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.
Religion is the structure through which a people or a culture or a community interfaces with things that they find to be sacred, i.e. numinous or non-mundane. It is the confluence of beliefs, practices, and community.
Sacred things don't necessarily have to be supernatural, though that it is the most common format. There are many instances of secular or civic religion, in which the sacred things are otherwise ordinary things held in especially high regard and are revered.
As an example, the US civic religion has its holy texts (Declaration of Independence, US Constitution), its myths (pretty much any retelling of American history), its festivals (President's Day, Independence Day, etc.), its rituals (voting, celebrating holidays, feasts), its lawgivers and heroes (Founding Fathers, Abe Lincoln), even its own patron personifications (Columbia, Uncle Sam).
It seems that (based on your idea) patriotism can be considered a religion.
Check meaning in Miriam Webster
That happens to be the 3rd definition
Personally think it is a unwarranted expansion of the word - religion
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From the Latin ** the word "religion " has a sense of "tying together"
So it is a form of organization of ideas (resources?) and perhaps provides bodies for individuals and small groups to be (or be forced to be) a part of.
One of my first encounters with "another religion" was when an acquaintance told me he was going to join the Free Masons.To my query as to why he would consider this he replied that it was simply a way to get to know people with connections.
An early networker back in the 1960's...
**What we refer to as "religion" is probably different in other (linguistic ) cultures.. I am not sure of that
It very often is.
Sure... So, then religion is pretty much everything people do as groups.
In which case, why bother having a word for it?
Because the people at the top of the hierarchy in the groups needed an ideology(ies) to underpin their position?
"Why religion?" seems to be an extremely multi faceted question. I was only trying to introduce another way of looking at it.(I see Google translate has "religio" as meaning "(religious) service; so maybe it was just a gathering up of all the objects involved. Maybe it never meant "religion" back then ,only later)
And thus invented the supernatural: the big sky-daddy who would punish you if disobeyed them and rewrd you if you asked no questions.
Separate names with a comma.