Religion And Religion

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As much as religious conflict dominates our public conversations, religion has long been a force for unity. Religion is constantly changing. I would like to explore the idea of religion as a community, separating religion as a concept from religion as a practice. Etymologically, “religio” means that which binds together, so to say that religion builds strong communities is somewhat circular. If religion did not have this effect, it would not be religion. But one must still ask if the practices that build up particular communities – churches, mosques, synagogues – also contribute to the building up of more inclusive communities.
There is a strong connection between religious and cultural practices. Is there a universal definition of religion that crosses cultures? Religion is a loosely used term by social scientists and historians as though it were cross-cultural. Those who treat is as such do so when studying socio-cultural occurrences. This method is understandable in our western society where the distinction is clear between “church” and “state.” However, I do not believe that this is in fact true on a larger scale.
Looking into a historical perspective, one could see that the earliest attempts at a universal definition of religion began in the 17th Century. Beginning to make a generic definition of religion could put everyone on common ground. Geertz discusses religion as a system of symbols. Symbols communicate something about our worldview and our ethos. Religious symbols persuade us that there is a direct connection between how the world is and how we live, or how we ought to live. In religious symbols, both fit perfectly together so that each reinforces the other. Religion formulates conceptions of a general order of exis...

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...hem, church is not simply a place of worship, but it is a community center where they know they can go and be among like-minded people. This offers a sense of relief to an individual. Geertz states that religious symbols help with the pain of hardship, so does the knowledge of having people by your side no matter the circumstance. This may be true in any religio-cultural institution, but I can only speak for my own. I know that no matter what Greek Orthodox Church I walk into, in any part of the world, I will understand, I will know the service, the expectations and above all, I will be welcomed with open arms simply because I am Greek. . This feeling of inclusion, of belonging to something beyond just you, to something that transcends time and socio-economic realities incorporating tiny you into a universal web of love, understanding and support is beyond words.

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