The Various Scholar’s Definitions and Views on Religion

Although people usually go to dictionaries first when they need a definition, specialized reference works can have more comprehensive and complete definitions – if for no other reason, than because of the greater space. These definitions can reflect greater bias, too, depending on the author and the audience that it is written for.
1. “Try to define religion and you invite an argument” – Patrick H. McNamara
2. “If you do not ask me what time is, I know; if you ask me, I do not know.” – St. Augustine
3. “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.” – Jalalu’l-Din Rumi
4. “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”—“What is it: is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?” – Frederich Nietzsche
5. “To say that [God] hath spoken to [someone] in a dream, is no more than to say he dreamed that God spake to him!” – Thomas Hobbes
6. “Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commands.” – Immanuel Kant
7. “Religion is a dream, in which our own conceptions and emotions appear to us as separate existences, being out of ourselves.” – Ludwig Feuerbach
8. “Religion is only the sentiment inspired by the group in its members, but projected outside of the consciousness that experiences them, and objectified.” – Emile Durkheim
9. “Religion is what an individual does with his solitariness.” – Alfred North Whitehead
10. “The very fact that they are so many and so different from one another is enough to prove that the word ‘religion’ cannot stand for any single principle or essence, but is rather a collective name.” – William James
11. “There is only one religion, though there are hundreds of versions of it.” – George Bernard Shaw
12. “Religion is comparable to childhood neurosis.” – Sigmund Freud.
13. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature… a protest against real suffering… it is the opium of the people… the illusory sun which revolves around man for as long as he does not evolve around himself.” – Karl Marx
14. “Religion constitutes our varied human response to transcendent Reality.” – Hick
15. “culture itself is sacred, since it is the ‘religion’ that assures in some way the perpetuation of its members.” “Culture is in this sense ‘supernatural,’ and all systems of culture have in the end the same goal: to raise men above nature, to assure them that in some ways their lives count in the universe more than merely physical things count.” – Ernest Becker
16. “Wherever people live, whenever they live, they find themselves faced with three inescapable problems: how to win food and shelter from their natural environment (the problem nature poses), how to get along with one another (the social problem), and how to relate themselves to the total scheme of things (the religious problem). If this third issue seems less important than the other two, we should remind ourselves that religious artifacts are the oldest that archaeologists have discovered.” – H. Smith
17. “Religions, then, are systems of meaning embodied in a pattern of life, a community of faith, and a worldview that articulate a view of the sacred and of what ultimately matters.” – Schmidt, et al.
18. “Religion is the price we pay for being intelligent, but not as yet intelligent enough.” – Aldous Huxley


RELIGION, THE DOSAGE FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, Part III: ACTS 4:32-37: The communal life of the early church as a panacean measure for reducing poverty among the various Religious adherents in Nigeria

