What Is Religion?

Was there ever a subject more volatile than that of Religion?  Countless wars have been fought over it.  Millions and millions of people have died for it.  Countries have been subjugated because of it.  Entire nations, tribes, and communities have been wiped out.

All in the name of . . . Religion.

            But what is religion?   Is it dogma?  “Prescribed doctrine, specific tenets, authoritative principles, established beliefs?”  And established by whom?  Is it Liturgy?  “A collection of formularies for public worship, a particular arrangement of service?”  Or could it be tradition?  “The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs from generation to generation; a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting, a body of laws or doctrines?”  Tradition doesn’t carry with it the volatility of history and colonialism as does religion.  But is one tradition of “statements, beliefs, legends, and customs” apply to everyone the world over?  Is that one tradition to become the religion of all?  Or is religion simply spirituality?  “Pertaining to the spirit or soul.”

            The word religion is derived from the Latin religio* which means, re-linking or reunion. Then what are we “re-linking” to?  What is our Source, our Cosmic Roots?  What, whom are we created from?  Could everyone’s Source be different and right for them?  If we could prove there is a Divine Source, what would the Divine be?

            Are we made in the likeness of the Divine?  Or is the Divine made in the likeness that we create Her/Him to be?  The truth is as hard to grasp as water through desperate fingers; desperate, to contain and claim the “One Truth.”  As if another’s truth could somehow invalidate our own belief or take something away from us.  What arrogance for any of us to believe we know “The Truth” of the Divine.  Maybe the Divine, the “Source” is as diverse as all the peoples of the Earth. Maybe each person must re-link to a Source that, in the end, provides them with sustenance, comfort, and peace.  

            One person re-links when they pray the Rosary and another when they light the Menorah.  Someone else re-links to their source listening to the song of a stream surrounded by the comfort of trees.  For still another, re-linking to Creation might be found in the serenity of their sleeping child’s face.

   All are right.  All are profound.

* “Modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell favor the derivation from ligo`bind, connect’, probably from a prefixed re-ligare, i.e. re- (again) + ligare or `to reconnect,’ which was made prominent by St. Augustine. . . In classic antiquity, meant conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation, or duty towards anything and was used mostly in secular or mundane contexts. . . Newer research shows that in the ancient and medieval world, the etymological Latin root religio was understood as an individual virtue of worship in mundane contexts; never as doctrine, practice, or actual source of knowledge. In general, religio referred to broad social obligations towards anything including family, neighbors, rulers, and even towards God.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religio 

Images: John Banks, Artek Images

© Text Copyright Xia Judy Tatum

About Feminine Alchemy

Founder and Director, Temple of the Goddess
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