The Quest for a Universal Definition of Religion: Solved

One of the main problems in discussing religion is that while each religion wants to define itself, I’ve yet to come across a complete universal definition that encompassed all religions from Hinduism to Scientology; from new formed religious belief systems to an ancient orthodox traditions and herein is the problem.  There is no one defined exchange in discussing this term apart from its context. Of course, as a secular humanist, I also have a context, but my quest was for a short intelligent definition which could be used as a basis for all future discussions, which usually have a nature of being both defensive and apologetic (religion’s basic true nature of survival).

I realized that I would encounter the typical cynical person who offers a catharsis such as:  “I could have saved you the trouble of this post. Religion is false bullshit!”  However, this definition is little more than an emotional knee-jerk reaction which offers no insight other than to use offensive redundant terms, much like calling someone a stupid idiot.)   

 Yet ironically this definition, apart from the context of the specific person making it, is as meaningless as it is crude. For example, is this from an atheist out to label all religions as “false bullshit”, or is it from a Fundamental Baptist defining what all Mormons or Scientologists or Roman Catholics believe as “false bullshit” or vice-versa?  After all, to religious orthodoxy, heresy is simply “false bullshit”.  So an emphatic statement made by an angry atheist can also be used by one religion to negatively define another religion or to put it another way, the angry atheist has unknowingly become an apologist for religion while the Fundamental Baptist has become an apologist for atheism or mathematically expressed, (-x + -x = +x) since this definition is negatively driven by the words false and bullshit in order to validate a perceived ideological truth.

On the other hand, a definition such as Religion is ultimate concern., is generically far too vague making both Love and even Hate working terms in place of “Religion” in this definition.  Of course, we might rephrase this definition as Religion is ultimate emotion.  This will explain why people of faith have intense reactions linked with their belief systems and why atheists also are also emotionally drawn in, yet 180 degrees out via hate.

So how did I get around this?  How did I formulate a high impact definition using as few words as possible while still making my definition very mentally dynamic, yet simplistically static?  

Religion is an illusion created to help people avoid reality.  

(Notice, this is not an attack on religion, but a general observation which I feel I can be defended against attacks from both the right (the religious) and from the left (atheists, though Biblically, I’m one myself).)

Other than the atheist who offers a sarcastic definition to cause a sudden shock effect on the believer (as discussed above), I expect my definition will be negatively evaluated by the professional (paid religious mercenaries) who have a full-time vested interest in discrediting anything viewed as a career threat. 

On the other hand, the average believer who may or may not be a church member (having no full-time monetary vested interest in religion) is usually not educated enough to join in a constructive conversation. For the religious layperson, like the child who fears a goblin under his bed or the ghost in his closet, without due-diligence of thought, religion continues to be their mental default setting.  From their contexts, they look to their religious professionals; their pastors, the rich televangelists and their denomination’s seminary professionals (a good pun on professors) that tend know what to teach and what to stay the hell away from that could feed doubt and lead to disbelief.  Sadly for most lay people, religion has more in common with sociology than theology. In this context both the religious professional and the emotional driven layperson find themselves in as symbiotic relationship in that the lay person pays for his or her ignorance which is often being exploited by the former.

Then too, denominational professors couldn’t be honest (truthfull is a term religion that has been totally corrupted and hijacked for religion's own use) even if they wanted to due to the fear of losing their jobs (a full-time monetary vested interests).  Moreover, it’s foolish to think that the well educated religious professor has intellectually out grow his or her own religious default setting, but finds it prudent to stay within their comfort zones lest they be stigmatized a liberal or one step up from a heathen.

Finally, my definition welcomes challenges from the paid full professionals (be they denominational leaders, professional debaters (the WL Craig types) and others in order to move the debate from the often winnable abstract context to the present reality or how is one's personal life  as a believer,  any different from mine as a non-believer?  That is, what major secular protections have they given up based on their assurance from the divine or what major personal actions do they offer as proof other than a creedal faith and piety that proves in the here and now that some divine protection has made my definition of a religious illusion false by providing examples where their church / denomination has dealt with reality totally different form myself or others as secular non-theists (such as dropping insurance on buildings and personal health) that would make a believer deal with reality different from us non-theists?

 Fact is, if a list were made where column “A” represents the trust in the divine (God) of the believer (be they religious professionals or lay persons) and column “B” represents the secular trusts in humanity of the non-theists, how are believers able to offer any reality as a daily proof that religion is a valid and real exception?  

Fact is, while professional debaters love to defend a belief (what I term an illusion), his or her daily lived reality offers no more faith or trust in the religious divine system they are defending than does the secular non- religious person.  (Yes, I expect believers (who I see living in denial) to deal with this challenge kicking and screaming, but facts  prove, as my daughter who lives with kidney failure daily reminds me:  “Reality is what it is and religion can’t change it.” 

In conclusion, my definition offers a short one sentence composed of two basic parts (illusion and reality) that is easy to remember, yet offers an all inclusive concept of the world’s religions which make comples systems easy to characterize.  Though objections could be raise whether some systems could be defined better as a philosophy than a religion, such has Buddhism, but without proof of solid divine actions in the religious believer’s daily life, I find no prime examples where faith exceeds non-faith in practicality, but I do find a dependence where religious illusion is itself being kept on life support by philosophy in an attempt to make religion logical or better put, by making the illusion of God (and the religious system as a whole) theo  - logical

 I rest my case and definition.