The word religion comes from the Latin religare meaning to rebind.  It also has the suffix -ion which is a procedural.  So religion is literally the process of rebinding.  Whether it be knitting one's self back together after some psychological difficulties or knitting a community back together after social conflict or natural disaster, it still provides a valuable function.  

We are hardwired to bounce back from extreme stresses and difficulties.  The processes by which we do so is the core and heart of religion.  This is an important function that evolution has preserved and strengthened for at least as long as there has been ceremonial burial.

As nontheists, we are uncomfortable because nearly all extant versions of religion today include various elements of supernaturalism, but this need not be the case in the future.  Religiosity is valuable as long as we can focus it on it's relevant tasks and decouple it from metaphysics and ethics.


Tags: philosophy, religion

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I think there are sufficient words available out there that we can use them, rather than drag along all of the baggage that goes with the word 'religion'. I can't think of a single serious religion today that does not involve either: supernaturalism, superstition in general, fallacious thinking glorified as 'faith', or out-dated tradition followed unquestioningly. For there to be a 'religion' that I could endorse that rejected all of these flaws, it would cause a lot of confusion if I called it a 'religion'.

"Yes, I'm religious. But my religion doesn't involve faith, spirits, gods, dogma, authoritarianism, superstition, or making a taboo out of questions or criticism."

"So...., what is your religion then?"

"It's pretty much just being a skeptical, rational, freethinking atheist, who values science and progress. I also try to participate in organizing other freethinkers to help reduce the power of religion in society."

"So, it's kind of like an anti-religion religion then?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"So, why do you call it a religion?"

"... umm, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time....."

I prefer words like: Philosophy, worldview, ethics, society, culture, organization, association, foundation, etc.
The word religion comes from the Latin religare meaning to rebind. It also has the suffix -ion which is a procedural. So religion is literally the process of rebinding. Whether it be knitting one's self back together after some psychological difficulties or knitting a community back together after social conflict or natural disaster, it still provides a valuable function.

Well, I think the etymological meaning is only a tiny fraction of the entire meaning, if it's even really important at all. I don't think this is what people think about when they practice religion, and I don't think it motivates them either.

Most people practice a religion in order to belong to a group, and beliefs (or strange beliefs) are one of the distinguishing characteristics of any group. People often come up with bizarre beliefs in order to distinguish their group from others.

The processes by which we do so is the core and heart of religion.

I disagree. The heart of religion is tribalism.
[OP] Actually, the etymology is unclear - but I prefer a similar one 'link to the past.' Tradition, culture, generational continuum of knowledge ... since religion is wholly bound to the supernatural by now, I suggest being more precise.

The heart of religion is tribalism.

If you read Campbell, religion is tribal - but perhaps not in the ways you suggest. Before we grew a superiority complex, humans seemed to identify more strongly with the animals they killed and those that killed them. Since they weren't detached from the slaughter but engaged mighty beasts (such as mammoths), they were more intimate with the fact that the prey was just as interested in survival as they. We hunted in cooperative groups with an endurance the prey could not match, exhausting them. There was an intimacy. Recognition of this resulted in a type of compassion for the prey. And oral traditions, in mythological forms, kept the 'technology' and the reverence relevant generation to generation. Same for gathering and agriculture, etc.

Once we became successful enough to have meat and bread on our tables that was not killed or grown by us, the stories morphed into delusion.

Its more complicated than that but community, common ground, sympathy, social contract - these universal principals underly the 'kinks' unique to each culture.

However, I agree with Wonderist - there are plenty of more accurate and serviceable words for what you (excuse me, Gaytheist - back to BilLee here) are talking about. Religion not only implies the supernatural - but a type of distorted group think that stultifies innovation, exploration, and investigation. Perhaps, Gaytheist, that is the tribalist part of which you speak - and I despise.
Good observations Howard. Well, what I mean by tribalism is the groupthink / mob mentality of people who group themselves by skin color, beliefs, income, etc., and the prejudicial behaviors that come with it. That is religion.

