Universalism Religion Definition Essay

Definitions of the word "religion"

Problems. Some dictionary definitions

Problems with definitions of "Religion:"

The English word "religion" is derived from the Middle English "religioun" which came from the Old French "religion." It may have been originally derived from the Latin word "religo" which means "good faith," "ritual," and other similar meanings. Or it may have come from the Latin "religâre" which means "to tie fast," or "bind together."

Defining the word "religion" is fraught with difficulty. Many attempts have been made. Many people focus on a very narrow definition that matches their own religion, but few if any others.

A humorous case appears in Henry Fielding's novel "Tom Jones." where he has one character say:

"By religion I mean Christianity, by Christianity I mean Protestantism, by Protestantism I mean the Church of England as established by law."

Many definitions focus too narrowly on only a few aspects of religion; they tend to exclude those religions that do not fit well. As Kile Jones 1 wrote in his essay on defining religion that was once included in our section containing visitors' essays section:
"It is apparent that religion can be seen as a theological, philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of human kind. To limit religion to only one of these categories is to miss its multifaceted nature and lose out on the complete definition."

All of the definitions that we have encountered contain at least one deficiency:

Some exclude beliefs and practices that many people passionately defend as religious. For example, their definition might requite a belief in a God or Goddess or combination of Gods and Goddesses who are responsible for the creation of the universe and for its continuing operation. This excludes such non-theistic  religions as Buddhism and many forms of religious Satanism which have no such belief. Also, Unitarians, who are called Unitarian Universalists in the U.S., do not require their members to believe in a deity, and many members don't.
Some definitions equate "religion" with "Christianity," and thus define two out of every three humans in the world as non-religious.
Some definitions are so broadly written that they include beliefs and areas of study that most people do not regard as religious. For example, David Edward's definition would seem to include cosmology and ecology within his definition of religion. These are fields of investigation that most people regard to be a scientific studies and non-religious in nature.
Some define "religion" in terms of "the sacred" and/or "the spiritual," and thus require two additional terms to be defined.
Sometimes, definitions of "religion" contain more than one deficiency.

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Dictionary definitions:

Some attempts to define the word religion inclusively:  

  • Barns & Noble (Cambridge) Encyclopedia (1990):
    • "...no single definition will suffice to encompass the varied sets of traditions, practices, and ideas which constitute different religions."

  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990):

    "Human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience."

This definition would not consider Buddhism as religions. Many Unitarian Universalists and progressive Christians are excluded by this description. It would also reject all religions that are not monotheistic, including:

  • Duotheistic religions like Wicca and Zoroastrianism, because they believe in a dual deity.

  • Polytheistic religions like Hinduism, since the above definition refers to "a" personal God, and these religions believe in a pantheon, usually consisting of both Gods and Goddesses.
  • Dictionary.com at Ask.com:
    • "A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    • A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

    • Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice. 2

  • Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

    "A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith."

Essay on Universalism vs. Relativism

645 WordsDec 17th, 20153 Pages

Katie Potter
PHIL 213

Ethical Universalism vs. Ethical Relativism

Ethical universalism and ethical relativism are two types of meta-ethical views, meaning the two theories attempt to understand the reason behind ethical properties, attitudes, boundaries and judgements. Ethical universalism can be viewed as an ideal world, while ethical relativism explains a more realistic perspective on why different cultures can view the same actions differently. The two delve more into the essential meaning of a theory rather than just simply labeling actions as right or wrong. Ethical universalism is the theory that there is a universal ethic that applies to all people, no matter the individual's history, preferences, traits or…show more content…

From a relativist's perspective, moral values are only applicable within certain cultures and societies. Something that may be viewed as morally correct in the United States could be unethical in Zimbabwe and vice versa. For example, in Somalia, it is acceptable, or moral for a family to kill a female family member if she is raped, while here in the United States the murder of a family member is viewed as extremely unethical and cruel. A more simplistic example of this is the fact that it is not unethical in American culture to consume beef, while in India it is viewed as unethical. The reason for this is because of the diverse cultures and their own set of moral standards. This theory states that there are many values and ideas that can be considered morally correct while disagreeing with one another. However, there are also few downsides to this theory. Relativism may lead to immorality because of opposing perspectives and cultures. Just because one culture views something as good or bad, right or wrong, does not mean this is true. This theory is based off of personal preferences and values, which can lead to conflict and clashing of values. Relativism also does a poor job of establishing an absolute set of ethics, and does not take into consideration that the values and norms of a society can change over time.
Because of the opposite

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