Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Expanding the Definition of Religion

The OED defines religion as a state of life bound by religious vows; the condition of belonging to a religious order. Do you think this definition is accurate? We believe this definition is basically arbitrary since it uses religion in the definition twice. If this is not the definition what definition can you come up with? Must every religion fall under your definition? We feel that there are too many religions out there, and some may be secular that does not fall under the typical definition, so what do we do then? What criteria can be used to define a religion? In class we discussed possible religions in our culture today such as democracy, capitalism, and scientism. Do you believe these could be religions? If these are religions do sports and playing video games also count as religions? Finally, we discussed the possibility of a definition of religion that can always be changed and extrapolated. For example at one time the world was predominately polytheistic and monotheism could not have existed without polytheism. So at the time monotheism technically was not considered a legitimate religion because it did not fall under the definition of religion for that time. Christians were even called atheists. So meaning the definition varies over time depending on the era and ideologies bouncing around at the time. So concerning if science has become a religion, it is definitely not too absurd of an idea, you would simply have to expand your understanding and definition of what religion is to have it fit under the umbrella of religion.
Jamie and Wale  


  1. I would definitely agree that the definition given by the OED is not very affective. An issue I'm having right now is I find it's easy enough for me to point to other social institutions and say that they aren't a religion, but when it comes time to answer the question "so then what is a religion?" I have no good answer. So far, I would say religion consists of, but is not limited to, belief in a higher being/power, rituals, worship, a set of shared morals/values, and some sort of life after death. Throughout this class, I've been adding to and subtracting from this list, but that's what I have so far (this is a cool website I found that summarizes everything pretty well I think, though very simplistically I can see your point that the definition of a religion has changed over time, like the polytheistic/monotheistic thing, but both of those things still shared the qualities I listed in my personal definition.

    I also want to point out that on the website I included, they list atheism as a religion, which I don't agree with, but that's interesting..

  2. I like Katharine's guidelines for what is/is not religion; however, to add to that, I'd say, perhaps some sort of belief in what happiness is or where it comes from? For example, in Christianity, happiness is found through God, and doing His work. In Buddhism, happiness is only achieved after giving up worldly desires and living life day by day. If we add this to our guidelines, then maybe capitalism (which preaches that material possessions will make us happy) or democracy (which preaches that freedom will make us happy) can be considered religions.

    I'd also like to point out that not all religions have a belief in a Deity. Buddhism, for example, does not have a Deity to worship; Buddhists have a leader, but they do not worship him, they respect him, and thank him for the teaching. Furthermore, if atheism is a religion (I would argue that yes, it is), it is the un-belief in a higher power that makes it a religion.

    The definition of religion IS changing; it is ever-changing. This is why religion is such an interesting subject, because whether we like it or not, it plays a major role in humanity. I feel that religion causes so much conflict because we don't have a definition for it. We don't know what exactly it is, or how to explain it, but we know it exists. Like so many other things, maybe it just takes a little faith to accept it for what it is, whatever it may be.