A century ago, the question of religious belief would have been relatively simple to address in at least one respect: belief was indeed the salient question, and what people believed could largely be summarized in terms of assent to particular doctrines, creeds, and teachings. One of the significant developments of the 20th century is that the role of belief in religious commitment has become problematic. In considering the doctrinal challenges that lie ahead in the next century, the necessary starting point, therefore, must be a consideration of the character of religious orientations themselves. Social scientists, including sociologists, anthropologists, and students of comparative religions, generally conceive of religion as a system of symbols that evokes a sense of holistic or transcendent meaning. Aside from the nature of religious orientation, this chapter also tackles the different kinds of religious belief, consequences of religious outlooks, influences on religious belief, and aspects of religious pluralism.
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