Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by mathman, Dec 2, 2019.
Is it possible to define a religion without invoking anything supernatural?
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My dictionary defines religion as "A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny" or as "an institution to express belief in a divine power".
So, on that basis, my answer would be "no".
"Religion can be defined as a relatively-bounded system of beliefs, symbols and practices that addresses the nature of existence, and in which communion with others and Otherness is lived as if it both takes in and spiritually transcends socially-grounded ontologies of time, space, embodiment and knowing."
This does not explicitly say "non-supernatural", but some of the references and links may provide food for thought and further discussion.
Yes, you could worship nature for instance.
Interesting comments: 2 no, 1 yes, 1 maybe.
Nature is transient.
What would that involve, exactly? How would this worship work?
People would stand around in forest, perhaps, and talk to the trees and rocks, not for a moment believing they would hear the words or answer back? Something along those lines?
What would motivate somebody to engage in that kind of worship?
Not without either a.) making outlandish claims for the nature of nature or b.) feeling like a damn fool.
If you have an idea of nature as a conscious entity, with some awareness of and desire for homage, you've gone and deified Mother Nature, and you're in the realm of the supernatural.
If you have an idea of nature as the interaction of matter and energy - physical, chemical, biological processes with neither volition nor purpose - then there is nothing to worship. You can study it, admire it, be intrigued and even gobsmacked by it - but that's not religion.
Cui bono? (I doubt anyone would bother otherwise. All belief systems are society based and all societies manipulate/are used by the individual.
(Some)Religious advocates never tire of informing others that it is a "personal thing ".Hoey.
I have doubts about whether it's possible to define 'religion' in the first place. Religion seem to me to be more of a family-resemblance concept. (You know one when you see one.) Something is perceived as being a religion if it bears sufficient similarity to other things accepted as religions. But there needn't be any single defining characteristic shared by all 'religions'.
That being said, it's certainly possible to point to a religion that succeeds perfectly fine without recourse to the supernatural -- The early Buddhism of the Pali canon. Certainly the more modernist forms of contemporary Theravada.
The ancients of the Buddha's time appear to have believed in many things that we would consider supernatural: gods, miracles and so on. But these were more or less cultural givens at the time.
Their religious system of salvation had nothing to do with the supernatural. Salvation was a psychological transformation, and even gods (especially gods) were in need of that kind of salvation as much or more than human beings. (Is it possible to be more self-absorbed than a god?)
So while the early Buddhists certainly wouldn't have denied the supernatural, their system didn't really depend on it either. Hence it's fairly easy for moderns to adopt a Buddhist practice without any belief in or recourse to the supernatural.
I thought religion was more about the ritualism designed to formalize a larger cause.
Could the Shriners or Freemasons be considered engaging in a religion?
Now, I'm not talking about any aspect of their supernaturalism worship here, just the ritualization of their central tenets, which seem to revolve around community and being good to their fellow humankind.
Separate names with a comma.