A man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him
Like all words which relate to human experiences and accomplishments— art, education, philosophy, politics are typical examples—religion does not lend itself to any kind of simplistic definition. It can, of course, mean a particular system of belief or worship, such as Judaism, Buddhism or Shintoism, but if that were the whole story it would be a relatively simple matter to attain a picture of what religion ‘means’: one would merely have to describe how each religion operates, describe its beliefs and practices, perhaps compare and contrast one with another, and emerge with a reasonably comprehensive delineation of religions as we observe them. But this would be too facile a process: it gives, perhaps, an account which can be readily understood, but only because the field is kept too circumscribed. It may produce a meaning of religion, but only one of the many that would emerge if the field were extended and the terms of reference broadened out. To study formal religions as they present themselves may, in fact, not even draw out the most important meaning, or meanings, of the word because religion is not just a system, but a personal experience involving some kind of commitment. As C.G. Jung wrote:
So long as religion is only faith and outward form, and the religious function is not experienced in our own souls, nothing of any importance has happened.
(Psychology and Alchemy, 1953)
This begs the question, which will be discussed in Chapter 11, of the meaning of the ambiguous word ‘soul’, but Jung provides a clear signpost for this enquiry: religion is personal; it is within us, consciously or otherwise.
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Publication information: Book title: Religion without God. Contributors: Ray Billington - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 9.
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