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Religion: Definitions and Why

RELIGION: Defined

Religion is defined is its most simple form as a belief; and most typically a belief in God or a god or group of gods.  Religion is often seen as an organized or particular system of faith and beliefs with rules and ceremonies.  Religion usually involves some focus and worship toward God or that power in which one believes.   According to Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, Religion comes from the Latin religo – to bind anew; “religion in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of His will to man, in man’s obligation to obey His commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties.  It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to His will or commands, is not religion.”

Webster then knowledgeably refers to James (as those who know the Christian Scriptures would do): “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless (orphans) and widows in their affliction (times of need), and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Webster’s Dictionary then also in the broad sense defines religion as: “any system of faith and worship.   In this sense, religion comprehends the belief and worship of pagans and Mohammedans, as well as of Christians; and religion consisting in the belief of a superior power or powers governing the world, and in the worship of such power or powers.  Thus we speak of the religion of the Turks, of the Hindoos, of the Indians, etc. as well as the Christian religion.  We speak of false religion as well as of true religion.”

CULTS: Defined

A Cult is a group or system of religious devotion toward a particular person, figure or object.  As the Philistines and those who worshiped the statue and myth of Dagon in the temple of Dagon (1 Sam. 5:2); or as some who follow a man, such as Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh or Sun Myung Moon.  Cults most often violate basic social and moral norms.    The word cult comes from the Latin cultus – worship.  However, most cult members identify with and often worship their leader, so much so that many of their members will commit crime(s).

RELIGION: Why we have it?

 a. Christians believe God gives to all a ‘conscience’ – which comes from the Latin meaning – with knowledge.  And God calls us (2 Tim. 1:9) and gives ‘a measure of faith (Rom.12:3).’

b. Jews, Muslims and Christians believe that ‘God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets (Hebrew 1:1);’ however, Christians also believe that God ‘has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world and universe (Hebrews 1:2; Col. 1:16).’

c. However, some will say we have religion due to psychological needs that cause people to seek meaning and comforts.  Some say it is because of fear of death more than fear of God.   Thus the American Psychological Association writes, ‘Religion may fill the human need for finding meaning, sparing us from existential angst while also supporting social organization, researchers say.’  Which ‘reseachers?’

d. We have religion because it is passed down through family generations.  Nations have been conquered and the conquers build schools, hospitals and places of worship – temples and churches.  And in short time, the majority of that nation or country will be teaching and believing in their dominant or major religions.

e. The search for truth and God is innate.  Many studies show that children are born with a tendency toward thinking that there is a supernatural agent behind this order; or ‘children have a number of natural dispositions to religious beliefs of various sorts (J.L. Barrett, Born Believers – 2012).’

As noted in the Wall Street Journal (4/10/10) article Why Belief in God is Innate, “According to Oxford University Press’s ‘World Christian Encyclopedia,’ 84% of the world’s population belongs to some form of organized religion.  That equals 5.7 billion people who belong to about 10,000 distinct religions… And Americans are among the most religious members of the species.  A 2007 Pew Forum survey of over 35,000 Americans found… 92% have a belief in God or a universal spirit; 74% in Heaven; 59% in Hell; and 63% that the Scripture is the word of God… So powerful is the belief that there must be something else out there that even 21% of those who identified themselves as atheists and 55% of those who identified themselves as agnostics expressed a belief in God or a universal spirit…”

The Wall Street Journal article adds, “In his 1871 book, ‘The Descent of Man,’ Charles Darwin noted that anthropologists conclude that “a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal; and apparently follows from a considerable advance in the reasoning powers of man, and from a still greater advance in his faculties of imagination, curiosity and wonder.”  The fact that humans believe in the spiritual and in a ‘higher power’ or God, is a fact; and to reason it away with assumptions and false philosophy or teaching does not change that fact.

RELIGION: Why we do things because of it?

a.  The consideration to do right or wrong.  God gives to all a basic knowledge of right and wrong, and says to all do what is right – as stated in Genesis 4:7.  “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

b. The consideration to follow the commands of God.  We have laws such as ‘do not kill;’ ‘do not steal,’ ‘do not lie’ under oath, etc.  And these laws often come from what is taught in our ancient Scriptures.

c.  Laws are developed from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Koran (Quran) and from other ancient texts.

d. Teachers, prophets, ministers, priests, clerics, imams, caliphs, etc. preach and teach from their beliefs and influence their followers.

e. The Spirit of God, and spirits impress and move humans.

f. Faith and beliefs in one’s religion; as well as the desire to be a ‘true’ follower of that religion.

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