Philosophy of Religion
In the light of Jeffrey Brodd’s eye-opening study Invitation to World Religions (2012) the question of the content and premise of religion comes up for discussion. At the very outset the author explores how religion sprang from myth in many cultures of the world, and in Chapters 2 and 3he speaks of the native American and African religions in particular. Then he goes on to discuss the sway of religion in postmodern society under the impact of globalization and multiculturism (Brodd xiii). The very perusal of the table of contents would point to religion being a characteristic of human society that does not necessarily need the prop of antiquity to be on its own. This would lead to a summation of the very notion of religion.
Lexical Definition of Religion
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, rituals and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief or an activity that is very important to a person or group” (www.merriam-webster.com ). Thus two suppositions emerge without any refutation—that, religion is social and it is embedded in culture. Culture generates a set of totems and taboos that take cover in religion. Thus it is possible to understand the tribal origins of most religions. The American playwright Eugene O’Neill captures the religious conflict of his runaway character Brutus Jones who is torn between the tribal African religion symbolised by the witch-doctor and the crocodile in Congo river, and the Christian faith he subscribed to in America in the play Emperor Jones (1920). Also, the example of the Black Revivalist Church proves the coming of many tailor-made religious sects for those faced with a cultural and identity crisis in diasporic situations.
Religion Against the Needs of Time
What exactly then is the need for religion that religions are crafted out of residual racial memories and the prevalent faith in nations of domicile? From the days of prehistoric man even the cave-dweller unconsciously related to a power outside him visible mostly in Nature, a power that, to his simple and untutored imagination, brought on thunder and lightning and storms and floods. He feared this power which he tried to appease as he would his fellowman with whom he had to negotiate to prevent episodes of wrath. This slowly included the group of fellowmen and they then constituted a tribe with a chieftain. This is a conjecture about the rise of religion. But in modern times one should mark the difference between theistic religions and ideological religions, as both are equally strong in professions of faith. By the same token, the political cults of the twentieth century like Nazism, Communism (with the brands of Maoism and Stalinism) and even existentialism are religions per se. When the word “religion” is used today with its modern connotations it largely refers to an impassioned belief or dogma of whatever kind, whether it has a basis in myth or history or not. Atheism is thus even more a religion than professed religion.
Religion, in its pristine sense, is the craving for union with the supernatural through refined deeds on earth, such as charity, kindness, non-violence, and so on. On the whole it is very often a need for cosmic survival than an end in itself. But over the ages it has been a great cause of internecine strife. The Saracenic wars in Europe in the Middle Ages amply illustrate this. It is often when people take to defend their faith to save the pantheon that the worst contradictions in philosophy occur. Religion which was instituted to teach forbearance becomes a cause for untrammelled waywardness and wilfulness. The most recent incidents all over the world of Islamic terrorism are a case in point. Writers and thinkers bear the brunt of the antagonism of misguided clergymen who issue fatwa at short notice. Again, the Semitic nations are embroiled due to conflicting interests which had their genesis in faith. Religion is a philosophy of peaceful co-existence. If that premise is ignored it defeats its own purpose.
Brodd, Jeffrey. Invitation to World Religions. London: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Definition of religion taken from https://www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 20 Jan, 2016. Web.