Defining Religion Essay

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Defining Religion

The most fundamental question when examining a religion is "what is religion?" That is a distinctly hard question to answer considering that what is ordinarily considered to be religion is not all it is, and what many consider not to be religion may be near religious (i.e. sports).

The truth is that there are no genuine answers to the question of "what is religion". Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many of the belief systems which most people will agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, leading one to conclude that just about any and everything is actually a religion. Thus defining
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This assumption often tends to confirm for the student the value of being religious.

There are basically two approaches students tend to adopt when studying religion. The first is a dogmatic approach, which assumes that the truth about God is "out there" to be grasped by us human beings. The second approach is that of the sceptic, who assumes there is no way we can grasp any knowledge of God.

Interestingly, dogmatists and sceptics seem to share a common assumption because they both believe that what we find as a result of studying God or religion will be something objective, something quite distinct from the investigator's own heart and mind. They differ only in how they view the "object" towards which the religious search is directed. Dogmatists believe this object must lie at least partly within the grasp of human knowledge, whereas sceptics believe it does not.

But how should a religion be examined? There is no recipe in doing this, but there are certain rules which can be followed.

(1) First, the study of religion requires comparison and contrast. That means when we study religion, we have always to ask ourselves what we are doing and why we are doing it. The study of religion always involves

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