What is Religion?
According to the American College Dictionary, religion is a noun defined as the quest for the values of the ideal life. This definition is vast and general, allowing for a variety of interpretations by people from all cultures. There is no single path to follow in order to lead an ideal life, only personal beliefs and experiences. Religion is non-finite so there is no way of determining a boundary (Smart, 5). In my quest for a true understanding of what religion is I explored my own traditions and religious beliefs as well as life experiences. Slowly, with the added insight from the text and videos, my own definition of religion has begun to take shape.
Perhaps the most powerful statement made about religion was made by Dr. John Simmons of Western Illinois University. He makes the valid point that religion is not a noun, but a verb. Religion is based on beliefs and how people act based on those beliefs. Tradition, prayer, and meditation are all acts of religion and are considered intangible behaviors. Although many rituals of religion are “things”, the ethical and social portions are lifestyles. In addition to this point, Dr. Simmons mentions the possibility of religion being founded as a way to understand and answer important questions about life and death. People must find out who they are, why they are here on Earth, and what purpose their life holds. Questions known as boundary questions are posed when humans are faced with new situations in their lives (Beliefs and Believers, Class 1). They must believe that there is reasoning to support their actions. Rites of passage are the most frequent experiences involving boundary questions. For example, as a child of Christian parents, I was told that people die because it is their turn to be with Jesus. Heaven made sense to me and comforted me, knowing that my loved ones would be in such a wonderful place. Also in the Christian religion, questions may arise about the beginning of life and how we got to Earth. The myth of Adam and Eve and the story of the Creation answers that for Christian believers. As for my purpose on Earth, my question was answered by the Christian doctrine. I am here to spread the word of God in actions and words so that all humans may know His love. However, these answers do not make sense to all humans because each religion has a different story. It is imperative to keep an open mind when defining and understanding religion. Every religion holds truth to the believers, and gives them a sense of identity. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of which religion to follow, only interpretations and behaviors according to what makes sense to the individual. People will behave as they believe (Beliefs and Believers, Class 1).
Another equally important remark I came across in my studies was one by the Methodist pastor Rev. Cecil Williams....