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What IS religion?

There is, without a doubt, an intensifying debate between advocates of religion and those opposed. A good place to start in this debate is what we mean when we say "religion." A social scientist might construe religion as "a set of beliefs and practices that are grounded in a particular iteration of morality." I think this definition is insufficient. We need to explore and be clear on what religious people mean by religion, otherwise, no fruitful conversation will ever occur among the participants of one such debate!

To aggravate the issue, it is absolutely true that there are many who refer to themselves as "religious," but are unaware of the basic premises and arguments of religious philosophy - this doesn't add to the debate either.

Both sides of the question consider the matter of great importance. There is a call for an intelligent discussion between religion and common culture - and there's no better place to have it then TED!

Would anyone like to take a stab at defining religion?


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  • Oct 1 2012: The government defines religion as "a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons."

    I feel this is an accurate definition of religion, but it would also characterize Atheism as a religion as well, which I'm sure many Atheists would protest. As Atheism is a belief that there is no God or gods, it places that belief on the level of God and therefore qualifies as a religion under the governmental definition.
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      Oct 7 2012: My atheism is simply not believing in gods and goddesses.

      Its simply based on my general skepticism for all claims, particularly supernatural claims - ghosts, angels, physics, astrology, crystal healing, faeries, invisible beings etc. For me not believing in Zeus or Yahweh is the same importance as not believing in astrology or alchemy.

      It does not really sit in the place a god or goddess or multiple gods might sit if some were shown to be real.

      While there may be a case for tax free status for not for profit atheist groups, and maybe this is a way to indicate people are just as free not to have religion as they are to have any religion they want, for practical purposes simply not having theist type beliefs is not being a theist, its not part of a religion.

      My values, ethics, and detailed world view can be completely different from other atheists, which is somewhat different say from someone who is a member of the catholic church.

      Glad to have the respect and the freedom, but don't really feel I'm part of a religion.

      I like the words freedom of or from religion. We should all have this within limits of harming others.

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