What Is “Religion”? One-Minute Animated Intros to Four Views on Religion

world religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, HinduismWhat is religion? It’s been around for a very long time, and you can find expressions of religion in every time, place, and culture. But what exactly is “religion”? And why is it so widespread?

If you answer that question from a Christian perspective, you’ll probably say something about the fact that God created us with a desire to know him, so all people have an inner-drive toward some kind of religious belief. And God has also revealed something about himself in creation, making it possible for people to come up with a concept of “god” just by looking at the beauty and complexity of the world around them. With that starting point, we’re not terribly surprised to see that religion is a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, we’d be surprised if it weren’t.

But, of course, Christians aren’t the only ones asking about where religion came from and why it is so prevalent. So here are four short videos explaining some major secular theories on the nature of religion.

#1 Religion as Social Control

According to Karl Marx, religion is all about those in power controlling everyone else. It is the “opium of the people.”

#2 Religion as Ritual

Auguste Comte saw religion as a “leftover” from our prehistorical attempts to make sense of the universe. Although we really should have advanced to the stage where we can discard our beliefs, religious “rituals” are so ingrained in society that religion is almost impossible to get rid of.

#3 Religion as Mother

Another popular approach to religion is to see it arising from an early “goddess concept” that we developed from our experiences of motherhood and our dependence on the earth.

#4 Religion as a Virus

We wouldn’t want to leave Richard Dawkins out of a list like this. According to Dawkins, religion is a virus, or a meme, that spreads because its DNA contains elements that make it eminently spreadable.

Thanks to Brain Pickings for pointing these videos out.

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