Let's try and define religion ...

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,977
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#1
I was thinking to this just pondering how curious and odd "religion" was in Ancient Egypt [KmT]. Actually that wasn't a "religion" as we define it today:

"a system of beliefs".

No, in Ancient Egypt that was a superstition, a popular tradition ... nothing more and nothing else.

In KmT what we call "religion" was an active thing: a system of beliefs and rituals [magical rituals] to deal with deities up to be able to control them [?!? What about this! Ancient Egyptians thought that once you discovered the "hidden name" of a deity you were able to control that God].

Well, not bad.

For them a "system of beliefs" was useless if you weren't able to use it acting to control the deities to force them to listen to humans [not to say that they expected the deities no counteracting ... the deities had their "tricks" to cheat humans ...].
 
Oct 2013
5,898
Planet Nine, Oregon
#2
Theurgy is getting divine beings to perform magical effects for the operator --what a lot of ancient magic aimed for. Religion might be considered to be a system of beliefs, social norms and ethics that often offers an explanation for the universe and our place in it, capable of being transmitted and passed on.
 
Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#3
Well religion is not always related with magic, I think that's the point of Apuleius' "Metamorphoses".
I tend to see it as a mixture of spirituality and comercial activity.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#4
A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say,
things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church all those who adhere to them. . . .
In showing that the idea of religion is inseparable from the idea of a Church, it conveys the notion that religion must be an eminently collective thing (Durkheim)

It works for me.
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,124
oklahoma
#5
I was thinking to this just pondering how curious and odd "religion" was in Ancient Egypt [KmT]. Actually that wasn't a "religion" as we define it today:

"a system of beliefs".

No, in Ancient Egypt that was a superstition, a popular tradition ... nothing more and nothing else.

In KmT what we call "religion" was an active thing: a system of beliefs and rituals [magical rituals] to deal with deities up to be able to control them [?!? What about this! Ancient Egyptians thought that once you discovered the "hidden name" of a deity you were able to control that God].
.
Well, not bad.

For them a "system of beliefs" was useless if you weren't able to use it acting to control the deities to force them to listen to humans [not to say that they expected the deities no counteracting ... the deities had their "tricks" to cheat humans ...].
Defining religion as "a system of beliefs" seems to be a Christian thing. Other religions, even other Abrahamic ones (Judaism and Islam), place more emphasis on practice and ritual than on believing certain doctrines. The Christian concept is particularly limited in dealing with East Asian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. The latter two don't even have gods. We could say that they aren't religions, but most scholars think they are. Elsewhere, I defined religion as a system of beliefs, values and practices that relate people to the sacred, transcendent, ultimate or numinous dimensions of existence. Professor Mark Berkson, Chair of the Religion Department at Hamline University, uses the "family resemblance" or cluster approach to further identify a set of attributes we associate with religion. If a belief system has all or most of these characteristics, we consider it to be a religion. These are: (1) divinity: a transcendent or numinous "ultimate meaning" which is typically but not always a supernatural being; (2) ritual: prescribed ceremonies, rites or proceedings; (3) norms of right conduct, defining good and evil; (4) revealed truths, whether provided by sacred scriptures or the ecstatic trances of shamans, elders, or prophets; and (5) soteriology: a concept of deliverance to a better life by practicing the religion.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,334
#6
I was thinking to this just pondering how curious and odd "religion" was in Ancient Egypt [KmT]. Actually that wasn't a "religion" as we define it today:

"a system of beliefs".

No, in Ancient Egypt that was a superstition, a popular tradition ... nothing more and nothing else.

In KmT what we call "religion" was an active thing: a system of beliefs and rituals [magical rituals] to deal with deities up to be able to control them [?!? What about this! Ancient Egyptians thought that once you discovered the "hidden name" of a deity you were able to control that God].

Well, not bad.

For them a "system of beliefs" was useless if you weren't able to use it acting to control the deities to force them to listen to humans [not to say that they expected the deities no counteracting ... the deities had their "tricks" to cheat humans ...].
I reject you proposition that Egyptian religion was not a system of beliefs.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,977
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#7
I reject you proposition that Egyptian religion was not a system of beliefs.
I accept your rebuttal ... that's not exactly what I was sustaining:

Egyptian "religion" was not only a system of beliefs: they used it ... it was an active instrument to be able to control deities [if you knew how to do this].

Modern religions are almost totally passive. You can pray, but you cannot for G-d, God, Allah to do what you want by means of rituals and formulas.
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,124
oklahoma
#8
I accept your rebuttal ... that's not exactly what I was sustaining:

Egyptian "religion" was not only a system of beliefs: they used it ... it was an active instrument to be able to control deities [if you knew how to do this].

Modern religions are almost totally passive. You can pray, but you cannot for G-d, God, Allah to do what you want by means of rituals and formulas.
That's true. I think early religions saw the relationship between humans and the divine as more reciprocal. The gods were more powerful than we were, but not omnipotent, and they depended on us for their sustenance and partnership in sustaining the cosmic order. The Aztecs, for example, believed that tonali (life force or energy) through human sacrifice was needed to keep the gods alive and the sun from going out. Indo-European religions thought that animal sacrifice and rituals of libation were necessary to support the gods and keep the cosmic order in balance. The notion that the gods didn't need us seems to have come in with the Axial Age (800-200 B.C.E.) which shifted the focus to transcendent deities.
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,124
oklahoma
#9
What you say about Egypt seems also to be true of late pre-classic Vedic India. The Rig Veda was concerned mainly with rituals and hymns designed to influence the gods. Originally, the emphasis was on persuading the gods to grant favors in this life. But around the first millenium B.C.E., this shifted to thinking that the words and rituals themselves were efficacious in bringing about the desired results in this life, without any choice on the gods' part. Then with the Upanishads of the Axial Age, there was another shift toward thinking that the rituals and words were unimportant, and that our deeds in this life would determine our condition in future lives. (Mark Muesse, The Hindu Traditions, 2011),
 
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AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,977
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#10
What you say about Egypt seems also to be true of late pre-classic Vedic India. The Rig Veda was concerned mainly with rituals and hymns designed to influence the gods. Originally, the emphasis was on persuading the gods to grant favors in this life. But around the first millenium B.C.E., this shifted to thinking that the words and rituals themselves were efficacious in bringing about the desired results in this life, without any choice on the gods' part. Then with the Upanishads of the Axial Age, there was another shift toward thinking that the rituals and words were unimportant, and that our deeds in this life would determine our condition in future lives. (Mark Muesse, The Hindu Traditions, 2011),
If we think to Greek mythology [or the Roman one which was in good part an issue of the first one], we can note similar dynamics as well, but with visible differences. Deities are in some way vulnerable [in a monotheist perspective this is simply blasphemous]. The ritualistic part was different. Greeks made sacrifices and offers to obtain the favour of their gods. There were tricks to deal with divine entities, but there weren’t certain ways [rituals, formulas] to control them.

Greek “religion” [they used a different term: threskèia, from “threskòs”, which means timorous of God] was based on the attempts of the humans to keep a good relationship with the deities. To worship them and to be good wasn’t enough … they had to take care of their Gods [of their temples, of their statues …].
 

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