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Religious News is giving you the opportunity to give your readers a deeper glimpse into your thoughts. Your boss has tasked you with creating a PowerPoint presentation detailing some things you have learned about the religious practices in Oceania. You recall the scenario below while creating your presentation.Explain the values and practices surrounding cults.Justify your chosen action based on the provided scenario.Your presentation must be a minimum of five slides, not counting the title slide and reference slide. Remember to title each slide and include an introductory sentence per slide. You do not need to utilize the notes section or audio for this presentation. Include at least one image in your presentation. Remember to review the rubric to compare it with your presentation before you submit it.You discover that a religious group has begun on the other side of town in which you are staying. You begin attending some of their worship sessions and find that the people are quite welcoming. After attending a few sessions, they invite you to live within the community they have established. It sounds like a great opportunity, and you begin to consider the offer.While talking with your neighbor, who attends church regularly, about the new religious group, she informs you that this group is most likely a cult. She has witnessed the members beginning to build large walls around their compound and bring in supplies, specifically weapons, on regular accounts. She also points out that this group resembles a cult, based on her knowledge of previous incidents.She concludes by cautioning you against moving into the newly formed community, noting that cults tend to have vary drastic views and practices compared to other religions. You assure her you will take her cautions to heart while making your decision. In the end though, will you join the cult?For your presentation, you must include the following components:Create a chart to compare and contrast the view of sacred items, practices, or areas of Oceanic cults compared to that of one religion discussed so far in this course.Create a bulleted list of assessing why members of religious groups can be divided on new beliefs or topics.

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

2. Discuss factors which have caused potential for conflict within and between religious groups.
2.1 Assess why members of religious groups can be divided on new beliefs or topics.

5. Explain differing interpretations of religious tenets.

5.1 Contrast the view of sacred items, practices, or areas from various religions or groups.
5.2 Explain the values and practices surrounding cults.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity

Unit Lesson
Chapter 6, pp. 237–265
Unit V PowerPoint Presentation


Unit Lesson
Chapter 6, pp. 237–265
Video: Self-Appointed Charismatic Leader
Unit V PowerPoint Presentation

Unit Lesson
Video: Full Gospel Mission- Camp David
Unit V PowerPoint Presentation

Reading Assignment

Chapter 6: Religions of Oceania, pp. 237–265

In order to access the following resources, click the links below:

The transcripts for each video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab beside each video in the Films on
Demand database.

Electric Sky (Producer). (2009). Full gospel mission – Camp David (Segment 4 of 22) [Video]. In Trapped: Life

Inside a Cult—How to Spot a Cult. Films on Demand.

Electric Sky (Producer). (2009). Self-appointed charismatic leader (Segment 5 of 22) [Video]. In Trapped: Life

Inside a Cult—How to Spot a Cult. Films on Demand

Unit Lesson

Unit V Overview

In Unit V, you will learn about the religions of Oceania from Chapter 6 of your textbook. Geographically,
Oceania is divided into Australia, Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. People migrated to Australia and
Aotearoa (New Zealand) from as far away as Africa via Asia and the Indo-Malaysian archipelago between
40,000 to 20,000 BCE (Deming, 2015). Around 4,000 years ago, Polynesian and Micronesian cultures
formed, giving rise to a society rich in tradition and ritual. As you delve into the theology and cosmology of the



PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 2



indigenous peoples of Oceania, you will notice similarities with the African religions discussed in Unit IV. For
example, as with the African religions, community plays a fundamental role in maintaining the balance of the
universe in the religions of Oceania. After you read Chapter 6, you should be able to identify commonalities
shared by the religions of Oceania and other religions of the world. As with the African religions, the religions
of Oceania also had to cope with outside influences from the Europeans. After reading Unit V’s Study Guide,
think about the following questions: How did these encounters with Europeans shape and possibly alter the
religions of Oceania? What potential for conflict can you readily identify here? Finally, how is the creation
story of the religions of Oceania like that of the African religions?

Introduction to the Religions of Oceania

The religions of Oceania have a worldview unique to the peoples of this geographic region. For example, as
your textbook explains, all life (animate and inanimate) is connected—people, animals, trees, and stones to
one another and to place (Deming, 2015). A life force binds everything together. European missionaries who
encountered this worldview were disturbed because it contravened the Christian notion of how the world was
created and sustained. Not surprisingly, some of these European missionaries condemned such practices,
while other missionaries figured they would merely replace the indigenous people’s practices with Christianity
(Deming, 248). Over time, the indigenous peoples of Oceania integrated Christianity into their own practices
and eventually converted into to Christianity by the beginning of the 21st century (Deming, 149).

As Deming (2015) points out, the first missionaries to the area were appalled at the indigenous way of life.
The notion that all life was bounded by a life force that connected them all together as a way to share life
befuddled the Christian missionaries.

German missionaries struggled in relating to the Arrernte people, especially the adults. Trying to get past their
engrained culture or religion proved to be harder than the missionaries initially believed. As the saying goes,
“nothing happens right away,” so it was true for the converting of the indigenous people of Oceania. It took
time to show the Arrernte people that their incorporation of tywerrenge into all aspects of life was very
different from Christianity.

This was not the case with only the Arrernte people. As you have learned up to this point, religions are
intimately linked to their respective cultures. In the case of Oceanian religions, place represents not only
geography but also community (Deming, 2015). Place for these indigenous people holds a special vitality in
which all the inhabitants participate. In other words, place serves as a moral compass around which they
orient their lives—lives that are drawn to the special power emanating from place (Deming, 2015). This is all
to say that space is sacred because it represents the womb of the community. This idea of sacred has been
seen throughout our course so far. Each area or group of people has shown this commonality when it comes
to parts of their religion. The Arrernte are no different.

