November 11th 2003, 11:55 AM
I recently posted an article in this forum asking what the definition of a religion is. It was for an essay where I suggested that belief in evolution qualifies as a religion. Unfortunately the discussion evolved into a debate over evolution. I'm going to quote from my essay for what I have so far as a definition of a religion and hopefully stay off of evolution. Here a quotations of my definition of a religion (remember, I'm not done with a total proofread of this essay):
1. It must be part of a paradigm that views multiple portions of reality as part of a single process, story, or historical narrative. The parts of the narrative must be important parts such as obligations, origin of life, and salvation. This is similar to Neil Postman's methodology when he defines a god as a narrative or story, "one that tells of origins and envisions a future, a story that constructs ideals, prescribes rules of conduct, provides a source of authority, and, above all, gives a sense of continuity and purpose [and] has sufficient credibility, complexity, and symbolic power to enable one to organize one's life around it."
2. There is something in the religion that makes its adherents biased toward it. This is because the religion speaks to basic needs such as the need to know where humans came from, what their obligations are, and how they are to be saved. This bias comes about because the religion answers questions about ultimate issues such as origin of life and the universe, our purpose on this Earth and our ultimate destiny, our obligations toward others.
3. Parts of this religious process cannot be seen, inspected, or totally understood by any scientific or cultural method of examination. The enlightenment of Buddha, the nature of God, the creation of humans, the future utopian of Communism, and others are not accessible to human view nor can they, in principle, ever be accessible to human exploration. These parts must be believed out of faith although these religious paradigms might find evidence for them that we can study with our scientific methods.
I'm looking for comments because it's possible that my definitions are incomplete or there are religions out there that do not have parts of them that agree with my definitions. So far I have seen that I am right about my definitions. But I'd like to know for sure.
December 17th 2003, 01:58 AM
Here's a bunch of definitions of religion that I had found (once had 250):
Religion is "a disposition, built up through experience, to respond favorably, and in certain habitual ways, to conceptual objects and principles that the individual regards as of ultimate importance in his own life, and as having to do with what he regards as permanent or central in the nature of things." Gordon W. Allport The Individual and His Religion. (1950): 56. Religion is "the audacious bid [man] makes to bind himself to creation and to the Creator. It is his ultimate attempt to enlarge and to complete his own personality by finding the supreme context in which he rightly belongs."* ibid., page 142. * In Allport's interpretive definition personality is characterized as ongoing purposive growth which he calls "becoming" Oates, 27.
Religion is "whatever we as individuals do to come to grips personally with the questions that confront us because we are aware that we and all others like us are alive and that we will die." C. D. Batson and W. L. Ventis, The Religious Experience: A Social-Psychological Perspective. (Oxford, 1982): 7.
"Religion [is] a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence." Robert Bellah, "Religious Evolution," American Sociological Review 29 (1964): 359.
Religion implies a relationship; it may be defined as an attempt to overcome solitude, to release the Ego from its seclusion, to achieve community and intimacy." Nicolas Berdyaev, Solitude and
Society. (1938): 91.
"Religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established. Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode." Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. (1967): 26.
"... religion is a defensive reaction of nature against the representation, by intelligence, of the inevitability of death." Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. (Doubleday, 1954): 122.
"The viewpoint that dominates the current approach to the understanding of religion is voluntaristic. From this point of view religion is one of the aspects of man's adjustment to his total environment. It is the highest expression of the will to live--to have life and to have it abundantly. The basic aspect of this adjustment process is the outreach of persons and groups toward the worthful ends by which men live. It is the highest aspect of the struggle for life. Religion thus becomes an attitude toward the environing reality which involves a sense of dependence upon it; an attempt to derive help from it through the establishment of personal relations with it; and the utilization of social experience, culture, organization, and customs in the attempt to lay hold upon these resources. It assumes an attitude of profound seriousness toward this reality as a Determiner of Destiny. In its higher and more adventurous forms this drive toward more abundant living assumes the aspect of a radical experimentation with the unrealized possibilities of life." W. C. Bower, Character Through Creative Experience. (Univ. of Chicago, 1930): 228; cited by Horace T. Houf, What Religion Is and Does. (Harper & Brothers, 1935): 6.
