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Definitions of Religion

Questions to consider as you read each definition:


Overall, do you think the definition is a good, useful, and/or adequate definition of religion?
Why or why not?
Is there any specific thing about the definition that seems useful, even if you find the definition as
a whole inadequate?
If you had to choose only one of these definitions as your definition of religion, which would it
be?
Why?
Or would you reject all of them?
Why?
Do you have another definition that you think is better than those listed here?
What is it?
Why is it better?
One way to approach these questions is to ask: what does a definition include and exclude?
Recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny,
and as being entitled to obedience, and worship. (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)
The essence of religion consists in a feeling of absolute dependence. . . . (Frederick
Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) The Doctrine of Faith)
[R]eligion [is] the belief in Spiritual Beings. (E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, 1871)
"By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which
are believed to direct and control the course of Nature and human life." (Sir James George
Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1890)
All ideas and feelings are religious which refer to ideal existence, an existence that corresponds
to the wishes and requirements of the human mind. (W. Wundt, Ethics)
A mans religion is that set of objects, habits, and convictions . . . which he would die for rather
than abandon, or at least he would feel excommunicated from humanity if he did abandon. (H.
Bosanquet, Philosophy of Religion, in Baldwins Dictionary)
Religion is an hypothesis which is supposed to render the Universe comprehensible. . . . Now
every theory tacitly asserts two things: first that there is something to be explained; secondly that
such and such is the explanation . . . that the existence of the world with all it contains is a
mystery ever pressing for interpretation . . . [and] that it is not a mystery passing human
comprehension. (Herbert Spencer, (1820-1903) First Principles)
Religion is a pathological manifestation of the protective function, a sort of deviation of the
normal function . . . caused by ignorance of natural causes and of their effects. (G. Sergi, Les
Emotions, 404)
Religious life consists of the belief that there is an unseen order and that our supreme good lies
in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. (William James, The Varieties of Religious
Experience, 53, 1902)
A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say,
things set apart and forbiddenbeliefs and practices which unite into one single moral
community . . . , all who adhere to them. (Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the
Religious Life)
Religion is a system of beliefs and practices that bind our lives in patterns of meaningfulness,
especially taking care of the difficulties that threaten the pattern; the sense of chaos and the
realities of injustice, suffering, and death. Thus religion [aims at] holding . . . human lives . . .
[in] a prescribed and beneficial pattern. (Robert Thurman, Inside Tibetan Buddhism, 9)
On the theoretical side [religion] is characterized by a world-view which denies the adequacy of
the world of the senses and affirms the existence of a transcendental world, conceived both as
highest existence and highest value. On the practical side, it consists in the passage from things
of this world to a conception and experience of the reality of the transcendent world, and thus to
salvation from the world. (Hermann Siebeck, Lehrbuch der Religionsphilosophie)
Religion is a human response to mystery. . . . not as a deadly emptiness, but somehow as a
reality in which lies the meaning of human existence. . . . The response to the mystery as fullness
is religion. In general, religion is a way of relating to mystery as a sacred or divine reality rather
than as useless or meaningless." (Michael H. Barnes, In the Presence of Mystery, 1-2)
Ones religion . . . is ones way of valuing most intensively and comprehensively. (Frederick
Ferr, The Definition of Religion. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 38, no.1
(1970): 11)
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)
Religion is a cultural system and a social institution that governs and promotes ideal
interpretations of existence and ideal praxis with reference to transempirical powers or beings.
(Armin Geertz, Theory, Definition, and Typology, Temenos 33 (1997), 39)
[M]an and his religion are one and the same thing. The unknown exists. Each man projects on
the blankness the shape of his own particular world-view. He endows his creation with his
personal volitions and attitudes. The religious man stating his case is in essence explaining
himself. When a fanatic is contradicted he feels a threat to his own existence; he reacts
violently. (Jack Vance, Planet of Adventure, 182)
Religion is a system of beliefs, practices, rituals, myths, institutions, etc. that promotes an
absence of concern with the eight worldly dharmas: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and
scorn, fame and obscurity.
Religion can not be defined because it is a false category: the sustained inability to clarify
what the word religion signifies, in itself suggests that the term ought to be dropped; that it is a
distorted concept not really corresponding to anything definite or distinctive in the objective
world. The phenomena we call religious undoubtedly exist. Yet perhaps the notion that they
constitute in themselves some distinctive entity is an unwarranted analysis. (Wilfred Cantwell
Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion, 17)
Religion is a category best defined in terms of family resemblance (a notion developed by
Wittgenstein). From this perspective, the category of the religious is defined by a collection of
traits (including belief in a transcendent divine reality, a comprehensive world-view, . . .
scriptures, eschatology, saints, . . . a total moral claim, etc.). None of these traits constitutes an
essence of religion that all members of the category must share. Instead, members of the
category share some traits and not others, in varying and overlapping ways. According to John
Hick, even though there is no essence of religion, a sense of ultimate concern (or profound
importance) is what allows us to identify the category of the religious in a general sense.
(Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 4-5)
"Belief in spiritual things." -- Edward B. Tylor (late 1800s)
"That which grows out of, and gives expression to, experience of the holy in its various aspects."
-- Rudolf Otto (1925)
"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 (1912)
"Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other
concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of
life." -- Paul Tillich (1963)
"Religion is a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate condition of his
existence." -- Robert Bellah (1957)
"Religion is (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, persuasive, and long-
lasting moods and motivations in [people] by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of
existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and
motivations seem uniquely realistic." -- Clifford Geertz (1966)
"Religion is a shared apprehension of the world, humanity, and the supernatural and their
interrelation. Each religious formulates a comprehension of what these three poles of existence
are in ways that provide significance and the location of value for its respective adherents. Some
dismiss or devalue the supernatural; some dismiss or devalue the worldbut they all have a
position on empirical and superempirical realities and their relationships to humanity. Those
things that are accepted as valuable and meaningful within any given religious framework
become its foci. This includes delineating the scope of possibility." -- Michael York (2003)
1. "Religion is the belief in an ever living God, i.e., in a Divine Mind and Will ruling the
universe and holding moral relations with mankind." - James Martineau
2. "By religion I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are
believed to direct and control the course of Nature and of human life." - J G Frazer
3. "Religion is the attempt to express the complete reality of goodness through every aspect of
our being." - F H Bradley
4. "Religion is ethics heightened, enkindled, lit up by feeling." - Matthew Arnold
5. "Religion is ... that pure and reverential disposition or frame of mind which we call piety." - C
P Tiele
6. "The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence." - F Schleirmacher
7. "A man's religion is the expression of his ultimate attitude to the universe, the summed-up
meaning and purport of his whole consciousness of things." - E Caird
8. "Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness." - A N Whitehead
Some problems with these definitions:
1. & 2. Any polytheistic religion would refuse the first definition. Many other religions, such as
some kinds of Buddhism, would not hold to belief in a God, let alone one who rules the cosmos.
[Religion is more than the idea of gods and spirits and consequently cannot be defined
exclusively in relation to these latter. Emile Durkheim (1912)]
3. & 4. Religions are not necessarily ethical. Some primordial religions aparently had no ethical
content at all (their ethics were derived from elsewhere).
5. & 6. Some authors say that there is no one special psychical disposition that is always and only
religious. Also, absolute dependence suggests monotheism. And less that absolute dependence
can be found elsewhere in the world, besides in religions.
7. Not all ultimate attitudes are religious: eg, the person whose ultimate attitude toward the world
was that it was all a big joke, or perhaps another person who hates the whole world. We might be
hesitatant to call these attitudes religious.
8. Some religions, early ones especially, are totally communal, and not solitary. Also, a person
may spend their solitariness reading, and we might hesitate to call that necessarily religious.
Found at http://www.pioneer.net/~tkerns/religsite/lecsuppsite/relig-defs.html
". . . those ways of viewing the world which refer to (1) a notion of sacred reality (2) made
manifest in human experience (3) in such a way as to produce long-lasting ways of thinking,
feeling, and acting (4) with respect to problems of ordering and understanding existence."(1)
A response to what is experienced as ultimate reality, involving the total person, which is at least
occasionally intense and issues in action or concern for action in the community (i.e., the wider
world).(2)
1. Cavanaugh, et al., The Sacred Quest (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1991, 1995), 22.
2. "Defining Religion," Ultimate Questions, 88.

Scientology defines religion as follows:


"The word religion has many definitions, all of which can embrace sacred lore and wisdom and
knowledge of God or gods, souls and spirits. Religion deals with the spirit in relation to itself, the
universe and other life. Essentially, religion is belief in spiritual beings. As it relates to the world,
religion is a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with
the ultimate problems of human life." (Hubbard, 1994).
In another article titled, Religious influence in society, Hubbard gives two definitions of
religion. The first he quotes from Gerhard Lenski (his The Religious Factor a Sociologist's
Inquiry), defining religion as, a system of beliefs about the nature of force(s), ultimately shaping
man's destiny, and the practices associated therewith, shared by members of a group. Hubbard
then continues with the second,
Let s look again at the definition of religion.
In a few words, religion can be defined as belief in spiritual beings. More broadly, religion can be
defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with
the ultimate problems of human life. The quality of being religious implies two things first, a
belief that evil, pain, bewilderment and injustice are fundamental facts of existence; second, a set
of practices and related sanctified beliefs that express a conviction that man can ultimately be
saved from those facts.
Found online at http://www.ecotao.com/holism/theism/body_religion.html
Religion functions to give meaning to lifes deepest mysteries.
True religion is a wholehearted devotion to some reality which the religionist deems to be of
supreme value to herself and for all humankind.
Found online at http://www.aarweb.org/syllabus/syllabi/w/wattles/what_is_religion.htm
Geertzs Definition of Religion
A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting
moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and
clothing those conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem
uniquely realistic.
Klass Definition of Religion
Religion in a given society will be that instituted process of interaction among the members of a
society and between then and the universe at large as they conceive it to be constituted which
provides them with meaning, coherence, direction, unity, easement, and whatever degree of
control over events they perceive as possible.
Belief in the existence of a superhuman controlling power, especially of gods or gods, usually
expressed in worship. - Oxford American Dictionary (1980)
The belief in spiritual beings. Edward Tylor (1871)
A unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things that is to say things set aside
and forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a
Church, all those who adhere to them. Emile Durkheim (1912)
"Religion, then, can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of
people struggles with these ultimate problems of human life" (Yinger, _The Scientific Study of
Religion_). Another definition is provided by Dr. Keith A. Roberts in _Religion in Sociological
Perspective_, a textbook used in many college and university religion courses (Wadsworth
Publishing, 1995). Here, Roberts defines religion as "a social phenomenon--involving a group of
people with a shared faith or a shared meaning system."
"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" (William James, The
Varieties of Religious Experience)
A.C. Campbell, in his illuminating work On Selfhood and Godhood, has devoted a chapter to the
discussion of the problem of a definition for religion. He too has put forward a definition of his
own which deserves consideration :
Religion may be defined as a state of mind comprising belief in the reality of a supernatural
being or beings endowed with transcendent power and worth, together with the complex emotive
attitude of worship intrinsically appropriate thereto. (A.C. Campbell, On Selfhood and
Godhood, p.248).
Stark and Bainbridge a religion must be based on some "supernatural assumptions" to distinguish
it from secular thought. In their view religions involve: "systems of general compensators based
on supernatural assumptions" (Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, in (A Theory of
Religion (New York, Peter Lang, 1987) :39).
{Leuba, in his book, A Psychological Study of Religion, has listed no less than forty-eight
different definitions of religion, each offered by a scholar of repute. Even this is far from being
an exhaustive list as Ducasse in his book, A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion, has quoted
twenty- seven other definitions.}
Calverton takes a different view of religion, "Magic and religion" he affirms, "evolved as (a)
means whereby (man) believed he was able to acquire power (over his environment) and make
the universe bend to his wishes".
"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.... [Religion is] the self-validation of a society by means of
myth and ritual." (Emile Durkeim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life)
"The state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns
as preliminary, and a concern that in itself provides the answer to the question of the meaning of
our existence" (Paul Tillich)
"A system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, persuasive, and long-lasting moods and
motivations.... by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these
conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely
realistic." (Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System)
"A system of symbols (creed, code, cultus) by means of which people (a community) orient
themselves in the world with reference to both ordinary and extraordinary powers, meanings, and
values" (Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion)
"'Lived religion' ... involves three crucial aspects: scripts, or sets of symbols that imaginatively
explain what the world and life are about; practices, or the means whereby individuals relate to,
and locate themselves within, a symbolic frame of reference; and human agency, or the ability of
people to actively engage the religious worlds they create." (Wade Clark Roof, Spiritual
Marketplace)
"The impingement of holy Being" (John Mcquarrie)
"An experience of the unification of all life" (Dorothe Solle)
"A means of ultimate transformation" (Frederick Streng)
"A means of ultimate transformation and ultimate orientation."
"[Religion is] a subject that possesses a variety of referents and can be employed within
numerous frames of discourse, and thus can be defined in a multiplicity of ways. One cannot
make sense of the word until one knows within which context, frame of reference, or world of
discourse the word is intended to register." (Walter H. Capps, Religious Studies: The Making of a
Discipline)
Religion is the sum total of our knowledge and theory of the past and present, and the spirit with
which we extrapolate into the future, or into the unknown. Religion is what the individual or the
group does with its concept of time, as a guide to behavior. [found online at
http://www.humanistsofutah.org/1994/art2dec94.htm]
That which expresses the innermost tendency of all religions is the axiom of the conservation of
values (Hoffding).
J. G. Frazer: By religion...I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man
which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and human life.
A. N. Whitehead:
Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness.
Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of
immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a
remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that
passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is
beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.
Paul Tillich:
Religion is the aspect of depth in the totality of the human spirit. What does...depth mean? It
means that the religious aspect points to that which is ultimate, infinite, unconditional in
man's spiritual life. Religion, in the largest and most basic sense of the word, is ultimate
concern.
John L. Fischer:
Religion is the ritual cultivation of socially approved values...By values I mean lasting
preferences for some person, thing, quality, state of affairs, or behavior. These preferences
exist in individual members of a society or are learned by them from other members,
principally their seniors...
Jane Ellen Harrison:
The religious impulse is directed, if I am right, primarily to one end and one only, the
conservation and promotion of life...(1)...religion is a social factor and can only properly be
studied in relation to social structure; (2)...the idea of a god is a by-product arising out of rites
and sanctities, a by-product of high importance but nonessential; (3)...the function of religion
is to conserve the common life, physical and spiritual; this function being sometimes aided
sometimes hindered by the idea of a god.
In the The Concise Dictionary of Religion (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1993:186-
187) Irving Hexham wrote:
Hundreds of different definitions of religion exist each reflecting either a scholarly or a
dogmatic bias depending in the last resort on the presuppositions of the person making the
definition. Religion clearly contains intellectual, ritual, social and ethical elements, bound
together by an explicit or implicit belief in the reality of an unseen world, whether this belief
be expressed in supernaturalistic or idealistic terms. A number of the more common
definitions are:
Berger, Peter - "the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established."
Durkheim Emile - "a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things."
Frazer, James - "a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed
to direct or control the course of nature and human life."
Hegel, George - "the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as absolute mind."
James, William - "the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in
harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto."
Kant, Immanuel - "the recognition of all our duties as divine commands."
Marx, Karl - "the self-conscious and self-feeling of man who has either not found himself or
has already lost himself again... the general theory of the world... its logic in a popular form...
its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its universal ground for consolation and
justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence..."
Schleiermacher, Friedrich - "a feeling for the infinite" and "a feeling of absolute dependence."
Stark, Rodney - "any socially organized pattern of beliefs and practices concerning ultimate
meaning that assumes the existence of the supernatural."
Weber, Max - "to say what it is, is not possible... the essence of religion is not even our
concern, as we make it our task to study the conditions and effects of a particular type of
social behavior."
The one I find most useful is:
Smart, Ninian - "a set of institutionalized rituals identified with a tradition and expressing
and/or evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans-divine focus seen in the context
of the human phenomenological environment and at least partially described by myths or by
myths and doctrines."
1. COGNITIVE (BELIEF vs PROCESS)
1.1 Religion is the "belief in spiritual beings." E B Tylor
1.2 "Religion is the belief in an ever living God, that is, in a Divine Mind and Will ruling the
Universe and holding moral relations with mankind." James Martineau
1.3 "Religion is the recognition that all things are manifestations of a Power which transcends
our knowledge." Herbert Spencer
1.4 "The essence of religion is belief in a relation to God involving duties superior to those
arising from any human relation." Religion is "duty to a moral power higher than the state."
Chief Justice Hughes
1.5 "Inborn religious faculty is the basis and cause of all religion. . . . If man have not a
religious element in his nature, miraculous or other revelations can no more render him
religious than fragments of sermons and leaves of the Bible can make a lamb religious when
mixed and eaten with its daily food." Theodore Parker
1.6 "Somewhere at the root of every religion there lies a sense of sacredness; certain things,
events, ideals, beings are felt as mysterious and sacred. Somewhere, too, in every religion is a
sense of dependence; man is surrounded by forces and powers which he does not understand
and cannot control, and he desires to put himself into harmony with them. And, finally, into
every religion there enters a desire for explanation and comprehension; man knows himself
surrounded by mysteries yet he is always demanding that they shall make sense." Julian
Huxley
1.7 "The function of religion is to confront the paradoxes and contradictions and the ultimate
mysteries of man and the cosmos, to make sense and reason of what lies beneath the
irreducible irrationalities of man's life; to pierce the surrounding darkness with pinpoints of
light, or occasionally to rip away for a startling moment the cosmic shroud." Lewis Mumford
1.8 Religion is "a system of general truths which have the effect of transforming character
when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended." A N Whitehead
1.9 "Religion is nothing if it is not obedience to awareness." C G Jung
2. COSMOLOGICAL-PSYCHOLOGICAL
2.1 "The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence." Friedrich
Schleiermacher
2.2 "Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by
means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and
psychological necessities." It is a dramatization, projected into cosmic order, of sentiments,
fears and longings that develop from the relationship of child to parents. "If one attempts to
assign religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition,
as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from
childhood to maturity." Sigmund Freud
2.3 "By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man
which are believed to direct and control the course of Nature and of human life." Sir James
Frazer
2.4 Religion "is a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers
for the purpose of achieving, or preventing, transformations of state in man and nature."
Anthony F C Wallace
2.5 "Religion is the natural reaction of the imagination when confronted by the difficulties of
a truculent world." George Santayana
2.6 Religion springs from "suffering in the world." J W N Sullivan
2.7 "Religion is man's sense of disposition of the universe to himself." Ralph Barton Perry
2.8 Religion is "an emotion resting on a conviction of a harmony between ourselves and the
universe at large." J M E McTaggart
2.9 Religion is "the effort to maintain communion, not with the infinite, but with that which
possesses supreme worth which is perhaps but a deeper kind of infinitude." G M Stratton
2.10 "Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the
passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized. . .
something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension." Alfred North
Whitehead
2.11 "The religious way is the way that sees what physical eyes alone fail to see, the
intangibles at the heart of every phenomenon." Sophia Lyon Fahs
2.12 "Religion is the infinite way we do finite things." R H Blythe
2.13 Religion is "the doors and windows between conditioned and unconditioned reality," a
"map of the invisible world." Robert S Ellwod
2.14 "Religion is our human response to living as finite creatures in a world that is by all
measures infinite." Thomas M. Belote
3. PERSONAL-SOCIAL
3.1 "Religion is about fellowship and community. . . . The task of religion is the maintenance
and extension of human community." John MacMurray
3.2 "I understand by religion any system of thought and action shared by a group which give
the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion." Eric Fromm
3.3 "Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness." Alfred North Whitehead
3.4 Religion "shall mean for us, 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 divine." William James
4. DEONTOLOGICAL-EMOTIONAL
4.1 "The moral capacity of man is the foundation and interpreter of all religion." Immanual
Kant
4.2 Religion "is ethics heightened, enkindled, lit up by "morality touched by emotion."
Matthew Arnold
4.3 Religion is "a body of scruples which impede the free exercise of our faculties." Salomon
Reinach
4.4 "The great office of religion is to call forth, elevate, and purify the spirit of man, and thus
to conform it to its divine original." William Ellery Channing
4.5 Religion is "the emotion of reverence which the presence of the universal mind ever
excites in the individual." Ralph Waldo Emerson
4.6 Religion consists in the perception of the infinite under such manifestations as are able to
influence the moral character of man." Max Mueller
4.7 Religion is "the search for lost intimacy." Georges Bataille
5. POLITICAL - SOCIAL
5.1 "The proper office of religion is to regulate the heart of men, humanize their conduct,
infuse the spirit of temperance, order, and obedience." David Hume
5.2 Religion is "primarily a system of ideas with which the individuals represent to
themselves the society of which they are members, and the obscure but intimate relations
which they have with it." Emile Durkheim
5.3 "Religion is a function in man's struggle for existence. . . . The struggle . . . is the primary
thing, and religion is one of the tools man has forged whereby he can attain in this struggle a
satisfactory and if possible a delightful existence. . . . Religion is of human, not divine origin,
existing because of the role it plays in human life and not because of its divine source." John
H Dietrich
5.4 Religion is a "collateral security for virtues." Lord Chesterfield
5.5 "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it
is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people." Karl Marx
5.6 "Religion is organized spirituality." Huston Smith
5.7 "Religion is a human social process which provides an organized, agreed-upon, closed
system of thinking and is, thus, able to bond people together into a society." --C Brough
6. AXIOLOGICAL
6.1 "The essence of religion is a belief in the persistency of value in the world." Harald
Hoffding
6.2 "Religion consists of those actions, purposes and experiences which are humanly
significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy,
love, friendship, recreation." A Human Manifesto, 1933
6.3 "Religion is the sense of ultimate reality, of whatever meaning a man finds in his own
existence or the existence of anything else." G K Chesterton
6.4 Religion and the religious must be distinguished. For "there is no such thing as religion in
the singular. There is only a multitude of religions. Religion is strictly a collective term . . .
(that) has not the unity of a regiment or assembly but that of any miscellaneous aggregate."
However, "whatever introduces genuine perspective is religious. . . (for any) activity pursued
in behalf of an ideal end against obstacles and in spite of threats of personal loss because of
conviction of its general and enduring value is religious in quality." John Dewey
6.5 "Religion is a commitment to what one believes to be of such character that it will
transform man as he cannot transform himself, to save him from his self-destructive
propensities and lead him to the best that human life can attain, provided that required
conditions are met." H N Wieman
6.6 "Religion is the search for a value underlying all things, and as such is the most
comprehensive of all the possible philosophies of life." Gordon W Allport
6.7 Religion "is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern." Paul Tillich
6.8 Religion is the dimension of depth in all life experiences. Paul Tillich
6.9 Religion is "a system of beliefs and practices built upon the recognition of the sacred."
John J Macionis
6.10 Religion is a term generally used to mean "a system of language and practice that
organizes the world in terms of what is deemed sacred." William E Paden
6.11 We take religion "to be the way in which men in community personally relate to,
express, or symbolize that which gives meaning to their lives and that which is ultimately
most significant for sustaining their being." UUA Commission II The Free Church in a
Changing World
7. MORE ABOUT "RELIGION" by Vern Barnet (c) 1990, 1997
7.1 "Religion is how people discover, create, order, enhance, celebrate and live the meanings,
values and relations of existence. Since meaning, value and relation are increased and
intensified by greater range, diversity and coherence, religion (more an awareness or activity
than a belief or rule) reaches toward the integration of all meanings, values and relations into
the whole of all wholes (the Void), in considering or experiencing the perspective of absolute
worth, fitness and wholesomeness. Some say the root of religion is religio, to bind together;
an integrative definition follows therefrom: religion is getting it all together.
"This implies social forms as well as personal religion since it is through the sharing of
interests, concerns and priorities in the discipline of freedom that greater range and diversity
increase and intensify meaning, value and relation. Groups offering unlimited
membershipwithout discrimination by creed, age, race, life-style, etcmay present
significant fields for the creative interplay among persons. Religion is therefore both all-
embracing and all-centering; and the process of religion is endless. The direction of the
process is toward the Sacred, that which has ultimate value, on which our lives depend. The
mystics call it love." Vern Barnet, 1990
7.2 "Religion is the discovery of how to live in the world. Religion is our response to
experiences of the holy as we seek to understand, honor, and share them.
"Spirituality thus begins with awe and worship, grows in gratitude, and matures in service."
Vern Barnet, 1997 Found online at http://www.cres.org/ref/ref41.htm
(Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion, p. 9)
a system of symbols (creed, code, cultus) by means of which people (a community) orient
themselves in the world with reference to both ordinary and extraordinary meanings and
values.
Components of a Religious System (p. 8)
Religion is expressed in creeds, or explanations about the meaning of human life in the
universe Secondly, it is expressed in creeds and codes
Finally, it is expressed in communities, groups of people either formally or informally
bound together by the creed, code, and cultus they share
(Peter Williams, Popular Religion in America, p. 9).
Religion is a system of symbolic beliefs and actionsmyths, rituals, and creeds and their
supporting social structureswhich provides its adherents with a coherent interpretation of
their universe. Religion is a process of cosmo-construction: it creates order out of chaos, and
informs its constituency with a sense of meaning, purpose and significance that would
otherwise be lacking. Religion creates order, an order which, ideally, is exhaustive and
personally satisfying. Religion is, moreover, a social phenomenon.
(W. C. Tremmel, Religion: What is it?, p. 1)
1. Religion is the way a person (or group of persons) behave in an effort to deal adequately
with those aspects of human existence which are horrendous and non-manipulable;
2. Doing so by the employment of various intellectual, ritual, and moral techniques;
3. And doing so from the conviction that there is at the center of human experience, and even
of all life, a being or process (a divine reality) in which and through which a person (or
community of persons) can transcend the life-negating traumas of human existence, can
overcome the sense of finitude;
4. With all this, religion still turns out to be not simply a method of dealing with religious
problems, but is itself an experience of great satisfaction and immense personal worth.
Religion is not only something for people (functional), but is something to people (an
experience, even an ecstasy).
(William Bernhardt, Functional Philosophy of Religion, p. 157).
Religious behavior is a complex form of individual and group behavior whereby persons are
prepared intellectually and emotionally to meet the non-manipulable aspects of existence
positively by means of a reinterpretation of the total situation and with the use of various
techniques.
(Yoshio Fukuyama, The Social Meaning of Religion, p. 20).
Religion is a phenomenon which can be described in terms of at least four major
dimensions: the cognitive, the cultic, the creedal, and the devotional; these dimensions
represent distinctive styles of religious orientation and provide meaningful categories for the
sociological study of religion.
The cognitive dimension has to do with what people know about religion and is manifested
at one extreme by the knowledgeable church member.
The cultic dimension is what Glockdescribed as the ritualistic. It encompasses the
individuals religious practiceshis attendance at divine worship, his participation in church
activities, and his support of church programs through voluntary service and contributions.
This form of religious orientation is characterized by the active church member.
The creedal dimension bears on what a person believes as distinct from what he knows
about or how he practices his religion. He is the believer.
Finally, the devotional dimension parallels Glocks category of the experiential and has
to do with feelings and experiences rather than with knowledge, practices, or beliefs. The
devout represent this style of religious orientation.
(R. C. Monk, etc. Exploring Religious Meaning, p. 3).
We define religion as any mans reliance upon a pivotal value in which he finds his essential
wholeness as an individual and as a man-in-community; for him all other values are
subordinate to this central value. This pivotal value is authentic to the individual himself
though it may not be meaningful to others. Alternately, this pivotal value may be shared by
others, thus producing a religious tradition. (Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the
Modern World, p. 275).
Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing
flux of immediate things; something which is real and yet waiting to be realized; something
which is remotely possible, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives
meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the
final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal and the
hopeless quest. (Milton Yinger, Religion in the Struggle for Power, p. 5).
Religion is the attempt to bring the relative, the temporary, the disappointing, the painful
things in life into relation with what is conceived to be permanent, absolute and cosmically
optimistic.
(Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Culture System.)
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.
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"A set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate condition of his
existence." (Robert Bellah)
A specific system of belief in God, doctrines, etc. Gods relation to humanity and the
universe.
A set of rituals which transform the state of man. Rituals which are rationalized and
confirmed by sacred myths. A supernatural power behind the ritual brings the transformation.
The feeling of absolute dependence. A sense and taste for the infinite. (F. Schleiermacher)
An exploration in self-discovery.
"What an individual does with his solitariness" (Alfred North Whitehead)
"A persons ultimate concern" (Paul Tillich)
"A system of beliefs and practices directed to the ultimate concern of society."
"[The seeking] of divine truth, exploring who we are, why were here, and how we should
live." (Joel Beversluis, ed., Sourcebook of the worlds Religions)
Ways of interpreting life and ways of living.
Belief about reality and living in accord with that belief. John A. Hutchinson [13], in his
book Paths of Faith, acknowledged the difficulty in defining religion
T. William Hall, ed., Introduction to the Study of Religion (New York: Harper & Row,
1978), pp. 4-19. Here Ronald R. Cavanagh examines various definitions of religion under the
title "The Term Religion."
A scholarly attempt to define religion is found in Frederick Ferre, A Basic Modern
Philosophy of Religion (New York: Scribner's, 1967).
1963 Asked about his religious beliefs, Frank Sinatra tells Playboy magazine: "I'm for
anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack
Daniels. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone
together, without the witch doctor in the middle." And yet, as I heard it, he offered the
church $1 million to buy his way into heaven!
CONCLUSION
Boiling it all down, religion is your value construct of reality. Without such a thing in your
life you cannot function. We do not treat everything as having equal value. That which has
the highest value* in your life is your god. That is why for some people their car, or their
home, their job/career, their clothes, their jewelry, etc. is their god.
* this can be determined by looking at how you spend your time, money and energy.