How I Define Religion

What is religion? Religion has so many varied shades, so many varied colors, and so many varied hues to so many people of all nations and backgrounds. From every era, every single sliver of time, each man, woman, and child has an opinion on religion, whether actively or passively. War. Peace. Hate. Love. Religion has created these things. From all these definitions, these concepts, these ideas, what can we collectively label as religion?

Religion is a reflection of the culture. I learned this during my summer in Cultural Anthropology. For example, all intensive agriculture societies will have very similar religious ideologies, especially in comparison to other society types, like the hunter-gatherer tribes. My cultural anthropology professor also described religion as anything supernatural. So religion could be the belief that external forces can act upon a person.

To me, religion is the ultimate expression of oneself, for it is the most personal thing. Your soul, your very concept of self, your life, your death, these are the most intimate things, perhaps the most important. These are only a few of the many universal concepts that each person wrangles with. To conceptualize, each person is a uniquely cut gem, and each unique religious concept is a distinct hue. So that each person’s religious ‘treasure’ is something that sparkles only the way they envision it.

Religion is art, for it should speak to you and make you feel something. It could be awe, terror, confusion, or even mystery. Awe in the face of all creation, terror of the afterlife, confusion about the truth in all things, and the mysteries of life still concealed. Religion inspires art, passion, and music. The myriad scintillating colors in the windows of a church, the inspired invigorating speeches at the pulpit, and the whimsically thoughtful liturgies and hymns, all of these things encapsulate religious thought and process.

In the almost three-dozen years I have lived, I have seen more than I will ever say. I have seen debauchery of the worst kind, those taboos that should never be broken or torn asunder. I have seen that American dispassion in the face of crisis. I have seen loss and pain. These moments, these slivers, these blinks of an eye of my life are the darkest moments in my soul. To feel utterly alone, to feel utterly bereft, to feel utterly ashamed, I have felt these things. Yet in those darkest moments I have found the brightest sparks. I have found the kind, the compassionate, and the self-sacrificing. I have seen love of the greatest kind, those holy vows that will never break for they are built with love. I have seen that American passion to combat a crisis. I have found hope and resolution. These moments, these slivers, these blinks of an eye of my life are the brightest moments in my soul. To feel utterly loved, to feel utterly accepted, to be me, I have felt these things. In this brightest moments, I found religion in the faith of people, in that resolute stalwart belief that your parents will love you, that your children will carry your tradition, that your life partner will always be there. Victor Hugo said it best in Les Misérables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”