The word religion is a word of forced application when used with respect to the worship of God. The root of the word is the Latin verb ligo, to tie or bind. From ligo comes religo, to tie or bind over again, or make more fast–from religo comes substantive religio, which, with the addition of n makes the English substantive religion. The French use the word properly–when a woman enters a convent she is called a noviciat, that is, she is upon trial or probation. When she takes the oath, she called a religieuse, that is, she is tied or bound by that oath to the performance of it. We use the word in the same kind of sense when we say we will religiously perform the promise that we make. But the word, without referring to its etymology, has, in the manner it is used, no definitive meaning, because it does not designate what religion a man is of. There is the religion of the Chinese, of the Tartars, of the Bramins, of the Persians, of the Jews, of the Turks, etc.
It is at once evident that a religion which is able to make vital connection with a world-view based on the principles inherent in evolution, democracy, and science will be a new thing under the sun.
The faith of a church or of a nation is an adequate faith only when it inspires and enables people to give of their time and energy to shape the various institutions — social, economic, and political — of the common life.
Religion is a wizard a sibyl . . . She faces the wreck of worlds and prophesies restoration. She faces a sky blood-red with sunset colours that deepen into darkness and prophesies dawn. She faces death and prophesies life.
Religion is not something separate and apart from ordinary life. It is life — life of every kind viewed from the standpoint of meaning and purpose: life lived in the fuller awareness of its human quality and spiritual significance.
Why not let people differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the Universe? Let each seek one’s own way to the highest, to one’s own sense of supreme loyalty in life, one’s ideal of life. Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication. The religions of humanity should be a unifying force, for all the great religions reveal a basic unity in ethics. Whether it be Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism or Confucianism, all grow out of a sense of the sacredness of human life. This moral sensitivity to the sacredness of human personality — the Commandments not to kill, not to hurt, not to put a stumbling block in the path of the blind, not to neglect the widow or the fatherless, not to exploit the servant or the worker — all this can be found in the Bibles of humanity, in all the sacred books. All teach in substance: ‘Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.’ There is, then, a basic unity among the great religions in the matter of ethics. True, there are religious philosophies which turn people away from the world, from the here and now, concentrating life-purposes on salvation for one’s self or a mystic union with some supernatural reality. But most of the great religions agree on mercy, justice, love — here on earth. And they agree that the great task is to move people from apathy, from an acceptance of the evils in life, to face the possibilities of the world, to make life sweet for one another instead of bitter. This is the unifying ethical task of all the religions — yes, of all the philosophies of humankind. There is no need to force our own theological points of view upon one another or to insist that the moral life grows out of final, absolute authority.
Our religious belief usurps the place of our sensations, our imaginations of our judgment. We no longer look to actions, trace their consequences, and then deduce the rule; we first make the rule, and then, right or wrong, force the action to square with it.
Religion and science both profess peace (and the sincerity of the professors is not being doubted), but each always turns out to have a dominant part in any war that is going or contemplated.
It’s a big cultural task to separate the cultural achievement that religion laid claim to from the claims of religion itself. No one’s going to deny the role of religion in, for example, architecture or devotional painting. The poetry of John Donne or George Herbert strikes me as having been produced by people who probably really believed what they were saying. I have to be impressed.
A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.
When people come to you for help do not turn them off with pious words saying ‘Have faith and take your troubles to God.’ Act instead as though there were no God as though there were only one person in the world who could help — only yourself.
It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others’ religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.