The essence of religion

Approach to the study of religion.

What do you guys here think about this approach to the study of religion?

The straight dope only, please.

First, you make a list of everything that can be put in the big big basket called religion.

What are these things?

Well, like places, objects, actions, words, persons, ideas, the “quis, quid, ubi, quibus
auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando” of everything, which includes everything, like all the
thinkables and all the unthinkables.

O.K., now find out what is it in all these things that can be put in the big big basket called religion, that is peculiar to them but not in all the things not includable within the big big basket called religion.

All things in the basket of religion, for examples: churches, prayers, priests, nuns,
crucifixes, Mass, baptism, Holy Friday, Easter, curses, blessings, etc.: you get the idea?

Now, what is that component qualifying all these things to be includable in religion, the absence of which excludes other things from religion?

For example, garbage, not being irreverent, but just being down to earth realistic, is not includable in religion. Another example, genitals, but circumcision is includable under religion if you connect it to the Jews.

O.K., all you guys, figure out what is that component which makes all those things in
the basket of religion qualifying them for such an inclusion; and you will get the
essence of religion.

The straight dope, please.

Let me try again to introduce this question to the learned and keen minds of these boards here, as a topic for discussion. Of course we can bring up facts in the process. And it can be a debate also.

We know that religion is a fact in our society at present and in the history of mankind.

Now, a fact is composed of parts which are also facts. For example, Susma Rio Sep is a fact. He is composed of parts which are facts, like body parts.

To continue, religion is a fact like business and marriage. My question is therefore what fact or facts within the fact that is religion distinguishes religion essentially from business and marriage?

Business and marriage are two facts, they are composed of facts which are common or similar ones to both; but they are also composed of part-facts which are distinctive and even essential to each; so that when you think business you have got to have that distinctive fact in your mind, the same with marriage.

My purpose here is to ask the learned and keen members of these boards here what they think is the fact that makes religion distinctively unique from business and marriage, and also all other similar entities in human society and in the behavior of man.

In this respect, and from this approach, in lieu of the original approach, I do see that this is a factual question or a question seeking for facts as answers.

But we will discuss or debate on the essential fact of religion. I prefer discussion, because debate is rather confrontational and stressful, not at all as productive as discussion.

On my own part, the essence of religion from an examination of all those things I mentioned above that can be put in the big big basket called religion:

I can draw the conclusion that religion is essentially a kind of believing, a belief. This belief of religion has an object: a power that is not known as we know Cecil Adams; but, again that word, believed in.

So, the essence of religion is a belief in an unknown power.

What do you learned and keen minds think about my idea of the essence of religion. I will have more to add to the essence of religion; but I have put forward the fundamental essence at this point.

Let’s hear from the learned and keen minds of these boards here.

Susma Rio Sep

Your OP is so garbled and labyrinthine that you are quoting yourself within it!

What distinguishes the religious from the waste-disposal-related, reproductive, legal, financial or otherwise mundane? A necessarily divine, supernatural or spiritual element.

It is not for me to say whether my mind is “learned”, but when it comes to assessing theses like this I certainly wouldn’t say it was “keen”.

My God. Anybody else have the feeling that the OP must have been put together by some manner of governmental beaurocratic committee?

Hey, Susma! Pass that doobie over here!

SM: I noticed that, too. Gotta be a first, no? An OP that has a quote from the OP in it.

See, I was taught to write like this:

A sentance is a complete thought. A THESIS sentence contains the central argument to which every other sentence points. A paragraph is a sub-theme within the overall writing.

Your writing should have five paragraphs. (This is not a strict requirement, but helps for the beginner.)

Your first paragraph should be the THESIS paragraph, and should include the thesis statement. Summarize for the reader what your essay is about.

Your second, third, and fourth paragraphs should each be a supporting point. Each lead sentence should have a supporting point about your thesis; every other sentence should explain that paragraph.

Your last sentence should repeat the thesis and summarize what you just told the reader.

For example, you might working from this outline:
I. Thesis: The essence of religion is the belief in an unknown power.
II. All religions have specific traditions and customs that point to an unknown power.
III. Things that are “down to Earth” are not connected with religion. (Here, I still don’t know what you mean by this.)
IV. Religion is distinct from other Earthly customs such as business and marriage, which do not point to an unknown power.
V. Therefore, the essence of religion is belief in an unknown power.

Try reworking your question that way.

RIL: Ah, yes, the 5 paragraph expository essay. Drilled into me by my HS English teacher. Not a bad way to learn how to write, but we sure hated it at the time!

But then, who am I to talk…I misspelled “sentence” at least once, and I should have said “For example, you might try working from this outline:” So much for me being a grammar cop. :wink:

And you left out a minor detail: The thesis statement should be the last sentence of the first paragraph. Actually, I think SRS could find a happy medium between stream of consciousness and the 5 paragraph expository essay format.

Actually, insofar as I can parse Susma’s OP, I need to disagree with the implications of what he seems to be asking.

IMHO, the essence of religion (as opposed to metaphysics, faith, etc.) is in the actions and underlying feelings, concepts, and attitudes held by the individual as a result of his belief structure.

Consider: David B is a convinced “soft” atheist at the moment. Now, in a masterpiece of modal logic, Libertarian succeeds in convincing him, not of the theist belief which Lib holds, but of the reality of a deus otiosus which was instrumental in the creation of our space-time continuum but which, having done so, has abandoned the product to evolve as it has, undergoing the divine equivalent of boredom with something you’ve done what you can in producing and have no desire to work with further.

David’s acceptance of the reality of such a God would have absolutely no impact on his existence whatsoever. There would be no lifestyle change, no variation in his thinking (since the universe created by this Deist deity would differ in no real way from that which came about inexorably from non-god-based causes).

On the other hand, conversion to a fundamentalist belief structure would impact the way in which a person deals with the world in quite emphatic ways. If there is an active God with quite pronounced opinions on how people should behave, a tempter spirit in rebellion against said God which is attempting to subvert Its plans, a system of reward and punishment for various acts, etc., then certain behaviors which said God has condemned are quite clearly things to be avoided, and others which It commands are quite clearly to be engaged in.

And the nature of such a God, Its intent and purposes, will strongly affect the choices one makes in one’s life.

It’s very easy to dismiss all such thinking as memes, concept-complexes which carry implications and which thinking outside of is a difficult procedure. But, in a variation on Pascal’s Wager, it is of vital importance for each person to resolve what his or her understanding of such an entity is – since, opening the doors to all possibilities, whichever one is right will strongly affect one’s future – and present, by the choices one makes – and therefore it is only prudent to examine the possible answers carefully and pick the right one.

The God-meme of fundamentalist Islam, for example (as distinct from what Aldebaran may believe), is one that would condemn nearly every woman in America for failure to maintain proper modesty, and nearly every man for failure to maintain the authority it commands over them. We’ve had a plethora of debates here over what the God-meme of fundamentalist Christianity obliges of the people It allegedly created.

There is an important disjunct here to be noted – the reality of the underlying concepts of God is quite distinct from the actions and expectations of the believers in such concepts. Even if their God is not real, the beliefs they hold and the actions they take in consequence are real, and impact everyone.

It goes beyond the God concept – regardless of whether there are any Gods, if basic Buddhism is valid, then our obligation is to practice the Eightfold Path and assimilate the Four Noble Truths. If Christian literalism is valid, then we are obliged, in self-preservation, to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, on pain of eternal torture if we fail to do so. If we become convinced of the validity of Catholicism, we are obliged to make an auto da fé of conversion and begin living according to the Laws of the Church. (The “free pass” Catholicism gives to other Christians is only applicable to those who sincerely believe that their understanding of Christian doctrines and behavior is the right one; this presumes that one has been convinced of the truth of Catholic doctrine.)

One common principle I note here is that these religious doctrines are founded in egocentric concerns – if someone were to be convinced of the truth of Fundamentalism, and fail to give him/herself to Jesus, he/she would be failing in a strict duty, with grave consequences for himself/herself. He/she who accepts Islam but fails to give alms or attempt to make the Hajj would likewise be calling down divine wrath on him/herself.

The alternate view here is that there are behaviors which have the force of divine commands but are not done with an eye to protecting or advancing oneself, but for the love of God or out of a desire to do the right thing without a particular self-referential eye to how doing so will affect oneself. This is founded in a quite different view – a concept that God (perhaps the Christian concept, perhaps not) is providential and loving, and that the behavior He obliges is that which is most beneficial for the individual in this day and age, which one should undertake out of love for Him, trusting Him to provide for oneself, not out of fear for divine punishment nor the reward of going to Heaven, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.

Res, you should get something in the way of a monetary prize for even gleening that much from the OP! Damn! You’re good!

Get these sorts of posts at alot.I call them “Spiritual Beyondness” posts.Not only does the author usually come off as a cross between Yoda, an indian guru and a mental patient but these sorts of posts often contain nonsense terms like “Spiritual beyondification” and “transdimentional enlightenment”.

I disagree. As Philip K. Dick observed, “the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum.” You may have difficulty parsing something as relatively concise and clear-headed as Dick’s expositions, of course.

Since it is appears that you’ve also overlooked the significance of Matthew 21:42, I suggest you start here.

Nah, you’re just another victim of the inexorable workings of Gaudere’s Law! :slight_smile:

It is very easy to distinguish them apart. If you are following orders from God it is religion. If you are following orders from your boss it is business and if you are following orders from your wife it is marriage.


Is this a hypothetical, or has Lib ever actually set forth this argument? If the latter, it should be remembered that the continuum was never created, nor was it caused:The universe has ALWAYS existed.

(And bravo, sailor!)

Religious people I have known:

The Suckling - Hi, I’m religious, see my Bible?

The Follower - I pray all the time. Some day my prayers will be answered. There really is a God, isn’t there?

The Brother - My religion is a deeply personal thing. You don’t want to get into a game of Bible trivia against me.

The Elder - I’m a cranky old bastard, but I go to church every Sunday.

The Deity - I have my beliefs, you have yours, let’s party.


And the quote should have included a link to the quote, which would have caused the hamsters to implode, forming a black hole sucking all sentient life into it.

Or just banishing Susma back to the sulphurous nether regions of Heck itself.


To the religious, everything should count as being religious. Anything you own/do/think/feel counts towards who you are, and isn’t who you are the true essence of religion? Religion isn’t restricted to overtly religious things like church. If it was, then religion wouldn’t be doing its job, because it wouldn’t be affecting the whole person, just one shpere of his existence.

To the nonreligious, only overtly religious (G-d related) items count, because other spheres of their lives should not be affected by religion.

The OP’s example of genitals and circumcision is interesting. I would venture that seemingly mundane things only count as religious if they are actively involved in the religious activity. The genitals would only be religious during the circumcision itself. This of course only applies to the nonreligious, because to the religious, even mundane things aren’t truly mundane in my view.