Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What is Religion?


The dictionary tells us that religion is "a particular system of faith and worship" (eg Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu) It means re-ligare" to bind, or tie oneself to.”
It is also human recognition of a non human power and especially of a personal God or gods who are believed to be entitled to obedience and worship. Religion and religious enquiry incorporates thought, belief, conduct, behaviour, experience, ritual and underpinning this umbrella called religion are some identifiable traits and systems which bring together and effect certain responses.
 
To be termed a religion and thus to be considered to be effective, a religion must have a set of doctrines, e.g. death and resurrection of Jesus in reparation for the sins of the world (Christianity). The Four Noble Truths, the Eighth fold Path (Buddhism). Religion must have a dimension of story (its history) and experiences. These stories must be known, believed and told and retold in order that they become assimilated into that particular life story and belief. Religion must have its rituals, to accompany the stories and history. Rituals make an attempt to make visible the invisible.  Rituals speak a language of the unspoken.

For the Catholic believer, the Mass and Sacraments constitute the most important rituals and elements of the faith. To accompany the rituals an ethical dimension must be formulated because it is this dimension which determines the mores. It is this dimension which enshrines the basic non changeable beliefs and tenets of that religion.


Religion must have its sacred texts (Torah for the Jewish people. Gospels, Epistles, Old Testament for Christianity, Rig Vedas, for Hindus, Koran for Muslim faith,  etc) which are the words spoken by the Deity through the  founder of that religion and which are to be studied and learned and kept and interpreted in perpetuity by the followers. These words are used to govern one's life.
Within the framework of religion is also found the experiential. This is because religion has the potential to fulfil the yearnings, spiritual, and psychological needs of the human person. These needs are written on the core of the human heart and demand a response.


Religion helps to give the human person an idea and image of his/her place in the universe and assists in the answers to the deep questions of life and death and the meaning of these.
And probably it can be said that religion assists in the seeking for an answer to that nameless core yearning that rises from within a human person. Religion is an attempt to vocalize and bring into reality 'the Sacred" "The Numinous" (Rudolph Otto, 1917, The Idea of the Holy.") It is an infinite and lifelong journey of the human person to return to their homeland for which there is an echo or deep yearning and longing for the return and for Father (God).
Ultimately the human person is restless (as St Augustine would say) and ontologically lonely because the human being recognises that its homeland is not as permanent resident here on earth, but where he/she comes from. A return to God and our place in Him and with Him.