One of the things I am getting from the classes I’m taking is a wider perspective on religion as a whole. The book we are using for my current class is God is Not One by Stephen Prothero. The text is broken into chapters that each cover a different major religion. Most of them are the mainline organizations we are all familiar with, but it concludes with a strange outlook.
Prothero defines religion, itself, differently than I had ever perceived it. He says religions aren’t, necessarily, about worshiping a god. That, in fact, some religions deny there is a god. I, personally, have trouble with that statement. For me, if it doesn’t recognize a deity, even one I don’t believe in, we cannot call it a religion.
Prothero defines Atheism as a religion. I am pretty sure most atheists would disagree, violently, with that definition. According to this way of looking at religion, all that is required to make a religion is for there to exist a four things:
- Creed – a statement of beliefs and values.
- Cultus – ritual activities.
- Codes – standards for ethical conduct.
- Community - a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
If we are going to accept these as all that is required to form a religion, then most corporations could be listed. People who are employed by Apple, Microsoft, or Google would be members of those religions. They share beliefs (that their company is better than its competitors), engage in ritual activities (attending work services on a daily basis), have a code of conduct, and share community with their fellow employees.
I think before we can define an organization as a religion, it must accept the concept of a “higher power,” a god. It may not be the “all-powerful One” that Christians share with Jews and Muslims, but there must be some sort of supernatural deity involved. Something that is worshiped, even if it is only Mother Nature or the Universal Mind.
A religion requires there to be something greater than the individual man or woman. It may be closely defined in appearance with statues to represent it or as diffuse as the idea of a “higher power,” the Source, but without that Something, we do not have religion. Without worship, there is only a political or social organization.
God is Not One is well written and provides interesting views on the various major religions. I have enjoyed most of it, but I find the final solution problematic. I understand that there are many ways of looking for god. It is accepted that mankind has been searching for that “god” since history began. That search is the purpose of all religions. To define ‘religion’ as anything else is to lose sight of the search.