BilLee, I agree with Howard here. I would dispense with the word 'religion'. I think it just confuses people. In some ways, adjectives can be better than nouns.
Let me put this in perspective. I'm a yoga instructor. I meditate on a regular basis. It provides many psychological benefits. I do so religiously. I'm comfortable with the word religion. I'm uncomfortable with people saying that they are spiritual but not religious. I feel that reversing that best describes me. Philosophically I'm not a theist, but it is important for me to define myself by what I am and not what I am not. Religion in some form will outlast us all, but it has changed in it trappings a lot over the history of our species. We can either be part of changing it in the future in a way that suits us or continue to be relegated as an afterthought in the culture molding events that shape what form becomes dominant in the future. I wed the core of my self to the interrelated concepts of free will, individualism, and discord. These inform and guide the framework in which all my other thoughts fall. Abstractions that are well integrated can bring solace during difficult times. In order to be well integrated it takes contemplation, meditation, and sometimes patience.

This is not intellectual masturbation for me. I have already started a small religion with these tenets in mind called the First Libertarian Fellowship. We have a sister congregation that is not really more than a book club up in metro Dallas called the Optihumanist Fellowship.
Religion without 'supernaturalism' is what? Dogmatic philosophy? Religion represents dogma.
Exactly. History shows that, eventually, religion leads to what I think Gaytheist meant by 'tribalism' - a dangerous group think where an active few control the views of a passive many - usually in a falsely superior stance to all other 'faiths.' (tribes) Its a dynamic that even science, in practice, can fall prey to.
Wow! This discussion has been quite instructive. Most people that I try to persuade to my views on this take the value of religion for granted. I reassure that value while trying to dissuade them from supernatural views in all forms. This is a slow process and I have developed many arguments that they find compelling and my group is growing slowly. There is no dogma, but there is a general agreement on the value of free will, individualism, and discord. We covenant around these ideas. It appears that I have few arguments for religion qua religion. I could cite neuroscientific research that indicates that it is a deep part of are nature, but there seems to be an almost allergic reaction to the very word religion. I have to admit that when I first started this religion, it was kind of my personal joke. But it is deeply comforting. I enjoy what few rituals I have. I have a basic liturgy that we practice about once a month. And when I go a month without it, I do miss the experience. I know most religions don't stand the test of time. But if mine grows enough to continue to support myself and my children that will be enough.

I do find the strength of the opposition to even my most basic premise surprising. When I created this thread, I expected disagreement, but I also expected curiosity. I thought I would be fielding some questions. Perhaps, I was wrong to expect that this topic would be found interesting.
By the way, considering the definition of religion that most people here want. Would y'all wish to remove the unitarian universalist's status as a religion because it is nondogmatic and does not require a belief in God.
Personally, I could hardly care less what UU decides to refer to itself as. I suppose if we got into a debate about it, we'd have to define the terms, in which case I might disagree with their use of the word 'religion', but that's all hypothetical.
I'll agree that for most people, having a community is very important, and inevitably in any community you start to grow some of your own traditions. That's just part of human nature - as we repeat certain routine activities, a certain amount of efficiency is created and it becomes a habit, and we're generally loath to give up things that we've grown accustomed to that haven't killed us yet.

I'm going to tentatively agree with the others that religion, as the word is used today, doesn't seem to describe what you're doing. That said, the meaning of words changes over time, and maybe you'll be able to change it. Who knows?
I say skip the definitions game and create a new word that does, more precisely, describe what it is that you think you are doing. Words carry meanings and deep attachments within the mind since the thoughts you have and the concepts they convey are all connected to words. I propose that you cannot attach a well recognized word to something new and have that new thing remain new. If you call it a religion then it will be one in every sense of the word to those that follow it. If you call it something new then it will be that "new word" that your followers think about instead of "religion". It won't be associated in people's minds with religion.

Ask anybody and most will agree that organized religion is worse than religion all by itself. I myself find it hard to separate the two words in meaning with the word religion. I don't think one person praying by themselves constitutes a religion even if that person is following a common ideology. What you are doing is no different than any other organized religion if you don't make a serious attempt to not be an organized religion. Hell, discord is certainly something that can be anthropomorphized and worshiped just as easily as the "four elements" or the sun. If you call it religion and people join you they will be joining you with "religion" in mind.

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