The traditional and prevailing popular and academic definitions of religion are products of awful taxonomy and deep confusion that work to keep people with revolutionary potential who see themselves as “religious” and people with revolutionary potential who presently see themselves as “non-religious” from developing full class consciousness and coming together to overthrow the forces of capital. If we democratic socialists wish to build a movement capable of realizing universal government by an informed, class-conscious global working class, we must realize how flawed these definitions are and take them on with vigor.
All of the traditional and prevailing popular and academic definitions of religion are very narrow. They fail to recognize the commonality between the things they acknowledge to be religion and the belief in the non-scientific and non-rational they do not acknowledge to be religion- among this belief, “secular” morality their users and upholders, lay, clerical, monastic, and academic, almost never even first acknowledge to be non-scientific and non-rational. The popular definitions include only belief in the non-scientific and non-rational and ritual mandated by the non-scientific and non-rational that has traditionally been described as “organized religion” and belief in the non-scientific and non-rational and practice of ritual mandated by the non-scientific and non-rational directly derived from such “organized religion” and believed in and practiced by individuals who do not belong to or strongly associate themselves with any “organized religious” institutions, while the academic definitions only include this belief and ritual historically mandated by what was historically seen as the non-scientific, non-rational, or “supernatural”, but which is now seen by those who practice it as mere post-religious “tradition” or “culture” (what is now seen as “mundane” and may in fact be seen as fully devoid of any inherent moral value in itself, even on a “secular” level, as merely having “fun” or “comforting” effects that are morally positive in a “secular” sense on those who practice it), and “spirituality” or “mysticism”.
It’s amazing that these definitions have stood until this day. If we seriously consider Hume’s guillotine- that is, the acknowledgment, first articulated by David Hume in his A Treatise of Human Nature, that oughts are not conventional is’s, we quickly come to understand that belief in the existence of non-theistic moral truths, belief in the existence of moral laws of the universe not created by any deity, is belief in things which are non-physical and inherently non-empirically observable, non-scientific, and non-rational- belief in moral prescriptions not at all unlike those traditionally described as “religious” .
When we categorize things, we must organize concentric circles- we must put all categories of things similar in any ways into larger categories. We must recognize all things that are non-scientific and non-rational to be non-scientific and non-rational and be able to put them together into one box. Yes, “secular” ideology is moral essentialism. Yes, simple belief on the part of non-theists and non-personal theists in right and wrong is belief in the existence of non-scientific natural facts all the same. Yes, even though they are not thought to be the creations of a creator God by the non-theists that hold them dear, “secular moral” truths are not scientific rational truths- they are inherently non-empirically observable, non-scientific, non-rational truths- religious truths!
The common people of the world need to be awoken to the fact that virtually all people believe in the existence of non-empirically observable, non-scientific, non-rational facts, that virtually all people are moral essentialists. They must be brought to see that antagonism on the part of those people with revolutionary potential who deem themselves “religious” towards people with revolutionary potential who don’t on the simple ground that those who don’t are “nihilist” or “amoral” is misguided and pointless. And similarly, they must be brought to see that antagonism on the part of those people with revolutionary potential who are religious but do presently do not see themselves as “religious” towards those who do on the simple ground that they are not “free thinkers” or “believers in the non-scientific and non-rational” is misguided and pointless.
Those traditionally defined as “religious” must no longer be censured by those not for their simply believing the moral truths of the universe to be of divine origin, and both the self-aware “religious” and people traditionally defined as “non-religious” need to be awoken to the fact that those they have not considered religious believe in the existence of non-scientific and non-rational moral facts all the same.
Whether people consider the principles they believe in to be divinely-created or not is not is never the problem. Whether they simply believe in “fairy tales” or indulge in “woo woo”, if some of us choose to look at religious lore and “spirituality” as such, is never the problem, either. Whether their principles clash with the principles of democratic socialism, the morally prescriptive facts of democratic socialism, and whether their religious lore or “spirituality” somehow motivates them to challenge or point away from the principles of democratic socialism, is. Do any of the things someone believes to be the moral facts of the universe point away from the moral facts of the universe? Does any of the religious lore they may believe in and the “spirituality” they may indulge in, motivate them to challenge or point away from these moral facts?That is the real litmus test. As long as something is not getting in the way of good prescriptive religion, it must be tolerated.
And, yes, we democratic socialists must fully realize that our belief in the principles of democratic socialism is religion.
And so, in closing, I put forward this definition of religion.
“ Religion is belief in the existence of anything which is “non-rational” and cannot be scientifically observed or investigated- anything which is “supernatural”, anything which is “hidden” or only ephemerally observable and cannot be objectively/scientifically established to exist/existed/have taken place, or anything which by definition is not objectively/scientifically observable- from belief in the existence of a god or gods, to belief in an afterlife, to belief in spirits, spells, or curses, to belief in the existence of divinely-created or non-divinely created moral truths. A religious belief is a belief in the existence of a specific thing which is “supernatural”, “hidden” or only ephemerally observable and cannot be rationally or objectively/scientifically established to exist/existed/have taken place, or by definition non-rational and not objectively/scientifically observable.
Any collection of beliefs in “supernatural” things, things “hidden” or only ephemerally observable and cannot be objectively/scientifically established to exist/existed/have taken place, any system of metaphysics, or any ideology or moral/ethical system, whether or not it is non-theistic- (that is, any collection of oughts), is a religion. Any worldview that is not nihilistic/amoral is a religion. So is any nihilistic/amoral worldview that is also theistic or holds that anything “supernatural” exists. Some religions are the creations of and only held by singular individuals.
One can follow multiple religions. Someone can, for example, be a Vatican II Roman Catholic, anti-nationalist internationalist, and moderate animal welfarist with no general qualms with the consumption of animal products. Another person can believe no deity to exist, be a nationalist of their ethnic group, state capitalist, and universally anti-animal product vegan animal welfare activist.
Yes, not all religion is ideology, but any and all ideology is indeed religion. Yes, even the simple holding of the neurological phenomena of raw pain, pleasure, and love to be the possessors of moral value is religion. To believe in the existence of moral truths is to believe in the existence of things which cannot be proven to exist through rationality or science. One cannot establish the existence of moral good and evil through rationality and science. One can use rationality and science to help answer some moral questions after he or she has accepted the existence of good and evil, but he or she cannot use rationality and science to establish the very existence of good and evil- the concepts of which belief in form a non-rational foundation that every moral system is built upon. Non-rational and non-scientific presuppositions are accepted before the scientific and rational go to work in any religious/ideological system.”