Far more than the word spiritual, this word has taken on a pejorative sense among increasing numbers of Americans.  In one variation of this view, religion rarely rises above a formalized expression of inherited prejudice, seeking to control or intrude upon the lives of individuals both inside and outside of faith communities. Critics often use the phrase organized religion (almost always a pejorative term nowadays) to express this view.

For others, the word religion refers to a positive, ennobling community practice that merits trust and respect. Many people uphold this view even while acknowledging the failings of institutional religion through history. Some hark back to the Latin roots of the word - re (again or back to) and ligare (to tie or ligate) - to revive the notion of religion as “tying us back” to God.  

To avoid the connotations of religion in discussions of faith, some observers have turned to other terms. Spiritual and spirituality have become popular in this context, as has the term faith tradition. Proponents of the word religion, by contrast, sometimes criticize these alternatives as too vague to be useful.


-What do you consider yourself “tied to” in your life?

-Do you experience the word religion as primarily a positive or negative? What led you to that position?

-Is it possible in your mind to have a religion that is elevating and beneficial to others? If so, what makes it so? If not, what stops it from being elevating and beneficial?