How do you define religion practically?

This message board is dedicated to the ancient Roman Religion, the Cultus Deorum Romanorum. Here both historical practices and the living modern tradition is to be celebrated and discussed. The members of the Collegium Pontiificum and Collegium Augurum host this board as moderators and are happy to answer questions.

How do you define religion practically?

Postby Publius Iunius Brutus » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:36 pm

Brutus Augur Sal.

I propose this question to the group:

How do you practically define religion?

Particularly in relation to ancient practices.

The question is basic, but I in the ancient and polytheistic context with a multitude of cults, traditions, views on the divine, ways to communicate with the divine and divergent and convergent philosophies how is religion best defined?

I think the various views will be insightful to many. :)
User avatar
Publius Iunius Brutus
Martis et Minervae Sacerdos
Martis et Minervae Sacerdos
Lictor Curiatus Magister
Lictor Curiatus Magister
Posts: 1747
Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:54 am
Location: Pacifica Provincia

Re: How do you define religion practically?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:26 pm

Salve Brute Augur!

I would define "religion" as the tradition of worship of one or more gods.

This definition implies:
  1. That it follows the rules of a certain tradition.
  2. It worships something.

If the first condition is not fulfilled, it is simply "spirituality".
If the second condition is not fulfilled, it is only a tradition.

I would distinguish anything that goes beyond this definition as either philosophy, if it deals with ethics or the explanation of the world (natural philosophy), or as mythology, if it reports stories about these gods. Both can be associated with a certain religion, but are something distinct.
Modern "world religions" are often not just religions, but have merged with certain philosophies. Christianity for example is a religion (mass, baptism, marriage and funeral rites), a philosophy (the teachings of compassion and the ten commandments) and a set of mythological stories (the bible).

The Religio Romana has maintained this separation from philosophy and mythology. One can follow the religio and be either Epicurean, Stoic, Platonist or belong to no philosophical school at all. One can accept the Greek mythology like the Iliad or the Odyssey or rather consider them as fairy tales. It does not interfere with adherence to the religio.

I would also distinguish superstitio from religion, which is the practice of worship that goes beyond the rules set by tradition.

Optime vale!
C.Florius Lupus
User avatar
Gaius Florius Lupus
Posts: 595
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 11:33 am
Location: Africa Magna

Return to Cultus Deorum Romanorum