Not all religions are cult

Lexicon of Religions:

Particularly deserving people with a role model

All religions know particularly deserving people who, because of their way of life, are considered role models by others and are often associated with miracles. They are recognized: saints. A personality cult does not result from it everywhere.

They are revered and some even keep parts of their bodies, belongings or objects that they have touched. In this form, the veneration of extraordinary people can be found above all in the Catholic tradition. But also in other religions one knows women and men who are considered religiously and ethically perfect because of their way of life or through attaining enlightenment.

The term “saint” cannot be applied equally to all religions, phenomena that separate the special - sacred - from the everyday - profane - are found universally. Tombs or reliquary shrines are places of worship and pilgrimage sites in almost all traditions. The mortal remains are believed to be able to maintain a connection between this world and the hereafter. Saints hereby act as a mediator between God and man.

Catholic cult

The veneration of saints has had particular blossoms in Catholic Christianity, which has led to a large number of saints and a flood of worshiping relics. Mummified bodies, locks of hair, bones, and other parts of the body are preserved and venerated. Almost every day of the year is assigned to a saint in Catholic areas.

By canonization, the Catholic Church expresses its trust that the deceased person referred to has already reached perfection with God. This allows this person to be venerated and asked for intercession by believers around the world. In the case of the blessed, this is only allowed in the diocese in which they were beatified.

Elaborate procedure in Catholic Church

In general, the blessed are a kind of preliminary stage to the saints. In order for a person to be beatified, a complicated examination process must be followed. In the course of this, the “heroic degree of virtue” of the person is first determined. In addition, the person must have either suffered martyrdom or worked a scientifically inexplicable miracle.

For the "ascent" from the blessed to the saint, the recognition of a second such miracle by a Vatican examination committee is usually necessary - with John XXIII. Pope Francis recently renounced it. If the process, which usually takes decades or longer, is positive, the Pope declares that the person may be called a saint and should be venerated as such.

Evangelical Church: Remembrance instead of adoration

The Protestant tradition differs considerably from the Catholic tradition, especially when it comes to the practice of veneration of saints. After all, one of the most noticeable differences between the Protestant and Catholic Church is that there does not seem to be any saints in the Protestant Church. Originally, the first Christians described themselves as believers or saints, says the Evangelical Lutheran Bishop A.B., Michael Bünker.

From the second century onwards, the term "saints" meant martyrs or ascetics. The Protestant Church knows commemoration of saints, but not the adoration of people. In the Protestant understanding, holiness is not so much the goal of human conduct of life, but a gift from God to the community, so Bünker - more on the founding movement of the Protestant faith in the entry "Reformation".

"Friends of God" in Islam

People who do more than just fulfill their duty, so-called “friends of God” are also important in Islam. Zeynep Elibol, head of the Islamic college for social education, names Rabia from Basra, a woman who lived in today's Iraq at the beginning of the 9th century, who was an orphan and a slave and who is said to have developed a special mysticism and closeness to God.

“In Islamic mysticism, it symbolizes love that is free from any egoism”. When asked whether she loved God, Rabia replied "Yes", at the same time stating that she did not hate Satan because of that, as the hatred would distract her from the love of God, according to Elibol. Personality cult, however, is frowned upon in Islam, because people are often suddenly in the foreground and God is forgotten.

Jewish pilgrimage sites

Although personal holiness is used very sparingly in the Jewish tradition, in practice several graves have established themselves as places of worship. Examples of this include the graves of the patriarchs in Hebron and the tomb of David in Jerusalem. These are considered pilgrimage destinations.

Asceticism and Nirvana

Unlike in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are no comparable concepts of God in Buddhism. Life is often associated with suffering. The aim of the Buddhist path is to "extinguish" the "I-madness". At the end there is nirvana - a state for which there is neither space nor time. The Buddhist Ursula Lyon tells of "enlightened beings" who think, speak and do healthily and thus help people to walk the right and "healthy path", so-called Boddhisatvas. And: Anyone can become a Bodhisattva by shedding greed, hate and self-addiction, so Lyon.

In the Hindu religions and Jainism, people who attain higher states of consciousness through asceticism and meditation are considered "saints". But they do not have a mediating character. Religious teachers such as Shankara, Ramakrishna and Mahatma Gandhi are venerated.

World religions in the ORF religion lexicon

See also in the ORF religion lexicon: