What is religion? The question is not easy to answer. As St. Augustine said of the word "time," most of us know perfectly well what it is - until someone asks us to define it.
Below is a selection of definitions of "religion" from a variety of sources. While no one definition can completely sum up what religion is, together they can bring one to a closer understanding of what we mean when we talk about "religion."
"All concepts concerning the belief in god(s) and goddess(es) as well as other spiritual beings or transcendental ultimate concerns." ~ Penguin Dictionary of Religions (1997)
"Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural." ~ Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (online, 2006)
"Human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine." ~ Encyclopædia Britannica (online, 2006)
"a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." ~ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (online, 2006)
"The religious response is a response to experience and is coloured by the wish to provide a wider context for a fragile, short and turbulent life." ~ Philip Rousseau, The Early Christian Centuries (2002), p. 4.
"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opiate of the people." ~ Karl Marx
"Religion is the human attitude towards a sacred order that includes within it all being—human or otherwise—i.e., belief in a cosmos, the meaning of which both includes and transcends man." ~ Peter Berger
"Viewed systematically, religion can be differentiated from other culturally constituted institutions by virtue only of its reference to superhuman beings." ~ Melford Spiro
"Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness." ~ A.N. Whitehead
"...for limited purposes only, let me define religion as a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence." ~ R.N. Bellah
"Religion is the daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to ignorance the nature of the Unknowable." ~ Ambrose Bierce
"A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them." ~ Emile Durkheim
"One's religion is whatever he is most interested in." ~ J.M. Barrie, The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)
"Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain of." ~ Mark Twain
"Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires." ~ Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
"We go into religion in order to feel warmer in our hearts, more connected to others, more connected to something greater and to have a sense of peace." ~ Goldie Hawn, Beliefnet interview
"Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines." ~ Bertrand Russell
"Religions are the great fairy tales of conscience." ~ George Santayana
"Religion is all bunk." ~ Thomas Edison
"To be religious is to have one's attention fixed on God and on one's neighbour in relation to God." ~ C.S. Lewis, "Lilies that Fester" in The Twentieth Century (April 1955).
"Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." ~James 1:27, New Testament
"Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Religion itself is nothing else but Love to God and Man. He that lives in Love lives in God, says the Beloved Disciple: And to be sure a Man can live no where better." ~ William Penn
"Religion, whatever it is, is a man's total reaction upon life." ~ William James
"Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; Unbelief, in denying them." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
|Title||Definitions of Religion|
|Published||March 19, 2006|
|Updated||November 19, 2016|
|MLA Citation||“Definitions of Religion.” ReligionFacts.com. 19 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 10 Dec. 2016. <www.religionfacts.com/|