What Is Religion? Essay
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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
The classification of religions that will withstand all criticism and serve all the purposes of a general science of religions has not been devised. Each classification presented above has been attacked for its inadequacies or distortions, yet each is useful in bringing to light certain aspects of religion. Even the crudest and most subjective classifications throw into relief various aspects of religious life and thus contribute to the cause of understanding. The most fruitful approach for a student of religion appears to be that of employing a number of diverse classifications, each one for the insight it may yield. Though each may have its shortcomings, each also offers a positive contribution to the store of knowledge and its systematization. The insistence upon the exclusive validity of any single taxonomic effort must be avoided. To confine oneself to a single determined framework of thought about so rich and variegated a subject as religion is to risk the danger of missing much that is important. Classification should be viewed as a method and a tool only.
Although a perfect classification lies at present beyond scholars’ grasp, certain criteria, both positive and negative in nature, may be suggested for building and judging classifications. First, classifications should not be arbitrary, subjective, or provincial. A first principle of the scientific method is that objectivity should be pursued to the extent possible and that findings should be capable of confirmation by other observers. Second, an acceptable classification should deal with the essential and typical in the religious life, not with the accidental and the unimportant. The contribution to understanding that a classification may make is in direct proportion to the penetration of the bases of religious life exhibited in its principles of division. A good classification must concern itself with the fundamentals of religion and with the most typical elements of the units it is seeking to order. Third, a proper classification should be capable of presenting both that which is common to religious forms of a given type and that which is peculiar or unique to each member of the type. Thus, no classification should ignore the concrete historical individuality of religious manifestations in favour of that which is common to them all, nor should it neglect to demonstrate the common factors that are the bases for the very distinction of types of religious experience, manifestations, and forms. Classification of religions involves both the systematic and the historical tasks of the general science of religion. Fourth, it is desirable in a classification that it demonstrate the dynamics of religious life both in the recognition that religions as living systems are constantly changing and in the effort to show, through the categories chosen, how it is possible for one religious form or manifestation to develop into another. Few errors have been more damaging to the understanding of religion than that of viewing religious systems as static and fixed, as, in effect, ahistorical. Adequate classifications should possess the flexibility to come to terms with the flexibility of religion itself. Fifth, a classification must define what exactly is to be classified. If the purpose is to develop types of religions as a whole, the questions of what constitutes a religion and what constitutes various individual religions must be asked. Since no historical manifestation of religion is known that has not exhibited an unvarying process of change, evolution, and development, these questions are far from easily solved. With such criteria in mind, it should be possible continuously to construct classification schemes that illuminate humanity’s religious history.Charles Joseph AdamsThe Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica