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What is Religion?. Exercises. Say: I am only a warner, and there is no god but Allah, the One, the Subduer (of all). (Qu'ran 38.65)

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Say: I am only a warner, and there is no god but Allah, the One, the Subduer (of all). (Qu'ran 38.65)

Muslims repeat this utterance several times a day to confirm their belief in Allah, the one and only God (1). The declaration proclaims Allah as the one personal God therefore excluding any other religious belief that does not affirm God, the Holy One (2).


2. I believe that there are sufficient affinities between religious and secular worldviews (such as applied Marxism and nationalism) to include the secular... Because religion is separated from secular worldviews, for instance, it is assumed that East Germany was a secular state; in fact Marxism functioned in that country much as state religion, as Lutheranism once had. If you did not adhere to the state religion you were denied opportunities in education and employment. So my enterprise here, though largely concerned with religion, can also be categorized as a version of worldview analysis...when I use 'worldview' I mean incarnated worldview, where the values and beliefs are embedded in practice. That is, they are expressed in action, laws, symbols, organizations. (Ninian Smart, Dimensions of the Sacred 2-3)

Defining religion as worldview provides a wide-ranging working hypothesis, therefore avoiding the limitations of definitions that for example focus on the one and only God. Another important aspect is that conceptual aspects as well as experiential and social aspects of religion are taken into consideration in Smart's definition (1). Yet if we apply this definition, the question arises whether distinctions exist between the focus on religion and whatever might be called profane (2).


3. The totem is before all a symbol, a material expression of something else. But of what?...It is evident that it expresses and symbolizes two different sorts of things. In the first place, it is the outward and visible form of what we have called the totemic principle or god. But it is also the symbol of determined society called the clan. It is flag; it is the sign by which each clan distinguishes itself from the others, the visible mark of its personality, a mark borne by everything which is part of the clan under any title whatsoever, men, beasts or things...The god of the clan, the totemic principle, can therefore be nothing else than the clan itself, personified and represented to the imagination under the visible form of the animal or vegetable which serves as totem. (Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. J. W. Swain, 206)

Durkheim's definition focuses on the social function of religion therefore providing insights regarding objective consequences resulting from religious concepts. Thus, religious belief is understood as phenomenon arising out of experiencing society and community (1). However, if religion is essentially understood according to its social functions, such a definition relegates religion to sociological mechanisms, therefore, using a reductive paradigm to characterize religion(2).


4. While the different religions wrangle with one another as to which of them is in possession of the truth, in our view the truth of religion may be altogether disregarded. Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But it cannot achieve its end. Its doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race. Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is not a nursery. The ethical commands, to which religion seeks to lend its weight, require some other foundation instead, for human society cannot do without them, and it is dangerous to link up obedience to them with religious belief. If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilised individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity. (Sigmund Freud, "A Philosophy of Life" in: New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, by Sigmund Freud trans. W. J. H. Sprott )

Sigmund Freud argues from a psychoanalytical perspective. According to Freud, the origin of religious belief in God is situated in the first experiences of a child in relation to his/her parents. The child projects his/her experiences of the father as the creator of life as well as the one who protects and punishes unto "God the Father" (1). Religion thus is reduced to an illusion, a fantasy in which childhood experiences are revived (2).


5. ...one who has attained to the ultimate truth sees that there's no such thing as "religion." There is only a certain nature, which can be called whatever we like. We can call it "Dhamma," we can call it "Truth," we can call it "God," "Tao," or whatever, but we shouldn't particularize that Dhamma or that Truth as Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, or Islam, for we can neither capture nor confine it with labels and concepts. Still, such divisions occur because people haven't yet realized this nameless truth for themselves. (Buddhadasa Bhikku trans. Bhikku Punno; Speech given on 01/27/1964 at Suan Usom Foundation, Bangkok)

The Thai monk Buddhadasa argues that religious experience opens a deeper level of understanding than any language attempt can encompass, a dimension in which the common differentiation between religions disappears. Various religious traditions and expressions are vehicles to realize ultimate reality. Thus, there is no religion at the level of conscious realization (1). However, since this mystic level of understanding is beyond language, even beyond religion, it is also beyond the category of definition (3).

  • Posture
  • Breath
  • Thoughts
  • Awareness
  • koans

puja (poo-jah; first syllable rhymes with "zoo")Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.

kalachakra sand mandala
Kalachakra Sand Mandala

Over a period of twelve days, Buddhist monks guided by a ritual master or Vajra Master, perform a Kalachakra initiation. Central to this ceremony is the creation of a multicolored sand mandala, meant to aid the monks and students to purify their consciousness in the meditative process of visualizing aspects of the Absolute. The mandala itself is not the Absolute, rather a vehicle to discover and realize aspects of clear, radiant divinity. After eight days, the period of actual creation of the sand mandala, the blindfolded students are for the first time allowed to enter the perfect palace under the guidance of the Vajra Master. The ceremony ends in the dismantling of the mandala. The sand is then transported to a body of water, a reminder that what generally is called “reality” is without essence. Visualization in the sand mandala is an incentive to work towards the purification of consciousness.


“Brain, Mind and God”