What is Religion? Naming a Faith-Driven Experience

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Any formal study of religion or religions must begin with a clear understanding of the  subject matter, namely, what religion is.  And and yet this task is not as easy as it seems because, in any society, the meaning of words is not absolute or fixed; it is as fluid as its interpretations and applications.

Although the majority of the population of the world continues to identify themselves with a religion, on the basis of some implicit and unmeasured understandings of religion, especially when it comes to answering polls,[1] over the years religious scholars have struggled with the meaning of the term religion, or even with the essential, common traits that would lead them to classify individuals or groups under that label.

Adopting different points of view and using methodologies of analysis that embody different human experiences, many scholars have concluded that a single, definitive definition of religion is neither possible nor advisable.  Since it is a social construct that reflects diversity of perceptions and thoughts, it is up to any person to decide what it means and for others to try to understand these definitions in their corresponding contexts.  And yet a work-in-progress definition of religion is possible, necessary, and desirable, at least to name the subject matter and start a conversation that would elicit a wide range of qualifications, exceptions to the rule, and even critiques.  After all, all of us know what a religion looks like when we see one although we might not find the right words to summarize what it means.

Recognizing that there is no such a thing as value-free, absolute definition and that, at the same time, religion is something that average people primarily experience or live and hardly ever stop to formally define it, much less to take into account the ideas of others to see where they all coincide, how could we, then, define religion?

Taken from the Latin term religio (a noun that originally meant and could be translated as a “reconnection” or “bond”), religion is a created, Western word that, for the most part, refers to a series of attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors of groups of people, which describe, symbolize, and seek to meet the needs of “the soul,” which translate into efforts to create a bond or union of some sort with a metaphysical realm (of which a supreme, controlling power, spirit or divine being or beings is central), and to equally derive a moral system relevant to human needs and challenges.  Simply put, and in response to the mystery and power of life,  religion is a limited attempt to meet the deity or its equivalent, an encounter with the divine with the corresponding ethical implications.[2]

Called by different names and understood in a variety of ways, this Higher Reality (in its personal and impersonal versions) is portrayed as transcendent, holy, and sacred, a mystery that cannot be fully grasped but whose glimpses, as a form of revelation, can still be experienced in this life in preparation for another life somewhere in the universe after our physical death.  Ideally, the goal of this finite effort is, through the eyes of faith, to develop a meaningful, immanent relationship with that God through symbolic acts, primarily in the context of worship, and/or through good deeds.  Explained in a different way, one could say that religion refers to a socially-constructed attempt to connect with God, either to go back to mend what had been broken or to create a relational bond that is both redemptive and transformative.  Although it may be seen as a system or networks of complex, changing relationships, metaphorically speaking, religion may also be seen as an earthly path to heaven or a journey back home.[3]

Something else needs to be said about the word religion and the type of universal experience it names.  The imperfect attempt to find God in order to create a connection of some sort is not univocal or materializes the same way everywhere.  Like anything else in society, it is interpreted, mediated, and lived out differently by different faith communities in any place, time or generation.  Thus, the word religion may also be applied to particular cultural traditions that, as by-products and reflections of concrete settings, histories, and circumstances, focus on what is ultimately life-giving through the implementation of unique worldviews.  From this vantage point, the term is used to define, not just the universal drive and practice to find God, but also the followers of particular ways of contextualizing the faith in and commitment to a supreme power or being, in order to improve our lives in the here and now. Taking this type of context into account,  the following groups are seen as religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, just to mention the ones with the largest following.[4]

With this rudimentary and perhaps a more structured understanding of religion that might reflect the views of so many people, as well as its diverse, cultural, interpretative expressions in the globe, we could now move to an in-depth conversation that would give room for additional insights that, in light of concrete experiences and knowledge, would reaffirm, fine-tune, diversify, or even challenge the present relative “truths.”  After this, we could then talk about themes such as how religions make a relationship with God concrete, viable, and achievable in any culture, educated speculations about the origin of religion, and the roles religion plays in society.

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[1] As demonstrated by a 2012 study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, which estimates that 84 % of the world’s population (or eight-in-ten people) are affiliated to a religion or see themselves as part of one or several of them. This represents about 5.8 billion of the world’s population (believed to be about 6.9 billion). http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

[2] For more nuanced definitions, please read Lewis M. Hopfe and Mark R. Woodward, Religions of the World, 12th ed. (Boston: Pearson: 2012), 3-4;  and Nancy C. Ring, Kathleen S. Nash, Mary N. MacDonald, Fred Glennon, and Jennifer A. Glancy, Introduction to the Study of Religion (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2001), 61-63.

[3] Or its semantic equivalents; namely, Nirvana, Brahman, Paradise, etc.

[4] With the above background in mind and moving the concept of God to a more secular context, the word religion is also used to talk about what is of most importance for individuals, groups and/or institutions, to a point in which an idea, value or action could well  “worshiped.”   Due to the flexibility of the term and the different views of its interpreters, it is no wonder that materialism, patriotism, secularism, and climate change may also be characterized as “religions.”

About amartinez

Dr. Aquiles E. Martinez is Professor of Religion (Biblical Studies) and Coordinator of the Religion and Philosophy Programs at Reinhardt University. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Martinez has dedicated a good part of his life to equip pastors and church leaders in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, with the appropriate skills, knowledge, and experiences so they can serve their communities effectively. In addition to his many books, articles, and essays published in English and Spanish, Dr. Martinez has served several churches and the global community as an effort to help people develop significant relationships with God and their neighbors, especially with marginalized communities.
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33 Responses to What is Religion? Naming a Faith-Driven Experience

  1. Andre Gardner says:

    My understanding of the text is that the meaning of religion could be interpreted countless ways. No one word can define religion. It is preserved differently by all people, and that perception can be different by a little or a lot. i understand that even people in religious groups that have been established for long periods of time don’t do everything the same.in other words some are less strict and and pick and choose the values they believe are more important while still maybe believing in the same god or higher power. i believe that religion is a good idea but after reading the text it puts so many thoughts in your head because if there can be so many interpretations of just one single religion and there is not even a clear definition of the word religion. Thoughts like how can this be real, or like if there is a such thing as religion or a higher being wouldn’t he want it done one specific way between the people that believe in that specific religion. It doesn’t make scene to me that anything you can think to believe in can be your religion because doesn’t a got have to be part of a religion. But part of religion is understanding and connecting. If u believe that. (rel 104. Tuesday & Thursday at 11:00 -12:15)

  2. Annese Blockley REL 104 Section 2 says:

    In a previous course I have taken, my professor’s goal was to transform us into critical thinkers. She believed that critical thinkers were able to take in differing sets of information and connect them to each other and to the world. With this mind set, I have attempted to apply your article to my current understanding of religion and explore new ideas. I have a new desire to understand how the major religions of the world are connected and I have a new burning question: Are we all, especially the Abrahamic religions, worshiping the same God? Also, are the polytheistic religions of the world pursing the same God, just in different ways than we do? I do not believe it is a coincidence that billions of people in the world feel the overwhelming desire to seek out and serve a higher power. Across many religions, people report feeling a slight “push” towards this, a supernatural whisper to strive towards a holy being. While it is very obvious that Jews and Christians serve the same God, I have begun to wonder if Muslims do as well. In terms of Jews versus Christians, I have always said, “We serve the same God, we just do so through different beliefs and rituals.” Thanks to your article and this course, I began to realize that the same logic could be applied to the Islamic faith. I cannot help but wonder if Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all seeking after the God of Abraham, but through differences in cultures, formed three separate religions. If so, it truly is a shame that we have to disagree so viciously based on a social construct like religion. The important focal point of these religions is to connect with and serve a holy God. If we all have the same goal, must we argue about rituals, rules, and other religious entities? Do we have to fight about who is “more right” in their worship of God? As you can see, I am very interested in this topic, and I hope that through this course I may receive some answers to my questions.

  3. Anfernee Hamilton Religion section 2 says:

    In my opinion, I believe that there is no way to clearly define what a religion is or what a religion should be. The basis of which many people describe a religion could apply to many different things. This in turn can turn anything that can be ritualized into a religion of some sort. I also believe that religion is a human concept that was brought about not because of a higher power, but because of human ingenuity. In an effort to not only divide but bring certain groups together to persecute, religion was brought about as a means to an end. This is an easy concept for most people, namely atheists, to wrap their heads around as there is no physical evidence of God, Allah, or other divine beings. The basis of faith in religion helps make it easier for the masses to keep believing which could mislead them as any unnatural occurrence to be an act of a higher power. This, coupled with the fact that any of the “ancient” texts can be interpreted by the reader alluding to the vague nature of religion itself.

  4. Montralius Mosley JR Intro to religion 104-020 says:

    When it comes to defining religion, there are multiple things you have to take in account. Society emphasis on the word religion make it bigger than it have to be. Over the years scholars had made an attempt to define religion and almost everyone has the world belief in it. Religion can be taken out of terms if it not used in the right meaning. A cult that believes in death and sacrifice can be what religion is to them, in that wouldn’t be wrong in a way. If a certain way of living altered your views to a certain aspect of what you believe in you really aren’t wrong. So what does religion do for society? It gives people life meaning and while also giving you meaning it gives you a sense of rightness and wrongness. Religion makes it possible to define what is not easy for humans to understand. Believing in a high being give you a security blanket when it comes to living and explaining what you don’t understand in this universe. There not one right definition when it comes to defining religion in the world, just like there not one right thing to believe in.

  5. Diana Perez- Section 2 says:

    One thing that is true when it comes to defining or explaining “religion”, is that there is not a fixed definition because of the many ways it can be interpreted. We, as individuals, can perceive the same concepts, themes, symbols, and in this case, religion in many diverse ways. For instance in a previous class discussion, we approached the topic of symbols and how we can view them differently. One example was the yin and yang symbol. This symbol is attributed to Taoism, a type of religion, but it can also be seen as a popular tattoo choice referring to a perfect balance of “dark and light”. Though it is the same symbol it is interpreted differently; this can be said the same about religion. It is the same word, but a word that carries many translations. For example my personal definition of religion, based on what I have learned in class and what I already knew, is that it is a common set of beliefs, traditions, and values accepted by a community that serves to bring a sense of connection between oneself and the higher power. But in the end, my definition may not necessarily be agreed by everyone. Every one of us has had different experiences, and different upbringings which have influenced the way we interpret and understand the complexities of life (religion included) and that is okay. Religion is an intricate concept which makes it difficult to define. All that it can done is to find similarities among the many translations. Similarities like: the belief of a higher power, the accepting of alike traditions/rituals within a group who share the same beliefs, and values, and a means of connecting with the higher power with thy self. Like I mentioned before, defining religion is difficult. Difficult because it deals with our emotions, beliefs, and thoughts, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  6. Mason Smith (section 2) says:

    To define religion, you have to think of a very general and broad basis that all religions fall under. One thing all religions seem to share is a disconnect. My understanding of religion has really broadened ever since I was introduced to the word “religio”. The ideas of a disconnect have always been present, but never quite in the forefront. We want to do good things to please God and to reconnect with him. We go to a holy place, read holy text, meditate and do other sacred actions to try to reconnect. Since this is found in the basis of all religions, a re-connection should be the basis for any definition we write. After that, religion seems to imply a connection to another power that we cannot sense with our senses, usually greater than a human being. Whether this is Allah, Yahweh, or the spirits of past loved ones, religion relies on more than just the physical. Finally, religion implies that there is faith. If religion believes in something we cannot sense with our senses like we stated before, then there must be an element of faith as well. A person who wants to follow a religion must believe that his or her religion is true, even if they cannot prove it with their senses. Religion is an ever changing concept which makes it harder to define as more and more ideas become religion. But these 3 categories seem to encompass the majority belief systems we call religion.

  7. Michelle Durant REL Section 2 says:

    I have been a very religious person throughout my whole life, so while taking this course I challenged myself to analyze everything we talk about apart from my personal religious beliefs. I do find it interesting how no matter where you go in the world, even in the most remote places, everyone seems to have an opinion on religion. Whether it be they believe there is no god or there are hundreds of gods, religion is woven into everyone’s life in some way. When you look at cultures all around the world they all have religious beliefs and rituals that were somehow handed down or realized among themselves and I think that is really interesting. Religion is not something you can escape or evade; everyone ends up forming some personal opinion on it. The one question I have though is why is that need for something higher or the need for us to come to terms with “is there even a higher power?” pushed on society so much? Is it strictly a social construct or is it strictly spiritual (for lack of a better word)? I hope that while taking this course I can get those questions answered and also expand my knowledge of all religions and not just my own.

  8. Diana Perez Section 2 says:

    One thing that is true when it comes to defining or explaining “religion”, is that there is not a fixed definition because of the many ways it can be interpreted. We, as individuals, can perceive the same concepts, themes, symbols, and in this case, religion in many diverse ways. For instance in a previous class discussion, we approached the topic of symbols and how we can view them differently. One example was the yin and yang symbol. This symbol is attributed to Taoism, a type of religion, but it can also be seen as a popular tattoo choice referring to a perfect balance of “dark and light”. Though it is the same symbol it is interpreted differently; this can be said the same about religion. It is the same word, but a word that carries many translations. For example my personal definition of religion, based on what I have learned in class and what I already knew, is that it is a common set of beliefs, traditions, and values accepted by a community that serves to bring a sense of connection between oneself and the higher power. But in the end, my definition may not necessarily be agreed by everyone. Every one of us has had different experiences, and different upbringings from which have influenced the way we interpret and understand the complexities of life (religion included) and that is okay. Religion is an intricate concept which makes it difficult to define. All that it can done is to find similarities among the many translations. Similarities like: the belief of a higher power, the accepting of alike traditions/rituals within a group who share the same beliefs, and values, and a means of connecting with the higher power with thy self. Like I mentioned before, defining religion is difficult. Difficult because it deals with our emotions, beliefs, and thoughts, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  9. Jhante Charles says:

    I think religion is something that you can’t define on one singular basis because it’s constantly changing around us due to social and cultural stimulus in our societies. For instance, in the past different parts of the bible were taken more seriously than they are now. I’d definitely say the same for other regions such as Islam. Like even though the Bible has a stance against abortions, our culture and society has evolved to look past that stance to the point where we’ve even developed factions (in a sense; pro life, pro choice) on their individual stances based off that religion. Things like this are a a direct result of society and the culture in different societies changing over time. I also think religion is something amorphous that takes the shape of whatever individuals in a society need it to. For instance there’s a religion developed titled Pastafarianism developed just to have a light hearted view on religion as well as to be able to take your license picture with a colander on your head.. My point being religion isn’t something solid, it’s something that will take the shape of whatever we need it for at that time, or not solely for the reason of being closer to a God.

  10. Lindsay Shuart Rel 104 Section 1 says:

    The ultimate question we find ourselves asking is what is religion? Everyone has their own way to describe what religion is. Especially since there are all kinds of religions in the world. Such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and so on. That being said the definition of religion could change depending on who you ask. For instance one scholar named Reville states religion is “Synthesis between man’s destiny and contrary forces”. In my opinion religion is finding your own path through prayers, rituals and a scared text that connects us to a higher power (or a God). However, their is a lot more to religion then just knowing what it is. There is understanding, finding connections and even relating are religion to our five senses. You can not just pray and wish for your problems to disappear you have to take physical action. I am not saying that my interpenetration of religion is 100 percent accurate. However, what people either forget or choose to ignore is that we are all connected through religion even if our religion is different. If you stop and truly think about all the different religions then people would remember we have something in common. We all pray and hope that our God will help lead us and in return of this help we help him by doing God’s will.

  11. Breanna Chastain Section 2 says:

    Religion, in my opinion, is a way of connecting to a bigger reality and a way to understand the existence of the world. Religions, in theory, give us an idea of where we come from and what our purpose is in life. Many religions believe that to find our purpose in life, we must follow a set of moral rules that allow us to, at the end of our life, have a peaceful existence, if there is an existence for the after life. Of course, my definition of religion, like everyone else’s definition is subjective dependent upon the person giving the definition. For example, I think it’s interesting that religion literally means to “reconnect.” When I first heard that religion meant to reconnect, my mind went to the image of a baby being born on our planet earth, and one day, the baby’s soul has to reconnect with wherever place the baby’s soul came from. My example is subjective to my way of thinking because my assumption of reconnecting, whether it be right or wrong, relies on the belief in a soul, the belief in a starting point for souls, and the belief that a soul can travel in and out of earth and the “starting point.” Either way, religion can have several different perspectives and interpretations that rely solely on the beholder.

  12. Aliyah Reeves Rel 104 SEC 1 says:

    Reading this article, there is no clear definition of religion. It can mean many different things, in different areas around the world. I believe that religions all worship a higher being. We Believe in something that we can not see, touch, hear, or taste so how do we even know that it is real? By using faith, “the sixth sense”, helps someone to believe that their is a higher being even if we cant use our five senses. Everyone attempts to become this moral character and thrive everyday through rituals of their culture, or texts. It gives the people order and meaning for people to live their life. Its also a source of authority.

  13. Amanda Marshall section 2 says:

    Religion is broad term that is used very loosley. I believe that there is no true definition of religion, other than the one you make. Religion is not necessarily something that can easily be explained; however, it is something that could explain who you are as a person. I do believe that religion’s main purpose is to created a bond with a higher power, in order to realize where you stand in life. It is very important to know and understand what you believe in, so you know your reasoning behind your purpose on earth. I believe that faith has a lot to do with religion as well. Whatever is is that you do stand for or believe in, you must have faith to back it up. How could someone say that they truly believe in something if their faith isn’t fully present? When the term “Sacred” is used, it isn’t used lightly. Almost all, if not all religions worship the Sacred, also known as a higher power. To me, religion is knowing who the Sacred is, and understanding why you’re putting all of your faith into them.

  14. Taylor Hawkins Religion 104 says:

    As I read the text, I came to realize that there are different meanings to what a religion is. In class, our professor told us the first day that he would transform us into critical thinkers. Reading this text put a lot of thoughts in my head. Thoughts like what does religion do for our world. I believe that Jews and Christians serve the same God, but I wonder if Muslims do as well. We as Christians just have different beliefs and morals. But my only concern is do they believe in the Son of Abraham. In my opinion, we should just all come together as on and serve the same God. But yet, I still have yet to find answers to my questions, so I hope at the end of this course I can find answers to my questions.

  15. Cassie Samders says:

    Cassie Sanders Religion 104 Section 1

    There are people in this world that believe that everything can be explained. They also believe that every word has one definition, but anyone who studies religion would tell them that they are wrong. There is not one single definition that can be used to describe religion. There are an infinite amount of terms that could be used to define religion. For example, my definition of religion could be different from yours. Everyone has their own opinion, and religion is one of those words that it is understandable to have all of the definitions. Religion is a word that even scholars cannot give one definition to. Dr. Martinez made a good point when he talked about when words and their meanings are not absolute. All over the world, you have the same word mean two different things. If societies have the same word means different things, religion can never properly be defined. Dr. Martinez also mad e a great point when he said that many scholars thing that a definitive definitions is not advisable, and i agree 100%. If there was one definitive definition of religion, you could offend someone. As a society, we should want people to practice whatever religion they believe. We don’t want them to not practice what they believe because it does not go with a “definitive definition.” There are some religions that you may not like, but everyone has the right to practice whatever religion they want. In the United States, we have the Bill of Rights that lets us practice religion anyway we want. Religion is one of theose words taht can be defined, but may not mean the same to all. Religion is one of those words I never thought of a definition for. Religion is what my parents told me. The told me that, to sum it up, that Jesus gave his life to save me. They told me that I also need to live my life in the right way, and I need to ask forgiveness for my sins. Once we find out what religion means, we can then look at other factors that go with it. I also need to see how to show my relationship with God as concrete because some people have to have these facts to believe in something higher than themselves. I believe in God, and I can’t wait to see what we learn so I can spread the word.

  16. Jonathan Vance Rel 104 section 1 says:

    Religion has a unique definition to each person you may come across. What I define as religion will most likely differ from the next person you ask, and so forth. Religion is also something that you must have a flexible definition of. What I define as religion today may change at any given time. Religion to me is a sense of awareness to a greater being that loves you, and makes you feel like a piece to something bigger than yourself. For me it sets an unspoken set of guidelines that I was raised by my parents knowing. I think it mainly comes from our cultures and where we are raised, and by who we are raised. Every action we take can help better us or makes us look worse in the eyes of God, but in my opinion at the end of the day as long as you are a semi-morally strong person, than you are still in good standing with god and are still in line with whatever religion you believe in. I agree with the blog when it stated that religion is a way to “reconnect”. I believe that the world needs to be a better place and through the religion and re connection with god, it will be a greater place for all to live in. One of my theories on religion is that there is only one god and every religion just has a different name for him, and a different story of how he came to be. This might be something some people struggle to grasp, but I think if everyone could accept this belief, than the world would have less conflict and be a better place. A shorter way of expressing my opinion could be that religion guides us to know right from wrong, and to strive for happiness for ourselves and others.

  17. Nicole Putz- Section 2 says:

    I believe that religion is any specific system of belief about a deity or deities, including a code of ethics/set of moral values, and philosophy of life. Each person is going to have their own set of what their “religion” is. For some it is faithfully worshiping a God or for others it is doing everyday rituals that someone does not connect to religion at all. A religion is a specific set of perspectives on spirituality, in which the details of that religion are predefined. Thus, general spiritualty is not a religion. Each person has their own set religion, which may or may not be predefined by previous practitioners. Religion may include morals, ethics, culture, deity constructs, and spiritual beliefs. Religion is not necessarily static in nature but most is most often so. The more personal the religion of a practitioner the more dynamic it has the capacity to be. For example, whenever the people at a congregation ate grass to “strengthen” their religion. Someone does not have to understand the act, but for others it was a deep connection to God. Religion also means to me a doctrine by which a person can most relate to themselves, which collaborated with that persons own personal beliefs. The doctrine will serve to benefit people find hope in religion; it helps them better themselves as people. Most often religion is basically whatever someone wants it to be. Someone might not understand a person’s religion, however they should respect their opinion. – Religion 104 Tuesday/Thursday 2:00pm-3:15pm

  18. Rachel Gross says:

    If you asked anyone to define religion, I’m certain most people would give an answer that they believed is one hundred percent correct because, of course they know what religion is, everyone knows that. But you notice they left parts out, so you say what about X, Y, and Z, and they have to rethink it. That’s because all religions aren’t these structured groups that all believe the same thing and all have the same guidelines. Religions all have rituals, all have a higher power, all are working towards unity, but that’s about the only thing they all have in common, and that’s where the confusion comes in. Religion to me is all about connecting; connecting to others and connecting to your God. Religion is not about hate or judgment or being better than someone else, and I think a lot of people forget about that. Just because you believe in one God and someone else believes in another does not make either a better person. God is meant to bring people together, not tear them apart, but that often happens because of the 6th sense. Religion goes beyond the five senses, and some people cannot grasp the fact that there is this 6th sense that connects to faith, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not have a solid definition of religion, because religion isn’t about solidity. Religion is about your beliefs, and what you put your faith in. The definition of religion may be a bit ambiguous, which seems a bit ironic to me. We put our faith into something so strong and so powerful, so mindboggling and beautiful that we can’t even put it into words. (rel 104 sec 01)

  19. Lindsey Warren REL 104 010 says:

    During the first few weeks of class and while reading this blog post I realized that there really isn’t one solid definition of religion. I grew up in a religious family, and everyone around me would probably give me the same definition of religion because they grew up with a similar religious background as myself. Because of this, I never realized that there really isn’t just one particular definition. After reading your post, I realized how important it is to learn about other religions and beliefs in order to broaden my knowledge and perspective on how others think. The definition does depend on the context, region, and even time period as to what the definition of religion is to each person. I love that the post talked about how it is a subjective term, yet different religions all have some things in common. For instance, they all worship some type of higher being or sacred, they all have some essence of a sixth sense, and each religion or belief system is based on people wanting to belong to a group that has similar values as themselves. By the end of this course, I would really like to have a broader worldview and better understanding of what religion is to other people with different beliefs than me.

  20. Jaylin McCray Rel 104 010 says:

    Religion in my opinion all has the same message when it comes down to it. In every religion I have studied the message states that you need to do right and follow the rule book to get to the holy land. I will say religion is also very different because not all of the rule books are the same or similar. With the use of our five senses many people are the same but with the sixth sense, which is faith, many people live differently. When I read this text my mind did wonder about all of the different types of religions and how they are all practiced differently. Religion somewhat makes you who you are and honestly I feel like that is a big problem in our world. A lot of wars and fights are caused by the belief in a different religion because people don’t agree with what someone is believing in or practicing.

  21. Anahi Silva Rel 104 Section 010 says:

    Prior to reading the text, I’ve always been intimidated by religion and all things tied to it. This is because my busy family stopped attending church and practicing religious activities (aside from major holidays i.e. Christmas) around ten years ago. Despite the fact that there are culturally-based traditions associated with religion, the article emphasized that religion cannot be limited to one definition or interpretation. This idea implies that religion is available to be practiced in multiple ways by anyone and everyone. By taking this into consideration, I no longer feel as excluded from religious experiences as I used to. Adding onto my renewed perspective, I was especially moved by the fact that the Latin term, ‘religio’ translates to re-connection. This concept reassured me that every person is attempting to maintain a meaningful connection with God. I have personally been struggling with the idea of reconnecting to God as I have not stepped foot in a place of worship in over a decade. During times of hardship or celebration, I humbly pray and hope that my relationship with God is strong enough to have Him guide me toward the next step in His plan for me. Before reading this article, I had doubts if the small ways I practiced my faith was enough to ‘count’ as a religion. This article made me realize that religion is interpreted in an infinite amount of ways with the goal of re-connecting to God serving as the central purpose or incentive. Although I pray, reflect, and make time to thank God for all my blessings, I am interested in becoming more involved with and informed about all of the different religious practices possible in an attempt to re-connect with God.

  22. Josh Carver/ REl 104 010 says:

    Religion is something that cannot be described. It is a feeling, a way of life, a moral compass, a path to the next world, and countless other things. However, Dr. Martinez’s blog mentions what religion is to me: a journey home. Religion is a way of giving hope to those who suffer through life’s hardships that a paradise will one day be theirs. It brings comfort to those who fear death by showing them the path to eternal life and the path to their creator. No matter what religion a person adheres to, they can take solace in the fact that the end of this life is the beginning of another. In conclusion, religion is much more than a word. It key to your home.

  23. Jocelyn Blair REL 104 020 says:

    When it comes to defining the word religion, there are many things that come to mind once you begin to think about it. When you asked us this question on the first day of class I had to sit back and think for a moment because I have never been asked to define religion before. In that particular moment no one was able to do any research on the topic, but we were all able to come up with our own definition to the word based on the experiences we have had. The definition that first came to my mind was “people who come together as a group and share the same beliefs in a higher power.”Although most of our definitions had a lot of similarities, there were also some things that others said that I had not thought about. As I have gone throughout this class and watched videos about rituals and other things that other religions participate in, it has shown me that not all religions are the same. This is why there cannot be a true definition to religion because everyone experiences it differently. Although most all religions are set out to serving a higher power, not all go about it in the same fashion, which is okay. When it comes to trying to define the word religion, I feel as if there are several factors that have to be taken into account because religion is something that is not objective. When I think about religion, I pull memories from many different senses. I am able to visualize a church where worshiping takes place. I can hear a choir singing the church hymns. I can even imagine how it feels for someone to place their hands on you while they are praying with you. I feel as if religion is not a word that can be described by a textbook definition, but rather it is something that needs to be experienced in order to be able to fully understand what it is. Although a majority of the people in the world do identify with a religion, not everyone experiences religion in the same way. Since there is no set right or wrong religion, people have the power to worship and praise any higher power however they please. If you are an outsider looking in on a different religion you may feel as if it is wrong, but if the roles were reversed they may think the same thing about your religion. If you have grown up believing in one thing for your whole life, it would be hard to see that there is any other way of believing. Therfore when it comes to defining and understanding religion it all comes down to who and how it is being perceived. With all this being said I am very interested in learning about how other religions of the world are similar as well as different.

  24. Gran Ashton/REL 104 020 says:

    Religion is driven by the idea of a sense of morality and cultural normality within society. I believe that Religions exist as a combination of philosophy and mysticism an idea that the rational mind questions. This irregular concept is known as faith believing in something that can neither be proven or disproven. Religion comes from the Latin term Religio meaning to bond or reconnection as stated in the article. All religions share the goal bringing people together through their own Universal truth. Like any government in the world religious groups especially in the past provided a sense of order dealing with human mortality. Foremost the concept of an afterlife that is shared in every Religion whether it be the idea of reincarnation or Heaven. The Religion that is dominant in a country usually has a lot to say about how it is governed, the top-down structure of the Catholic church in France can be linked to the French Monarchy until the revolution. Religious practices, culture, and philosophy are constructed on the lines of national boundaries and even regional boundaries. As we try to define the nature of Religion and construct an absolute definition of religion, we find the perspective nature in which Religion is viewed. The dogmatic nature of organized Religion strives to create a unified world, but in its effort to bring us closer together we can’t help but feel torn and divided. Subsequently, Religion is the guiding force of unity and pragmaticism in the world we live in.

  25. Grant Sufferling REL 104-010 says:

    As we have discussed in class, religion is not something with a concrete definition. Religion can not be put into a box. There are different symbols that people associate with religion though. The “cross” for Christianity, the star of David for Judaism, the golden Buddha for Buddhism, ect… These are all symbols that people associate with religion, but it can mean so many different things to different people. Religion, to me personally, has played a huge role in my life. I was raised in the Christian church, but it was never my decision, it was just something that was expected of me. This made me resentful towards my parents and and religion as a whole. It wasn’t until I was at one of my lowest points in life, after loosing a family member, that I realized there was more to life than just living, thus began my real relationship with God. I have, since then, realized that religion is something that I cherish. I want to grow closer to the Lord everyday, because he is always showing himself to me in everything I do.

  26. Matthew sims 11:00 rel 104 says:

    Religion is something that can’t really just be explained, it’s really unknow to everyone because everyone has their own form or view of religion and what it should be, all of these different views and assumptions but no concrete evidence to what it really is. One thing that everyone has in common is that they all believe in a higher power or in some type of object, for example Buddhist monks believe in Buddha which is a figure but they still believe and worship in it and other religions can believe in a higher divine power . Religion is supposed to connect us to a higher being and give us some type of meaning to life as well as order by giving different sets of rules or things that we must do to live our lives right and also be able to live on in the after life. When I think about religion it’s like a guide through life, it gives different meanings answers to all problems that people go through and in class Martinez also said that it’s “home” it’s that place everyone is trying is get to and that it also the way to better life.

  27. Zach Pinson says:

    In my opinion the term religion can be defined rather simply. Religion is the traditions and the beliefs and the practices that someone has or that a group has to help connect them to a higher being through faith. I believe that is the best way to put it. However, what is hard for people to grasp is the understanding of religion. Religion is the practice that connects people to the unknown. The unknown being God. Our relationship with God through faith is our sixth sense. So it is understandable that People interpret how to have this relationship differently and that is why there are so many different religions. This has caused an unnecessary promblem throughout human history. Religion has been the source of some of the most large and violent conflicts known to mankind. People are so prideful of their beliefs and their religions that are willing to conquer others beliefs physically or mentally in order to make them see things their way, Notice in my defenition for religion I didn’t say their is one right way. People need to understand that different people comprehend the unknown of God and of life after death and of their sixth sense of faith differently. That is why I believe it is best to study as many religions as possible to better understand them. This would also help form your own connection with your God and help strengthen and form your own religious veiws.

  28. Madeline Gray: Section 2 says:

    “He practices religiously”: a phrase that we all have either used or heard before. Religion is an important and, often times, serious term that we tend to throw around without having a full realization as to what the term actual means. And what does it actually mean? As mentioned above, there is no real (or rather clear) way of defining such a complex term. When thinking about the vast variety and number of religions that are practiced and that have been practiced throughout history, it is hard to find a single trait that can be said about every single one. I believe that one of the few things that can tie most, if not all, religions together is the concept that religion permeates itself into an individual’s everyday life and shapes them into the person that they eventually become; whether in a positive of a negative way. As the beginning quote implies, religion is something that is consistent and ever present in our everyday lives. To say that someone “practices religiously” is widely understood to mean that this individual is highly committed and works/practices consistently hard to achieve a goal. This is a common characteristic of most of the religions that are prevalent in the 21st century. This consistency is maintained through the use and practice of rituals and traditions that have come into practice throughout the centuries. I believe that religion is extremely personal and is therefore unique for every person who exercises their faith in something. So, while it is difficult, if not impossible, to perfectly define what religion is, it is possible to recognize that religion has always been something that requires discipline and commitment.

