Pursuing A "Higher Power"
Many people have perplexing questions about a “higher power” and its complicity in the events and circumstances that are observed in the world around us. From the beginning of time, humans have understood that there is something bigger than them at work in the universe. Many approaches have been employed by humans to seek and understand that “higher power” and get answers to those questions. Virtually all of these methods fall under the description of religion.
Let’s examine some definitions that include some historical etymology or origins of the word religion from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Dictionary.com.
The origin of the word religion is from the Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio is supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back.
A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices, something one believes in and follows devotedly.
Every religion has its own definition and description of its related deity or god. Some religions deny the existence of any god and are, therefore, called a-theistic. However, the world in which we live has many gods. A religion that serves a single god is called mono-theistic. Religions that have many gods are called poly-theistic. Definitions of religion abound that many consider too broad, too narrow, too tolerant, too intolerant, too inclusive, or not inclusive enough. Some include the studies of science, such as cosmology or ecology as religions. Suffice it to say, there is absolutely no universal agreement as to what the term religion actually refers to, much less the deity that may be associated with it. Regardless of these side issues, religion is at the core of many people’s values and belief system. Therefore, further exploration is necessary for a more complete understanding of the influence of religion upon us.
A religion may initially be based on the teachings or philosophies of an individual. Doctrines are generally based on the teachings or the personality of that individual or figurehead. In general, the primary focus of a religion its deity or god. This god is the central figure of the religion that the followers serve. Service and worship of that central figure or figures are generally required. Each religion has a common theme and a shared system of beliefs to which the followers subscribe. This means that they employ a set of codes, doctrines or standards with rules of conduct and regulations of various sorts. Original core beliefs may be supplemented by traditions that are created by the leaders of the religion or possibly groups of men or women who are in leadership or other positions of influence.
Sometimes, religions are simply born out of philosophy or a school of human thought, while others may adopt personal preferences or even prejudice. Other religions may develop from traditions that have been handed down through generations. These traditions may subsequently become additional doctrines within an established religion and may alter its initial course.
However, one of the definitions of religion suggests that it is, “Something one believes in and follows devotedly.” Therefore, the pursuit of meaning or the focus of purpose and devotion of an individual’s life can also be considered a religion. Anything dominating an individual’s time, energy, attention, and money has the potential to become his or her religion or even a god in his or her life, including a job, career, philosophy or even a sports activity (players, spectators, or fans, as the word fan is short for fanatic). Any obsessive activities such as video games, hobbies, or even sex can actually become an individual’s religion. Whether it is a personality, an idea, or a system of thought, religion promotes worship or devotion. A personality or leader can act as the deity of one’s religion, however, any of these pursuits, thoughts, ideas, etc. can as well.
It is interesting to note that one of the roots of the word religion is from the Latin religare, meaning to tie back or restrain. One connotation of this might actually be to tie or bind the individual to the tenants or the specific doctrines of that religion. This could be a favorable or unfavorable concept. This binding might help an individual overcome unhealthy desires or encourage positive actions. However, another more literal and negative inference might speak to a disturbing potential motive of religions: actively working to control their members in some fashion through service, devotion or finances.
The problem that causes confusion where the Bible is concerned is that humans pervert the Word of God through their created religions and traditions.
Jesus addressed this problem in Mark 7:13.
Mark 7:13 (NIV)
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.
Religions are actually created by man, not by the deity that they serve. They are systems in which humans seek to find fulfillment and order to define their own existence. They can also be tools to control the thought and actions of their adherents.
Many consider Christianity to be a religion, however, there is a fundamental difference. In Christianity, humans are not seeking a relationship with a god or a god substitute. In Christianity, through His Word, the true God is seeking a relationship with us humans to provide us with everything that we need to live a fulfilled life on earth and in the spiritual world to come.
Religion is humans seeking a god.
Christianity is God seeking humanity.
May God richly bless you in all that you do! - Dr Rich Masek
To go deeper into this discussion, Read
Ideolatry - Chapter 5 - Acts of God
Available in digital formats for Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Generic eReaders
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