General Question

doggywuv's avatar

How would you define "religion"?

Asked by doggywuv (1041points) July 10th, 2009

Dictionary definitions vary, what’s yours?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

34 Answers

Saturated_Brain's avatar

My belief in something greater than I am.
Something which enables me to live my life as a better person.
Something which is, in its entirety, indescribable.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

A spiritual belief system which suggests not only a theory for the creation of life and the universe but also establishes a code of behavioral conduct.

doggywuv's avatar

I would define it as “worship of and contemplation of ones relation to what is perceived to be supernatural”.
On a side note, this question has already been asked on Fluther ( Should I delete my question?

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

good luck deleting a question, once you ask one, they are here to stay, and to haunt you for the rest of your life. I’ve asked a few stupid questions myself. Not saying your question is stupid, its just that…well, um, shit, oh crap! never mind. Feh. :-)

and don’t go looking up any of my past idiotic questions, or I’ll sick a moderator on you.

doggywuv's avatar

Heh, alright :) I think we should direct answers to the other question (

dannyc's avatar

I cannot define it, but just have faith (or not) in it. That is what makes it religion. Impossible to define.

Ivan's avatar

An organized set of beliefs, rituals, customs, and rules regarding ultimate causes or truths.

Jack79's avatar

a futile effort to comprehend God.

Thammuz's avatar

A set of belief generally modeled on an ancient mythology that attempts at bending society to its own rules, strong of its supposed divine heritage. (i added a “generally” so that scientology would fit in the equation as well)

lloydbird's avatar

Nuggets of sound moral philosophy (Be good,be kind etc..), caked in questionable mythology (Usually based on a fantastic hero figure.), coupled with restrictive, divisive practices (You must do this…,you must not do that etc..) and all usually leading to ways of extracting money from adherents.

whitenoise's avatar

I would define it as the holy grail of marketing:

“Sell people a promise that they can only cash in upon after they are dead. Meanwhile, you can make them do pretty much anything.”

* No need to deliver on your promise
* No after sales needed.
* No disgruntled customers asking their money back.
* No complaints

No wonder this “product” is reinvented time and time again.

Jack79's avatar

Guys, I think we are being overly cynical here. Yes, there are of course religious leaders that have taken advantage of the situation, just like there are corrupt politicians. I’ll even accept (for the sake of the argument) that every priest,mullah, monk or Pope that ever existed was a corrupt individual, an evil salesman of hope.

But religion itself (not specific religions, just the general idea of it) is nothing more than an attempt to explain our world. Just like science (which is based on observation, experimentation and sets of natural laws), religion tries to explain the world around us, usually whichever part of it science can’t. This is why we often refer to the “shrinking of God’s domain” since, when science was pretty basic and unable to explain much, everything was explained religiously: rain and fire were sent by the gods, who lived in the clouds, the sun was a god himself, the night was a godess, as was the moon, the earth, the stars and more or less everything, even certain animals and plants. As science started explaining things, we figured that fire is a chemical reaction and the sun just a huge ball of fire in space, that the moon was nothing more than a huge rock orbiting the earth and that we could even go visit, and so on. To the point where modern religion tries to explain God as the force that caused Big Bang.

But it’s still way beyond anything we could ever comprehend. For the simple reason that, if we could, then it would be called science.

whitenoise's avatar

@Jack79 “But religion itself (not specific religions, just the general idea of it) is nothing more than an attempt to explain our world.”

You are stating an opinion as a fact. I feel you are missing out on the elements of “worship” and “compliance to rules set by”. Without those, what you describe is merely a mythologie. Your description may be your personal interpretation, but in the general public the element of obedience / worship is always there.

I would also say that for many people religion is not so much about explaining the world at all, leaving that to science. Some religions focus solely (or at least primarily) on obedience and giving guidance.

In the Middle Ages, for instance, masses in the catholic church were in Latin while the gatherers would not understand a word said. All they knew is that they had to listen to the priests. I also know of Muslims that are intensely studying to be able recite the verses of the Qur’an in the original language, while not able to understand a single word.

