It occurs to me that in order to have a conversation about religion and faith we first have to consolidate what we are talking about. Because there are some many experts on the subject the definitions that are out there are plentiful and on the whole not particularly useful. The definitions from Dictionary.com seem to be some of the most complete and prolific, they are included below so that we can talk about them in more depth.
religion –noun 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion. 3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions. 4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion. 5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith. 6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice. 7. religions, Archaic. religious rites. 8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow. —Idiom 9. get religion, Informal. a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices. b. to resolve to mend one's errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
Taken from Dictionary.com link: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion Date: Jan 05, 2010 The first of the definitions can be both the best description and the most controling of the definitions that are included here. The problem in defining religion is that the spectrum of faith is far too broad. There are many groups that would include themselves on the spiritual side that strongly reject the connection to a 'superhuman agency', instead worship the natural elements themselves. In this way the forces of nature are personified only in as much as they help the people to comprehend them. As the planet itself is not a human being it can be said that it is very much alive, which may make it all the better for personification. We as humans have a very hard time feeling a connection to something that is incapable of sharing our connection to ourselves. This is why we love dogs so much, they are just human enough to be personified. This idea of a supernatural being that watches over things may be just as hard for someone who is practicing in the realm of psychidelics. For that matter what about the humanist whom holds the golden ideals above all other principals? I would venture to say that all of these individuals are members of religions but are failing to be covered by the initial statement. The next section is marking the ritual observances, in many cases this is one of the greatest cases for the marking of religion. We all have holidays, because at the deepest part of our understanding we all just want another day to celebrate something. It's also nice to have a day off once and a while. But this also offers us a chance to reflect as a group about the nature and future of the congregation, But this type of activity is not exclusive to religion and can be found in many civic organizations. In the end when I make a mention of religion the definition that I will use solely because it is mine and I think that it helps me to come to a better understanding: Religion is man's best attempt to extract and nurture all of the best qualities, while attempting to discourage it's worst practices, involving the devotional observances to something outside of oneself, in an attempt to better understand and cope with our existance. In this way every Christian, Pagan, Bhuddist, and Humanist share the common bond. There is something out there that controls our though and guides us. It is also because of this that I believe that there is no such thing as an atheist. Before you start, I've heard the same thing over and over again: 'I'm an atheist because I don't believe that there is some cloud man that is sitting over me making me do things and silently judging me.' The reason that I say that there is no such thing as an atheist is because it is in our nature as human beings to believe in something. To some of the Atheists it's the compassion of the human spirit. To some it's the belief in the power of science to uncover the mysteries of the world, this is still a belief. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject, please use the comment section below to help me flesh out this conversation more. Note use of definition number 9 in my presance will more than likely generate a conversation that everyone will regret.