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Religion, reality or an idea

This paper will try to define the nature of norms that religion conveys through investigating their creation, understanding the term creation not as making something out of nothing, but rather as “making something shapely out of shapelessness” (Gamow). Following this fashion, the creation process will be explained as being triggered by various factors, such as social needs, need for effectiveness of integration and implementation of the same. Their assessment will take place as through examining the concepts of ideology of religion and human nature as the main factors in the integration of the creation process. These factors along with the concept of religion being an idea, will try to explain the main goals of religion, and the goals will be defined not only through their accomplishment, but also through their interpretation. Since the aims of religion are defined in an abstract way, the paper will try to argue that this is done in order to manipulate, for greater good originally, the impact of religion is relative, since the interpretation differs, lacking a concrete definition. The paper will not find arguments in occurrences, and the number of those is enormous, but rather in concepts they will convey. It will take the view, that we and we alone, are makers of universes (not universe) in which we live, and offer a message: that religion is immensely more profound, and the mind immensely more potent than we commonly imagine. The greater public’s interpretation and investigation of the nature of religion and its intent is found in the contemporary that instantly determines

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the way of how the additional data will be collected, thus limiting the overall assessment to only one type of information. The author sees no better way to assess the nature of religion than to investigate its creation by the need for the creation, and the definition of necessity resides in human nature. Defining these needs as social is one conventional way for investigation, but the author finds this way more as convenient rather than credible, or effective if you please, since it disregards the human nature, and relies on the validity that the society observed is the precursor of religion. In searching for, as fundamental as possible, the author found human nature as equally elementary as humans themselves. No person can be human being, or live as societal being, without having the main ideas about the concerning world. These ideas, or sometimes defined as cosmic formulations, formulate the universe in which one lives. The universes we create, no matter that there exist defined laws, constant and equal to everyone, determine the way and meaning of our life. Each of those represents a scheme that organizes human thoughts and shapes human behavior, and each has the basic answers to all questions, or at least means to searching for them. If observed as a product of complete self-reliance, which includes the absence of everything that is external, as Emerson argues in his work “Self-reliance”, that they would hold the ultimate truth, since they would represent the soul of human nature. Author disagrees claiming that none of those universes can be the Universe. For, self-reliance does hold the ultimate truth, but only about the individual, and to individual only, which makes it only an aspect of human nature, not the actual human nature.

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Knowing that humans are societal beings by their nature, thus part of the interdependent and organized groups, there is a need defined, and that is to make singular-common, not by summing the singular into the common, but by unifying the singular under the common. Exactly those laws, constant and equal to everyone, are the reason we still formulate our universes closer to the common (idea of universe). They are the groundwork of society. Each of the universes we create, even though that they are at one time self-consistent scheme of thought, at another they are superseded, sometimes by a grander scheme. Religion establishes itself not in accord to those laws, but rather establishes the laws in accord to itself. That is where the consistency of religion resides. And again, to the individual, who believes in religion, thus creates the religion as its universe, is the source of ultimate truth, it is universal. But to individuals (that believe) only, not to everyone. Using induction we can conclude that religion is not the ultimate truth, law, but rather, an idea. The author is aware that his statement that holds religion as an idea is the universe he creates, so the concept of religion being an idea will be inducted in a more conventional way, and that is using the existent definitions (and interpretations). The most common and contemporary definition(s) and interpretations of religion will be scrutinized, and their outcome brought up to defining the concept of religion as an idea, furthermore defining the nature of religion within the boundaries of this concept. There are many definitions of religion, varying from sharp and narrow definitions, such as interpreting and defining the religion as through one’s

