The most common understanding of the word Religion is: “the service and worship of God or the supernatural, commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance, a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices, a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary) According to this source, “many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.” Many have argued that a tradition is a religion only if it worships a god. But we also hear expressions like: “Hockey is a religion in Canada.” Then what is religion? Are Christianity and Islam religions because worshiping God is at their core, and other traditions are not because they don’t focus on worshiping a divinity?
This essay will try to argue that: despite the absence of god or gods, as well as a lack of concern for the afterworld, Therevada Buddhism and Confucianism can be considered religious traditions.
First what does the term Religion? Clifford Geertz argues that: Religion is a cultural system that creates powerful and long-lasting meaning, by establishing symbols that relate humanity to beliefs and values. ( Geertz 63) Religions have symbols, traditions, writings and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe and the afterlife. They tend to emphasize morality, ethics, laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the universe and human nature.
Paul Tillich defines religion as:”the state of being grasped by ultimate concern.“( Tillich 4) Jon Bowker says that religion is a way of breaking “through limitations”, or is an expression of “route-finding activities” (Bowker viii). Frederick Stregn defines religion as “a mean towards ultimate transformations.” (Streng, 1985: 1-8) According to professor Ninian Smart, a set of teachings can be considered a religion if it has the following seven dimensions: