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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 9 2012: In all the 3 examples I have sited, the methods are different and independent of each other, however the conclusions are the same. Doesn't science follow the same principles of rigor? Testing the same proposition by different methods and logic to check if the same conclusions could be derived? And the results are also demonstrable.

    The problem with religion is that there are too many stakeholders for any particular point of view and each think of themselves as the best. Giving way or even tolerating a different point of view is dangerous for their own survival and that is why we have such stubbornness from so called religious people.

    If only we can accept "all roads lead to Rome" then we would not have so many issues and people would be much more open minded about all the options available for enquiry, be it be termed religion or anything else.
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      Oct 10 2012: Your second and third paragraph brings to mind religion's warning on the power of deception. The problem that I see is that people are not capable of realizing that religion has the power to deceive as well as the power to lead to greater things. That is why religion became institutionalized, and why such institutions must be regarded with scrutiny.

      I like your viewpoints. I have had spiritual experiences, and they differ considerably from what religion teaches. In my opinion, religion was a way to think deeper, and what it has become is in total conflict to how it began.

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