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[religious] beliefs or societal norms (or through the universe one creates), to meaningless generalities that overlap with and delimit religion from areas of study that should not be out of its concern, but more of other human creations sometimes referred as science(s). Such are cosmology, economy, law etc. The absence of the exact definition of religion is not peculiar, and it has been observed that the “effort to define religion is as old as the academic study of religion itself” (Arnal). Some define religion as a system of thought, that is considered to be the source of ultimate truth, divine, sacred that includes practices ,rituals, code of ethics, and a worldview that are associated with such system of thought. Others try to use emotive definition, stating that emotions constitute one’s relationship with divinity or deity. Paul Conelly defines religion as “sacred” and “spiritual”, where sacred means “mysterious manifestation of power and presence that is experienced as both primordial and transformative, inspiring awe and rapt attention” and spiritual “a perception of the commonality in the world that shifts between self and other, producing a sense of the union, and providing a mediation, between self and other” (Conelly). Sometimes it is used interchangeably with “faith” or belief system (where belief system is broader term), but overall religion is more socially defined rather than as personal conviction. The interpretation(s) of religion may fundamentally represent personal convictions, but are social, and connected with the origins and/or development of religion. There are number of models constructed, but broadly speaking the may be brought up to categories of models that see religion as social construction; categories of models that see religion as progressing

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towards higher, objective truth and the categories of models that see (particular) religion as absolutely true. The first group of the models holds that religion is a social construction rather than supernatural phenomena, and some view religion as having and having had very positive effect on society and humans, while the others see it as negative. Sociology of religion is a very important model that falls into this category, mainly influenced by Durkheim’s work. It is primarily the study of roles of religion in society, and its effect on the society and the effect that society has on religion. In other words, it examines how religion represents the individual, and how individuals create religion as a sense of moral obligation to adhere to society’s needs. At the same time, religion is not only a social construction, but also “society divinized” (Durkheim). Religion being a social construction is a concept that falls under the concept of society; and any of the practices that celebrate religion, actually celebrate the society. Other models that fall into this category include interpreting the religion as a tool for control (haves vs. have-not model), some perceive norms that religion conveys as untrue, but still useful for survival. Those norms develop over time, or die out depending on their effectiveness. The second category that sees religion as progressively true holds that religions reflect the divine truth, thus “forcing” the religion to constantly progress, since that is the nature of divine. Religion is thus, the development of all religions regardless their social or historical difference, since they are referring to the same God. Bahá'í model of prophetic revelation falls into this

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category claiming that prophets “have taught and promulgated the knowledge of God, established praiseworthy ethical ideals and inculcated the highest standards of virtues in the human world” (Bahá'í World Faith). In other words, prophets were thought heavenly principles by God that will help the humankind. Those principles can be defined as norms that religion conveys, and they differentiate because of the cultural, societal, and any other context under which the particular prophet and his society were living. Exactly because of this varied cultural and societal settings it is sometimes found that religious truth is relative, but this model argues that essential truth is absolutely true, if observed not as universal but as progressive. The need to observe the truth as progressive is found in variety of human interpretation and imitation of the same, especially after the death of prophets, who then were unable to lead the human kind. The imitation here is perceived as inflicted, even by heritage (birth), were “a man is a Jew because his father was a Jew” (Bahá'í World Faith). The third category of models sees religion as absolutely true. The models are usually associated with the monotheistic religions, which hold that God establishes “contract” with humanity through his commandments, or holy books. This contract is to ensure that humanity is guided through both hard and good times, and is to ensure the definition of all norms that humans must have and must abide by. Other models hold that one particular religion holds the ultimate truth, and that all other are false. Other religions are perceived as obstacles, distortions, fabrications of human imagination and/or self-interest.

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They represent a challenge to the ultimate truth, and sometimes the hatred is entrenched by defining the “other” as decayed. From the above mentioned models of interpretation of religion, and non-existence of consensus on what may be the unambiguous definition of religion, it is inexorable to admit its relativity, since they reflect personal convictions that are part of societal. In being such, religion can be more clearly defined as an idea, as mentioned before, encompassing the above mentioned models, as well as any other. To round-up the definition of religion as an idea, the definition of definition will be delineated, or in other words the concept “idea” will be explained. “An idea is an image existing or formed in the mind. The human capacity to contemplate ideas is associated with the capacity for reason, selfreflection, and the ability to acquire and apply intellect” (Wikipedia). The term is common to all languages, and periods, aligning itself on both axis, of time and space, but it has been interpreted with an immense variety. Induction leads the author to yet again conclude that religion is of same nature, and to at least recognize the relationship between the concept of an idea, and the concept of religion being an idea. The author finds that all previous illustrations and arguments altogether are valid enough to finally make a statement that religion is an idea. Now, once religion is stated as an idea, all previous arguments that were used for induction methodology, become deductions. Effects are causes, and the causes are effects. Various interpretations are the source of great flexibility, and the flexibility is the source for manipulation. Ideology of

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religion hints that the very nature of religion is manipulation. In the premonotheistic setting (or pre-historic age) promiscuity, murders and overall chaos defined the boundaries of social needs, and its implementation required efficiency in both conveying, integrating and spreading the new societal setting. Goal justifies the means, and the goal was clear; it included disregarding the old, and accepting the new societal setting. Not only that the process of defining a new setting, or in other words creating, is very hard, since its components are hard to synchronize and synthesize, but also the power of that new setting has to be bigger than that of is predecessor. For, to disregard the old, and accept the new, one must give up from the part of oneself, and re-create it in a new form. The demand for efficiency determined the mean, and the mean included strong appealing to every individual or to majority at least. And once it becomes the personal conviction, it will be defined as societal. Religion found means to achieving its goal in the most fundamental aspect of humans, and that is their nature. The societal setting, best characterized as anarchical, in its existence defined the key concepts of human nature, and in this case, that is the inclination of humans for conflict. The conflict found its emergence in fear for one’s life, and the societal setting generated fear. The concept of fear defined the limitations it poses on humans, since when individuals live in constant fear there can be no development, no culture, no society, there is only fear, and the attempts to silence it. The societal setting defined the need, the need demanded great efficiency, efficiency determined the mean, the means resided in human

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nature, and the key concepts of human nature (key concepts for the implementation and integration process) were identified by the all previous. Again the induction is deduction and vice versa. Fear and its counter-part hope were identified as great motivators. After creating the set of values and norms, religion used fear as a warrant for its implementation and continuation by not only defining the norm as universal and sacred, but by also stating that its disobedience will condemn one to the eternal tortures and pain. Even though the fear factor was to ensure the continuation in existence of religion, it could undermine it, since the fear itself, leads to demise, as stated previously. So the religion counter-parted the state of constant fear with its counter-part, hope, which was defined as the power of all knowing, all good God, as the ultimate source of justice. The hope-factor intermingles with the reward-concept, and that is if one follows the doctrines (or simply, if one believes) that religion conveys, one would transcend (after the ending of one’s life) to a utopian setting, where every aspect of human need is satisfied. As much as hope is counter-part to fear, that much heaven is counter-part to hell. The nature of religion determines the spheres of realities religion will penetrate into. Originally the penetration was manipulative for the good cause. But the variety of interpretations, thus definitions, which resides in religion being an idea, enables one to project an interpretation built in accordance with personal (or any other) interest. Even religion cannot overcome its nature, and its nature will define its aims and outcomes that may be internal, or passive, and external, or dynamic.

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Finding arguments to this statement is an easy job – looking back into any society, and any period including nowadays, we can see the positive and negative manipulation of religion. Instead of taking a stance, and choosing one point of view (or both) as the main argument, this paper tried to explain the emergence of (both) manipulation, through assessing the nature of religion. And the reoccurrence of manipulation by religion for any given period and for any society (after the religion was established) clearly indicated that the nature of religion and the religion itself did not change over time, but only the society. The change of society meant the change of social needs, framing the logical change of ideology of religion that did not take place, not because religion was a set of universal values, or defined itself as a set of universal values, but because those values were founded on something universal, and that is human nature. Consistency of human nature enabled the consistency of ideology of religion and framed the “universal” concept of religion. This further gave stability to religion as an institution to the extent where undoing the religion is as possible as undoing the human nature.

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Arnal, William. Definition, in Guide to the Study of Religion 22. Willi Braun & Russell T. McCutcheon, 2000. Conelly, Paul. Definition of Religion and Related Terms. 1996. 14 December 2006 <>. Durkheim, Emile. Coser 136-139. 1977. Faith, Bahá'í World. Religion Is Progressive. 10 December 2006 <>. Gamow, George. The Creation of the Universe 7. Revised Edition. New York: The Viking Press, 1961. Wikipedia. Idea. December 2006. 5 December 2006 <>.