Religion is adding a set of traditions, titles, and beliefs to a view of life or to a philosophy.
The advantage to this is that it can mean some relaxing and consoling rituals, and a community onto which people can rest.
The disadvantage to this is that it allows the believers to be controlled by those of higher rank, and tricked into crusading, inquisitions and other bad karma stuff.

Because one has not been put forth here yet, and because I feel it is an important part of thinking about religion, I will put forth an anthropological definition/anthropological thoughts about religion.

First, however, some things on which it is based:

  • One cannot prove the existence of a supernatural power. One cannot prove the non-existence of a supernatural power. Thus, logically (and scientifically), nothing can be said about the existence of a supernatural power.
  • Anthropology, as a science, thus makes no judgements, theological or otherwise, about the validity of any religion, because nothing can be scientifically proven about them.
  • What anthropology does, however, is look at why religion exists, how it came about, how it changes; and how it affects society, culture, and people, and vice-versa.

So, with that in mind: science gives us answers to a lot of things. Why the sun rises and sets, why blood transfusions of certain different blood types will kill a person, why people get diseases and why they get better or not, and why sometimes it rains and sometimes it doesn't. With this knowledge comes a certain amount of control over some of these things.

However, there are some questions that science can't answer. What happens to us after we die? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What was there before the big bang? How should I treat my neighbor? These are some pretty serious questions, especially the first three. So serious, in fact, that not knowing the answers causes anxiety in people. Anxiety intense enough that some of them start looking elsewhere for answers.

Religion is one source of answers. However, religion is a matter of faith, as in the basis for its answers do not come from empirical evidence. Thus religion, by its very nature, does not need to prove itself to anyone. Indeed, if it did, it really wouldn't be a religion anymore. It would be a fact.

It's pretty obvious how religion arose. Imagine living 10,000 years ago, with no knowledge of any kind that would tell you why someone sickened and died; why lightning struck nearby; why it didn't rain for months on end and you and your family had to move or starve; or even how a woman gets pregnant. That's a lot of unanswered questions and very little control over your life, and people wanted answers. There were no logical ones at the time, so they came up with supernatural explanations based on faith. And these answers gave them a feeling of control, whether real or imagined.

Over time, science gives us more and more answers. But we still don't know everything, and some people still want a comforting answer, and thus religion still exists today.

Way back when, a religion was often integrated directly into a culture, which more often than not was the only society in an area. You didn't have much choice in the way of your beliefs. As the earth's population grew, different cultures came into contact with each other, with mixed results. Some societies started to incorporate multiple cultures, while others sought to force their culture and/or religion on the "outsiders". Religion created, and still creates, a sense of solidarity amongst its followers. It gives you a feeling of belonging, a sense that you have a support group. In doing so, it creates another group, the outsiders.

So now, regardless of what culture you're born into, you are exposed to numerous other cultures and religions within your society. And if you are in a society that allows it, you can now choose the aspects of your own individual culture and religion (or un-religion).

Religion can obviously be used as a tool for good or ill. It can be used as a means of moral engineering. Many people do not realize that religion is not the only source of morals and ethics. Many others hold that they are right in their beliefs, and everyone else's beliefs are wrong, and this has caused all sorts of problems, and continues to do so.

So, to wrap it up, religion is any set of beliefs which is based entirely on faith and not on empirical evidence (which means that one person can have their own religion, although this tends to get called a cult until it builds a sufficient following). It functions to help the mental health of the believer, provide a sense of solidarity with those who share that set of beliefs, and can be integrated into a culture and possibly a society. Religion is actually at one end of a spectrum of belief systems, which also includes sacrifice, witchcraft, sorcery, and magic. See also the life cycle of a religion.

A Civilization advance.
The evolution of religion traces back to elementary systems of belief and practice concerning those events that primitive people felt were uncontrollable and mysterious, like weather and death. Religion gave people a sense that they could understand the world around them and, perhaps, plead to some greater force that would intervene on their behalf. When leaders began to claim special relationships with these forces, organized religion emerged to strengthen, codyfy, and eventually supplant individual belief. At times, a common religious belief, and the code of behavior that comes with it, has been the only uniting bond that held a fragmenting society together. Unfortunately, organized religion has also been responsible for inquisitions, wars of genocide, and the suppression of scientific inquiry.
Prerequisites: Philosophy and Writing.
Allows for: none.

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A maxi-single CD release by Front 242, containing remixes of the Religion and Crapage tracks from the 1993 full-length 06:21:03:11 Up Evil release. Not essential 242, but The Orb and Prodigy remix work is interesting.
    Track list:
  1. Religion - 7" mix
  2. Religion - Pussy Whipped mix
  3. Religion - Prodigy Bass Under Seige mix
  4. Religion - Bitch Slapper mix
  5. Religion - Prodigy Trance U Down mix
  6. Crapage - The Orb Never Hurry A Murray mix
  7. Crapage - The Orb The Turd mix
  8. Religion - Lovelace A-Go-Go mix
The secret ingredient in the Lovelace-A-Go-Go maxi-single track is dialogue sampled from Deep Throat. It's hauntingly raw, ugly, funny in the tragic way. As Jimmy Flynt said to Larry in The People vs. Larry Flynt, most folks prefer to keep their religion and porn separate.

