If you choose the broadest possible definition of religion, you will find that the soccer enthusiast and the man who believes in gods, devils, and other supernatural beasties are equally men of "religion."  We can make no meaningful distinction between them.  And yet there does appear to be something different between the two that cannot be accounted for merely by the degree of importance each assigns to an activity.  For one thing, religion can not wholly be accounted for by activities.  Religion includes beliefs.

If I were to define religion, it would include the term "faith."  How would I define faith?  I would say that "faith" is believing in things in such a way that priority is given to authority or revelation.  In other words, authority or revelation suffice in the absence of evidence and are even preferred over evidence where the evidence contradicts.

The primary reason we have the word "faith" is because there is insufficient evidence to make a determination as to the accuracy of certain propositions relating to the supernatural.  Faith has also sometimes been interpreted as "hope," but this is not alone sufficient to account for belief in the supernatural.

If you agree with the definition I have given above, which is not dissimilar to "the assurance of things unseen" in the bible, and if you agree that this is a common element in religion, then we may proceed to discuss religion.  If not, then we will be referring to different things, which will make it difficult indeed to have a meaningful discussion.

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Comment by Gerald Payne on October 22, 2015 at 7:24pm

Blind faith is a necessity considering the mountain of evidence that's been amassed over the years undermining religious ideas. Believing in something that has no basis in fact is foolish enough, but when the very scriptures it's based on have been proven to be a fabrication it's pure pretension to ignore it. Maybe as you say Michael they believe what they want to here thereby replacing the need for faith with a comforting enchantment. 

Comment by Michael Penn on October 22, 2015 at 6:15pm

Following so sheep like might be because nobody wants to die. I think this has a lot to do with why people follow religions in the first place. Hey, you're not going to promise me anything or give me anything? Hell with you then.

Comment by Gerald Payne on October 22, 2015 at 6:09pm

All religions seem to centre on unseen agents who know what your thinking. African religions have the ancestors and the Malayan forest dwellers have the forest itself that listens in on peoples thoughts. When asked about these things the villagers offer no reason why these things happen but that they do happen is perfectly understood. With the global theistic religions came scripture, theological investigation and dubious metaphysical ''proofs'' which didn't stand up to scrutiny. In the end religion needed people to have faith because of the lack of evidence, so much so that faith became the be all and end all of religious doctrine. If people didn't have faith they were doomed to eternal hell-fire. Facts are portrayed by  the church as insignificant when compared with divine revelation and god working in mysterious ways to test peoples faith all add to the elixir promised to the faithful. Nevertheless that they follow so sheep-like is difficult to understand.      

Comment by Michael Penn on October 22, 2015 at 3:47pm

A long time ago I was drunk and asleep in the same bed as my wife and child. Suddenly there was maniacal laughter and the floor in front of my bed opened up into hell. I was terrified but my wife and child slept through it all. Finally it stopped and I slept again.

Talks with the local Pentecostal minister about proved that this experience was real, and that I should stop running form God and be that preacher that he wanted me to be. (Remember Jonah?) This would solve the problem.

What really happened here was a young man snared by the supernatural and religion in such a way that his "guilt" produced experiences for him pretty close to what comes out of that type of religion all the time. Then they tell you that "god is love." The problem with this whole mess in religion is that people believe it, and do so without evidence. The only "evidence" that will back up your personal experiences is your personal experiences. Sorry. That don't make it real.

Comment by Wyatt on October 18, 2015 at 8:29am
Agreed. Broadly, the problem is the religious way of thinking and all that entails.
Comment by jay H on October 18, 2015 at 6:17am

Some of the same psychological mechanisms underlie various belief systems. Nationalism/patriotism is similar to religion in its intensity, and often its irrationality. At some times in history, religion and nationalism were actually combined into a unified whole.

Superstition may or may not involve belief in spirits/gods, but has the component of belief without evidence.



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