What is Religion?
Do we need it?
Is Religious Freedom still important?
The 1st Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Short and simple. The Government body, Congress, cannot and shall not pass laws that affect the establishing of religion or how that religion operates and exercises its beliefs.
Using the power of the internet, let’s look at the various definitions of religion.
All-knowing Wikipedia says, “Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.”
How can there ever be a consensus? It has to be entirely up to the individual(s).
Merriam Webster is a little shorter: “religion: [noun] The state of a religious. The service and worship of God or the supernatural. Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.”
Hmm—this definition uses the same root in the definition. Not too mind-expanding.
Britannica goes on to state: “Religion, human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. Worship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life.”
So these folks believe that participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life.” This infers that you cannot have anything that you consider holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine or worthy of special reverence without participating with an institution.
A well-written article by Mark Stubick is found in the website for an organization called Verywell Mind. (https://www.verywellmind.com/religion-improves-health-2224007). The article is titled What is Religion and it gives some interesting and provoking insights.
Religion is a set of organized beliefs, practices, and systems that most often relate to belief and worship of a controlling force such as a personal god or another supernatural being. While this is a basic definition, there are many different understandings of what religion is and not all religions are centered on a belief in a god, gods, or supernatural forces.
Religion often involves cultural beliefs, worldviews, texts, prophecies, revelations, and morals that have spiritual meaning to members of the particular faith, and it can encompass a range of practices including sermons, rituals, prayer, meditation, holy places, symbols, trances, and feasts.
After listing a complete, exhaustive list of the world’s major organized and established religions, the article adds, “Related to religion, animism is the belief in divine non-human beings, while totemism involves the belief in a divine connection between humans and the natural world. On the other end of the religious spectrum is atheism, which involves a belief in no god or gods, and agnosticism, which holds that the existence of god or gods is unknown or unknowable.”
Dictionary.com goes further giving 8 definitions:
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
- the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
- the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
- the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
- something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
- religions, Archaic. religious rites: painted priests performing religions deep into the night.
- Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.
Looking into the origin of the word religion, we find:1150–1200; Middle English religioun (<Old French religion) <Latin religiōn- (stem of religiō) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig(āre) to tie, fasten (re-re- + ligāre to bind, tie; cf. ligament) + -iōn--ion; cf. rely
This means literally to tie, bind or fasten oneself to or with piety and conscientiousness. Another definition of religion is any object of conscientious regard.
To most of us in this timeframe of 2022, regard religion as the territory of some organization where more pious and dedicated individuals than we are, serve to provide guidance in the form of rituals, teachings through sermons and discerning of ancient holy texts. Too vast and complicated for us to consider. Like so many things, we think “leave it to the experts.” Friends, when it comes to your personal religion, the only expert is YOU.
Most of us leave it to the religious workers—priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc.—to tell us what we should believe and how to express that belief through our actions.
After getting wide range of definitions of what religions are, or have been believed to be, it is time for each of us, as individuals, decide what religion means to us and how it shows up in our lives.
Back in 1980 when the first version of Liberty Ministries International was begun, our stress was personal freedom, especially financial freedom. We urged our members to start churches or ministries in their local area and redirect some of what they might pay in income tax toward doing good in their communities.
We specifically chose the word ministry, because we felt that didn’t smack head-on with organized religions. We still believe anyone who ministers in their community has a more personal relationship with their religion.
While writing and editing our book, America’s First Freedom, my editor/proofreader extraordinaire (and also my baby sister) and I had a spectacular conversation about dogma. She pointed out how she felt like each of us needed to spend contemplation time delving into what our personal dogmas were.
That is personal religion to me. What do I believe and hold sacred, what must I do, how must I behave in order to manifest and live my own dogmas/religion?
This has nothing to do with anyone else. Nothing to do with any organization, church or means of fellowship. Those things can be included by my choice in my personal religion or ministry, but are not the center or core of it.
This is a process that will probably take us weeks, months and years to identify, amend and come to peace with. It matters not what parents, teachers, religious figures from the past or what television, movies and social media influences say. This between your heart and mind – an INSIDE JOB!
Our Constitution—in the First important Amendment of the Bill of Rights—guarantees you can develop your own personal religion. Get started on it! Future blogs will give some guidance and steps to doing this.