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Thierry Penneteau


Of Gods and Men

The Latin term religion was first defined by Cicero as “the act of attending to and worshipping a higher nature that is called divine”. In languages where the term derives from Latin, religion is often understood as the relationship between mankind and God. In the Koran, the term dîn, which can be seen as equivalent to religion, refers above all to God’s prescriptions for a community. In Chinese, the term zōng jiào, coined in the early 20th century to translate that of religion, is connoted with the idea of a teaching for a community. Buddhism is often considered a religion, even though there is no mention of God or divine nature.

Religion can be understood as a way of seeking and/or finding answers to humanity’s deepest questions. In this sense, it is related to philosophy. It can be personal or communal, private or public. It can also be recognized in the definition and practice of a cult, a teaching, spiritual exercises and social behavior.
Historically, religions, conceived as orders recommending what to do and what to believe, appeared with the religious parties opposing each other in 16th-century Europe. These parties were primarily Catholic and Protestant, as well as the diversity of Protestant denominations. The practice of referring to these parties as “religions” appeared at the end of the 16th century, while, by extension, “religions” also began to be used to refer to Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Judaism and all the world’s religions since the origins of mankind. From that moment on, the still unresolved question of what is religion in relation to the countless religions of the world began to arise.
According to Pierre Gisel, the question of what is a religion is an open one: should we be content to think that religions always have an institutional form with a clergy, pastors, imams, rabbis, monks or gurus, or should we also consider as religion personal development practices touching on fields ranging from sport to philosophy, as well as what booksellers group together under the generic term of esotericism?

A religion is a way of looking at the relationship between man and the divine, a way of conceiving the world and answering the great existential questions: where do we come from, why do we exist, where do we go after death, is there a God who is interested in us…. Finally, it’s also a way of life, derived from beliefs and the way they are expressed. One of the aims of many religions is the betterment of mankind.

This exhibition aims to raise public awareness of the variety of religions in France and around the world. It emphasizes the many ways in which sacred writings are fixed, how belief is conveyed through gesture, ritual and architecture, and the natural inclination of human beings to symbolize. Finally, it suggests that behind the variety of practices and material or abstract supports for beliefs and convictions, people share a common interest: believing and seeing what they believe in, on an object, a building, a ceremonial or a symbol.
This exhibition is a real tour of the world of religions, through faces that reveal the sensibility of men expressed by a look, a gesture, a place.

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