This submission attempts to provide lasting solutions to the problems posed by poverty among the various religious adherents in Nigeria by studying Acts 4:32-37. It notes that poverty is not a new problem among Christians as the first century church also encountered it. Using exegetical methodology to interpret the text, the paper points out that the fact that the apostles were not in Galilee contributed to their experience of poverty. None of them was a native or a resident of Jerusalem. Hence, the instruction of Jesus that they should stay in Jerusalem without any means of livelihood greatly affected the Early Church economically. However, the Church was able to manage the situation so that nobody was in need as it is presented by Luke in the text. In addition, the paper establishes that most Christian in the rural area in Nigeria are poor just like non Christians. Most rural areas in the country are underdeveloped due to lack of social amenities that could have lessened deprivation among the people. This does not rule out poverty among the religious adherents living in the urban areas where the cost of living is higher than what obtains in the rural areas. This suggests that the Christian church and other religious institutions in the country is doing little or nothing to combat poverty among its members unlike the Early Church which took certain steps to fight it. The Nigerian church will do well if a radical approach is taken to eradicate poverty. The government has failed the people and the church cannot afford to disappoint its members in its responsibility to them. The view adopts exegetical and comparative methodologies to appraise the text and compare the Early Church with the contemporary Church respectively. It also adopts a sociological approach to examine the social status of Christians in Nigeria.
It can be implied from this passage that if any attempts to alleviate poverty will succeed there must be a concerted effort against the problem. All Christian and the non- Christian organizations in Nigeria will have to unite together to find solution to the problem. Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which comprise all Christian denominations in the country can set up programmes which will be aimed at eradicating poverty in Nigeria especially among Christians. Individual church members should be made to understand the danger and havoc posed by poverty among Christians. In addition, as implied from the text, communalism as a way of life can also be an antidote against poverty. This should not be seen as a basis for modern day Socialism or Marxists’ Communism which ‘sprang from coercive legislation…’ It came rather from a ‘true union of hearts and made possible by regeneration.’16 The New Testament does not promote communism but communalism or communal life which was practiced by the early Christians. In communalism, what one person owns belongs to all the community. This has nothing to do with different classes of people as it is emphasized in Communism. The communal life helped the early church to alleviate poverty to the extent that there was no needy person (endees) among the members. It is important to note the generosity of Barnabas. His magnanimous act is contrary to what obtains in Nigerian society where the rich continue to be rich at the expense of the poor. He, like other believers who had possessions, sold them in order to assuage the suffering of their Christian fellows. They laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles – a sign of total surrender of ownership, to show that they had confidence in the apostles. The apostles were trustworthy. The number of the poor would have reduced by now if people saddled with alleviation of poverty are trustworthy. Lastly, the collection of offerings/contributions of fellow believers outside Jerusalem helped them to face and conquer poverty. Macedonians as well as the people of Achaia contributed to salvage the situation in Jerusalem. The church in Antioch of Syria also contributed towards relieving the church during the time of famine. The underlined point in this is the fact that the church saw poverty as a common enemy and united against it. The church in Nigeria can also borrow a leaf from the early church. The church can do this by coming together to contribute financially and materially to fight poverty to zero level.
The following suggestions will also help the church on how to reduce poverty level among Christians in Nigeria. Firstly, Christians should stop depending on only what government can do to reduce poverty. The early church did not wait nor appeal to the government to help her. There are more churches than government agencies in Nigeria. Those churches can serve as an avenue to enlighten Nigerians and empowering them to be financially independent. What NAPEP cannot achieve in the society can be achieved by the church. Religious leaders are closer to the people than the government. They can work together with the government to make sure that poverty is reduced in the country. Second, church leaders need to understand poverty in all its ramifications. There are four areas of life through which one can manifest poverty, namely: mental, spiritual, social and physical areas. The church can help members to attain physical sustainability, which includes basic daily needs like food, water, health, economics and a sustainable environment. It can also help members to attain mental sustainability which will make the poor to believe in themselves and be free from fear. Other areas are social sustainability and spiritual sustainability. Myers further suggests that the church must be interested not only in soul care but also in the social care of her members. In order to achieve this, local churches can organize seminars on economic empowerment and poverty eradication. This will help members to change their attitudes towards work because in many African societies, hardworking is not equal to getting wealth. People believe that the amount of work one does will not bring riches but one’s destiny. Hence the saying ise ko lowo (work is not money).

This article has examined Acts 4:32-37 and related it to the economic status of Christians in Nigeria. It is the submission of this study that the church in Nigeria is not doing well in terms of economic empowerment of its members. To be candid, many church leaders have enriched themselves at the expense of their members. Part of the offerings collected from the members which are supposed to be spent on the poor are directed towards building projects and buying luxury vehicles. Since most members of the church are poor, the church should take a radical step at eradicating poverty notwithstanding the futile efforts of the government which have resulted in making the rich to be richer and the poor to be poorer. The success of this also depends on the leadership of the church. It is not an exaggeration to say that the church in Nigeria fails because the leaders of the church fail in their responsibilities. Writing on the failure of the leaders of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, Ojo calls on the leaders to:… stop the descent into corruption and develop new emphases and values that will transcend self and materialism, but will cultivate discipline, accountability, and justice for the collective, and which will sustain long lasting legacies. It is then that a renewed religion will stand in a better position of offering hope and new direction against the failures and hopelessness that the contemporary Nigerian society presently finds itself. Ojo, nevertheless, concludes by reminding the church leaders who have enriched themselves at the expense of the poor and encouraging the impoverished congregation that “…if Pentecostal pastors are unwilling, I hope we, the foot soldiers and the sinners, can collectively provide some answers to resolving this paradox of religion and the Nigerian society”. Who knows how the “foot soldiers” will resolve “the paradox of religion” he is talking about? One can only hope that it will not be in a violent manner.

Full Reference:
Dr. A.J. Adelakun
Department of Religious Studies
Obafemi Awolowo University,

Rea more on:

A lecturer of Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria, has expressly brought to light his subjective concern and worry about the nonchalant attitude, and misplacement of priority of the Buhari-led administration.

Yusuf Larry Ayuba, PhD, in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies says; “No sensible narrative will explain the deployment of 30,000 police personnel to Ekiti State for just a mere Governorship election while caring less for Nigerians being killed around Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, among many others.”

He said in his Statement, “I wonder who advises this government that winning election is far more important than securing an ordinary citizen’s life. If you can deploy 10% of Nigerian police force personnel for such election, why not do same to pursue the killers hiding in bushes in these troubled areas? This action doesn’t just add up!”.

