What Is Religion? Essay
1614 Words7 Pages
What is religion? Each person’s definition of religion is different. Each person’s faith is different. This is a question that has been asked for centuries, and regardless of the answer given there is no right or wrong answer. Religion can be defined as a group of people who have shared beliefs who feel their life has purpose or meaning. This feeling or belief that their life has meaning can come from outside of themselves, as well as within. Taking this one step further, these shared beliefs put into action in the form of worship, can be easily identified because they happen regularly. It can be said the Primal religions were in fact not religions. Some may argue Confucianism is not a religion. Others may say Taoism is not a…show more content…
They are teachings learned by previous generations then passed down, they are not always actions. The fifth feature of religion is grace. Grace is defined by Smith as “the belief and assurance that reality is on our side and can be counted on.” Lastly there is mystery. For this there is no exact definition, but it is all of what a religion cannot explain, it is all that the human mind cannot grasp, it is the certain “higher power” that religion offers. Of these six features, there are three that are present in most all religions, they are: authority, tradition, and mystery. Authority, tradition, and mystery further explore and define religion when looking specifically at Primal Religions, Confucianism, and Taoism. Primal Religions are often mistaken to be the religion of the primitive man, often thought to be unintelligent. There is a definition of “primal” that is better suited than unintelligent or primitive. Primal in terms of religion, refers to the lack of exposure to technology, it is not “knowing” the state of consciousness given to many by the technological environment. Primal religions preceded organized religion as we know it today by thousands of years, in some cases millions, but are still present in the world today; we now call them tribal religions. Within primal religions there are people who are knowledgeable about life, who are knowledgeable about
Defining Religion-4 traditions, and who are
Times when religion played a major role in the lives of the majority of people living in Europe and the United States have gone long ago. Nowadays, religion is just one of the social institutions (perhaps, even facultative institutions) performing certain functions, namely providing moral guidance and consolation to those who seek them. The same cannot be said about faith in its relation to the transcendent; faith in God, or in a higher power, or whatever else, is probably a much more influential aspect of modern life than it is widely believed. Even atheists have faith in something. At the same time, it turns out that many people tend to confuse these two terms, substituting them with each other. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the line between them.
Let us start with religion. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the word “religion” has three definitions: 1) the belief in a god or in a group of gods; 2) an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; 3) an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group (Merriam-Webster.com). Dictionary.com defines religion as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs” (Dictionary.com). If we carefully analyze these definitions and combine them by a main criteria, the definition of religion would look like as follows: “Religion is a set of authoritative rules, dogmas, and rituals explaining the Universe in terms of supernatural powers, and organized in a harmonious system recognized by a group of people.”
As we can see, this definition considers the main aspects of any religion: authority, organization, and a reference to transcendence. This is what allows us to speak of religion as mostly a social institution. Now, let us pay attention to faith.
Once again, according to Merriam-Webster, faith is, “1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God; 2) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; 3) firm belief in something for which there is no proof; 4) complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs” (Merriam-Webster). Oxford Dictionaries define faith as “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof” (Oxford Dictionaries). Finally, Dictionary.com generally defines faith as belief that is not based on proof.
Summing up these definitions up, we can define faith as a belief or a system of various beliefs (including religious ones) which a person accepts and exercises without any additional proof of their truthfulness.
As we can see from the definitions provided above, religion requires faith, otherwise those who confess a religion would sooner or later start analyzing and questioning the fundamental dogmas underlying it. In its turn, faith—although being a natural component of any religion—does not necessarily relate to transcendence, divinity, or mystics; in fact, a person can believe in anything they want to believe. Whereas religion (given it is a conventional religion—Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism—or its commonly-recognized branches) necessarily provides moral guidance, serving as a beacon to those who seek comfort and direction, faith can relate to almost anything, and thus does not guarantee a person’s morality.
For example, a person can believe that God, even if it exists, is indifferent, and thus will watch over a person and/or punish him or her for violating commandments; therefore, for this person, everything is morally acceptable since they believe there will be no punishment following his or her actions. Or, a person can believe Jesus was a woman, or their deceased relatives guide and guard him/her as spirits (as in the Japanese Shintoism), and so on.
Generally speaking, religion is more about mass character and embedding oneself into a system of commonly-recognized theses and rituals, and faith is more of an individual, personal act, and does not necessarily correspond with existing norms (although mostly it does). An individual’s faith in something may change over time, or change its object; religions change extremely seldom, and the three major world religions are proof of this thesis. It does not mean, however, that any of these two are better or worse than the other one; both faith and religion can make people heroes and saints (like Jesus or Buddha), or force them to do horrible things (the Inquisition). A religion often provides its followers with proofs of dogmas: bleeding or crying icons, walking on burning coals, and so on; faith does not require any proof, and is something a person may believe in against all rational, logic, and common sense arguments.
In evaluating the differences between faith and religion, it is important to emphasize mass character and the organizational aspect of any religion. A religion is mainly a social institution, a form of organizing people’s way of thinking, and manipulating them (in all the meanings of this word) and constantly empowering its influence by providing proof for its dogmas. Faith is more individual, irrational (meaning that a person may believe in something without ever looking for a proof for their beliefs), and does not necessarily correspond with the conventional moral and ethical values. Therefore, considering all the aforementioned, although the terms “faith” and “religion” sometimes intersect closely, they are not interchangeable, and should be used with attention.
- “Religion.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
- “Religion.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
- “Faith.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
- “Faith.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
- “Faith.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford Dictionaries, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
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