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Religion and Religious Beliefs: Examining the Nature of Religion

What is religion? What are some varieties of religions? What is theism, and what are some of the varieties of that? Atheists aren't theists, but they can be religious - understanding what theism and religion are is key to understanding why that is true.
  1. Leonardo's Last Supper
  2. What is Theism?
  3. Philosophy of Religion
  4. Religion News
  5. Book Reviews: Religion
  6. Polls on Religion
  7. Religious Violence Causes (4)
  8. Image Galleries (28)
  9. Religious Violence Myths (3)
  10. Sacred Texts, Times, Places (75)
  11. Ancient Mythology, Religion (113)
  12. Religion: Comparative Study (114)
  13. Religion, Women, Sex (45)
  14. Definition of Religion (26)
  15. Christianity & Christians (633)
  16. Religious Authority (8)
  17. Criticizing Islam, Islamism (157)
  18. Religion: Religious History (2)
  19. Religion In America (81)
  20. Violence & Intolerance (19)
  21. Religious Humor (15)
  22. Cults and NRMs (9)
  23. Religious Critique FAQ (2)

Technology and Religion, Technology as Religion
Many secularists and nonbelievers of various sorts tend to regard religion and science as fundamentally incompatible. This incompatibility is also imagined to extend to the relationship between religion and technology, since technology is a product of science and science cannot proceed without technology, especially today. Thus atheists marvel...

Why Should Atheists Study Religion? What Does the Study of Religion Offer?
Atheism is disbelief in gods, not the absence of religion, so why does so much criticism of religion come from atheists rather than theists? Christian theism has dominated Western culture, politics, and society such that resistance has pulled people towards irreligious atheism. Atheism doesn't have to be irreligious or anti-religious, but there...

Emotion & Religion: Is Religion More About Religion or Reason?
Most religious believers will insist that their religious beliefs are reasonable; few religious believers will argue that their beliefs are emotional in nature. Given just how strongly religion typically appeals to emotional values as opposed to intellectual values, this is curious. Do believers not think that emotional reasons for belief are valid or worthy?

False Modesty & Religious Humility
Religious believers who try to put into practice what their religious scriptures tell them often insist that they can't be blamed - after all, this is what their religion teaches and they have an obligation to do it. It's not their fault, right? It may sound 'modest' to them to say that there are merely doing their god's will, but it's really a deliberate abdication of personal responsibility.

Should We Respect Religion? Does Religion Deserve Respect? Do Religious...
An increasing source of conflict in the world today is centered around religious believers' demands for respect. Muslims demand 'respect' that would forbid criticism, satire, or mocking of their religion. Christians demand 'respect' that would amount to something very similar. Nonbelievers are caught in a bind when it's not clear what 'respect'...

Religions Creating a New Society
Religion can be a useful resource for critiques of the wider society. Because religions attempt to derive values and ideals from sources which believers think are transcendent, it's possible for believers to at least attempt to step outside some of the cultural and political assumptions of their contemporaries. It often doesn't work, but at least the effort can be helpful.

Leap of Faith: Reason in Religion vs. Philosophy
What is more important: what you believe or why you believe it? Both are certainly important and it may be difficult to argue that one definitely surpasses the other, but in general people should pay closer attention to why they believe things than they already do. Unfortunately, in the context of religion the "why" is greatly neglected.

Religions Creating a New Family
One of the most important features of Jesus' ministry, as described in the New Testament, appears to have been the creation of new social structures for his followers. He openly described those following him as his family, deliberately rejecting his biological family. Curiously, this is one of the features of so-called 'cults' which causes the most complaints.

The Once and Future Role of Religion
Many atheists would like to see religion disappear. Many atheists in the past thought that was a realistic possibility and would happen by now - but obviously it hasn't. Given how central religion has been to human culture, isn't it a bit implausible that it will disappear, or even just decline so far that it becomes irrelevant?

Prayer is Selfish Beggary
What's the real point of praying? If you pray for something that you want, isn't that just begging - and doesn't God already know what you want? If you pray for something that God intends to do, then it's redundant. If you pray for something that God doesn't intend, then it won't happen - and perhaps a blasphemous attempt to go against the will of God.

Religion Common Among Mothers Who Kill Children
Remember Andrea Yates, who drowned her 5 kids? Remember Deanna Laney, who beat her own sons with stones? These are just two of many women who have brutalized or killed their own children, prompting many to insist on harsh punishments. A few stopped to wonder why they would have this way, but few would be happy with the fact that an important common factor is religion.

Church Attendance and Political Compromise
Negotiation, concession, and compromise are all critical in the politics of a liberal democracy because politicians in such a state all represent divergent interests and values. It's not legitimate to use the power of the state to enforce the religious beliefs and doctrines of any one group; unfortunately, religious believers are losing their willingness to compromise...

Education and Religion
We hear a lot about how there should be more religion in public schools - at the very least, schools should teach about religion. Perhaps there is something to this, but what about philosophy? Hardly any public schools in America teach serious philosophy and surely that would be even more beneficial.

Truth, Falsehood, and Religious Belief (Book Notes: God's Defenders)
Doesn't it really matter whether religious beliefs are true or false? You'd think that it should matter, but if that's the case why are so many religious doctrines - indeed, perhaps the majority of them - famed in a way that it's impossible to determine whether they are true or false?

Religion 101: Examining the Nature of Religion and Religious Beliefs
What is religion? What are some varieties of religions? What is theism, and what are some of the varieties of that? Atheists aren't theists, but they can be religious - understanding what theism and religion are is key to understanding why that is true.

What is Religion? Defining Religions and Religious Belief Systems
Religion is difficult to define - everyone has a different idea of what it is. Most people will simply look in the dictionary or use something else equally simplistic. Although that might be fine for everyday conversations, it isn't sufficient for the sort of discussions that appear on this site. Religion is a human creation, and as such can vary as widely as human imagination allows.

Organization of Religion: Cults, Sects, and Churches
There are a number of different ways in which religion can be organized or structured. Different types of religious systems generally rely upon different organizational structures - as a matter of fact, particular types of organizations can reveal quite a lot about the basic values and beliefs that a religion has.

Religion and Reason: Does One Cancel the Other Out?
Are religion and reason incompatible? I don't think so, but that isn't always an easy position to uphold. It seems rare for religion to promote reason or value logic while at the same time it's common for religion to praise high emotions and faith, two things which often inhibit good reasoning.

Religion as Faith and Ultimate Concern: What is Religion?
There is a common perception that religion is defined not so much by particular doctrines (like the existence of a god) or in particular functions (like providing a structure for morals) but instead by attitude. One of the most famous ways this has been expressed in theologian Paul Tillich's idea that religion and even theism is the focus of our...

Is Religion Necessary for Morality, Democracy, and Justice?
One common complaint about secularism is that religion and belief in God are prerequisites for morality, justice, and a democratic society. The basic premise here is that the only values which ultimately matter are those which are transcendent, and such values can only be perceived and understood through religious tradition and a connection with...

The Matrix, Religion, and Philosophy: What is the Matrix?
The Matrix, a wildly popular film that has been followed by an equally popular sequel, is often regarded (well, except for some critics) as a very "deep" film, tackling difficult subjects not commonly the focus of Hollywood's efforts. Is it, however, also a religious film - a film embodying religious subjects and transcendental values?

Technology and Religion, Technology as Religion
For a thousand years in the West, the advancement of technology has been inspired by deep religious desires for transcendence and redemption. Although now obscured by secular language, the contemporary resurgence of religion, even fundamentalism, alongside technology is thus not an aberration but simply the reassertion of a forgotten tradition.

Religion as Opium of the People: Karl Marx, Religion, and Economics
According to Marx, religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus, problems in religion are ultimately problems in society. Religion is not the disease, but a symptom and is used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited.

Religion as Delusion: Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Obsession
Sigmund Freud is a seminal figure in the history of human thought. Humanity has suffered from three principle types of narcissism: the belief that we are the center of the universe, the belief that we are the center/goal of nature and the belief that we are always "master of our own house."

Explaining Religion
The nature and origins of religion are common topics on this site's discussion forum, and they are certainly common topics whenever the issue of religion comes up. But just how familiar are people with the historical scholarship about religion? Or with the sociology and psychology of the same?

Is it Wrong to Mock Religious Beliefs, Institutions, Leaders?
The Danish publication of satirical cartoons of Muhammad generated a lot of heated discussion about the moral and political legitimacy of satirizing or mocking religion, but this issue has generated heated debate for a long time. Muslims weren't the first to seek censorship of images or words which offended them, and they won't be the last....

When Can Opinions Be Mocked? To Mock or Not to Mock...
A common point of contention between atheists and religious theists is whether it's legitimate, appropriate, or advisable to mock, ridicule, or satirize religious beliefs. Religious believers object to this, which is no surprise, but they don't object so much when nonreligious opinions are mocked or satirized. They don't allow that mocking and satire can be legitimate tools of criticism. When is …

Sasha Brookner
Sasha Brookner Bio

Religions as Totalizing, Absolute Systems
It's true that there are lots of problems with religions, but it's also true that problems exist with all human belief systems. Why is it, then, that problems sometimes seem to be worse when it comes to religion?

Religions Creating a New Family
One of the most important features of Jesus' ministry, as it is described in the New Testament, appears to have been the creation of new social structures for his followers. Curiously, this preference for the new religious family over one's own biological family is one of the features of so-called 'cults' which causes the most complaints.

Studying Religion: Religious Studies in Public Universities
Most decent colleges and universities have some sort of religious studies department. Given how important religion is to history and culture, this is unavoidable - but how should these departments approach religion and teach religion?

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