How do you define religion?

My teacher for Philosphy and ethics recently asked me to do some extra essays and background reading after i didn’t quite get the grade i was expecting from a recent exam.  I thought I might share a very short essay i have just done, as its quite an interesting topic. Before you carry on, this is my opinion on the matter and is open to dispute.

How do you define religion?

It is certainly difficult to explain what exactly the definition of religion is. If one attempts to describe it in terms of belief in God, Buddhism wouldn’t be considered a religion and comparatively, Any organisation or collective group would be labelled a religion if the definition of  “a group in which all members have  similar moral beliefs and goals” were used.  A more accurate definition would perhaps be found by comparing the world religions and by discussing what common concepts they share.

Firstly, take for example the Abrahamic religions-Judiasm, Christianity and Islam. The important characteristics of these faiths are the worship of on ‘true’ God and sticking to a moral code written in their respective holy scriptures. Their ultimate goals are to serve God as well as they can in the way the Bible, Torah or Q’ uran has told them.

This differs dramatically from Buddhism, where no God is present in the faith. Instead, Buddhists follow the example of the Buddha to find enlightenment and escape the neverending cycle of reincarnation, which is often considered to be a state suffering in the faith. Yet there is an obvious similarity between the Abrahamic religions and Buddhism; the concept of reaching a spiritual goal.

Does this link remain there with Hinduism? It is a little harder to say in comparison to other faiths, due to the complexity and variation of Hindu worship. If we use one common idea-that all hindu Gods are in fact aspects of Vishnu and is part of everything in existence, we see the link again. If Vishnu is part of everything in existence, then there is a spiritual link between everything.

Conclusively, we can see that what most religions have in common is spiritual awareness and goals, be there a God or not. Abrahamic fiaths have spiritual goals to become closer with God, Buddhism focusses on the journey to spiritual enlightenment and Hinduism acknowledges a spiritual link and awareness between all things in existence. It is therefore not belief in God that separates moral organisations from religions, but spirituality is what makes an organisation a religion.

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10 thoughts on “How do you define religion?

  1. It is just too…(damn)… bad that religion is so frequently used to give a… (false)… moral justification for prejudice, closed-mindedness, and violence. If you believe that your religion condones violence, then you are doing it wrong. You do not understand the teachings of those you claim to follow. You are misinterpreting them. You are misrepresenting them, and they will disavow you in the afterlife you proclaim to be destined for.
    Either that, or your religion is messed up.
    But what do I know?

    • Well, being agnostic I have the great luck of starting from an unbiased point of view towards any particular religion. However, although the majority of people can say that seeing a religion as endorsing violence is a misenterpretation, how do we ‘accurately’ interpret faith? It is a very difficult thing to do.

  2. Thanks for your article, The question of religion is a good one. I am a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. I am also part of his family. The Holy Bible has this to say,
    James1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
    I would like to invite you to become a follower of the Lord Jesus. God Bless your search.

    • Thank you for your comment. I believe i still have some way to go on my search before i can be certain what I believe, but your point is taken. Would I be correct in saying that James 1:26-27 tells us that not all religious beliefs are valid and that we must be sure that our religion (in this case christianity) is being followed in the right way? I apologise if i have misenterpreted it, but that is how i read it.

  3. Yes, Jesus corrected the Pharisees in his time, I believe they had a form of religion, as do many Christians, but a disciple follows the teachings of his Master,not those of his particular denomination. A Jehovah Witness is miles apart from a Catholic, but they both claim to be Christian denominations.

  4. Pingback: Folk Religion « Solmaz Hafezi

  5. Reblogged this on Stepping Toes and commented:
    Without spirituality, the preparedness to use the mind to wonder and to form ideas, religiosity can not come to existence, but with all sorts of rites and repeated actions to bring an outer sign of a faith in something religion may find seed and fertilisation in the aim to belong to something or somewhat.

    • Thanks for reblogging this – I hadn’t seen this post for a very long time, and my own ideas have developed since then. I’ve had a quick look at your websites now and decided to follow one of them – thanks for your input!

  6. Pingback: Honest-hearted people are losing faith in humanity and humanity losing faith in God | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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