What is religion?

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I first posted this as an answer in one of cpr's debunking threads but on second thought, I'd like to solicit your ideas in this separate thread.

These thoughts are just the first ones offhe top of my bald head.

1) A religion has a world view, yea a universe-view

2) A religion has a system of ethics or morality, defined by its universe-view (interesting that most religions tend to concur on what is "right" and what is "wrong". To me this is evidence of a Natural Law, ie, an invisible, non-measurable absolute that governs abstractions in a similar way that invisible, measurable absolutes (like gravity) govern non-abstractions (physical quantities).

A religion has rituals, mantras, approved behaviors.

A religion has an esoteric language.(shiboleths)

A religion is determined by beliefs (faiths), not science.

IMO, there is no conflict between good science and religion. Good science merely explains how God's universe works, as much as possible. But it can never explain why God's universe exists. In the meantime grant unto Dr Strangelove what is Dr Strangelove's and unto God what is God's.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 28, 2000.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 28, 2000


You are exactly correct but the "True Believers" see anything from Science that questions any of their beliefs as "the enemy" and the Fundies see such as a work of The Debil Mon. That is there right.

What is not there right is to try to tell anyone else that they are in sole possession of the "Trooof" and because of that, they will use the Power of the State to withold education about Science which contradicts their beliefs. That is a form of "Tyranny over the Mind of Man" that Jefferson deplored in the statement on the inside top of the Jefferson Memorial Rotunda.

It is no accident then that Jefferson is tarred by the assorted Fringers of the Lunacy Right as a "secular humanist".

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), July 28, 2000.

Two Hot Out. Change there to their where appropriate.

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), July 28, 2000.


Fairly good definitions, and well thought out. I must disagree, however, with the idea expressed here:

"interesting that most religions tend to concur on what is "right" and what is "wrong". To me this is evidence of a Natural Law, ie, an invisible, non-measurable absolute that governs abstractions in a similar way that invisible, measurable absolutes (like gravity) govern non-abstractions (physical quantities)."

While I do believe that there are "spiritual" laws that work in conjunction with physical laws, I do not believe in the inevitable conclusion one must draw from your statement: That if most religions "concur": on what is right, then that must be what is right. I believe this is dangerous, as the minority may have it right- and hell, ask tarzan, the atheists might have it right. There is no "right" that applies to every human creature. What is right will be driven in many ways in many different cultures-and possibly none of us will know what is intrinsically right in all situations-there is no one "right".

The fact that many religions share basic concepts I think is more of a function of the commonalities in the human psyche-genetically imprinted if you will. Sure, I do believe there is a kernel of truth in most religions, but I think ALL religions are divisive-the very attempt to define what is right destroys the mind, the soul, from further exploration. Religion divides, man against woman, people against un-like people. By no means do I want to disparage those who are religious-If that works for them, bravo. But one cannot hide from the history of religious persecution and intolerance.

So this attempt to define what is right leads to the inevitable conclusion that a certain dogma is "Better"-"better" is the root of all evil on earth. All of human creation seems to be striving to be better, to get better, and the ideas of patriotism, parochialism, all feed into this division.

The spiritual laws to which I alluded earlier in the post have no right or wrong-they work very much like newtonian physics-there is a cause and an effect. One of these would be "What you resist, persists"-I am sure you have seen me post that, and in my life, I have never seen this metaphysical law fail. It would take a year of posts to give all the examples and reasoning I have for my beliefs; I guess this is posted FWIW.

And remember, everything I believe today may be wrong. Today's truth could easily be tomorrows bullshit. I have seen this so many times, and I believe much differently than I did even three years ago. For that, I want to thank the loving energy in the universe for conferring grace on me to never close my mind.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 28, 2000.

Religion is a system of human works which depends on human merit and human intellect. The good news about the gift of God, eternal life in Christ, is that it's free, not based on ability. What good is a gift you don't want? No good at all.

Christianity vs. Religion (I dislike labels, what with all the negative connotations associated with them. I'd rather replace "Christian" with - a sinner saved by grace) - Christianity is a relationship to God by faith is Jesus Christ. Religion always tells you what you must do, the idea that you can save yourself. Christianity says there's nothing you can do; it's all been done at the cross. We can only believe.

Jesus Christ hates religion. Jesus was hated most by the religious leaders of the day. They hated Him because He was "a friend of sinners," as they called Him. We know our churches are reflecting Jesus Christ when our churches are drawing the people who were drawn to Jesus Christ. The common people heard Him gladly. The common, the profane, the rejects of the religious system of their time - they flocked to Jesus Christ.

All religions have one thing in common. It's based on what man must do, what man must give up, what man must accomplish, i.e.- Get yourself squared away, then come to God and He'll take you. That's not true. God will take you just the way you are in your present condition. And He's the One who performs the miracle. He's the One who changes lives and gives us a new life in Christ.

You are saved by faith alone; you don't add anything to it. If you add anything to faith in Christ, including joining a church, giving up your sins, baptism, all the other little gimmicks-these things only hinder the truth of what God's trying to say.

I like what FS said about right and wrong being absolutes, not needing to be taught and religion having just about enough truth to be dangerous. Ro 2:14,15 - "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them," The purpose of the Law (ten commandments) is to show every member of the human race their lost condition, so our conscience shows us we are condemned before God. It is in God's nature to reveal Himself; which He does in three ways - thru creation see Ro 1:20 and Ps 19, thru conscience see Ro 2:14,15 above and Ecc 3:11 - "...He has also set eternity in their hearts..." (God has put inside of man the knowledge of his being an eternal being), and thru the cannon of scripture.

-- a sinner saved (bygrace@thru.faith), July 28, 2000.

.....Religion is what the Scripture spends half of it's time warming man against...

-- Patrick (pmchenry@gradall.com), July 28, 2000.


-- al-d. (dogs@zianet.com), July 28, 2000.

CEEP you call the man "exactly correct" but then try to ruin his post with your "true belivers" crap. Why twist the man's point?

Everybody loves Jefferson but spend your tirelessness on your own threads instead of fucking up somebody elses.

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), July 29, 2000.


-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), July 29, 2000.

Religion is a crutch for people who need someone to spell out for them how they should live, because they are too dumb and weak to trust their soul to be their guide. They lack faith in themselves, and God.

-- Hawk (flyin@hi.again), July 29, 2000.

A sheep that needs no shephard eh Hawk? OK. Solitary religion usually suits those who don't have any except themselves. You know how it works. The God thing works in after I've figured everything out.

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), July 29, 2000.

Jeeezus Carlos, you're really trolling for a fight tonight aren't you? What happened, wife "have a headache" again, like evry time she thinks about sleeping in the same bed with you? Go to bed (or should I say "the couch") you grumpy old hemorrhoid ass!

-- Hawk (flyin@hi.again), July 29, 2000.

Carlos, you are the classic "once we get in, we will show them". No sooner would you have power than you would exercise it to TELL PEOPLE WHAT TO DO OR THINK.

You just proved it with your rant to me above. Its Simpletons like you who can't hold TWO THOUGHTS IN YOUR HEAD AT ONE TIME, that FUCK UP THE WORLD.

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), July 29, 2000.

Religion is the opiate of the masses.

-- (KarlMarx@bourgeosie.suck), July 29, 2000.

And we all know how correct you were about everything Karl baby.

-- (nemesis@awol.com), July 29, 2000.

who NEEDS religion,when you can have a relationship?? GOD want,s kids--not slaves!!!!!!

-- al-d. (dogs@zianet.com), July 29, 2000.

Thanks to you all for your thoughts. You have all stimulated me.


Do you really think that Christian believers see science as the enemy? Sure, some do but most do not. As A Christian believer, I don't see science as an enemy. But some scientists see Christians as the enemy. And some scientists are Christians. I even know a few.


I respect your opinions. You have studied spiritual issues much more than me. So maybe I miss your point, but when you say that "There is no "right" that applies to every single human creature" I think that is tantamount to saying that we can all do our own thing and who are you to tell me that I can't be a murderer?

You also say "today's truth could easily be tomorrow's bullshit". I totally agree if we are speaking of scientific, quantifiable truths. But abstract truths better be immutable, else we will live in an Orwellian nightmare directed by the Ministry of Truth. The trick is to identify these abstract absolutes. Would that God communicate them more often and more clearly.


I didn't pose Christianity vs Religion. You and al-d say that JC hates religion. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think you are distinguishing between religion and church. Jesus (Mathew 18:20) says "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them". Sounds to me like Jesus wanted people to worship together. We know he didn't much care for gatekeepers so He likely would oppose the centrally directed bureaucratic churches that we see today. But would he oppose groups of like-minded people who call themselves Christians who meet together to worship as He taught them?

There are also good secular psychological reasons for people to gather together. The gathering doesn't have to be religious but that does seem to provide a strong reason for people to cooperate.

It might not sound like it but I have found your comments on this forum to be very thought provoking and moving. Thanks.


What can I say to a person that says "religion is a crutch for people who...........lack faith in themselves and God". I think that may be true sometimes but not typically. Mostly I think it is lazy cynicism. I'm surprised you didn't work the word "hypocritical" into your remarks.



Glad you showed up. Gives me a chance to editorialize. If my original definitions are correct, then Marxism is also a religion. Originally its pretense was to be scientific, but while science moved on to accommodate new realities, Marxism emerged evermore as a faith.


Again, thanks for all the responses.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), July 31, 2000.


Unfortunately, If I were to strive to live in a world of objectivism versus a world of subjectivism(absolute vs. relative), I would have to conclude that hundreds of years of sociological and anthropological studies. When I say there is no "right" for every human creature, I am allowing room for different cultures to live their lives as they see fit. If I do not do that, I am doing the very thing you would be afraid I would be doing to you-to wit-You are concerned that my world view would lead to me saying it is okay to be a murderer; my concern is that I would judge aboriginal culture, or the culture of a polynesian island through the lens of my culture; If these cultures had never been discovered by travelers, we would not be able to judge them. Absent that judgement, is anything they do right or wrong?

If you want to know what I really believe, I would say yes, it is okay if you want to be a murderer if that is what your soul needs to learn. Who am I to judge the intent of your soul? Everything that happens to us, the most horrible things, are not done without the agreement of my soul at some level. The best way I can say this is "Hitler is going to heaven". I do not expect most to understand this-it truly seems bizaree. But my cosmology allows every soul to do exactly as they please as it all serves a purpose.

Many humans for many years have tried to define the absolute-it is close to impossible. When it is understood by any soul, I am certain it could not be put into words. The eastern mystics call this state of mind "Samadhi"-or complete oneness with the universe. I have not attained this state and I may not in this lifetime, but I am certain that were I to experience this, it would agree with what I believe now-that everything is relative-that all of experience is two sides of a coin, and there is a saint and a murderer in each one of us.

Our souls are here for a purpose which will remain occluded from our mind if we continue to see the world as "real"-I see it as a playground on which to create who I am and who I wish to be. As the soul evolves, it will find it unnecessary to make any choices out of fear and hurt any other human being.

I have had this discussion to a degree with Frank before-At this point in my journey I do not need laws or the threat of punishment to avoid doing the wrong thing. I envision a world in the future where more and more souls reach this point, and peace will come as people will see no point in trying to be "better" than anyone else. I guess I am a true "Polly", but this is what is in my heart and I believe it to be true.

My journey was simplified dramatically when I stopped insisting on absolute truths. After decades of searching every spiritual tradition, it came to me in s flash that all I was reading, all I was hearing, would always hopelessly fall short of describing God. Absent this insistence on finding truth, my truth started to open up. One of those startling paradoxes.

I am not sure we will find a point of agreement, but that is moot. The beauty of all of this, is that if we are on opposite sides of a discussion, we are both right. It is all a matter of perspective.

Thanks for your words.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 31, 2000.

FS, you said,

If you want to know what I really believe, I would say yes, it is okay if you want to be a murderer if that is what your soul needs to learn.

What does that do to the spiritual quest of the murder victim? Ends it pretty prematurely don't you think? Is that fair or "right" to do to the innocent person (I imagine you'd say yes though, as you'd approve of the murder)? I still can't understand how someone can improve themself without having any idea of what is right and wrong. How do you know what to strengthen in yourself and what to cast aside?

If your answer is do everything 'till you can't stand it so you eventually are at peace with the world around you, what is the point of being an immobile, unthinking, unfeeling lump? (As thinking and feeling are also human passions).

Also, as this seems to be pick on FS day, you said,

my concern is that I would judge aboriginal culture, or the culture of a polynesian island through the lens of my culture; If these cultures had never been discovered by travelers, we would not be able to judge them. Absent that judgement, is anything they do right or wrong?

Yes it is, and I can judge them, as I think their actions, whether practiced or just theorized about, are wrong. Sneaking up behind some innocent person, cutting their head off and boiling it in a pot is WRONG regardless of culture. Just because some isolated group of people (one could almost consider a very small population isolated from the rest of the world to have the psychology of a cult) can dream up something and practice it, does not mean society at large has to accept their behavior.

Actually, it's the murderer part that bothers me though. How could society function if every vile act that one person can dream up to do to one another is allowed in the name of spiritual progress? And no, I don't think that EVERYONE is going to go berserk if we don't enforce any laws, but the 0.001% of crackheads needing a fix, drunk drivers, and the plain old psychotic would make life (as long as it lasts) miserable for the rest of us.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), August 01, 2000.

FS and Frank,

It was not my intention to start another religion/philosophy thread but that is where it has gone and that's ok with me. Some of us like to talk that stuff even tho it often goes in circles. For me, it is not a 2-D circle but a 3-D upward spiral and I am always stimulated and enhanced by the various views. Not often changed am I by the arguments of others, but always evolved.

So, I must respectfully disagree with you Shock, but that is no surprise I'm sure. I don't know much about Polynesian society but I'd bet that murder is frowned upon there too. Isn't "taboo" a polynesian word?

That was one of my original points--every significant value system (religion) at least gives lip service to certain "right" behaviors such as not killing your neighbor for the fun of it, such as not reproducing with your sibling (for the fun of it) and many more. How did so many of the same values become universalized if there is not an unseen Natural Law floating around out there?

But after your first paragraph FS, you totally lost me. Are you so laid back that anything goes? Are you not ever capable of righteous indignation over cruelty and injustice? I'm sure that you are capable of such but it's hard to see in your words.

For me, it's a personal age thing. When I was your age I didn't give much thought to issues of the soul. In fact, I didn't believe in a soul. Now, as my personal hour glass runs low on sand, I find the idea of absolutes to be comforting. It's where I want to go.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), August 01, 2000.


If one does not believe in multiple incarnations of the soul(notice I did not say reincarnation-that is another matter) it is impossible to understand my belief system. I think you are blessed that catholicism works for you, and that it provides you with what you need in the spiritual realm. As far as the spiritual quest of the murder victim, I stated previously that nothing happens to any soul without agreement from that soul. Impossible to understand? For most it is. But again, I cannot judge another soul for doing what it thinks it needs to do, including the death of a child.

If one insists on a definition from me as to what is "right" I say this-it is the choice that you make that is the highest vision of the grandest thought you ever had about yourself. I suspect almost everyone here, including myself, has never sustained for any long period of time the grandest vision of who it is we would like to be.

You know, Frank, everyone I have ever gotten to known in this life has done everything they can until they cannot stand it anymore-I refer to this in another way-you will drop your sword when it finally gets too heavy. My views do not lead to a human becoming an immobile, unthinking, unfeeling lump. In fact, my views lead to the exact opposite-when a human finally realizes that they are a powerful creator-that whenever they say "I am" it brings whatever follows into existence, they are free to experience a heretofore unreachable state of being-the ability to experience absolutely anything in this lifetime.

About other cultures, I meant to say in my original post that years and years of sociological and anthropoligical studies would be moot if one were to adopt a point of view where any member of another culture would be "wrong" if they behaved in a manner contradictory to our cultural view of what is right and what is wrong. Sure, my friend, you can judge anything you like, and find anything you would like wrong with it, but this does NOT mean that the behaviors in another culture with which you disagree are wrong because you say they are.

Frank-I am not espousing a system where there are no punishments for murder-I have simply stated that I do not need the threat of punishment in order to behave. Your fear that my beliefs somehow say that certain behaviors are "allowed" hence to be condoned or unpunished is inaccurate. The punishment should be meted out, so the soul which chose to behave in a way which hurt another person can experience that.

Lars-I will respond to you sometime later date.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), August 01, 2000.


I've been trying to follow your position here, and I'd like to pose a question.

Your last sentence to Frank implied that you do feel that a person should be punished for hurting someone. Yet your other statements seem to imply that hurting someone would be fine -- or that at least that we (from our own differing cultural perspective) couldn't judge it as wrong -- if it was within the customs or practices of another culture. Was your statement, then, from the context of our culture alone?


Thanks for starting this fascinating thread.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), August 01, 2000.


Thanks for the response. I was thinking about total self-actualization driving to work this morning, and after achieving it, (ha, ha) Seriously though, if you DID achieve all you could as a person (whatever that is for you), wouldn't you necessarily get tired of that too, and end up "reverting" to doing something else? Is there an end to your path, or is it just a giant loop with its end at its beginning? If it is a circle, a lazy man might say just sit in one place, and you'll be just as far along as the fastest runner.

And a murderer should be punished? Why? If their actions are acceptable, why would you punish them? HOW could you make and enforce laws without being able to JUDGE the actions of others as being right or wrong?

Oops, and you said,

but this does NOT mean that the behaviors in another culture with which you disagree are wrong because you say they are.

That would depend on your world-view :-) I suppose. If a culture believes in murdering innocents, that to me is wrong. To me it seems morally weak to say any behavior goes because it's their culture. NOTE I DO *NOT* MEAN THAT PERSONALLY, THIS IS A DISCUSSION *ABOUT* BELIEFS, NOT PEOPLE *ACTING* ON THEM, WHICH IS WHAT WOULD BOTHER ME.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), August 01, 2000.

Thomas Paine, one of our founding father's of the United States and who signed the Declaration of Independence defined in his book "Common Sense," the meaning of religion. There's no other book aside from Bertrand Russell's "Why I am not a Christian," spells out eloquently what true religion is. Religion destroys souls, has caused more murders and the slaughter of millions in the name of God.

Hawk had the best answer: Religion is a crutch for people who need someone to spell out for them how they should live, because they are too dumb and weak to trust their soul to be their guide. They lack faith in themselves, and God.

-- Hawk (flyin@hi.again), July 29, 2000.

-- pepe' (pepe'@pepeee.xcom), August 01, 2000.


"Hawk" is your guru? Uh, no thanks, I'll stick to my path.


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), August 01, 2000.

Hawk is one of the few that I had respect for on TB2000. He has brains, wit, and I find him charming. BTW, I am a female.

-- pepe (pepe'@pepeee.xcom), August 01, 2000.


Well, thanks for being honest ;-)

Signing out for the day,


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), August 01, 2000.

Talking the talk, walking the walk, stalking the Hawk.

-- (nemesis@awol.com), August 01, 2000.

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