Definitions of (and statements about)



John W. Burgeson                          E-mail                     Web site



The term “religion” stands for the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.  William James, THE VARIETY OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, 1910.

Religion is that cluster of memories and myths, hopes and images, rites and customs that pulls together the life of a person or group into a meaningful whole. The cluster need not be very systematic … [It] can be creative or demonic, theistic or non-theistic, consciously held or only dimly recognized, static or mercurial, spontaneous or imposed, story or signal… [It] lends coherence to life, furnishes a fund of meaning, gives unity to human events and guides people in making decisions. Religion, as its Latin name suggests, is what binds people together. --Harvey Cox, The Seduction of the Spirit, 1973.

The term “religion” has reference to one’s views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose or reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will. It is confounded with the “cultus” or form of worship of a particular sect, but is distinguishable from the latter. SCOTUS (1980) 133 US 333, 342.

“[A] central feature in all authentic religions … [is] an orientation towards the transcendent that is inextricably linked with compassionate, constructive relationships with others …the ultimate focus of religion – liberation or salvation – cannot be disconnected from life in this world.” Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 128.

“God” is not God’s name. It is OUR name for the mystery that looms within and without, beyond the limits of our vision. – Forrest Church, UU Magazine, September 2000


Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if he answers hurt. Paul Tillich, Inside the Mind of God, p. 44.


Religion – asking the question “Why is there anything at all?” and its derivative questions.


A person's religion is that person's worldview of how he relates to the ultimate questions of philosophy, the meaning of life, the values of life, etc. An "organized religion" is simply a group of people who hold a worldview in common.


We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey. Stephen Covey


Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines. Satchel Paige


You can never prove God. You can only find him…. Kate Wiggin


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet.


That’s why religion thrives in an age of reason. You can’t simply think God out of existence, because religious feelings rise more from experience than from thought. They are born in a moment of spiritual connection, as real to the brain as any perception of “ordinary” physical reality. Andrew Newberg, Inside the Mind of God, p. 65.


A religion can be destructive or creative. It may be defined by stories or rituals. It may be tightly or loosely held, thought about deeply, or held simply as vague ideas. Whatever -- it does act as at least a partial guide to actions. – author unknown


The Ethical Society of Austin (a loose knit atheist organization) claims to be a religion. Is it? The Texas courts are seeking an answer.


Most religious people share a sense that they have an appointment with the transcendent. They see a purely material understanding of life as inadequate. -- E. J. Dionne, Denver Post, 12/24/2002