Quantcast


Twitter icon


Facebook icon

About this site
About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links

Recommended books

Visitors' essays
Our forum
New essays
Other features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
BUDDHISM
CHRISTIANITY
-Christian definition
 -Shared beliefs
 -Handling change
 -Bible topics
 -Bible inerrancy
 -Bible harmony
 -Interpret the Bible
 -Persons
 -Beliefs & creeds
 -Da Vinci code
 -Revelation, 666
 -Denominations
HINDUISM
ISLAM
JUDAISM
WICCA / WITCHCRAFT
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing Religions

Non-theistic beliefs
Atheism
Agnosticism
Humanism
Other

About all religions
Main topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt & security
Quotes
Movies
Confusing terms
Glossary
End of the World?
True religion?
Seasonal events
Science vs. Religion
More information

Spiritual/ethics
Spirituality
Morality & ethics
Absolute truth

Peace/conflict
Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious freedom
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten Commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Cloning
Death penalty
Environment

Same-sex marriage

Homosexuality
Human rights
Gays in the military
Nudism
Origins
Sex & gender
Sin
Spanking
Stem cells
Transexuality
Women-rights
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news

Sponsored links

 

 

!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

Definitions of the word "religion"

Problems. Dictionary definitions

Sponsored link.


Problems with definitions:

The English word "religion" is derived from the Middle English "religioun" which came from the Old French "religion." It may have been originally derived from the Latin word "religo" which means "good faith," "ritual," and other similar meanings. Or it may have come from the Latin "religâre" which means "to tie fast."

Defining the word "religion" is fraught with difficulty. Many attempts have been made. Many people focus on a very narrow definition that matches the individual's own religion, but few others. A humorous case is in Henry Fielding's novel "Tom Jones." where he has one character say:

"By religion I mean Christianity, by Christianity I mean Protestantism, by Protestantism I mean the Church of England as established by law."

Many definitions focus too narrowly on only a few aspects of religion; they tend to exclude those religions that do not fit well. As Kile Jones 1 wrote in his essay on defining religion that was once included in our website's visitors' essays section:

"It is apparent that religion can be seen as a theological, philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of human kind. To limit religion to only one of these categories is to miss its multifaceted nature and lose out on the complete definition."

All of the definitions that we have encountered contain at least one deficiency:

bulletSome exclude beliefs and practices that many people passionately defend as religious. For example, their definition might requite a belief in a God or Goddess or combination of Gods and Goddesses who are responsible for the creation of the universe and for its continuing operation. This excludes such non-theistic  religions as Buddhism and many forms of religious Satanism which have no such belief.
 
bulletSome definitions equate "religion" with "Christianity," and thus define two out of every three humans in the world as non-religious.
 
bulletSome definitions are so broadly written that they include beliefs and areas of study that most people do not regard as religious. For example, David Edward's definition would seem to include cosmology and ecology within his definition of religion -- fields of investigation that most people regard to be a scientific studies and non-religious in nature.
 
bulletSome define "religion" in terms of "the sacred" and/or "the spiritual," and thus require two additional terms to be defined.
 
bulletSometimes, definitions of "religion" contain more than one deficiency.

Sponsored link:

Dictionary definitions:

Some examples of definitions of the word religion:
 

  1. Barns & Noble (Cambridge) Encyclopedia (1990):

    "...no single definition will suffice to encompass the varied sets of traditions, practices, and ideas which constitute different religions."

  2. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990):

    "Human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience"

    This definition would not consider some Buddhist sects as religions. Many Unitarian Universalists and progressive Christians are excluded by this description. Strictly interpreted, it would also reject polytheistic religions, since it refers to "a" personal God."
     

  3. Dictionary.com at Ask.com:
     
    bullet"A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. 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.
     
    bulletA specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
     
    bulletSomething one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice. 2

  4. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

    "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith."

    This is a curious definition -- we would have said nonsensical, except that that would be too judgmental -- because it does not require elements often associated with religion, such as deity, morality, worldview, etc. Capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, President Obama's place of birth, and other beliefs might fit this definition. Also it requires that a person pursue their religion with enthusiasm. Many people identify themselves with a specific religion, but are not intensely engaged with their faith.
     

  5. Webster's New World Dictionary (Third College Edition):

    "any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy."

    This definition would exclude religions that do not engage in worship. It implies that there are two important components to religion:

    bulletone's belief and worship in a deity or deities
    bulletone's ethical behavior towards other persons

    This dual nature of religion is expressed clearly in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) in Matthew 22:36-39:

    "Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

  6. Qumran Bet, "A Community Striving to Come to the Pure Essence of the Worship of YHWH," cites definitions from an unknown dictionary: "religion (ri-lij'[uh]n) n.
     
    bulletThe beliefs, attitudes, emotions, behavior, etc., constituting man's relationship with the powers and principles of the universe, especially with a deity or deities; also, any particular system of such beliefs, attitudes, etc.
     
    bulletAn essential part or a practical test of the spiritual life.
     
    bulletAn object of conscientious devotion or scrupulous care: e.g. His work is a religion to him.
     
    bulletObs. Religious practice or belief." 3

  7. The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM):

    "An organized system of belief that generally seeks to understand purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things. These spiritual things can be God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, etc."

  8. Wikipedia defines religion as: "... a system of social coherence based on a common group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object, person, unseen being, or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine or highest truth, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, traditions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought."

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Kile Jones is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. See: http://www.kilejones.com 
  2. "Religion," Dictionary.com. at: http://dictionary.reference.com/
  3. Qumran Bet is "A Community Striving to Come to the Pure Essence of the Worship of YHWH." See: http://qumran.com/religion.htm
  4. "Religion," Dictionary.com. at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion

Site navigation: Home page > Religious Information > here

or: Home page > Comparison of religions > here

Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-16
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link


Go to the previous page, or to the "definition of 'religion' " menu, or choose:

Google
Web ReligiousTolerance.org

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

Google Page Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

 

Sponsored link: