Defining Religion

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Defining Religion
Is it fair to define religion? Who has authority? Will there ever be one true definition? The mentioning of religion often sparks many questions, many questions that will forever go unsolved. The word religion is also associated with powerful words of relevancy. Faith, love, devotion, and sacrifice, these words are easy to apply to religion, but is it possible to conjure these words into a solid meaning?
Due to the fact there are so many world religions, it is imperative that religion is broadly defined in order to include the vast array of beliefs. Religion is the devotion to a set or path of beliefs, where faith is used as guidance, respect is used with practice, and love honors the higher and more worthy authority. As seen for thousands of years, religious prosecution has led to religious wars, all for the lack of respect and freedom. Religion, like those who choose to practice, is exceedingly diverse. One god, hundreds of gods, or no gods at all, freedom should be granted equally without judgment and jurisdiction to any persons who live their life accordingly.
Rituals play a part in life that nothing else can fill (Smith, P.300). A form of backbone and commonly practiced, rituals are unique in setting each religion apart.

Traditionally passed down, orally or through scripture, most rituals always involve the use of symbolic objects, words, and actions. The ethical teachings of Confucianism include the belief of Li, which stresses the importance of rituals and propriety. Hinduism, the predominant religion of India and oldest practiced religion of the world, is strongly structured around hundreds of complex rituals such as, puja, yoga and samskars. Furthermore, some ancient religions are solely based around traditional rituals. These are known as primal religions, and they are not necessarily based around the worship of a god, but more so the sacredness of space. The entire life of the aborigine, insofar as it rises about the triviality and becomes authentic is ritual (Smith, P.367). In order to keep rituals sacred and without change, many religions find it significant to pass the beliefs from generation to generation. The process of preserving these is most commonly used through scripture. As defined, scripture is writing that is accepted and used in a religious community as especially sacred and authoritative (Van Voorst, P.

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5). Scripture is a source for establishing and defending key doctrines and key teachings of faith (Van Voorst, P.9). Scripture is also prominently used in public worship, meditation and devotion (Van Voorst, P.10). Some examples of communities that make use of scripture include: Judaism, Christianity, and Sikhism. These religions are all properly called "religions of the book" because of the high place and powerful function of their scriptures (Van Voorst, P.5). Scriptures vary with religions; some are quoted from God, others from philosophers. In Christianity scripture is found in the Bible, the Quran for Muslims, Ching scriptures for Confucianism, and Shruti and Smriti scriptures. It may be easy to identify that this contradicts primal religions, primals often practice very in dept rituals, however writing was unknown them, thus making scripture nonexistent. Regardless, to written scripture, beliefs have been preserved through the passing down of material by word of mouth, often referred to as oral tradition. Hindus, for example, regard their Vedas essentially as speech rather than as printed word, and see the written text as inferior to its oral form (Van Voorst P.5). Scripture is extraordinarily assorted, while some religions have one book of scripture, such as the Bible or Quran, other communities have thousands. The first is hatha yoga; this yoga is practiced as preliminary to spiritual yoga. Another type of yoga is, Jnana. Jnana yoga is intended for spiritual aspirants who have a strong reflective bent, is path to oneness with the Godhead through knowledge. It is, rather, an intuitive discernment that transforms, turning the knower eventually into that which she knows (Smith, P. 29). The next yoga is known as bhakti. The aim of bhakti yoga is to direct toward God the love that lies at the base of every heart (Smith, P. 32). Lastly, there is karma yoga, which worships labor as a path to god. Hinduism has numerous paths: paths, wants and stages of life.
The next well practiced religion, was founded by Kung Fu-Tzu (Kung the Master), known as Confucianism. Confucianism is a complex religion based around the system of moral, social, and political thought. It was founded on the belief that heaven and earth coexist in harmony and balanced strength while maintaining an everlasting dynamism. Based on the state literature of China, and used in their educational system for two thousand years (VanVoorst, P. 138), the Confucius scripture is divided into two parts, the first being the five classics (Wu Ching), and the second being Four Books (Ssu Shu).
Although commonly said not to be a religion, Confucianism worships dead ancestors, validating the respect and love they have for what they consider a higher power.

References

Smith, Huston. The World's Religions. New York; Harper, 1991.

Van Voorst, Robert E. Anthology of World Scriptures. Belmont; Thomson, 2006.


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