Basics of the Religions of Oceania: Cosmology and Theology

Up to this point, we have not talked about cults. Most people think that the world cult has a negative
connotation. However, a cult is really nothing more than a type of formal and stylistic type of worship by the
cult’s set of believers. What gives cults a bad reputation is that their practices are usually unorthodox
compared to other mainstream religions. That is, a cult might have beliefs and practices that completely
contravene standard notions of worship, theology, and ceremony. Undoubtedly, many people have heard
about cults. Many Christians consider Mormonism a kind of cult because it is on the fringes of mainstream
Christianity. If we used the Merriam-Webster definition of cult and applied it to some of the Oceanic religions,
we discover that cults even exist outside the United States.

Watch this video about Camp David in New Zealand. The transcript for the video can be found by clicking the
“Transcript” tab beside the video in the Films on Demand database.

Electric Sky (Producer). (2009). Full gospel mission – Camp David (Segment 4 of 22) [Video]. In Trapped: Life

Inside a Cult—How to Spot a Cult. Films on Demand.

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 3



Watch this video surrounding Bert Potter of the Centrepoint Community in New Zealand. The transcript for the
video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab beside the video in the Films on Demand database.

Electric Sky (Producer). (2009). Self-appointed charismatic leader (Segment 5 of 22) [Video]. In Trapped: Life

Inside a Cult—How to Spot a Cult. Films on Demand

Each kind of cult emphasizes something different in its own belief system and practice. Sky gods and cultural
heroes factor prominently in these religions. The religions of Oceania are types of cults in the sense that we
described earlier in that they adapted Christianity to fit their needs. This adaptation of Christianity is
unorthodox because it differs from the orthodox or established Christianity that we find elsewhere in the world.
If we turn to Australia, you will discover that the Aborigines have worked out an elaborate belief system that
revolves around the power of dreaming. What Aborigines call The Dreaming is more than an altered state of
reality while sleeping but is a conduit to the creative spirit, or the Rainbow Snake, which protects all life
(Deming, 2015). You can read more about The Dreaming on pages 255–256 of your textbook.

Another example includes the Maori people in Aotearoa. The Maori received Christianity as did other people
in Oceania, and they modified and developed their own indigenous Christian church that differed greatly from
those European or American Christian churches. Where traditional Catholic churches are usually designed in
the shape of a cross, the Maori churches (marae) followed more of a traditional Polynesian architecture that
reflected their understanding of the cosmos. The floor corresponds to the Earth Mother and the roof
corresponds to the Sky Father. Finally, your textbook refers to cargo cults, a unique innovation of these
indigenous peoples (Deming, 2015). As Europeans traded with the Oceanic peoples, prosperous trading
networks evolved from which everyone benefitted. In view of this, the indigenous people of Oceania
established cults or religious movements around this trading of commerce. In short, the indigenous people
were really doing nothing more than welding together their rituals of wealth with their own indigenous
traditions and Christianity. You can read more about this on pages 249–250 of your textbook. Is this really all
that different from how certain Christian communities here in the United States pray? In our country,
Christians often come together in worship to pray for prosperity and well-being for the community.

In terms of cosmology, Oceanic cosmology realizes the important role that humanity plays in helping to
maintain creation. We, as humans, have the responsibility of maintaining the world once the gods set
everything in motion. This responsibility is called the Law (Deming, 2015). We might think of the Law as a
kind of environmentalism that stresses that all life is connected and is held in a balance. This important
responsibility is passed down to each generation through the act of storytelling. In other words, storytelling is
a form of education so that the younger generation will appreciate and realize just how important life really is.
Keep in mind that storytelling in Oceania is an oral tradition. Oral traditions are a kind of glue that bind
communities such as Oceania together tightly.

Transfer of Learning

After reading Chapter 6, Religions of Oceania, you should be able to describe the importance of place in
Oceanic cultures. What is the connection between place and community? Do you see any similarities here
with the African religions? How do Oceanians understand the relationship between the natural and the
supernatural? What role does gender play in Oceanian rituals and ceremonies? What kind of impact did
foreigners have on the religions and culture of the Oceanians.


The religions of Oceania have strong connections to geography and community. Place is important because it
brings individuals together in community to participate in the life force specific to that place. We obtain this
new life force at birth because of community, and then we return it back to place and community upon our
death. This appreciation of the human life cycle is preserved in ritual and ceremony. Notice that Oceanic
religions have an environmental aspect as well. One underlying message of Oceanic religions is that we are
stewards of this earth and must take care of it to maintain balance and harmony. Again, we see similarities
here with the African religions that are also tied to nature and community (recall pages 217–218 in your
textbook). So for Oceanians, ultimate reality resides more in the natural than the supernatural. You can infer
from this that earth is the mother, sustainer, and in a sense, the redeemer. In this religious tradition, everyone
is redeemed through the life cycle of birth, adulthood, and death (Deming, 2015). What comparisons can you

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 4



now make between the Oceanic human life cycle and the Buddhist religious tenet of karma and rebirth? Keep
in mind also that the Oceanic religions, like the African religions, are not text-oriented religions. Do you see
any major differences so far between religions that are text-oriented (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism) and religions
that are not text-oriented? Hold on to this question as you progress through the remaining units.


Deming, W. (Ed.). (2015). Understanding the religions of the world: An introduction. West Sussex, United

Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

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