Sunday, January 10, 2010

What is religion?

I don't know why it irks me so much, but it does indeed irk me when people refer to UUism as a movement. When you look at the various ways in which religion is defined - even the Latin roots - I cannot understand the resistance to using it in our congregations or in self-definition.

William R. Murry quotes Loyal Rue as saying that "religion is not about God," and "evolution has shaped human beings in such a way that religion is about influencing the brain 'for the sake of personal wholeness and social coherence.'"

Murry himself says that "To be religious is a matter of one's attitude toward all life." To bind together. Is that not what people do, regardless of belief in science, supernatural power, or something in between, or perhaps totally different?

I am fascinated with the possibility that there is a biological imperative for religion; a connection in our brains between science and the need to believe, or to question. There is research that posits that what happens during a meditative state (or the existence of a potential "God Spot" in the brain that reacts consistently in brain scans of those who meditate or are discussing religious topics) is that during those times, we move from acquiring knowledge to spiritual or value-based learning created by neuronal connections that allow us to think about information from a new perspective.

In other words, spiritual intelligence is actually something that could organically occur in the brain as an effect of new neuronal connections. There is something transformative that happens between reflection and hypothesis (learning cycles suggested by James Zull in The Art of Changing the Brain.

To get back to my original point, we are all subject to our own physical and organic brain, and as we gain deeper understanding of the way that it works, it may become clear that religion is an inherent and necessary part of the human life cycle. Connections are important in our biology, our environment, our relationship - throughout living and dying. Is that not what religion is?


Bill Baar said...

I don't care for movement either. I don't care for denomination much too.

We're a collection (association) of free churches.

I can't think of a single word to sum that up at the moment.

Anonymous said...

If I understand correctly, movement came into use in part because denomination is used (phrasing from to Wikipedia) thus:

"A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity."

I seldom hear it used for non-Christian religions.