RELIGION

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RELIGION. This word, defined in so many ways, is derived from the Latin religio (a sacred oath, or obligation), but that which it signifies, is as old as man and his relation to God, whom it presupposes. Man is not only placed in a certain relation towards the Deity, but is naturally led to the idea of his existence, the comprehension, in some degree, of his nature, and the study of his own relations towards him. This disposition and capacity, rude as its early manifestations may be, makes man a religious being. Religion, therefore, in its widest sense, may be defined to be the sentiment and knowledge of our relation to God, and of the great variety of consequences flowing therefrom. Religion is also used in English for piety, or the gious disposition, and the degree of religious knowledge, show themselves in various ways; and the communication of this knowledge, as it relates to supernatural subjects, must be often effected in a symbolical way; and the forms in which the religious feeling expresses itself (forms of wor^ ship), must be of a symbolical character. The variety in the modes in which the religious feeling manifests itself in different nations, gives rise to the idea of positive religion. A positive religion is religion modified by the peculiar developement of the religious disposition, by peculiar views respecting the relation of man to God, and of his destiny, as well as by peculiar customs and symbols of worship. In this sense we speak of a Mohammedan, pagan, Christian, Jewish religion. A particular form of* religion becomes predominant by a variety of causes ; by the growing authority of tradition, or the intellectual superiority of particular men, who imbue families, tribes, nations, with their own religious notions, by the blending of politics and religion, and not unfrequently by persecution itself. The adherents of most religions, moreover, refer the establishment of their own particular form of faith to the direct interference of the Deity whom they worship. It is the province of the philosophy of religion to investigate the original principle of all religions, and the most hidden causes of the variety in the developement of this great, eternal, original principle. The history of religion shows the historical developement of this principle, and those general notions which lie at the basis of each religion. (See Benjamin Constant's work on religion.) The different views entertained of revelation (q. v.) lead, of course, to different views of religion. Those who are convinced that man could not have obtained a sufficient knowledge of his relation to God by the faculties within him, but that a direct interposition of the Deity was necessary, oppose revelation to natural religion, by which is understood that knowledge of our relations to God which we may obtain by our own faculties, unaided by the special interference of the Deity. Some theologians, however, particularly in Germany, do not confine revelation to a direct interference of the Deity on a particular occasion, but give this name to all communion, of the highest kind, of man with God ; so that they, in fact, blend natural and revealed religion, and do not admit any thing as revelation which does not satisfy their reason. These are called naturalists, or rationalists. Their opponents are called supernaturalists. (q. v.) The rationalists must not be confounded with deists.