Saturday, October 18, 2008


There are many definitions of religion. However, it is generally agreed that religion represents a belief in a supernatural being that controls the human destiny, has a belief system which includes a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to the supernatural power, .places of worship, religious rituals, priests, “sacred scriptures” and such.

The word “religion” is derived from the Latin word "religio" which carries the meaning of “a way of seeing, thinking, and acting inspired by questions about what things mean: ie Where did we come from?, What is our destiny?, What is true?, What is false?, What is my duty or obligation?, What is the meaning of suffering? Thus the Latin meaning is “inquiry prone” while the current understanding of it is definitive.

Religion may modify and influence the conduct and life of a person even in matters such as food, clothing and interaction between people.

In matters of food for example, some religious beliefs restrict the consumption of beef, some the consumption of pork and some other prohibit meat altogether. Some religions prohibit the consumption of meat that died of its own accord, blood and such.

In matters of clothing for example, you have religions that encourage certain kinds of modes of dressing among the adherents. Almost all religions have their own standard mode of dressing for their priests – bare cheated, robes, hats, caps or turbans, white, green, brown or yellow color, hoods, woman with hair coverings (like nuns for example), bald headed, unshaven head and chin, and such. Such clothing and manner of maintaining the hair are taught as essentials elements of the respective religions.

In matters of interaction with people, it may affect the nature, degree and depth of relationships. For example, some religions prohibit marriages between its adherents and others. Segregation in schools may occur during certain periods to enable the adherents to attend special sessions. Segregation between sexes in public may occur.

From the foregoing discussion, one who faithfully adheres and accepts the features (1) to (6) of their respective religion in the above diagram may be considered being a religious person.

Though the details certainly differ, in comparative religion discussions and analysis, it is important to understand that in terms of the general characteristic features, they share a commonality as shown in the diagram. With this as a premise, it is then possible to discuss point by point in each religion for comparative study purposes.

For example, under point (1), one may ask: what kind of supernatural being does religion A teach and how is it similar or different from that taught by religion B. By doing this, we avoid being caught in semantics by using the confusing one word – “God” which is unhelpful because it has acquired differing meanings over the years. I know I am guilty of this myself in the title of his blog but I had intended it to be user-friendly and am aware that simplicity always does not reflect the exact truth. For the serious thinker, of course, he wants to embark on a more specific, accurate inquiry with due regard to the reasoning process.

In the discussion of “God”, for instance, we have heard and read various concepts – “Yahweh”, “gods”, “Allah”, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”, “Brahma, Vishnu”, “Odin”, “Buddha” and so on. Even in such a classification, there are debates and disputes as to whether a particular character is “god” or “God” or neither. Without going into details here, the point to note is that each concept has a unique understanding. Each understanding affects the world view of the adherent uniquely.

I have also heard the concept of the “secular God”. This concept accepts the existence of a Creator without having to accept any of the religious doctrines. According to this concept, the existence of God is natural and self-evident. His signs are said to be self-evident in nature to the knowledgeable. Those who reason are able to differentiate the evil and goodness in nature and, strive to emulate the goodness and reject the evil.

Another example: The discussion may take place at point (3). Each religion has its own source – founder, prophet, thinkers, or even “God” Himself. They have different holy books and scriptures. The sources may be compared for similarities or differences. They may be studied comparatively and judged against the “yardstick of reason”, if that is possible.

The holy books, themselves may be examined as objectively as possible to determine whether it satisfies its claim to have originated from a supernatural force or a “divine being”. Granted, there may be certain aspects of the belief system that does not permit the use of reason but there must be other aspect where reason may be applied in the inquiry.

In any inquiry or comparative religious discussions, one of the most important pre-requisite is the willingness and ability to discuss objectively with the view of ascertaining the “truth” as far as is possible. There are other pre-requisites, of course, including factors such as clarity of mind and reasoning process, lack of prejudice and biasness, no hidden or ulterior motives, and the strength to be able to agree to disagree without animosity.

In conclusion, I would like to share two verses from the Quran:

“Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word
that went forth before from your Lord, their differences would have been settled
between them”. [Quran 10:19]

“Say: "O God! Creator of the heavens and the earth! Knower of all that is hidden and open! it is You that will judge between your servants in those matters about which they have differed." [Quran 39:46]



jon pour do care said...

The common main features of religion interest me but most religion now has another feature, no.7 i.e. idolizing the livng person who introduce/brought the religion. With the no.7 feature, can it still be considered religion ? Just asking ! Adious !

jon pour do care said...

I was once asked why in this part of Malaysia, men and women have to line up at different lane ? Well, my answer was that with the exception to myself and the guys commenting on this blog (he..he..), all other men get ........when standing behind a woman !

