Paragraphs on Religion (938 Words)
It is not an easy task to give a definition of religion which will satisfy everyone.
The principal difficulty is that many people take the word to mean their own religion, regarding all other forms as non-religion, irreligion, superstition or anti-religion.
Writers have defined religion in various ways. According to Ogburn, a definition of religion should be based on the characteristics of all religions, not just the one we profess. He says, “Religion is attitude towards superhuman powers.”
Pfleiderer defined religion as “that reference of man’s life to a world governing power which seeks to grow into a living union with it” James G. Frazer considered religion as a belief in “powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature of human life.” According to MacIver, “Religion, as we understand the term, implies a relationship not merely between man and man but also between man and some higher power.”
Christopher Dawson writes, “Whenever and wherever man has a sense of dependence on external powers which are conceived as mysterious and higher than man’s own, there is religion, and the feelings of awe and self-abasement with which man is filled in the presence of such powers is essentially a religious emotion, the root of worship and prayer.” W. Robertson maintained that religion “is not a vague fear of unknown powers, not the child of terror, but rather a relation of all the members of a community to a power that has the good of the community at heart, and protects its law and moral order.” Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden.”
According to Gillin and Gillin: “The social field of religion may be regarded as including the emotionalized beliefs prevalent in a social group concerning the supernatural plus the overt behaviour, material objects and symbols associated with such beliefs.”
According to Sapir, “Religion is man’s never-ceasing attempt to discover a road to spiritual serenity across the perplexities and dangers of daily life. Lowie regarded religion as a “spontaneous response to the awe-inspiring extraordinary manifestations of reality.” Arnold W. Green defines religion as “a system of beliefs and symbolic practices and objects governed by faith rather than by knowledge, which relates man to an unseen supernatural realm beyond the known and beyond the controllable.”
According to Yinger J. Milton, religion is “the attempt to bring the relative, the temporary, the painful things in life into relation with what is conceived to be permanent, absolute, and cosmically optimistic.” According to H. M. Johnson religion is more or less coherent system of beliefs and practices concerning a supernatural order of beings, forces, places, or other entities. According to Malinowski, “Religion is a mode of action as well as system of belief, and a sociological phenomenon as well as a personal experience.”
Thus there are numerous definitions of religion given by thinkers according to their own conceptions. As a matter of fact the forms in which religion expresses itself vary so much that it is difficult to agree upon a definition. Some maintain that religion includes a belief in supernatural or mysterious powers and that it expresses itself in overt activities designed to deal with those powers.
Some regard religion as belief in the immortality of the soul. While it is possible to define religion as belief in God or some supernatural powers, it is well to remember that there can also be a godless religion as Budhism is. The Budhists reject belief in the immortality of the soul and the life in the hereafter. The ancient Hebrews did not have a definite concept of an immortal soul. They seem to have had no conception of post-mortem rewards and punishments.
Others regard religion as something very earthly and materialistic designed to achieve practical ends. But as Ruth Benedict wrote, “Religion is not to be identified with the pursuit of ideal ends. Spirituality and the virtues are two social values which were discovered in the process of social life.
They may well constitute the value of religion in man’s history just as the pearl constitutes the value of the oyster. Nevertheless the making of the pearl is a by-product in the life of oyster, and it does not give a clue to the evolution of the oyster.” Sumner and Keller asserted that “Religion in history from the earliest to very recent days has not been a matter of morality at all but of rites, ritual, observance and ceremony.”
In sociology the word religion is used in a wider sense than that used in religious books. A recent sociological work defines religion as, “those institutionalized systems of beliefs, symbols, values, and practices that provide groups of men with solutions to their questions of ultimate being.” A common characteristic found among all religions is that they represent a complex of emotional feelings and attitudes toward mysteries and perplexities of life.
As such religion comprises first, systems of attitudes, beliefs, symbols which are based on the assumption that certain kinds of social relations are sacred or morally imperative, and, second, a structure of activities governed or influenced by these systems.
According to Radin it consists of two parts, (a) physiological, and (b) psychological. The physiological part expresses itself in such acts as kneeling, closing the eyes, touching the feet: the psychological part consists of supernormal sensitivity to certain beliefs and traditions. While belief in supernatural powers may be considered basic to all religion, equally fundamental is the presence of a deeply emotional feeling which Golden Weber called the “religious thrill.”