"Religion is rather the attempt to express the complete reality of goodness through every aspect of our being." F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality. p. 453; cited by James H. Leuba, A Psychological Study of Religion. (Macmillan, 1912): 39.
"[A]ll religions ... represent ways in which people have sought to bring themselves into harmony with the powers of the universe, however these powers may be conceived. Religion, whatever its form, helps to assure man of his place in the world, seen or unseen. It is an expression of his dependence on powers outside himself, and of his obligations to those powers." Ina Corine Brown Understanding Other Cultures. (1963): 135.
"A man's religion, if it is sincere, is that consciousness in which he takes up a definite attitude to the world and gathers to a focus all the meaning of his life." E. Caird Evolution of Religion. (1894): i. 81.
Religion is "a belief in, recognition of, or an awakened sense of, a higher unseen controlling power or powers, with the emotion and morality connected therewith ..." Chambers Dictionary, cited by Robert S. Hoagland, "Religion," Religious Humanism 9:4 (Autumn, 1975): 175.
"Religion is interest in what is regarded as most important in the universe." William A. Christian, Jr., "A Definition of Religion," The Review of Religion 5 (1941): 412. Religion is the "ideas, images and performances that people affirm and act on and out, in their quest for safety and certainty beyond the customary operative isurance [sic, sb: insurance?] against the commoner hazards of their lives. How and what turn to in crisis." anon., cited by Walter Houston Clark "How do Social Scientists Define Religion?" Journal of Social Psychology 47 (1958): 144.
"Religion consists of those values shared by a group of people which are also their most intensely held values. Since such values must be studied by way of their derivative symbolism and ritual, these aspects become in practice part of religion." anon., cited by Walter Houston Clark, "How do Social Scientists Define Religion?" Journal of Social Psychology 47 (1958): 145.
"[R]eligion is the expression of the 'ought' in man, an inner feeling and compulsion which makes for consistency and order in behavior. Religion supplies the missing link in psychology." anon., cited by Walter Houston Clark, "How do Social Scientists Define Religion?" Journal of Social Psychology 47 (1958): 145.
"The primary function of religion is to affirm and to consecrate life. ... The religious emotion is no separate feeling, but that tone or quality of any feeling which results in making something sacred." A. Ernest Crawley, The Tree of Life. (Hutchinson & Co., 1905): 185, 270; cited by James H. Leuba, A Psychological Study of Religion. (Macmillan, 1912): 47.
Religion is what will "justify, rationalize and support the sentiments that give cohesion to the society." Kingsley Davis, Human Society. (1950): 519.
"[R]eligion is any set of beliefs that are matters of faith--together with the observances, attitudes, injunctions, and feelings tied up with the beliefs--which, in so far as dominant in a person, tend to perform for him privately, and for society through him, the respective functions we shall describe." "Religion is whatever set of beliefs that, held without evidence, perform the functions of supporting useful behavior for society and healthful psychological attitudes in the individual." Curt John Ducasse A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion. (1953): 130-1, 47.
"A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden--beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community
called a Church, all those who adhere to them ." Emile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. (1915): 62.
Religion "always implies an interpretation of the nature of reality; it involves an interpretation of the meaning of the universe in terms of its value for human life. ... Religion is man's reaction to the totality of things as he apprehends it." D. Maill Edwards, The Philosophy of Religion. (Richard R. Smith, 1930): 11.
"To be religious is to effect in some way and in some measure a vital adjustment (however tentative and incomplete) to whatever is reacted to or regarded implicitly or explicitly as worthy of serious and ulterior concern." "A Religion is a set of meanings and behaviors having reference to individuals who are or were or could be religious." Vergilius Ferm First Chapters in Religious Philosophy. (1937): 61; An Encyclopedia of Religion. (Philosophical Library, 1945): 647.
"Religion is a way of valuing." Frederick Ferré Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion. (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967): 82; see also his "The Definition of Religion," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 38:1 (1970): 3-16, esp. 10-11--"One's religion ... is one's way of valuing most intensively and comprehensively."
"Religion, at least the Christian, is the relation of man to himself, or more correctly to his own nature (i.e., his subjective nature); but a relation to it, viewed as a nature apart from his own. The divine being is nothing else than the human being, or, rather the human nature purified, freed from the limits of the individual man, made objective--i.e., contemplated and revered as another, as distinct being. All the attributes of the divine nature are, therefore, attributes of the human nature." Ludwig Feuerbach The Essence of Christianity. Tr. G. Elliot (1841/1957): 12-4.
Religion "may be defined as a concern of man in society with basic human ends and standards of value, seen in relation to non-human entities or powers". R. Firth, "Problem and Assumption in the Anthropological Study of Religion," JRAI 89:2 (1959): 13.
Religion is "a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life." James G. Frazer The Golden Bough. (1951):
Religion is "the projection of humanity's attempt to understand the world of everyday life". Robert C. Fuller, "Review Essay: Religion and Empiricism in the Works of Peter Berger," 22:4 (December 1987): 499.
Religion is "man's faith in a power beyond himself whereby he seeks to satisfy emotional needs and gain stability of life and which he expresses in acts of worship and service." G. Galloway The Philosophy of Religion. (1914): 184.
"A religion is: (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long- lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System," Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion. Ed. by Michael Banton. (1966): 4.
Religion is "the prime force in the creation and maintenance of social integration." Charles Y. Glock, "Religion and the Integration of Society," Review of Religious Research 2 (1960): 49.
"Religion is this devotion, dedication, and tremendous concern for and with the sources of security." Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough, "A Historian of Religion Tries to Define Religion," Zygon 2:1 (March 1967): 9.
"Religion is better defined as the system of practices and ideas, or perhaps better said, the mental and psychological devices, which help men overcome, obviate, alleviate, or counteract fear and anxiety, and the subjective and physiological effects thereof." Nathan Grossman, "On Peter Berger's Definition of Religion," JSSR 14:3 (Sept. 1975): 289-90.
"Grafton ... defines religion as the interaction of a personality and a supernatural order, in which one, in which one believes and which is represented in symbolic forms transmitted socially." Hervé Carrier The Sociology of Religious Belonging. (1965): 45, referring to T. H. Grafton, "Religious Origins and Sociological Theory," American Sociological Review 10:6 (1945): 726-38: "Religion is the interaction between man and a supernatural order which he believes to exist and which he defines in terms derived from his social experience, together with whatever is implicated in such interaction." (page 727)
"The religious sentiment is primarily no doubt a feeling of dependence. But this feeling of dependence, really to give birth to religion, must provoke in one a reaction--a desire for deliverance. ... Religion is the outcome of an effort to explain all things--physical, metaphysical, and moral--by analogies drawn from human society, imaginatively and symbolically considered. In short, it is a universal sociological hypothesis, mythical in form." Guyau The Non-Religion of the Future, p. 2, cited by James H. Leuba, "The Psychological Nature of Religion," American Journal of Theology (1909): 78.
"Religion is a human phenomenon that functions to unite cultural, social, and personality systems into a meaningful whole." Barbara Hargrove The Sociology of Religion: Classical and Contemporary Approaches. (Yale Divinity School, 1979): 12.
Religion is an "affair of the feelings" ... "The man who carries within himself metaphysical conceptions of such a nature that his emotions are positively affected by them possesses religion." Religion is "a consciousness of our practical relation to an invisible spiritual order." Eduard von Hartman The Religion of the Future. pg. 73; cited by James H. Leuba A Psychological Study of Religion. (Macmillan, 1912): 342.
Religion "a most highly developed expression of human activity, may be defined as any system of words, acts, or devices, or combinations of these, employed to obtain welfare or to avert ill-fare through the use, exercise, or favor of the orenda of another body or bodies." J. N. B. Hewitt, "Orenda and a Definition of Religion," American Anthropologist N.S. 4, (1902): 42.
Religion can be defined as "the set of beliefs which postulate and seek to regulate the distinction between an empirical reality and a related and significant supra-empirical segment of reality; the language and symbols which are used in relation to this distinction; and the activities and institutions which are concerned with its regulation." Michael Hill A Sociology of Religion. (1973): 43.
"Religion is to be understood as a product and manifesto of human desire; and that of no secondary or acquired desire such as curiosity, but of deep-going desire, deep as the will-to-live itself. ... If we should venture to name this deep-set desire which we call religious it might be represented as the ultimate demand for self-preservation: it is man's leap, as individual and as species, for eternal life in some form, in presence of an awakened fear of fate." William Ernest Hocking The Meaning of God in Human Experience: A Philosophic Study of Religion. (Yale Univ. Press, 1922): 49-50.
"[I]n its innermost essence religion is concerned not with its comprehension, but with the valuation of existence, and that religious ideas express the relation in which actual existence, as we know it, stands to that which, for us, invests life with its highest value." Harald Hoffding The Philosophy of Religion. (Macmillan, 1906): 6.
"Religion can be looked upon as an extension of the field of people's social relationships beyond the confines of purely human society. And for completeness' sake, we should perhaps add the rider that this extension must be one in which human beings involved see themselves in a dependent position vis-à-vis their non-human alters--a qualification necessary to exclude pets from the pantheon of gods." Robin Horton "A Definition of Religion,and its Uses," pg. 211.
"Religion is squaring human life with superhuman life ... What is common to all religions is belief in a superhuman power and an adjustment of human activities to the requirements of that power, such adjustment as may enable the individual believer to exist more happily". E. W. Hopkins History of Religions. page 2; cited by Horace T. Houf What Religion Is and Does. (Harper & Brothers, 1935): 5.
"[T]hree factors that practically always appear in an analysis of religion. These are (a) belief in a superhuman power (or powers) which may or may not be personified, (b) desire for certain values, material or spiritual, and (c) characteristic adjustments to the superhuman power for the purpose of securing these values." Horace T. Houf What Religion Is and Does. (Harper & Brothers, 1935): 7.
"Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant"; the religious "includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation--all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living ... Believing that religion must work increasingly for joy in living, religious humanists aim to foster the creative in man and to encourage achievements that add to the satisfaction of life." "A Humanist Manifesto," The New Humanist 6:3 (1933); cited by Curt John Ducasse A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion. (1953): 99.
Religion is "the belief in, and the attempt to relate favorably to values thought to have some transcendental importance, and/or ultimate power or powers thought responsible for all, or some significant aspect of the fundamental order of the universe." Thomas Ford Hoult The Sociology of Religion. (1958): 9.
"[R]eligion refers to any beliefs and/or practices commonly perceived to be related to the supernatural, or to supernatural forces which are viewed as significantly influencing man's destiny." J. E. Winston Jackson, "Toward the Study of the Relation between Social Class and Religion," Canadian Journal of Theology 16 (1970): 84.
Religion is "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine." Religion as the "subconscious continuation of the conscious life." "... man's religion might be identified with his attitude, whatever it might be, towards what he felt to be the primal truth. ... In the broadest and most general terms, one might say that religious life consists of the belief that there is an unseen order and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. This belief and this adjustment are the religious attitude of the soul." William James The Varieties of Religious Experience. (1936): 31-32, 53; second quote is found in Abernathy and Langford, 3; the third quote is cited by Horace T. Houf What Religion Is and Does. (Harper & Brothers, 1935): 5.
"Religion as a form of thought is the perception of 'the invisible things of Him through the things that are made.'" F. B. Jevons History of Religion. pgs. 9-10.
"[R]eligion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by which a group of people interprets and responds to what they feel is sacred,and usually, supernatural as well." Ronald L. Johnstone Religion is Society: A Sociology of Religion. (Prentice-Hall, 1983): 15.
"Religion is a relationship to the highest or strongest value .. The value by which you are possessed unconsciously. That psychological fact which is the greatest power in your system is the god, since it is always the overwhelming psychic factor which is called god." C. G. Jung Psychology and Religion. pg. 98.
Religion is "the recognition of all our duties as divine commands." Immanuel Kant Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. pg. 142, cited by Oates.
Religion is a "system of beliefs about reality, existence, the universe, the supernatural or the divine and practices arising out of these beliefs. These practices usually include worship and a moral code, and often prayer, contemplation, obedience or mediation.
<P>The term 'religion' is sometimes restricted to systems with a God or gods, that is, the theistic faiths. On the other hand, the sense of religion is sometimes expanded to include political beliefs such as communism." Richard Kennedy The International Dictionary of Religion. (Crossroad, 1984): 155.
"Religion is a depth-dimension in cultural experience." attributed to W. L. King, no source given, by Peter Byrne in "The Theory of Religion and Method in the Study of Religion in the Encyclopedia of Religion," Religious Studies 24 (1988): 5.
"Religion is a culture pattern based on relations with the Supernatural, or the Extraordinary, as conceived by the particular people involved. In its purer form it involves (a) the emotion of reverence, (b) the belief in mysterious powers usually personified and not controllable by ordinary means, and (c) non-coercive behavior bringing man into relations with these powers, often with the aid of culture objects." C. Kirkpatrick Religion in Human Affairs. (John Wiley & Sons, ****): page 19; cited by Horace T. Houf What Religion Is and Does. (Harper & Brothers, 1935): 6.
Religion "means the conscious relation between man and God, and the expression of that relation in human conduct." J. Köstlin "Religion," A Religious Encyclopedia. Vol. 3 (Funk & Wagnalls, 1891): 2022.
Religion is "always a naïve or a reasoned theory of reality. It is an attempt to explain human experience by relating it to invisible existences that belong, nevertheless, to the real world." George T. Ladd Jr. of Phil., Psy., and Scientific Methods 1/1 (1904): 9; cited by James H. Leuba A Psychological Study of Religion. (Macmillan, 1912): 345.
Religion is " a system of beliefs about the nature of the force(s) ultimately shaping man's destiny, and the practices associated therewith, shared by the members of a group." G. Lenski The Religious Factor. (Doubleday, 1961: 298-9; cited by Frederick J. Streng, "Studying Religion: Possibilities and Limitations of Different Definitions," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 40 (1972): 224.
Religion "is not concerned only with objects of the highest, of ultimate, value to the individual or to society, but with the preservation and advancement of life in matters small and great. ... Religion is that part of human experience in which man feels himself in relation with powers of psychic nature, usually personal powers, and makes use of them. In its active forms, it is a mode of behavior, aiming, in common with all human activities, at the gratification of needs, desires, and yearnings. It is, therefore, a part of the struggle for life." James H. Leuba A Psychological Study of Religion. (Macmillan, 1912): 51-2.
Religion is "the social processes that lead to the formation of Self." Thomas Luckmann The Invisible Religion. (Macmillan, 1967): 49; cited by Streng, 228.
"The world view, as an "objective" and historical social reality, performs an essentially religious function and [we may] define it as an elementary form of religion. This sociological form is universal in human society. ... The world view is an encompassing system of meaning in which socially relevant categories of time, space, causality and purpose are superordinated to more specific interpretive schemes in which reality is segmented and the segments related to one another." Thomas Luckmann The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society. (1967): 53.
"A religion is the effort to face crisis, ... the function of religion ... is to restore confidence, when man is amazed, and out of his depth, fearful of the mysteries that obtrude on his life, yet compelled if not exactly wishful, to face them and wrest from them whatever help is in them." R. R. Marett Anthropology. (1944): 212, 233.
Religion is "the belief in an Ever-living God, that is, a Divine Mind and Will ruling the Universe and holding Moral relations with mankind." James Martineau A Study of Religion: Its Sources and Contents. Vol. 1 (Clarendon, 1889): 1.
"Religion is clearly a state of mind. ... it may best be described as an emotion resting on a conviction of a harmony between ourselves and the universe at large." John McTaggart Some Dogmas of Religion. (1906): 3; quoted by James H. Leuba A Psychological Study of Religion: Its Origin, Function and Future. (Macmillan, 1912): 349.
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