You can do well by crediting his view as you like and follow this blog, and your view would be appreciated as you comment in the box below.


Why does Religion exist? This is the puzzle that runs through the minds of many individuals of this age. A possible answer is that it serves many human needs. One of our primary needs is having a means to deal with our mortality. Because we and our loved ones must die, we have to face the pain of death and the inevitable question it brings about whether there is any soul, afterlife, or rebirth. People often look to Religion for the answer. Religion helps us cope with death, and religious rituals can offer us comfort. Human beings also desire good health, a regular supply of food, and the conditions (such as suitable weather) necessary to ensure these things. Before the development of modern science, human beings look to religion to bring about this practical benefits, and they still do. Perhaps the most basic function of religion is to respond to our natural wonder about ourselves and the cosmos. Religion helps us relate to the unknown universe around us by answering the basic questions of “who we are, where we come from, and where we are going”. Little wonder, Carl Gustav Jung, (1875-1961), pointed out that as people age they can make a healthy use of religion to understand their place in the universe and to prepare for death.

At this juncture, I am of the opinion that stands contrary to the widespread view within the study of religion that a real definition of religion should be avoided. A real definition is not necessarily as contentious as it is often assumed that alternatives to the essentialist definitions are less well-founded than they may appear. I therefore wish to opens up with an outline of different definitions of religion and a discussion of common concerns. It goes on to present a starting point for providing a real definition and ends with the suggestion that a real definition would be a valuable tool both academically and practically.

Religion, a very complex terminology has been described as human attempt to feel more secure in a cruel universe. Similarly, another psychologist, William James (1842-1910) came to his ideas on religion via an unusual course of study. Although he began his higher education as a student of art, he made a radical switch to the study of medicine. Finally, when he recognizes the influence of the mind on the body, he was led to the study of psychology and then of religion, which he saw as growing out of psychological needs. James viewed religion as a positive way of fulfilling these needs and praised its positive influence on the lives of the individuals. He wrote that religion brings “a new zest” to living, provides “an assurance of safety”, and leads to a “harmonious relation with the universe”. These views may have been well approved if scholars like Karl Marx have not referred to religion as the “opium of the masses”.

For Hornby, Religion could be either “the belief in the existence of a god or gods and the activities that are connected with the worship of them”, or it could be “one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods”. Obilor, on his side, defined religion as “The whole complexes of attitudes, conviction and institutions through which we express our deep fundamental relationship with reality and not excluding the created order”.

The English anthropologist E.B. Tylor (1832-1917), for example, believed religion was rooted in spirit worship. He noted how frequently religions see “spirits” as having some control over natural forces and how commonly religions see those who die (the ancestors) as passing into the spirit world. Fear of the power of all these spirits, he thought, made it necessary for people to find ways to please their ancestors. Religion offers such ways, thus allowing the living to avoid the spirits’ dangerous power and to convert that power into a force that worked for the good of human beings. Rudolf Otto a German theologian argued in his book, the idea of the Holy that religion emerges when peoples experience that aspect of reality which is essentially mysterious. He called it the “mystery that causes trembling and fascination” (mysterium tremendium et fascinans). In general, we take our existence for granted and live with little wonder, but occasionally something disturbs our ordinary view of reality. For example, a strong manifestation of nature, such as violent thunderstorm, may startle us. Is an aspect of reality that is frightening, forcing us to tremble (tremendum) but also feels fascination (fascinans). The emotional result is what Otto calls numinous awe.

It appears that different authors have each provided us with definitions of religion based on their respective fields of study. Of all of the valid definitions and theories clearly propounded above, one can obviously infer a definition from their area of consensus, which is; Religion as a relevant terminology, is an institution that proffers solutions and give insights to the major needs, concerns and questions of human beings, both in the world here and also in the perceived afterlife.

Carl Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins. 1972. 222.

James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Collier. 1962. 377.

Molly, Micheal. Experiencing the World’s Religions. London: Mayfield Publishing Company. 2001. 3.

Otto, Rudolf, The Idea of the Holy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963). 62.

If you have enjoyed this, please don’t forget to follow this blog, and also do good by dropping your comments in the comment box below.

Give Up Your Ancestral Lands for Cattle Colonies To Avoid Death, Presidency Warns, Says the killings aren’t Religious.

The Presidency has told those against the administration’s ranching and colony programmes for herdsmen to have a rethink, saying it is better to give up ancestral lands for cattle colonies than to get killed.

It said they are better off living with the ranches and colonies than dying through the persisting conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.

It happens that the Presidency is claiming that the cause of these incessant killings isn’t religious, but the refusal of the great people of Nigeria to give out there heritage to herdsmen. Your take on this will be appreciated if you share it with us in the comment box below.

To read more, click below: