What is "religion", and does it matter?

What is religion?

Does religion matter?

If religion does matter, why?


“Justice toward God” is the virtue of religion

Yes it does matter.

Because God is Lord of all aNd has called us to supernatural communion with him, the Holy Trinity.

Religion is the binding of ourselves to God’s will, God being that thing - that Person - from which and for which all other things exist.

Does it matter whether you are good or bad? To do the good is the fulfill the ends to which we are made. It is to live for one’s purpose in life. If God made us for Himself - if that is our purpose - then religion is infinitely important.

Religion is both the intellectual articulation and practical expression of a set of beliefs regarding the supernatural. This latter condition is what separates religion from philosophy. It is the means of how those beliefs are defined and known to inquirers; as well as the implication of how they are lived in the day to day life of the believer. It provides wisdom and direction to those wishing to follow that particular path toward the ultimate fulfillment of those beliefs. Religion, if it is true, is very important as one’s eternal destiny may (as is the case in Catholicism or several other religions) be contingent upon knowing the precepts it teaches and following them.

IDK, I kinda just made that all up on the spot, but I think it captures the essence of religion and why it matters.

If we use Christ and the way he lived as a guide, then we see that:

Religion is having a relationship with the Father through acts of love, discipline, prayer, ceremony, worship.

Religion was important to Christ, so it must be important.

Religion was important to Christ since it gave his human nature faith, conviction, help, motivation, peace and joy.

I have no idea how “religion” is defined. It’s a word like “sport.” What’s a sport? Reasonable people disagree. There appears to be no clear definition - but we do seem to know one when we see one.

Religion absolutely matters, because religion entails a series of beliefs, and purport to answer the most consequential questions that life has to offer. Given that the alleged stakes are so high, what people are willing to do in the name of their religion can be equally consequential.

That should be the thesis sentence of an essay. Brilliant. :thumbsup:

Religion is defined as the Worship and Service of God. That is why God put us here.

Religion is Christianity and stuff in non-Christian traditions that Christians recognized as parallel to Christianity in some way. See this excellent article by Paul Griffiths.

Griffiths locates the origins of the concept of religion in the early modern period, and linguistically I think that’s true (several of the responses, like those of Ignatius and CrossofChrist, reflect the older usage of the word to mean a virtue). Calvin, for instance, probably didn’t mean what we mean by “religion” when he called his major work “Institutio Christianae Religionis.” Rather than “a systematic work laying out the doctrines of the religion called Christianity,” he probably meant something more like "a book that will tell you how to practice rightly the Christian virtue called “religion.”)

But I think that the division between religion and other aspects of life goes back to the early interactions of Christianity with the Greco-Roman world. Christians quickly had to distinguish between bits of pagan culture they could use and bits they couldn’t. The bits they used were “secular”–pertaining to life in this world. The bits they rejected had to do with pagan practices toward the gods that conflicted with the Christian virtue of religion toward the one true God.


Re: bold

Would one then conclude that Judism and early Christianity aren’t religions, since they precede the early modern period?

No no, just that people before then didn’t use the word “religion” that way and didn’t have a concept that really fits our modern usage of the word.

Medieval people, for instance, tended to use the word “law” to describe what we would call a “religion.” That’s still how Muslims tend to think about religions (in fact, maybe medieval Christians thought about it that way because of Islamic influence–or maybe Muslims just continue to think about it in more or less the way ancient people did).


Griffiths says, “Modern (post“Reformation) understandings of religion differ from these premodern uses most dramatically in that they see religion exactly as a genus of which there are many species.” Sorry, but Griffiths is way off.

a. “He brought in the aid of the gods … he subdued the people’s minds via religious awe [δεισιδαιμονια](http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=deisidaimoni%2Fas&la=greek&can=deisidaimoni%2Fas0&prior=u(po%href%d=Perseus:text:2008.01.0133:chapter=8:section=3&i=1#lexicon)]” Plutarch, Life of Numa 8.2-3, c.AD 100 (Plutarch discusses religion as a tool of statecraft for Pythagoras and for Numa)

b. “regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion religio] which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us” Constantius and Licinius, Edict of Milan, AD 313 (which Griffiths actually mentions! - Latin text)

c. “In þat siquar was in þat tun Men of alkin religioun, Of al maner of nacioun” Cursor Mundi, c.1325 (“In that time were in that town men of all kinds of religions, of all manner of nations” - referring to the original Pentecost)

Most ironically, though, Griffiths says, “It is important to notice, too, that Western Christians from the fourth century onward, after Constantine’s Edict of 313 had made Christianity the mode of worship and theological thought favored by the state, had little occasion to think or write about those things that we now usually call “religions.”” Apart from its overly hasty association of the state with the emperor (q.v. the Arch of Constantine), this generalisation is thoroughly belied by the persistent tensions within (and between) the halves of the Empire between Christianity, Roman pre-Christian paganism (Julian the Apostate! Seriously!), “barbarian” paganisms, and the running war between Arianism and the Nicene faith. Religious difference was a major concern of the late imperial period.

a short observation from a Harvard business professor.


I like this quote at the end

“take away religion and you can’t hire enough police”

Here’s what www.etymonline.com says about the origin of the word:

religion (n.) Look up religion at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, “state of life bound by monastic vows,” also “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from Anglo-French religiun (11c.), Old French religion “piety, devotion; religious community,” and directly from Latin religionem (nominative religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods; conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation; fear of the gods; divine service, religious observance; a religion, a faith, a mode of worship, cult; sanctity, holiness,” in Late Latin “monastic life” (5c.).

According to Cicero derived from relegere “go through again” (in reading or in thought), from re- “again” (see re-) + legere “read” (see lecture (n.)). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” In that case, the re- would be intensive. Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. In English, meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c. 1300; sense of “recognition of and allegiance in manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers” is from 1530s.

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]

If we take Cicero’s etymology of relegere, to “re-read” or “go through again”, then we must tend toward the idea that religion is mainly ritualistic, steeped in tradition, and revolves around revered writings, or oral traditions. If we take the later etymology (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) of religare, “to bind fast”, then we must tend toward understanding religion as a relationship with God or the gods.

Interestingly, I think both understandings of religion are true, and I think it is probably best stated that religion is both the bond that exists between man and God(s), and the manner in which that relationship is expressed and practiced (i.e., the ritual and rites relating to religious practice, and the tradition of that historical relationship).

And since this is the case, then both the relationship that we have with God, and the way that relationship is expressed are immensely important, as they pertain to the state of our everlasting souls.

Religion is definitely a loaded word.

However, in a global sense, all religions are about one thing: Divine Revelation.

If a religion does not have Divine Revelation what is it? A bunch of people with opinions. :wink:

That is why the thoughtful person, upon accepting the reality of God, will next try to find any revelations from that God. Various world religions may or may not fit that persons idea of God. Therefore their statements of Faith about those Divine Revelations may make more or less sense, or ring true or not.

That is the foundation of all religions. Therefore I would define religion as a statement (or code of doctrines) of Faith about Divine Revelation.

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