Jack79's avatar

I am not talking about the specific, organised religions that exist in the world today. What you are referring to is Christianity, not religion. Religion did not start in the Middle Ages, or even with Christ’s birth. Religion started the moment a prehistoric man saw a lightning and asked his father what it was. And the older man said something like “the gods are mad at us for killing that tiger”.

whitenoise's avatar

Nope… I wasn’t referring to Christianity or any other “anity” in particular.
I trust that you know that saying “Religion did not start in the Middle Ages, or even with Christ’s birth” you are stating the obvious, to put it mildly.
(Either that, or somewhere in my answer I gave away that I am totally stupid and you are explaining thois to me as a kind gesture)

Blondesjon's avatar


Thammuz's avatar

@Jack79 Precisely, which entailed “killing that tiger was wrong”, and the qualitative judgement is the birthmark of religion. While an attempt at explaining doesn’t necessarily entail a qualitative as much as it does entail a quantitative one.

Jack79's avatar

@Thammuz I didn’t understand your last post, but that’s ok. I’m not here to argue with anyone, doggywuv asked a question, I answered it, that’s all. Whatever.

whitenoise's avatar

I read @Thammuz‘s answer as: religion has elements of explanatory mythology (“The gods are mad at us for killing that tiger”) but as your illustrative statement shows also an instruction embedded into it. “Don’t kill tigers!” He refers to that instructive element as “qualitative” and the explanation part as “quantitative”.

If the pre-historic man had said. “Well yes, that is made by gods. Gods can make thunder, if they so choose.” That would still be mythology. It starts become religion as soon as a guidance is derived from it on how to live. As @Thammuz illustrates by “Do not kill tigers”. @Thammuz: please correct me, if I misinterpret your response.

As such I see @Thammuz and also your own statement as confirmation that your original “But religion itself (not specific religions, just the general idea of it) is nothing more than an attempt to explain our world.” is wrong and applies to mythology rather than religion.

Religion has an element of worship or obedience in it beyond explanatory purposes, as per Webster’s:
(1) The service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

lloydbird's avatar

@Blondesjon Truly excellent acronym dooood!!

Jack79's avatar

@whitenoise as the original question states, “Dictionary definitions vary, what’s yours?”

I don’t agree with Webster (which in fact is a dictionary trying to help people understand basic everyday words, not answer philosophical points). Ancient Greek Mythology for example is only called “mythology” by Christians who imply that it is fake. But for the Ancient Greeks it was the one true faith, and for example Hesiod’s book was called “Theogonia” (Birth of the Gods). I am referring to the fundamental human need to explain the world around us (even before the rules came to place in my example of “don’t kill tigers”). My example was focusing on the effort to explain the lightning, not the commandment “Thou shalt not kill the Holy Tiger on a Sabbath”.

So if you’re going to divide Religion into organised religions and mythology, maybe we should start by defining mythology. Which I have no need or desire to do personally. But hey, have it your way…so you want to say that the effort to explain the world around us is called “mythology” and the effort to make money out of it is called “religion”? Ok, fine by me.

Thammuz's avatar

@whitenoise: no correction needed, you got that perfectly.

toleostoy's avatar

etymologically, religion means to re-bind, or re-tie. the ligio part of the word is related to the word ligament. I think the idea is that religion is an attempt to re-bind, re-tie, or reconnect humankind. The goal of religion would be harmony between human and human, humans and nature, humans and God, and all would come to realize a connection to all other things. In short, religion seeks to reconnect.

sap82's avatar

A pain in the ass to God and his followers.

CMaz's avatar

It is how I see it. Plain and simple.
I do not need to prove anything to you.

Thammuz's avatar

@ChazMaz Are you by any chance Immanuel Kant reincarnated? “The cathegorical imperative is what it is” “I see religion the way i see it”.

You could have been more tautological only by saying X = X

CMaz's avatar

Anything else would be me trying to convince you. Selling you on something you will either come to understand by watching my life. Or refute all the way home.

It is personal and why fight over it. Unless you want to make something of it? ;-)

Thammuz's avatar

@ChazMaz Good point. Yet another reasonable position, this site is turning out to be a real treat.

CMaz's avatar

Does it have to not be reasonable?

Thammuz's avatar

@ChazMaz Can’t you even accept a compliment when someone finally gives you one?

CMaz's avatar

It is that inflection thing. I had a smile on my face. Like you, enjoying the banter.


Thammuz's avatar

Text is such a bad medium for humorous nudges :-)

mattbrowne's avatar

Here are two interesting Albert Einstein quotes:

“Scientists were rated as great heretics by the church, but they were truly religious men because of their faith in the orderliness of the universe.”

“Science can only determine what is, but not what shall be, and beyond its realm, value judgments remain indispensable. Religion, on the other hand, is concerned only with evaluating human thought and actions; it is not qualified to speak of real facts and the relationships between them.”

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther