By Riley Wingert
On February 25, 2008, Dr. Louis Hammann, Professor of religion at Gettysburg College, gave a presentation in WSC. The presentation was supposed to be a dialogue on world religions featuring Native American beliefs, between Dr. Hammann and his colleague, Dr. Kenneth Lokensgard, Assistant Professor of Religion at Gettysburg College. However, Dr. Lokensgard was sick and could not participate.
Dr. Hammann instead addressed the question; What is religion?
The answer is so much more complex than a mathematical equation like 3 + 6 = 9. So many things come in to play when discussing religion.
Dr. Hammann established that to an individual, religion is based on personal experience, whether that experience was good, bad, or otherwise. Nearly everyone has experienced religion somehow in life. In today’s growing media, humans are increasingly exposed to the public discourse which defines religion the way it perceives it: religion is just an organization or movement to which people are loyal.
As humans we tend to be habitual beings. Religion can become a habit, a cultural reflex in a human being’s life. How does that habit beneficial? What more is religion? Dr. Hammann says in essence, true religion is a chain of memory. That is we reenact the origin of our religion, trying to have the same experiences as those of the founders of the religion. He used two examples one of Catholicism and the practice of mass, and Buddhism and the practice of meditation.
The presentation was not intended to provide absolute truth or resolution to the question of the ages, it was a challenge for each of us to look into our own lives and analyze what our experience with religion has been. We must each wrestle with what religion means in our own lives and ultimately how it affects the way we live in the world.
Thank you Dr. Hammann for leading the discussion and challenging our thoughts.