A number of modern scholars of religion have commented
on the difficulty of defining what religion is. Over the centuries,
influential thinkers have offered their own definitions, with greater
or lesser degrees of assurance, but virtually all of these definitions
have been found wanting by the majority of scholars. In some cases
the definitions are too narrow, defining religion in terms of the
speaker's religious beliefs or those of his or her culture and tending
to exclude the religious beliefs of other cultures. In other cases
the definitions are so vague and inclusive that they do not sufficiently
delimit religion from other areas of human thought such as psychology,
law, economics, physics, etc.
d to motivate other aspects of human behavior beyond those which would strictly be considered to be of religious concern. And the institutional structures which promote most of the so-called major world religions have taken on, in their periods of rapid growth, many other beliefs and practices that have little relation to the "core" religion but that helped a given institution to accommodate the political and social realities of its host cultures.
The ubiquity of religion seems to argue for some innate "religious instinct," on the one hand, while the diversity of religious forms and the frequent conflicts among them seem to argue that religion is more a socially acquired characteristic of human life, on the other hand. How do we resolve this conundrum?
The key insight in arriving at a resolution is that religion always begins in an experience that some individual has or that some small group of people shares. The response that this person or group makes to the original experience is what begins the process of interaction between the religion and the community. In extreme cases we can imagine a religion which lived and died unknown to all but the original experiencers, because their response turned inward and never created an interaction with others in the community; or a religion in which the response to the original experience so quickly and completely assimilated it to the traditions of the community that the germinal religion never acquired an independent identity. Most recognizable religions fall somewhere between these extremes, and thus acquire the identity by which we can recognize them.
So we can offer the following as a definition that takes the above factors into account.
Religion originates in an attempt to represent and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration, it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses.
Anybody lives in modern times will think about religion has been continued for several thousand years. Though life is getting better due to development of science and culture and knowledge and wisdom of human are much more improved than those of past, it appears that human can¡¯t live without religion. In view of this, it will not be wrong that human can be defined as ¡°Those who are wise¡±, ¡°Those who make tools¡±, and so on.
It can be caused misunderstanding if we say that everybody is ¡°Those who have religion¡±. Why am I called as a believer even though I don¡¯t go to church and temple? I¡¯m a person with no religion. I¡¯m not only I ¡®m not a member of specific religious party but also I don¡¯t know the dogma they present. But I can be a good religious person is that claims by people tend to interpret religion as a wide sense that. Prior to make a conclusion for this issue, it is necessary to think about the meaning of religion.
We can give various abstract definitions about this. It would be useful from the academic standpoint, but it can¡¯t give awareness from the experienced standpoint about the meaning of religion.
Most of cases, a person meet with religion and get a taste truly experiences limitation of self-life. In other words, he meets with severe distress like death and experiences religion in the process of conquest of distress. Heidegger, philosopher defines that human is a being gets to death, but this is not an abrupt remark. Everybody knows this. Also it¡¯s a common thing that one talks about death with temporary emotion and records it in his diary in his adolescence. Nobody doesn¡¯t know that human can¡¯t live over one hundred years and is coming up to death step by step. When one hears about sudden death of his beloved and when his parents, brothers, and friends, and lover die, he gets a shock that a word of death in the pain of parting is coming to reality. But these phenomena are due to ideality of death. In case that death is mine, I get realty totally different from thing I feel and think about other¡¯s death. At this time, I¡¯m face with death and think it with reality not ideality. I be
come to give ear to sayings of a philosopher and a religionist such that human life is a being been thrown alone to this world and human life is no more than being gets to death. Also these sayings are coming to me like to pierce my heart.
Considered in this light, it is recognized that life itself is no meaning without a preliminary of death. From the biological point of view, death can be said that it is consumption of numerous cells gradually. Nobody can escape death. Being alive is same that numerous cells in a body is dying. In other words, Being alive is being in the process of death. This must be discrepancy. So Buddhism once says living is death. This will mean that living and death are same.
But religious point of view about death is different from that of biological point of view. None of religions say about death. Things such as death of a Buddhist priest in Buddhism and resurrection or ascension in Christianity explain this. Just it can be characteristic in religion that death is not limited to extinction of life.
It says human being is born twice in religion. One is birth from the biological point of view, and the other is birth from the religious point of view. The latter is also called as a being born again or re-birth.
A primitive man carried out cultural event of this re-birth through the celebration of their coming of age. They thought this event had meaning not only in biology but also in religion. Most of events they had were carried out religious ceremony based on re-birth. They believed girls and boys under age felt pain like death in killing their old lives and they could get re-birth through overcome of this pain.
In religion, it says there is no re-birth without extinction of old life. One can set foot inside the world of religion through his actual experience of this re-birth. We can express this as religious consciousness, self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is based on profound experience not just awareness about something. This is consciousness of limitedness because of its characteristic with mediation by death. This means that one perceives the fact that there is limitation in existence of oneself and one¡¯s ability. In other words, it is self-consciousness about limitedness of life. One philosopher says, ¡°Only human being knows death among lives in the world¡±. Awareness in this saying means perception by experience.
One realizes one¡¯s limitedness is quite same that he realizes infinity simultaneously. Limitedness can be just seen as limitedness at the stand of boundary of infinity. If someone is realizing limitedness, he should have infinity in his heart. Eternity is concept of time, and infinity is concept of space. In other words, eternity and infinity mean non-time and non-space, so it is impossible to present objectives for them. For this case, nothing is not against existence but nothing is one above nothing and existence. Someone expresses this as one in the four dimensional world. The basic purpose like this expression is to say about religious world, totally different world with ours.
This world can not be expressed with our normal language and thinking because of different dimension. So it is just expressed symbolically. God exists place above our dimension, so it is called as eternal and infinite being. One can perceive this existence through firm self-consciousness of limitedness.
We need to aware about important thing in here. It is a fact that just because one perceives eternity and infinity, it doesn¡¯t follow that religious world opens to him. Therefore we need review about reverence. Consequently speaking, we can go into the religious world when we feel reverence it not awareness of eternity and infinity. Reverence is an emotion of life basically, and it contains feelings of fear and worship. Like this, reverence is understood not in the normal world but in the religious and holy world. The basic act of this reverence is the adoration of God. It expresses the true nature of man most perfectly, especially if the body also performs the act in bowing. I adore God means I am aware that He is and that I stand before Him; that He is the one who essentially is, the creator, and that I am His creature that He is holy and I am not, and that I adapt myself with heart and mind to the holy one who confronts me. Human¡¯s emotion for God, eternal and infinite being is so compl
icated and mysterious. Gods air objectives of reverence and longing simultaneously. So we feel the God through reverence and longing of eternity and infinity.
When we consider ¡°What is religion?¡± from the side of experience, Explanation by experience and personal experience about it is helpful. Experience is used as a very general and popular term, and it means that one gets something through feeling from the outside and it comes around one¡¯s mind as a consciousness of heart. Suppose there is a tree of rose in here. I can come around my mind with red rose through my sense. This sense will be same to others. Like this, experience is what impression of outside through sense and some internal response about this impression. In this point, we can say that experience has a passive side.
On the contrary, personal experience is a kind of experience, but compared with what experience is very objective, it¡¯s subjective. The reason I divide them intentionally is that I want to say that meaning in religious world is not in experience but in personal experience. In religion, it is not satisfied with regular, temporary, and popular fact, and is tried to pursue personal experience about eternal and unchangeable fact. Of course, religious experience is used.
There are various kinds of feeling in human being¡¯s, so there is a religious feeling on the foundation of religious life. It is so important for religion that we can say this affects on thought, action, and life. However, feeling in some sense has a tendency that it includes active factor and decides life pattern of human. For example, a person with moral feeling is not a person just judge good and evil, but a practical person can like the good and keep out the evil.
Sentiment can be classified into three types largely: moral, artistic, and academic. A person plentiful moral sentiment must be a person has moral personality, and artistic one will be an artistic personality. Also academic personal one must be a person devote oneself to seeking of the truth. Human can¡¯t have truth, good and beauty all. Like this, sentiment is specified, and perfect human can¡¯t exist by personalized sentiment. Even if it is that way, unified and overall sentiment for human is reverence. The fact that feeling about reverence is a basis for human is because reverence has something to do with life. As it is mentioned previously, only human perceives inconsistency of life and death. Therefore, religious feeling relation to issue of life and death which is essential issue to human will be passed to human¡¯s basic feeling naturally. In that sense, religious sentiment includes all feelings of human. If we analyze feeling of reverence, we can find that it contains most feelings of
human such as fear, respect, self-depreciation, love and desire. Compared that moral feeling corresponds to value of good, and artistic one corresponds to that of beauty, religious feeling corresponds to value of holiness.