Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is Religious? Just some Thoughts

In my class, we were asked to discuss the question “what is religious?”

Here is my response to our reading:

Religion as Orientation: A mini-lecture, Charles Long says that, “Religion defies definition, paradoxically she notes, because when we look at religiousness we see that it is all about boundaries.”
In response to this quote, I think that spirituality is the aspect that defies definition and religion that has the boundaries. Maybe I am messing with semantics and missing the point but it does seem that there is an important difference between the two.

For example, a Christian could experience God, while snowboarding, backpacking, or even through the process of getting a tattoo while at the same time the legalists from that religion may say that these practices are not ways to experience God. However, someone from another background may be expected to endure body piercings, tattoos, and the use of Peyote to experience God.

It makes sense that the religion, rules and culture, guiding ones spiritual practices may be what orients ones spirituality. Religion helps show (through definition and therefore some form of understanding) the significance of spirituality (or the individuals way of experiencing truth and the world).

I think this varies from Long’s definition in that he says “many people live without Gods, nobody lives without religion.” I would replace religion with spirituality. The spirituality is in everyone and the religion directs it.


Another student commented that my definition requires a higher power and asked where a religion “like Theravada Buddhism -- which I would guess is largely regarded to fit into the category of religion, though the emphasis is on mental development, not experiencing a specific "higher power" -- fit into your idea of religion?”

My second response:

You bring up a good point, as I did imply that the spirituality is in relation to a higher power. Tough, I am not sure that it is necessary to have a higher power for these definitions to work.

According to my definition, Theravada Buddhism would still fit. Spirituality, in this case, is experienced through mental development rather than a God or a god. Mental development is the process of reaching their ultimate good as defined by their religion. The ways that the person is guided through this mental development, say fasting or other rituals, would be the religion.

I agree my definitions do fit in the sense that religion does help people to orient themselves.

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