Quaker Universalist Conversations

Theory and history, faith and practice

Here are some observations drawn from the comments for What is ‘religion’?.

One Friend offers this definition:

Religion is an authority which intermediates between a community or set of communities and the object of that religion – i.e., that which is sought.

This is a common connotation of the term, suggesting a focus on “organized religions”—both the lore of those religions and the human manifestations of their authority.

Friend Larry’s definition expands upon those traits of authority and community:

[Religion is] a corporate category of human community and can be quantified. It is not fundamentally personal or subjective. Religion is human spirituality expressed in community in a particular cultural and historical context…. It includes a distinctive behavior discipline, ritual and practice, a shared vocabulary and a shared approach to identifying what is true about reality….

A religion is a spiritual community of notable social cohesion, with a shared history and current ritual, vocabulary and practice that provide a sense of control and comfort to participants for living a good life in the face of death.

Friend Libbie offers a different perspective:

Too many organized religions have missions of discriminatory practices and mission statements to block certain groups from belonging to their church or even worshipping in their church. Jesus Christ showed us by example in his earthly ministry how wrong this is. He demonstrated that we are to accept all peoples as His Children regardless of any differences in lifestyle or beliefs….

While those first two comments approach “religion” from the perspective of theory and history, the third speaks more intimately from the perspective of faith and practice.

These observations suggest a way of framing all of this blog’s exploration of Quaker Universalism.

One dimension for our discussion views “universalism” in terms of our theories about it and how we see it manifested in human history—universalism which is “not fundamentally personal or subjective,” to borrow Friend Larry’s terms.

The other dimension is explicitly personal and subjective. It has to do with how individuals and communities experience and express their own universalist awareness—the faith and practice of universalism.

We welcome you to join in this exploration.


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