The Question of Religion

I’m doing an online course on the topic of religion. It’s made me think. What is religion? How is it defined? How do you put a definition to something that has such diversity within it?

To me, religions are organised structures. They have guidelines on how you are supposed to live, and a deity you worship. They give a sense of community, and of belonging to something greater than yourself.

There are many different religions around the world, some I know more about than others. But what makes them a religion? Do you need a deity for it to be called a religion? Is Buddhism a religion?

Is religion defined by what it does, what it gives people? Or is it defined by a rule, by something it has to have? How embedded in culture is it? Can you imagine a culture without a religion? (I am sure some of the fantasy writers out there have at least tried. πŸ™‚ )

I am not religious, but I strive to understand those who are. I want to understand how different people see the world, and religion fascinates me. I love the stories that belong to the many religions around the world, and I love the goodness that comes from some of those who believe.

Unfortunately, I am also aware of those who twist it, who use it to persecute and ruin lives, to judge people they have no right to judge in such public ways.

But that’s getting off-topic.

I want to know what you all think out there. What’s your definition of religion? What does it mean to you?

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23 thoughts on “The Question of Religion

  1. When i hear the word religion i immediately associate it with belief as an institution, one with rules, norms, taboos etc. I make a distinction between religious and spiritual, to me they seem polar oposites.

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  2. Buddhism is definitely considered a religion, although Buddha himself did not really see it that way. Taoism, which I always view as more of a philosophy, is also considered a religion.
    Religion is essentially a belief system, so deities are not necessarily be required, but a common belief structure is.
    I’m very much not religious, and I’m afraid that my agnosticism has shifted over to atheism over the years (but then I get very confused by those that seem to the atheism is also some kind of religion…).
    In general, I dislike most organized religions because they seem to primarily function as a means of controlling people, and, in the case of several, keeping people from dwelling too much on fixing what’s wrong with the world around them because the afterlife is the important thing.
    I love studying religions, though – enjoy the course!

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    1. A common belief structure… yes, this is a god way to define religion, at least help to define it.

      I think that organised religion can have its good points, but yes, there are some bad ones too.

      Thank you for offering your opinion, and taking the tie to read. πŸ™‚

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      1. i don’t really have a definition of religion. but i do know what religion means to me, family.

        i’m not terribly religious because i pick and choose what traditions i follow or even understand. but the ones i follow connect me to family and friends, or at least i feel they do.

        there’s a personal story, a memory, that exists in those traditions and nowhere else.

        well i’m not sure those were sensible sentences or worth the wait but i’m still glad i could participate πŸ˜‰

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      2. They were worth the wait. I’ve found it interesting how religion mean different things to different people. I kind of expected that’s what I would find, but the actual differences are interesting to know. Thank you for sharing. πŸ™‚

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      3. Yes, I like to compare the different religions. I find it incredibly interesting to see the similarities and where they differ. Stay tuned for another post like this later today (in theory!)

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  3. Ooh love these questions but it’s taken my 30+ years of existence (and two sociology degrees and a huge spiritual/religious journey) to have any answers… And even then each time I think I’ve worked it out something happens to change my mind. I think structured religion can be a really great framework for supporting spirituality and spiritual community. But it is also spectacularly easy to take religion and spirituality and twist them into oppressive forces. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and some of the most awful, controlling and manipulative people I’ve ever met come from the same church community, for example. I’ve tried living without religion/spirituality and it simply didn’t work for me personally (though my atheist family & friends seem content!). These days when pressed I sort of describe myself as a mystic-Celtic-Catholic-Pentecostal-borderline Neopagan. It depends on my mood. Lol
    I’m involved in a church because I think there’s value to trying to foster intentional community with people, and as an introverted person, church provides me with a way to make similarly-minded friends. But I always try to be mindful of how it affects my view of “others.” I try very hard to seek common ground with all people who cross my path because I don’t want my religion/spirituality to lead to hatred or bigotry.

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    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing your opinions. I agree with you on all of this. It continues to amaze me how many people don’t describe themselves as part of just one religion. They would rather describe themselves as spiritual and follow what they believe whether that’s part of a sngle written doctrine or not.

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    1. the difference in spiritual and religious is an interesting one. Why do you define yourself as spiritual and not religious, if you don’t mind me asking? If you do, feel free to tell me so. πŸ™‚

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      1. I define myself that way because what I practice is informal and because my beliefs do not adhere to a textbook or religious book’s ideals. It’s easier to do things your own way without pressure from organized religion. I do have religious guideposts in my life, but even they are pretty laid back people and accepting of me as I am. That makes it easier to not have to feign something I am not.

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    1. Interesting article. Thanks for the link. We are seeng imilar data here in the UK. Religion is declining, specifically Christianity. From my point of view, I think a part of the reason is because the Church isn’t seen as modern. It holds many outdated views that young people don’t agree with. There are no doubt other reasons, as the article points out, but to me that’s a big one.

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  4. Religion to me, is a man made tool used in an attempt to understand the divine. Generally, I find organized religions to be useless. I identify as a pagan witch, and do not consider myself to be part of a religion. (Though others may disagree, i understand). Overall, my belief is that we are all a little right and all a little wrong when it comes to our internal picture of “god”.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I think that religion can be a contentious issues, and I agree we can all be right and wrong. We all see what’s out there with different eyes, and we all have a right to believe in what we want to without being judged.

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