1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What Is A Religion?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Oct 31, 2002.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Inspired by this thread I thought it was time to discuss what it really is.

    These longstanding questions have become acute to all of us reeling from recent terrorist attacks, and struggling to comprehend the fanaticism that drove them. We tend to associate religion with humanity's noble side, not with its evil side: Why does religion sometimes preach murder and suicide?

    In his <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/15798">review of David Sloan Wilson's</a> Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Jared Diamond tackles some tough questions about religion.

    Consider the nature of religion itself: Can a religion be agnostic, much less atheistic?.

    And how does one account for the depressing historical reality of the religious leading to wars and atrocity? And does being human predispose us toward the mysteries and explanations of religion?

    Please keep in mind that this thread has little to do with the one I linked above. It's a genuine attempt to discuss this highly emotional issue.
  2. fritzmp

    fritzmp Fire Fire For Effect

    From a neat little app GDict found on many Linux Distros.

    Ghost dance Ghost dance
    A religious dance of the North American Indians, participated
    in by both sexes, and looked upon as a rite of invocation the
    purpose of which is, through trance and vision, to bring the
    dancer into communion with the unseen world and the spirits
    of departed friends. The dance is the chief rite of the

    Ghost-dance, or


    religion, which originated about 1890 in the doctrines of
    the Piute Wovoka, the Indian Messiah, who taught that the
    time was drawing near when the whole Indian race, the dead
    with the living, should be reunited to live a life of
    millennial happiness upon a regenerated earth. The
    religion inculcates peace, righteousness, and work, and
    holds that in good time, without warlike intervention, the
    oppressive white rule will be removed by the higher
    powers. The religion spread through a majority of the
    western tribes of the United States, only in the case of
    the Sioux, owing to local causes, leading to an outbreak.

    Religion Re*li"gion (r-e*li^j"u^n), n. F., from L.
    religio; cf. religens pious, revering the gods, Gr. 'ale`gein
    to heed, have a care. Cf. Neglect.
    1. The outward act or form by which men indicate their
    recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having
    power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and
    honor are due; the feeling or expression of human love,
    fear, or awe of some superhuman and overruling power,
    whether by profession of belief, by observance of rites
    and ceremonies, or by the conduct of life; a system of
    faith and worship; a manifestation of piety; as, ethical
    religions; monotheistic religions; natural religion;
    revealed religion; the religion of the Jews; the religion
    of idol worshipers.

    An orderly life so far as others are able to observe
    us is now and then produced by prudential motives or
    by dint of habit; but without seriousness there can
    be no religious principle at the bottom, no course
    of conduct from religious motives; in a word, there
    can be no religion. --Paley.

    Religion was not, as too often now, used as
    equivalent for godliness; but . . . it expressed the
    outer form and embodiment which the inward spirit of
    a true or a false devotion assumed. --Trench.

    Religions, by which are meant the modes of divine
    worship proper to different tribes, nations, or
    communities, and based on the belief held in common
    by the members of them severally. . . . There is no
    living religion without something like a doctrine.
    On the other hand, a doctrine, however elaborate,
    does not constitute a religion. --C. P. Tiele

    Religion . . . means the conscious relation between
    man and God, and the expression of that relation in
    human conduct. --J.

    After the most straitest sect of our religion I
    lived a Pharisee. --Acts xxvi.

    The image of a brute, adorned With gay religions
    full of pomp and gold. --Milton.

    2. Specifically, conformity in faith and life to the precepts
    inculcated in the Bible, respecting the conduct of life
    and duty toward God and man; the Christian faith and

    Let us with caution indulge the supposition that
    morality can be maintained without religion.

    Religion will attend you . . . as a pleasant and
    useful companion in every proper place, and every
    temperate occupation of life. --Buckminster.

    3. (R. C. Ch.) A monastic or religious order subject to a
    regulated mode of life; the religious state; as, to enter
    religion. --Trench.

    A good man was there of religion. --Chaucer.

    4. Strictness of fidelity in conforming to any practice, as
    if it were an enjoined rule of conduct. R.

    Those parts of pleading which in ancient times might
    perhaps be material, but at this time are become
    only mere styles and forms, are still continued with
    much religion. --Sir M. Hale.

    Note: Religion, as distinguished from theology, is
    subjective, designating the feelings and acts of men
    which relate to God; while theology is objective, and
    denotes those ideas which man entertains respecting the
    God whom he worships, especially his systematized views
    of God. As distinguished from morality, religion
    denotes the influences and motives to human duty which
    are found in the character and will of God, while
    morality describes the duties to man, to which true
    religion always influences. As distinguished from
    piety, religion is a high sense of moral obligation and
    spirit of reverence or worship which affect the heart
    of man with respect to the Deity, while piety, which
    first expressed the feelings of a child toward a
    parent, is used for that filial sentiment of veneration
    and love which we owe to the Father of all. As
    distinguished from sanctity, religion is the means by
    which sanctity is achieved, sanctity denoting primarily
    that purity of heart and life which results from
    habitual communion with God, and a sense of his
    continual presence.

    Natural religion, a religion based upon the evidences of a
    God and his qualities, which is supplied by natural
    phenomena. See Natural theology, under Natural.

    Religion of humanity, a name sometimes given to a religion
    founded upon positivism as a philosophical basis.

    Revealed religion, that which is based upon direct
    communication of God's will to mankind; especially, the
    Christian religion, based on the revelations recorded in
    the Old and New Testaments.
  3. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    What is a religion?

    I believe, first of all, that a religion is shared by many people. Very nice belief sets may exist within one person. If, however, those same belief sets do not exist, largely similar, within many other people, then it is not a religion, merely the belief set of one person.

    So, the first defining characteristic of a religion is that many people believe in it.

    The second defining characteristic, I feel, is that one or more of the common belief sets defines a higher power, or powers. Such power may be omnipotent or may simply have one or more aspects beyond our common or normal abilities or ken. The higher power may also be the combined "essence" of multiple entities, whether real or imagined.

    The third characteristic of a religion is the belief that the higher power, or powers, desires that humans act in some particular fashion or fashions. Certain sets of behavior are desired and rewarded, others discouraged and punished. Typically, these behavior sets reflect the combined will of a cultural imperative to achieve some state of "grace" or perfection.

    The fourth, and final, characteristic of a religion is that it be life-affirming. Not to be confused with "pro-life" as known in U.S. politics, life-affirming means that the religion is focussed on the "here-and-now", celebrating the events of birth, growth, and development, of the individual, the family, the village, the culture, and so on. Life-affirming means that the general practices of the religion are not destructive; rewards are dependent on good deeds, not promises; violence is never an alternative, except in defense of the greater good.

    It is, of course, in my fourth defining characteristic of a religion, that most of them fail.
  4. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    I know I am going to get berated for this, but I am used to it by now. Religion is a very sore topic for me, in case anyone reading this hasn't figured it out yet.

    To me, religion is a set of non-scientific beliefs that are studied and practiced by a group of people. A mythology is a former religion because it is no longer "believed" by a reasonably sized group of people.

    I know that is a very short definition, but I really don't see how anything more than that is required. Religion has been used over the centuries to explain the inexplicable and to force a common set of morals and beliefs on people.

Share This Page