Topics: Religion, Supernatural, God Pages: 3 (816 words) Published: September 10, 2013
Many say the etymology of religion lies with the Latin word religare, which means “to tie, to bind.” This seems to be favored on the assumption that it helps explain the power religion has. The Oxford English Dictionary points out, though, that the etymology of the word is doubtful. Earlier writers like Cicero connected the term with relegere, which means “to read over again” (perhaps to emphasize the ritualistic nature of religions?). Some argue that religion doesn’t really exist — there is only culture. Jonathan Z. Smith writes in Imagining Religion: “...while there is a staggering amount of data, phenomena, of human experiences and expressions that might be characterized in one culture or another, by one criterion or another, as religion — there is no data for religion. Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his imaginative acts of comparison and generalization. Religion has no existence apart from the academy.” It is true that many societies do not draw a clear line between their culture and what scholars would call “religion.” This does not mean that religion doesn’t exist, but it is worth keeping in mind that even when we think we have a handle on what religion is, we might be fooling ourselves. Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about any and everything is a religion. A good example of a narrow definition is the common attempt to define “religion” as “belief in God,” effectively excluding polytheistic religions and atheistic religions while including theists who have no religious belief system. A good example of a vague definition is the tendency to define religion as “worldview” — but how can every worldview qualify as a religion? Some have argued that religion isn’t hard to define and the plethora of...
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