Defining Religion Essay

903 words - 4 pages

Eileen Barker states that there is no agreement on a definition, yet to study religion, a working definition is important. It provides parameters for the student. The study field for religion is very wide. Some may even interpret sport as a religion though not necessarily correctly.

Definitions may include deities, such as Islam and Christianity; others not (Buddhism and Shinto.) A broad definition of religion would generally include rituals, special symbols and artistic and music style, sacred or special texts and a set of doctrines, (good) moral and behavioural codes. Usually there are designated days and meeting places, for devotees to gather. The belief system will likely include spiritual self-progression and perhaps a promise of an after-life. There may also be special `holy' or days/celebrations throughout the year.

Having a clear definition has eluded scholars throughout the ages consensus upon a definition of what constitutes a religion has still not been reached.

What Europeans may define as a religion, its followers, might not. Some cultures based on religious beliefs decline to call their belief system a religion. Moslems see Islam as a way of life. "Labelling Islam as a religion is not the appropriate word." (A103 TV14,Noreen Hameed,) "The way of life in Arabic, `Din,' is not religion it's a `Din,' a way of life which is in accordance to the divine will." (A103 TV14, Mohammed Qadri) {Stated in reference to Islam.}

"Hinduism is not a religion, it's a way of life." (A103, TV14 Sunder Chopra)

To make a detached judgment of a religion, one must put aside personal prejudices. When enquiring of someone with first-hand experience, the study may still be clouded with his/her personal biases or interpretations. Religious texts can be open to differing interpretations. The reporting of political events in religious societies may be clouded by journalistic bias, yet this may influence a student when weighing information about a religion. These all make interpretation and definition difficult.

An Introduction to Humanities, Block 3 (p46,) points out that, in practice, it is not possible to achieve a position of complete neutrality. It is however, possible to reach a broad consensus about what constitutes a religion.

"Religions start...from different assumptions and appeal to different authorities. Finding a way to judge the respective merits of their truth claims is, therefore, extremely difficult." (An Introduction to Humanities, Block 4 p52) So even for the spiritual enquirer of religion, the task of understanding religion is far from easy.

There is further clouding of the issue for students when one needs to separate...

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