  29. Garrett Nichols - REL 104 Section 2 says:

    This blog post encapsulates the idea and best attempted description of religion that I have come across. It attempts to draw parallels with as many people as possible even though we are all coming from different view points and experiences in life. I say “attempts” in the context that there is no, nor will there ever be, a concrete definition of religion that is broadly accepted and agreed upon by all people in all places and at all times. We all have varying ideas about what religion is, what it means to us, where it comes from and how it was established. It is my personal belief that religion itself is a man-made construct that is deeply flawed. This is because religion includes one crucial element that makes it forever imperfect; People. Individuals and groups all across history have attempted to wield religion as a weapon, a tool or device to further their own personal desires and goals, to bend others to their will by preying upon the inert human need to feel connected to something greater than themselves and their own existence. We all seek meaning and purpose, we use reason and logic.. and that is the cost of being an intelligent species. Personally, religion isn’t what connects me to God. It’s more about the relationship you have with Him, it’s your heart, your character and your actions that make you close to Him and what He asks of you. You cannot be religious for the sake of getting to heaven, it’s something you need to feel that compels you to obey his commandments, for you cannot enter heaven through acts alone. One thing is for sure; its a journey that you never can get quite right, but that’s the point. It’s a learning experience that will span your lifetime.

  30. Laura Beth Curlee says:

    Religion is something that I have been involved with for my entire life. Before this class, I have never really put much thought of what goes into a religion. A religion isn’t something that you observe a couple days a week or a mentality that guides you morally. I view religion has to be a connection between you and a being or idea that you put faith into, but ultimately there is no definition of religion. Every religion has an outline of how one should live their life, whether that is morally, physically, mentally, or health wise for many different reasons. For example, Muslims must pray multiple times a day facing a certain direction so they base their daily schedule around that. Another example could be the diet that Jews follow because they view some foods as “impure” or “unholy”. That being said, religion is a very complex idea but is very intriguing and encapsulating. It is a mutually exclusive component that many people guide their lives off of and put their entire faith and life into.

  31. Nathan Renner Sec. 2 says:

    After reading the post, some of the responses, and thinking in depth about what everything is saying I think I have a very different idea about religion. I used to think that religion is an almost wholly social construct that comes from the feelings people have about their world and culture. This join of similar-minded people of a culture came from some social pressure where people couldn’t understand their world and science wasn’t proficient enough to give them full answers to their questions about how the world worked. However, the more time I spend with Christian believers and in class, I have begun to understand it from a much less pessimistic perspective. It’s not the coping mechanism I thought it was. It is a cultural desire to be closer to some higher power that people believe is there regardless of how much modern science can prove the nonexistence of that higher being. If people have been trying to reconnect with that higher power that they believe exists for thousands of years how can any of us in our minuscule lifetimes say for sure that they are wrong? But can everyone be right? Can Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus all have the right understanding of how the world works when their beliefs are so different? I don’t think that it matters. If there is a higher power I can’t believe that it wouldn’t accept the people who got it wrong and didn’t believe in it the right way. If you have beliefs that don’t fit totally with a single religion, that is your religion, practice it the way you want and worship that higher power the way that you believe is the most sacred way you know how.

  32. Ashley Williams Religion 104 Section 2 says:

    When on topic of religion, people think that there is just a set in stone definition. In actuality religion is so abstract to the point that there are groups that are non-believers in religion. The need to know the unknown is a reason why religion exist. Humans insist on filling in the blanks of unexplained events that may or may have not occurred. Depending on your perspective, religion can be anything. The interpretation of religion are so broad. In religious groups, the members try to reconnect with the scared in attempt to build a bond that was assumed to be broken. There are many attempts to connect with the scared through plethora of different rituals that appeal to human’s five senses with a six sense implied as the scared. Religion has many characteristics that contradicts the scared. One being that religion is suppose to bring everyone together and it does to an extent. The members of each religious group grow closer together while the groups themselves distance themselves from other groups more. Another contradiction is “if the scared is so powerful and good, why do the scared allow people to suffer?” This and many more contradictions makes everyone question their beliefs and where do they stand with the scared. In all religion is one of the most abstract and hard topic to talk about. Everyone has their own philosophy on life and many go to religion for answers and others don’t. Depending upon your life circumstances and your own philosophy, religion can be and mean anything.

  33. Nick Palermo (Rel 104 section 2) says:

    Religion is what you make it. I believe religion is what holds people through the bad times and makes people strive for the good times. Religion brings out the best and worst in people. Everyone has their own understanding of religion and God. What I believe may not be what the person next to me may think. Looking at a religion on the outside is not understanding what is truly happening on the inside. Who are we to say that one religion is means more than the other. The word religion comes from “religio” in latin means to reconnect. Which I interpret as reconnecting with God in internal ways. Religion isn’t just an external commitment, meaning going to church or going to do community service isn’t the point of religion or justify your relationship with God. Your relationship to God happens internally. Thats why looking from the outside in is the worst way to review a religion. We could never understand someones true relationship with God is unless you are that someone. Religion is a scary idea for some. Many wars have been fought because of religion, yet in most every religion they preach forgiveness and peace. Religion is something that will always have different meanings to different people.

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