Religion
"Right" - branded on my brow
"Wrong" - graven on my mind
You see, the sin is in me

When - will it stop unfolding
When - will I ever be
Face to face
With the devil in me

(chorus:)
Let me burn you Let me burn you Let me burn you down (2x)
Burn you down

Brain - wants to rule the heart
Heart - wants to tie the hands
Unseat the assassin in me

So you cry not to give it away
So you lie

(chorus)

Born - with a wicked charm
Torn - by this driving harm
You see, it moves into me

So you lie not to give it away
So you cry

(chorus)

This is an index of Everything2's nodes about religion. Editors and members of e2religion should feel free to make helpful additions themselves; anyone else should /msg one of these if they wish to make suggestions.

Religions:

THE CASE FOR RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE

A band of people who called themselves the logical positivists came up with a principle and with it attempted to totally disprove the whole of religion. Their claim was that religious language is totally devoid of meaning.
The principle they came out with, they called the verification principle. What it said was, a statement has meaning if, and only if, it can be proved or disproved sensually. This was their main argument against religious language. Indeed, this was the one argument against religious language, that it cannot be proved or disproved, therefore it is devoid of meaning. Anthony Flew argued from this angle.
In John Wisdom’s Parable of the Garden, in an essay he titled ‘Gods’, written in 1944, there are two men- a man who believes a gardener visits the garden unseen and unheard, giving order and life to the garden, and a sceptic, who doesn’t believe in the gardener he, or any other person, has never seen. Flew uses the sceptic in this parable to illustrate his point. How, exactly, does an invisible, intangible gardener differ from no gardener at all?
His other argument against religious language was religious believers will let nothing count against their beliefs then they cannot be proved because they cannot be falsified.

Basil Mitchell’s response to this was him trying to prove that religious believers do actually see things that count against their beliefs. Only they don’t believe these things ultimately count against their beliefs.
R. M. Hare coined the term ‘blik’ to describe a state of lunacy where you will not allow anything to count against your beliefs. This was what Mitchell argued- that religious believers do not have bliks.
He gives the parable of the resistance movement and the stranger. A member of the resistance movement of an occupied country meets a stranger who claims to be the resistance leader. The stranger seems truthful and trustworthy enough to the member of the resistance movement, and he places his trust in him wholly. The stranger’s behaviour is highly ambiguous, and at times his trust is tried, at other times his trust in the stranger is strengthened. This is how Mitchell’s parable differs fro Hare’s. In his own words, ‘the partisan admits that many things may and do count against his belief: whereas the lunatic who has a blik about dons doesn’t admit that anything counts against his blik. Nothing can count against bliks.’
His argument is straightforward- religious beliefs are a matter of fact which can be proved or disproved. The stranger knows whose side he is on. After the war the ambiguity of the stranger’s behaviour will be resolved. In the same way, the existence or non-existence of God, or his love or apathy for us, or his benevolence or malevolence will be proved one day—only after death, and not before. In this way Mitchell proved how religious language is totally meaningful. All that remains is to prove its truthhood or falsity.

Ramblings of an Old Man on Religion

Everyone on earth has an opinion on God. I have my own opinions, just as you have yours, and many others have their thoughts. Furthermore, it seems to me that wherever a group of men gather to discuss matters of the sacred, irrevocable differences and resentments are sure to follow.

It seems to me that every voice in such a meeting seeks to proposite some universal truth, to which, it is expected, all other heads need only nod in approval. For this reason, I feel that discussions on religion are remarkable windows into power politics.

I could be wrong, but I feel that every man who assents to another man's views has, in essence, assented to that man. A person who aggrees is a person who will serve, and it is for this reason that I feel contemporary discussion on religion are so vitriolic.

We might consider that, between to peers, the leader of the two has several ways to maintain control. First, through charisma. Second, through intimidation. These two methods are often supplemented by two others: The one, through expertise, and the other, through tradition.

In days far older than the birth of Christ, religious leadership belonged to brutes. In such an environment, one might expect dissenting opinion to be quickly silenced by the men with the bigger spears. It is in such situations that when the Frankish King, Clovis I converted to Catholicism after the battle of Cologne, 3,000 of his soldiers were baptised with him. Those who did not were summarily executed, and those that escaped soon found themselves shunned by the increasingly Catholic populace.

Brute strength might have proved decisive in the northerly lands of Germanic Europe, but it is concievable that other approaches to maintaining power may be used. A good example, I feel, might be that of the Sumerian Priesthood, which came to power in times more ancient than the Franks, and which lives on in popular culture as the mysterious archetype of The Literati.

The Sumerian Priesthood came to power through the use of Astronomy. By watching the movements of the sun and stars, they gained almost god-like power over elemental weather, or so it seemed in the eyes of farmers near the Tigris and Euphrates.

Imagine, then, that you are able to speak to others, "It will flood", and have it happen. The Priesthood knew when the floods would come, as they were driven by water runnoff from melting snow in the mountains. It is a simple trick, but to those who lacked any kind of education or knowledge about the natural world, such an ability must have been sufficiently advanced to appear as Magic.

As the story goes, the Priests of Mesopotamia leveraged their expertise into real symbols of power and authority. Such authority allowed the rise of vast cities and grand civilizations, of course, for only such an establishment could carry the weight of tribute grain.

It is interesting here, to note that the remaining two methods upon which power may be acquired form the stone foundations of the Cities of the West. It appears that we need look no further for a shining figure than the figure of the Christ. Indeed, many people say so many different things about this one. At the same time, however, I would find it hard to say that Jesus Christ lacked Charisma.

As for the other cornerstone, we must ask what else was Rome reknowned for, if not Law? The Roman Scales of Justice symbolise much more than equal treatment under law. They are, to me, a promise of an ideal. They are an allusion to equality between all men and women. Every western concept of Balance and Universal Suffrage and yes, even great Democracy is represented in that image of antiquity.

But what of these methods for acquiring power? What of these methods for control? Is it truth, then, that power and influence are as natural to human nature as is hopping to a Kangaroo? I feel that one may easily observe such situations even now, where different people fight for recognition and prestige.

Perhaps it really is a totem-pole mentality. Perhaps Religion, or some institution like it, is a necessary force through which the forms of future public figures are so strongly forged? Or perhaps it's just all exercises in denial; some sort of silly game of sadistic masochism? Are we fooling ourselves? Perhaps, for many men have gained the world, but for never very far.

Re*li"gion (r?-l?j"?n), n. [F., from L. religio; cf. religens pious, revering the gods, Gr. to head, have a care. Cf. Neglect.]

1.

The outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and honor are due; the feeling or expression of human love, fear, or awe of some superhuman and overruling power, whether by profession of belief, by observance of rites and ceremonies, or by the conduct of life; a system of faith and worship; a manifestation of piety; as, ethical religions; monotheistic religions; natural religion; revealed religion; the religion of the Jews; the religion of idol worshipers.

An orderly life so far as others are able to observe us is now and then produced by prudential motives or by dint of habit; but without seriousness there can be no religious principle at the bottom, no course of conduct from religious motives; in a word, there can be no religion. Paley.

Religion [was] not, as too often now, used as equivalent for godliness; but . . . it expressed the outer form and embodiment which the inward spirit of a true or a false devotion assumed. Trench.

Religions, by which are meant the modes of sdivine worship proper to different tribes, nations, or communities, and based on the belief held in common by the members of them severally . . . There is no living religion without something like a doctrine. On the other hand, a doctrine, however elaborate, does not constitute a religion. C. P. Tiele (Encyc. Brit. ).

Religion . . . means the conscious relation between man and God, and the expression of that relation in human conduct. J. Kostlin (Schaff-Herzog Encyc. )

After the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisce. Acts xxvi. 5.

The image of a brute, adorned With gay religions full of pomp and gold. Milton.

2.

Specifically, conformity in faith and life to the precepts inculcated in the Bible, respecting the conduct of life and duty toward God and man; the Christian faith and practice.

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Washington.

Religion will attend you . . . as pleasant and useful companion in every proper place, and every temperate occupation of life. Buckminster.

3. R.C.CH.

A monastic or religious order subject to a regulated mode of life; the religious state; as, to enter religion.

Trench.

A good man was there of religion. Chaucer.

4.

Strictness of fidelity in conforming to any practice, as if it were an enjoined rule of conduct.

[R.]

Those parts of pleading which in ancient times might perhaps be material, but at this time are become only mere styles and forms, are still continued with much religion. Sir M. Hale.

Religion, as distinguished from theology, is subjective, designating the feelings and acts of men which relate to God; while theology is objective, and denotes those ideas which man entertains respecting the God whom he worships, especially his systematized views of God. As distinguished from morality, religion denotes the influences and motives to human duty which are found in the character and will of God, while morality describes the duties to man, to which true religion always influences. As distinguished from piety, religion is a high sense of moral obligation and spirit of reverence or worship which affect the heart of man with respect to the Deity, while piety, which first expressed the feelings of a child toward a parent, is used for that filial sentiment of veneration and love which we owe to the Father of all. As distinguished from sanciti, religion is the means by which sanctity is achieved, sanctity denoting primarily that purity of heart and life which results from habitual communion with God, and a sense of his continual presence.

Natural religion, a religion based upon the evidences of a God and his qualities, which is supplied by natural phenomena. See Natural theology, under Natural. -- Religion of humanity, a name sometimes given to a religion founded upon positivism as a philosophical basis. -- Revealed religion, that which is based upon direct communication of God's will to mankind; especially, the Christian religion, based on the revelations recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

 

© Webster 1913.

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