The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

The Meaning of Religion

Religion, today, is mostly disdained for any number of reasons. Some see religionists are unthinking sheep. Some grew up there and see it as dead tradition that holds no meaning. Some see religionists as egotistical hypocrites, bent on simple, straight-forward answers, lacking imagination and creativity, and having little patience with sinners.

Whatever your perspective on religion, I think it valuable to consider what "religion" once meant for those to whom it was a progressive idea. The term religion is derived from the Latinate: religio. Here, it is suggested that this term's meaning is disputed. However, the term is generally accepted as coming from three or four possible sources, as mentioned here.

Aztriad.com cites a number of possible ancesters for the term religio:

Religio: The definition of religion has changed dramatically from the Latin of pre-Christian times! In common use for ages, it has come to mean a distinctive creed, belief system, or affiliation. The Latin word RELIGIO had quite a different sense, based on affinities with three pairs of verbs:
religâre, to bind, from ligâre, to tie, close a deal, cement an alliance, or unite in harmony;
relêgâre, to banish, from lêgâre, to commission, bequeath, or entrust;
relegère, to collect again or review, from lègère, to read, recite, or choose.
There are further etymological connections with:
dîligère, to esteem, value, or appreciate.

Religio, to the Roman, further encompasses the meanings of sense of right, conscience, reverence, awe, sanctity, the object of veneration, ritual, taboo, and scrupulous regard ... [L]ater generations whittled down a vast magisterium essentially to attain better span of control, for religion long became associated with a totalitarian control over human beings quite impossible in the classical Roman religion. Emperor Julian tried and failed c.361 C.E. to create a unified organizational hierarchy for the temples and priesthoods of the traditional Deities... like herding cats, they did not respond to attempts to centralize power and authority in a manner that did not traditionally belong to the Pontifex Maximus, an office we would call ceremonial.

Religio, then, is essentially a linking-back, as to ancestral covenants and customs; a re-collection of the shared traditions of a people; the common sense of awe; appreciation; conscience; and duty. Classical religion was founded in primal experience and traditions as a social covenant with Deities who have revealed themselves in Nature. This Covenant is called Pax Deorvm, the Peace of the Gods, without dogma, theology, soteriology, or scripture as such... only stories, folklore, plays, literature, art, poetry, and music. Religio is not about belief, but about the fulfillment of a contract or covenant, in this repect parallel to that understood in Judaism. Do vt des: I offer to Thee that Thou mayest give unto me....


CulturalEconomics.com echoes this sentiment of "linking back," calling religio "a re-linking with the past, a religio."

It is worth noting that the term ligâre is the source for the English term ligament. I believe religâre to be the most likely source for the term today, merely because of the clear similarity and fewest corruptions between the two.

I leave it to you to draw conclusions about the meaning of religâre and how it might allow you to reconsider the meaning of religion.