i guess i'd define religion as a process or structure through which i can connect with something transcendent, with others, and with myself. the "transcendent" is kind of difficult to define, because it could mean anything from a work of art, to a philisophical idea, to a mountain.
i guess there has to be a general understanding of the "trascendent" within the overall process or structure, as well. even if that understanding is simply "we all understand the divine in our own way".
i'd have to diagree with your "controling the masses" argument. what masses? are a family group of San people in South Africa practicing their religion "controled masses"? if anything, i think religion is about freedom. the freedom to expand your sense of purpose to the transcendent, to surrender to something greater than one's self, and to form a relationship with that greater thing or being.
having a greater social framework within which to practice one's religion does not automatically mean brainwashing or didactic control.
controlling what masses you ask? Your thinking in the small family unit. I'm rederring to much more than that.
Religion is not about freedom at all. It's an ancient and evolving understanding of the philosophy regarding human existence and the universe. There is no freedom is religion, it's a heavily controlled environment. If you think outside the box of your chosen group or religion, you are punished with cruelity such as being condemned to hell, criticized for thinking such things, or ex-communicated. You are reprimanded for asking the hard questions. So I do disagree that religion is freedom. Yes, it does give us much to ponder on, which is good.
Rome is a great example of a military power under the guise of religion.
Religion is created and instituted by the ruling forces. By creating a religious system that creates it's own fear of the unknown, the government doesn't have to exude as much physical force to get the population under their control.
Without religion, what would motivate an individual to obey the rules of society? A large army and drain on the society to keep control. Let's take modern america as an example. America is slowing becoming a nation void of a universal religion. More and more americans are not practicing any form of religion. They have no fear a god or a hell. What is the result? More and more crime. What is the result of the high crime rate? More money for rehabilitation that doesn't work, high cost of more and more social programs, more police officers to guard and protect, building more prisons, not forgetting the all the staff that needs paid to do these jobs, the slow deterioration of morality, the increase of perversion, the list can go on and on.
Who pays for the high cost of crime, you and me. If America had a strong sense of spirituality and religious expression from a healthy fear of a god, we wouldn't be seeing the crime that we see today. It will escalate eventually until military force will be needed to protect americans from eachother because people no longer fear or believe in a god.
Thank you for your reply. My point was made,
Point 1.religion is political.
Point 2. Religion is a philosophy. Religion seeks an answer to the questions that man has asked from the beginning, "Where did we come from and why are we here?" Societies from their earliest known existence had created mythology around a pantheon of gods in order to understand human existence, the sun, moon and stars, the cycles of the seasons, birth and , rain and drought, etc. They sought answers through their own limits of understanding.
Modern religion is the evolution of thousands of years of syncretism between the tribes and nations of all the peoples who have lived and shared eachother's beliefs. It still seeks to answer the same question that has plagued man from the beginning as stated above.
Religious "philosophy" gives comfort, hope and peace to those who adhere to their faith.
Religion cannot be defined by absolutes because it's teachings cannot be proven. There are many creation stories, can any of these be proven? What happens after , no one knows for sure. It's all based on "faith". All religions claim to have the "truth" and reject the others as false. Because it has no absolutes and cannot be proven, it therefore can be defined as a philosophy. It's a state of mind, a belief and/or opinion.
BTW, I am not bashing religion, I am just working out the topic of this thread, "defining religion".
No problem, cosmo - it is a valid argument, but a potentially limited one. Worse, though - a possible distraction from the fundamentals of Faith itself, which is possibly rooted in principles deeper than politics. In my opinion.