RSS Feed

To what extent does emotion play a role in religion (faith)?


May 30, 2016 by jessicayang

Three days of service in a special education school in Jimo, Qingdao during the CAS Trip is a great experience to me. I had several TOK moments when I was teaching those special kids, and I want to share one of them, which made me think the most to you today.


In the middle of my drawing class with some children who have Down’s syndrome, one of them suddenly shouted out “Amen” with joy when he finished his drawing, and others followed him and said “Amen” together. I was surprised that they have the same religion with me. When another kid finished his drawing, he raised his hands and said “Hallelujah!”, and I found myself automatically raised my hand and said “Hallelujah!” with rest of the kids and we laughed. At that moment, I felt the power of faith. I was touched that they could clearly explain Jesus, their belief to me under the condition that they could not fluently communicate with others. This made me think about where did the joys of us come from when we did the religious actions, such as saying “Amen” or “Hallelujah” and to what extent does emotion play a role in religion or faith?

From my religious life, I experienced many emotions like fear, sadness and joy. People pray because of fear for most of the time, and the fear has different levels. As an example of a strong fear, people pray when their friends or families get a serious disease, because they are afraid of losing the one they love. On another side, people pray with a weaker fear, for example they may pray before a presentation or an exam because they are afraid of having a poor performance. Fear, as an emotion leads believers taking a religious action such as pray. After the pray, things always turn to be better, thus people feel joy and thankful, and this strengthens their faith.

Behind these, language plays a role with emotion. Religion has its own language, Christian has Bible and Muslin has Koran, and different religion has different scripture. When people who have the common language meet and communicate with the common language that they all understand, they would feel delighted since they can so easily to understand each other. And they will be awe to the god they believe, while they read the scripture. The communication between the believer is a process of personal knowledge and share knowledge meet together. They share their own personal experience of religion, for sure with emotions. Indeed, the god itself has emotion. The mercy, sympathy and love of god would be presented through the story that the believers share. Listeners feel enthalpy as they take all the emotions and reflect back to their own experience. This makes me think about the time when the missionaries spread religion all around the world. I think the cooperation of emotion and language was the reason why people got converted. Just like the kids in the drawing class trying to explain Jesus to me, they actually acted as the missionaries, who expressed the emotion of themselves and god through language. In this way, with the assistant of language, emotion take a large place in religion and faith.

In summary, Religion and faith is full of emotion. Religious actions create emotion, emotion drives people to take more actions, and after each round of this cycle, people’s faith gets strengthen.


  1. jayeren says:

    This is truly a very emotional and touching piece of work. It is joyful to see you and these children together share the emotion of happiness, especially when you and the kids have a special bond of religion.

    I agree with you that religious people, no matter which religion, follow their doctrine and pray for the same reason, and during the process they share the same emotion. As mentioned in my blog, 19 Century Darwin supported the view that emotions are purely physiological and experienced across all cultures. Emotion as a way of knowing acts individually, independent of many other factors, including cultures. I believe that it is this global emotion that brings people from all over the world together. This is the magical and fascinating part of religion.

    • jessicayang says:

      Yes, religion is a global emotion. Every believer shares the same emotion during the religious activities, and this gives them the same identity as a believer. This makes think of the power of religion plays a role in different area.

      During the a world sport event, for example, the World Cup, the soccer fans gather in the stadium from another countries. They cheer up for the team of their own country corporately, because they share the same emotion and they have the same identity as supporter. Although not everyone in the stadium supports the same team, but they are all there with the same purpose: to watch a soccer game. They have different culture background, but they share the same emotion which is the love of soccer. This totally explains how emotion is independent from cultures.

  2. maggiepan says:

    I agree with you that emotion would play an important role in religion to bring people together. I think the process of pray and all other kinds of religious practice in different religion also contained the language and emotion that could influence our personal knowledge. Most religious practice were done by a large amount of people, people would find a sense of belonging in this kind of activities. Because when there is a lot of people, the emotion would easily influence other and also influence the audience. These activities is the method to share the shared knowledge.

    For some small kids like the kids you mentioned in your article, some of them might cannot really understand what is the religion talking about but influence by the emotion, language and memory. For memory it also works with emotion and language together. Since they would heard from others about the religion or attend the religion practice and remember the feeling of it when they were kids. So as they attend more practices, the deeper the memory they have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar