Religion as a Window on Culture


Allow time to view the video and review this section of the leader’s guide before meeting with your class. Determine what you will cover in the available class time.  Plan for any of the Optional Activities you would like to use and how you will integrate the work with the class.  Acquaint yourself with any terms that are unfamiliar (see glossary). Consult with members of your clergy when appropriate.  Finally, duplicate any materials you plan to distribute to the group.


Prepare your group to watch the video.  (Read or paraphrase)

Pilgrimage can have either a specific or a more general meaning.  A journey may be a physical pilgrimage leading to a particular holy place—as in the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.  Or it can be an overall journey, either outward or inward, in search of the fullest meaning of one’s religious beliefs.

  • What personal acts of pilgrimage or journey have you made?

Give members of the group the opportunity to talk about personal journeys that have had particular meaning for them.  Examples would include a journey to their childhood home, the land of their ancestry, or a place where there occurred something of great importance in their life.

SHOW EPISODE VI (22 minutes)

Allow time for members of the group to discuss what they have seen before proceeding with the rest of the discussion.

PILGRIMAGE (10 minutes)

The video mentions several famous pilgrimages to places such as Mecca, Lourdes, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Name as many other religious pilgrimages or sacred journeys as you can.
  • What are some purposes of pilgrimage or sacred journey?

Answers might include prayer, obedience, tradition, to make contact with the sacred, or to connect with sacred history.

  • What are the three elements found in a traditional pilgrimage as explained in the video?

The video breaks pilgrimage into three stages–declaration of intent to make the pilgrimage, preparation for the journey, and the journey itself.

The video introduced people who have taken sacred journeys.

  • What expectation or hope did they bring to the journey?
  • What impact did the journey have on their lives?

Recall the comments made by Daud Abdur-Rahman (Mecca), Thomas Moore (cross bearer), and Mike Vogel (Auschwitz).

  • Does your faith tradition have its own sacred journeys?
  • What purposes do they serve?

Ask group members to discuss any experiences they have had with such journeys.

  • What events in the 20th century have created new pilgrimages?

Examples include journeys to concentration camps and the Holocaust Museum, participation in religious retreats, and attending gatherings of such groups as Promise Keepers in order to foster an inner journey.

INWARD JOURNEY (10 minutes)

Martin Marty suggests that taking a spiritual journey or pilgrimage keeps one from being “stuck” since you are expected to grow spiritually as you mature and progress through the cycle of life. Such journeys remind the believer that their faith includes an ongoing process of personal and spiritual growth.  Consider the idea of a personal sacred journey that a person may create for himself or herself.

  • What elements would be crucial to such a journey?
  • How would one go about planning or carrying out such a journey?


  • What are the similarities and differences between a personal sacred journey and a pilgrimage prescribed by the faith?

Most sacred pilgrimages are grounded in history.  They are intended to remember or Re-enact particular events pivotal to a faith tradition. 

Using the following ideas and questions, reflect on diversity in religion and its expression in Indianapolis culture.

  • What have you discovered about other religious groups throughout these sessions?
  • Has the glimpse into the faith traditions of other groups helped you better to understand your own faith?
  • How does religious diversity affect your community?
  • Name some positive aspects that diverse religious groups and practices bring to your community.
  • Does religious diversity create the potential for conflict?  What might some conflicts be?  How can you work together to minimize any conflict among faith traditions?
  • Name some ways your faith group can help eliminate negative stereotypes of other religions and people who have different religious practices or beliefs.
  • What are the benefits of understanding people from faith traditions different from your own?


Near the end of the video, Sayyid Syeed comments that it is important to recognize other religions as forms of spiritual expression and while “you may not agree with their interpretation and their religion, we have to interact with them with respect and recognition.”  Is this an attitude that best describes your view of other faith traditions?  Has the video helped to encourage this attitude?



Consider the idea of your congregation creating its own sacred journey or pilgrimage.  Around what sort of event or place is it appropriate to plan such a pilgrimage?  Who should be involved in planning the pilgrimage?


Have members reflect upon their lives and the way they have grown in relation to their faith tradition.  Have them consider the major influences in their lives as points along a roadmap of their lives.  Have members write out or diagram their own personal journey.  Allow time for group members to share their stories.



Consider the many kinds of journeys that you observe in life.  While some people make sacred pilgrimages and everyone experiences their own inner journey, many of you make “secular” journeys.

What are some examples of destinations that are popular today?

Probe for destinations of important historical significance such as trips to national monuments or battlefields, or for purposes of group identity as in family or class reunions.  Additional examples could be following a sports team on the road or a musical group on tour.  Many families journey to popular vacation destinations such as the Grand Canyon or Disney World.


Using the questions below, discuss how the idea of a sacred journey or pilgrimage brings together all the other main ideas of this series: sacred space, sacred time and sacred memory.

  • What are the elements of sacred space on a pilgrimage?
  • What are the elements of sacred time on a pilgrimage?
  • What are the elements of sacred memory on a pilgrimage?
  • In what way do sacred texts teach you about the pilgrimages you can make?