Significant Life Experiences and Religious Belief
Significant life experiences that can impact on religious beliefs are of many types: experiences that cause doubt; experiences that cause people to reflect on the meaning of their life; experiences that create new hope and experiences that enable a strengthening of faith. Each of these types of experience affects a person’s sense of commitment or faith within a religious tradition. It may be judged to be for the better or may be judged for the worse. These moments may be characterised by such intense experiences as joy, wonder (awe), suffering, death, major life choices, love, human relationships, or commitment.
Religious beliefs interpreting life experience
When a person is facing a significant life experience, the religious beliefs held by the person provide an interpretive scaffold for the experience. Religious beliefs shape life experiences and impact the way people understand and interpret their significant life experiences. Religious beliefs can offer a window through which to view the experiences of life. The spiritual agenda of the person can be reaffirmed or deepened by understanding the experience in within the categories of the person’s religious tradition. The beliefs of the tradition, expressed in its sacred texts and rituals can offer support in times of substantial change in life circumstances. A significant life experience is often a turning point in a person’s life and can have an immense impact on the way they understand life and their faith and can ultimately affect the way that they conduct themselves in the world. When human experience is approached in faith, the belief system can offer a sense of support or salvation or redemption or hope for the faithful adherent. Growth in faith and a deeper understanding of the belief system can result.
Life experiences impact on religious beliefs
The spiritual agenda of the person can be also be challenged and endangered by intense experience. The individual’s relationship with the religious tradition may change because significant life experiences change humans. Experiences can then lead a person to develop new awareness, insights and understandings of their traditional religious beliefs. The questioning of long held beliefs may even result in the rejection of that belief system by the individual. Through significant experiences, the faith of individuals may adjust, new understandings may immerge and alternative belief structures may be sorted out. Traditional faith may be abandoned for a time or permanently neglected as the result of a significant experience.