afterlife, the idea of salvation, ritual practices, and festivals, because the question of the human nature is the second important question after the issue of the nature of God. The view of human nature differs significantly in such religions as Indigenous ones, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and modern religions (Fisher, 2014, p. 10). However, this view influences how the adherents of different religions choose to act according to their initiative or God’s will, how they see their own freedom, and how this vision is correlated with their relations with God. It is important to focus on the question of the human nature in detail because the aspects of this view explain why the representatives of different religions have various visions regarding their sinful nature or free will and regarding their relations with God and the world (Pojman, 2006, p. 54). The view of human nature set in the religious texts and beliefs explain the people’s visions of their freedom, ability to control their life, dependence on God and explain certain modes of conduct characteristic for members of different religious communities.

While knowing and understanding these differences, it is possible to build positive relations with people based on the religious norms that are not only meaningful but also vital for them because of their view of a human in relation to God, themselves, divine powers, the nature, and the material world. For instance, it is significant to understand that the closeness of people to the natural forces is higher in relation to the Indigenous religions and Shinto; the focus on the people’s ability to overcome the effects of their past lives or karma is significant for Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism; the focus on the sinfulness of human nature is characteristic for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; and the focus on the ways to achieve purity and perfectness is typical for Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism (Fisher, 2014, p. 12). From this point, the view of human nature is unique for each culture, and it is important to focus on possible differences and similarities in visions in detail.

Significance of the View of Human Nature in Religions

Although the view of human nature varies in different religions, it is extremely important in all the religious paradigms, without references to their type. For instance, the concept of human nature is significant for the Indigenous religions because the representatives of these religious cults are not inclined to separate humans and the natural forces. As a result, humans build kinship with the world round them, and each part of this world depends on the other part. Thus, humans are created as not the dominating force in this cycle, but as equal to the other natural forces and objects. Furthermore, the natural spirits and deities can more influence a human than a man can influence the world. In this context, the inner powers of men and women should be used to achieve the state of wholeness or the mutual connection with the world (Fisher, 2014, p. 45). Thus, the Indigenous people believe that humans should live in balance with the sprits and forces of the nature in order to sustain life and realize their goals.

A different view of human nature is characteristic for the followers of Hinduism. These people believe that their nature is close to the divine force because the human self known as atman is a variant of the absolute spirit known as Brahman (Fisher, 2014, p. 78). However, humans cannot achieve the harmony of uniting their self if they have the negative karma (Pandit, 2005, p. 82). The significance of the view of human nature in Hinduism is in the fact that the followers of this religion build their life round practices to improve their karma and to achieve the harmony of their spirit with the focus on yoga practices because the “material life is an illusion”, and the main focus should be on the spiritual aspect of the human nature to achieve wisdom and peacefulness (Fisher, 2014, p. 78). The Jains also focus on karma as important to determine the human nature full of passions. In Jainism, a human should follow the path of liberating from passions to clear karmas and achieve the perfectness (Fisher, 2014, p. 90). From this point, human souls are eternal because they do not change during many lives, but people’s actions affect their development and influence the karma. Still, there is the potential for purifying the human soul through the focus on spirituality.

Similar visions are typical for Buddhism, but the Buddhists’ view of human nature is even more complex. The followers of Buddha’s teaching believe that the human nature is a complex combination of “interdependent physical, emotional, and cognitive components” (Fisher, 2014, p. 144). The core of the human life is sufferings because of emotions and inability to achieve the peace in the union with the Truth. As a result, to avoid fears and sufferings, humans should work with their inner nature and concentrate on liberating themselves while achieving nirvana as the state of absence of sufferings and any emotions (Simpson, 2004, p. 841). Thus, a human can achieve the rebirth in this state. The significance of this view is in the fact that Buddhists believe that their goal in this life is to achieve the state of peacefulness in contrast to everyday sufferings. In Sikhism, adherents also believe in humans’ several lives associated with the karma, and the main goal of the person’s life path is to achieve the “mystical union with the Divine” (Fisher, 2014, p. 445). These religions are similar in relation to the view of human nature.

If Buddhists follow the path to achieve nirvana, Daoists follow the specific path to develop their human nature. The Dao is the “eternally real”, and humans are created to achieve the harmony with the Dao while completing their life path (Fisher, 2014, p. 195). Those humans, who are not on their way to the Dao, do not know the world of order and harmony (Siegler, 2010, p. 46). In this case, the human nature should be in harmony with the Dao as the cosmic power that is the source of all humans (Fisher, 2014, p. 197). The similar idea of the human nature oriented to self-improvement is characteristic for Confucianism. The followers of this religion believe that humans born to be good; and their goal is to develop their human kindness, wisdom, and morality (Fisher, 2014, p. 209). From this perspective, Daoists and the followers of Confucianism see humans as potentially good, and the people’s task is to achieve the spiritual harmony while focusing on making good and on the personal development.

