Exploring religion.


What is religion? There are many different definitions of religion (EGs: Religion [W] or Religion [dictionary.com/...]). Let me try a few cheesey tricks to start defining religion. One easy trick would be to use free association to come up with a list religious keywords and their complement.

faith : reason
spiritual : psychological
supernatural : natural
superstition : real
intuition : experience
magical thinking : scientific method
mysticism : fact
sacret texts : experimentation
ritual : protocol
ceremony : civil action
dogma : chaos/freedom
myth : nonsense
moral : immoral
mortality : immortality
immortality : mortality
after life : death
community : individual
individual : community
creation : evolution
cosmology : the present
holy days : holidays
love : hate
God : Devil or nothing

Obviously it's an imperfect list for several reasons. Dualism isn't everything; People may come up with other opposites; Some things go on both sides; And so on. The list is merely an exercise to think about the topic.

With religion, there is not merely an epistemological issue of your knowledge of the nature of man and the universe, but a component that tells you and your community how to behave. However since the behavioural component is built upon the epistemological one, then it may be said that the epistemological encompasses the behavioural component. The epistemological component is the key.

Non-religious epistemology relies on the following:

  1. Empirical evidence. Measurement, observation, and experimentation. Rigorously and openly applied, this is the scientific method.
  2. Logic and reasoning and math.
  3. Intuition. Feelings and emotions. Inference without knowing how. This not only covers warm and fuzzy feelings but all satori, moments of insight and genius too. This might even be described as spiritual.
  4. Citation. This is relying on the words, experiences, etc. of others. This includes heresay, doxa (Greek "common beliefs; popular opinion"), or emdoxa (Greek "sagely beliefs; elder opinion"), literature, mythology, other relgions.

Note the trump order: Citation should be validated by intuition, logic, and evidence. Intuition should be validated by logic and evidence. Logic shoud be validated by evidence.

Note also that non-religious epistemology is essentially "common sense"! Especially when the evidence and logic meshes with your inuition. Science is especially powerful when it gains knowledge that is counter-intuitive.

Religious epistemology relies on non-religious epistemology as well, but common sense can trumped by the mystical or supernatural. In particular, religions tend to inver the order so that mystical citations trump the rest:

  1. Mystical citations. Holy scriptures and such.
  2. Mystical intuitions. Visitations by angels and such.
  3. Logic. Logic twists in order to satisfy the mystical.
  4. Evidence. Evidence may be rejected if it doesn't support the mystical.

Religions have used all manner of strong psychological, cultural, aethetic, social, and poltical devices to make their "supernatural" as real as the natural. Religious practices often include the following:

A religion's "supernatural" aspects are clearly superstititious to those outside of the religion, but to those within the religion, their supernatural aspects are real. I personally do not believe in the supernatural, whether God or gods or demon or ghosts. However given the strong pressures that religions and their communities apply, I can empathise with those who believe. Humans are prone to religion and we love fiction. Voltair said "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him".

Here are is personal view on religion in brief:

Distinguishing Religions

Religions are distinguished by several approaches including the following:


Links that lead to off-site pages about Religion, Mysticism, and Naturalism.



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