What do all religions have in common?

Building off the last post, after hearing the difficulty of defining the word religion, how do you define what is a religion so that everything that we generally call a religion is included, yet everything we generally consider to be secular is excluded?

Reading Michael Molloy’s Experiencing the World’s Religions I learned that the etymology of the word religion is two words, “re” and “lig”.  “Re” means again; makes sense, reply, rebound, repeat, etc.  “Lig” means “to connect” or “to join,” as in ligament.  Together, religion means “to connect again.”

This concept is easily found in most religions.  They offer ways or processes of returning to some sort of original state of mankind that has been lost or severed from some problem.  For Christianity, the problem is sin that separated Adam and Eve from God and thrust them out of the Garden of Eden.  Their sin then was passed on to all men and the ultimate effect of our sin is eternal death and separation from God.  The way to “reconnect” with God and that original state of humanity before the “Fall” is through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Other religions offer a different problem, a different separation, and a different way or path of reconnecting with that original state of being.

Moving beyond the etymology of religion, Molloy says that instead of making a set definition that can encompass all religions it is best to simply list common characteristics of religions.  He lists 8 common characteristics and I address them in the following video:

After watching the video, post a comment giving examples of how the 8 elements are found within Christianity.  Also, ask yourself, does Atheism have these 8 elements?  If it does, then should it be considered a religion?  If it doesn’t, should it not be considered a religion?

What is religion?

Have you ever tried to define what religion is?  This video gives a hint at the immense difficulty of defining what should considered religion?

BTW, this video was extremely easy to make.  I already had the PowerPoint created from a class I teach. The PowerPoint is simply used as a conversation starter on the first day of class to get students thinking about what is religion.  Played out in class, this can make a very interactive lecture.  Students often times debate intensely if some of the “secular” examples I gave are religious or non-religious.  I asked once if they could think of any other celebrities whose fans followed them, “worshiped” them, in a religious way, and someone pointed to a female student in the class and shouted, “Justin Bieber!”  And I saw that her laptop had several Bieber stickers on it and I made that comment, and the person sitting next to her said, “You think that’s religious, look at her wallpaper.”  The student shrugged and said, “Yea, I admit it; I’m a Bielieber.”

I hope you liked the video and I’d love to read how you would define the word, “religion”.

Significant Discoveries from Studying Other Religions #3

I gave a test to students on an overview of what religions are, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and for many of them it was the first time they had studied a religion other than Christianity.  I asked a question at the end of the test for extra points: “Explain the most significant piece of religious information that you’ve learned so far this semester from this class and how it has impacted you.”  Here was one response:

I learned so much from these chapters, since I am from Asia where Buddhism is a great influence.  I always wanted to learn about this religion.  However, I never knew that they don’t have God and that their teachings have mostly to do with one’s self.  This was kind of shocking to me because I have believed in God my entire life and couldn’t imagine how a religion could exist without believing in God.  Also, the eight characteristics common with religions helped me to define religion easily.  I actually had an opportunity to talk to a friend in Life Group who is Buddhist.  She said her family is not vegetarian and goes to the temple only for special events.  Talking with a friend of another religion was fun because now I know some key terms from their teachings.  However, I knew more about the Buddha’s words than her.  I learned that knowing other religions’ teachings makes it easier to evangelize people.