The followers of Shinto share the views similar to the adherents of the Indigenous religions and Daoism. Thus, the human nature is close to the natural world, and many spirits can affect people’s actions. Still, a man’s task is to complete his sacred path, Kannagara, in order to become purified because of human sinfulness and to achieve the kinship with natural forces (Fisher, 2014, p. 240). The idea of human sinfulness is also significant for Zoroastrianism, according to which humans should choose between the Good and the Evil while having the free will (Fisher, 2014, p. 244). In this case, the followers of Shinto and Zoroastrianism discuss their human nature as sinful, but they also rely on the connection with the natural world to make the right choice in life.

The views of human nature in Judaism and Christianity are similar because the followers of both religions believe that the humans’ nature cannot be discussed as divine. Humans are sinful and imperfect in spite of the fact that humans are created in the “image of God” (Fisher, 2014, p. 279). Humans are the best creation of God, and they are created as equal and having the free will. However, humans often do the wrong choice because of their sinful nature. The only chance to achieve the eternal life is to rely on God’s forgiveness and love and follow certain commandments. From this point, humans should focus more on their spiritual life than on the physical aspects. In Islam, humans are also not divine and disposed to sins (Rahim, 2001, p. 671). The main sins are shirk and kufr, according to which humans should discuss only God as divine in nature, and humans should believe in God in spite of any barriers (Fisher, 2014, p. 389). The humans’ imperfection should make them orient to the path of services to God’s will.

The view of human nature is also different in relation to modern religions. For instance, the followers of the Unification Movement believe that humans can achieve peace while manifesting the true love and developing the idea of family because love is the core of human nature (Gallagher & Ashcraft, 2006, p. 181). These visions are based on the principles of Christianity and beliefs in the role of Jesus. Therefore, to understand what principles and beliefs influence the visions of adherents of different religions, it is significant to focus on these religious movements as separate set of beliefs and ideas.

How the View of Human Nature Is Manifested in the Social Environment

Persons interact with representatives of different religious groups every day. For instance, it is important to remember about differences in the views of human nature while providing health care services to representatives of different religions. Thus, working with the representatives of the Indigenous religions, it is important to propose the herbal medicines because of their vision of the connection with the natural world. For representatives of Hinduism and Jainism, it is important to focus on the physical cleanness as associated with the human purity (Pojman, 2006, p. 82). The same idea of personal hygiene is common for adherents of Shinto, Islam, and Sikhism because of the role of purity for developing the spiritual self.

Moreover, providing health services for Buddhists, it is important to pay the extreme attention to the act of birth. Buddhists discuss the birth of a child as one step on the path of liberation, and the whole process should be peaceful (Simpson, 2004, p. 840). The followers of Daoism and Confucianism are expected to focus on the question of morality while discussing the health aspect because it is an issue of the human choice. Contacting Jews, it is important to provide them with opportunities to become healthier through the diet and other health practices. The Christians focus on healing practices along with accentuating the importance of praying to become healthy. Therefore, it is important to focus on the religious views of different people because their beliefs influence their attitude to the personal health as the part of their human nature and to practices followed in the modern medicine.

Conclusion

Although the view of human nature differs significantly in such religions as Indigenous religions, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and certain modern religions, these differences and possible similarities are important to be studied. The reason is that people should understand how the followers of different religious groups see their human nature because this knowledge can be used to explain how these people interact, what attitudes they have to their soul and physical body, and what role of God and divine forces is in influencing the humans’ freedom and will. It is important to be tolerant to all the religious views regarding the human nature because this view is as significant for people as the view of God’s nature.

References

Fisher, M. P. (2014). Living religions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Gallagher, E., & Ashcraft, M. (2006). Introduction to new and alternative religions in America. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Pandit, B. (2005). Explore Hinduism. New York, NY: Heart of Albion.

Pojman, L. (2006). Who are we?: Theories of human nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rahim, H. (2001). Understanding Islam. The Furrow, 52(12), 670-674.

Siegler, E. (2010). “Back to the Pristine”: Identity formation and legitimation in contemporary American Daoism. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 14(1), 45-66.

Simpson, B. (2004). Impossible gifts: Bodies, Buddhism and bioethics in contemporary Sri Lanka. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 10(4), 839-859.