The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook

By Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty | Go to book overview
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22
Sexuality and Religion

Vern L. Bullough

It has sometimes been said that human beings are incurably religious, an epigrammatic tribute to its wide dispersion. When attempts are made to define what is meant by the term religion, however, there is little agreement. The disagreement is an old one, as emphasized by the disputed etymology of the word itself, which is derived either from relegere, "to read again," or from religare, "to bind." Moreover, each successive broadening of human intellectual horizons through exploration and discovery has usually led to a redefinition of religion to include the new and to discard some of the old. For example, traditional Western ideas of religion usually included the necessity for the existence of a god or gods, but Western confrontation with Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism made it clear that theism as traditionally posited was by no means a universal tenet of religions. In the United States, some humanists define themselves as religious humanists, while others, attempting to escape the connotation of religion, adopt the term secular humanists. This division exists because of one current definition of religion: the attempt to hold the encompassing allegiance of a group or organization through which individuals define their identity. Secular humanists refuse to accept this definition; those who consider humanism a religion adopt it.

Indeed, many scholars insist that to be defined as a religion, some common elements must be present, including at least some of the following: rituals to perform, formulas to recite, tales to narrate, objects to manipulate, places to frequent or avoid, holy days to keep, natural phenomena by which to predict

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