Theology

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Read this article and write a reflection on Tolstoy’s definition of “true religion” . Including whether and/or to what disagree you agree with it or differ. (I’m going to agree with him.)

Article:
CHAPTER 3 This is how religion has always been understood by people who do not lack the faculty of higher (i.e. religious) consciousness, which distinguishes man from the animals. The oldest and most common definition of the word religion (religare, to bind) runs as follows: religion is the bond between man and God. ‘Les obligations de l’homme envers Dieu voilà la religion,’ says Vauvenargues.29 Schleiermacher30 and Feuerbach31 attribute a similar meaning to religion when they acknowledge that the basis of religion is man’s consciousness of his dependence on God. ‘La religion est une affaire entre chaque homme et Dieu’ (Bayle).32 “La religion est la résultat des besoins de l’âme et des effets de l’intelligence’ (B. Constant).33 ‘Religion is a certain method by which man recognizes his relationship to the superhuman and mysterious forces on which he regards himself dependent’ (Goblet d’Alviella).34 ‘Religion is a definition of human life based on the bond between the human spirit and those mysterious spirits whose dominion over the world and over himself is recognized by man, and with which he feels himself united’ (A. Reville).35 Thus the essence of religion has been, and still is, understood by people with the highest human faculty, as the establishing by man of a relationship with the infinite Being, or beings, whose power he feels over him. No matter how this relationship has varied, for different peoples and at different times, it has always defined man’s destiny in the world, from which guidance for conduct followed naturally. The Jew has understood his relationship to the infinite as follows: being a member of the nation God chose from among all nations, he must therefore observe in God’s eyes the agreement He has entered into with his people. The Greek understood his relationship as follows: being dependent on the representatives of eternity – the gods – he ought to please them. The Brahmin has understood his relationship to the infinite Brahma in this way: he is a manifestation of this Brahma and ought, by renouncing life, to strive after unity with the Higher Being. The Buddhist has understood, and understands, his relationship with the infinite thus: in passing from one form of life to another, he inevitably suffers. This suffering originates from passions and desires, therefore he ought to try and nullify them, and make the transition to Nirvana. Every religion is the establishment of a relationship between man and the infinite Being of which he feels he is a part, and from which he derives guidance in his conduct. If therefore a religion fails to establish this relationship, as for instance in idolatry, or sorcery, then it is not a religion, but merely a degeneration of one. Even if a religion establishes a relationship between man and God, but does so through affirmations which are so contrary to the level of knowledge people have reached that they cannot believe in them, then neither is this a religion, but merely a semblance of one. Again, if it does not bind man to the infinite being, it is not a religion. Neither is a belief in propositions which give man no definite guidance in his conduct. It is similarly impossible to give the name religion to Comte’s36 positivism, since it only establishes a relationship between man and mankind, not with the infinite. This relationship leads quite arbitrarily to Comte’s morals, which despite making very high demands are unfounded. The most educated Comtist finds himself in a religious relationship that is incomparably lower than that of a simple person who believes in God, whatever the god, as long as it is infinite, and whose behaviour is derived from this faith. The Comtist’s argument about the ‘grand être’ does not constitute belief in God and cannot replace “True religion is that relationship, in accordance with reason and knowledge, which man establishes with the infinite world around him, and which binds his life to that infinity and guides his actions.’

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