OK..OK... I didn't answer like that. My answer was that this part of the world, chivalry is no longer practise anymore, so that's why the local authority had to do this.

OK...OK... I didn't answer like that either. I told that person to ask the local authority.

Could it becoz of sex,chivalry or religion ?

P.S. The last time I opened the door for a lady, the reply I received, 'No thanks, I can open myself' ! Chivalry eh ! Adious !

Anonymous said...

mr j,

i think it would be it a very difficult task to discuss religions among the people who already belong to their respective religions.

it might be feasible for atheist to discuss about religion though.

the reason being every single religion is taught to denounce any other beleieve but their own. if a person which is suppose to have such convinction and beleive in the particular religion they belong to, were to think outside permisible boundaries of their religion, it would be deemed as blesphemy.

if they have 100% faith in their religion now, for them to discuss about the possibility of other religion, other faiths, other people's god? that will be something that they cannot comprehend i think. and if they do, discuss about other religion, or the possibility of other religions that means they may not be commited 100% to their religion now?

as such is my understanding as i have no religion but god itself is my religion.


shams said...

I think it is an upbringing attitude. generally, all over the world, religious discussions seem to have taken on a colour of sensitivity. Also many religions seem to have an oppressive history (though not necessarily advocated by the religion - made use of by politicians and fanatical priests).

Hence, it the shackles in the mind that seem to obstruct open, frank and peaceful disucssions.

darth_vader said...

I think those who are sincere in their inquiry and truly want to seek the truth will discuss. Why should anyone be afraid? I find the diagram you posted very helpful. It helps to organise the mind in research. Many people accept or reject religion without knowing what they are doing. Maybe I was one of them! Since reading your blog, I am now making my own inquiry. But the quran I am reading is not easy to understand. The bible is even more difficult. Can you post somethng on bible and quran? Comparative maybe?

Jahamy said...

jon pour do care,

I agree with your observation about idolization of human beings. It appears to be a universal phenomenon which has afflicted almost all religions. Gautama Siddharta Buddha, for instance has been made into a god by some people. Idolization of prophets, saints, priests, etc is also common. It is precisely this tendency of human beings that Allah forewarned in surah 3 verse 144. The translation is:

"Muhammad is no more than an apostle: many were the apostle that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to God; but God (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude".

We are supposed to "serve" the Creator and not any human beings.

In fact the issue and consequence of idolisation of human beings is a matter that need to be thought about seriously and discussed. Perhaps, if time permits, I may post some thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

mr j,

i guess we are not ready to discuss religion, the meaning of religion, god, or anything what so ever related to faith as your earlier posting of priests and religion was forcefully taken of the air.

what is this country coming to?


jahamy said...

I can understand your feelings. I would describe the situation in public as "being advised" and not "forced". In any event, we should not give up. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat.

Hence, once we recognise the prevailing mindset and its unreadiness to change, we may have to modify our strategy, but never give up. The change may take time, but it must take place. If we cannot enjoy it now, let us pave the way for the future generation.

Anonymous said...

mr j,

maybe i should start my own blog saying what i think and see whether this controlling MF come after me.

so now the malaysian government think that they are higher than your allah by censoring free dialoque of discovering truth? isnt that something of a sin in islam by its own right?

i guess your allah will send these MF to hell.


sang_tikus said...

Saya berpendapat ramai yang beragama sebenarnya tidak rela untuk berbiincang secara kritis mengenai agama. Ini adalah kerana mereka "takut" kepada sesuatu yang mereka tidak faham dan tidak pernah berfikir. Saya juga percaya mereka tidak mahu berbincang kerana penganut masing-masing tidak pernah membaca kitab-kitab mereka. Mereka menjadi pengikut buta tuli. Seharusnya jika benar-benar ikhlas, harus membaca kitab masing-masing dan mengambil langkah untuk memahami agama nya sendiri.

Perkara ini berlaku kepada kebanyakkan manusia beragama. Oleh demikian, agama menjadi satu ikutan, budaya dan "kepercayaan" semata-mata.

Memanandangkan orang awam tidak minat berbincang dan menganggap perbincagan sebagi mencabar kepercayaan, maka, pihak berkuasa pun mengambil langkah mengwal perbincangan agama. Salah nya adalah pada sikap orang awam yang masih berada ditahap pemikiran yang rendah.

Sama-sama kita berfikir.

Anonymous said...

Religion is important in life. makes us become good human beings and give us guide. All religion tell us to do good

jebat_moden said...


Can we discuss point by point? That will be a good way to educate ourselves and get the mind to think?

Anonymous said...

The point n07 raised by jonpour docare is true. Most of us seem to follow the priest without really knowing what we are doing. My family is hindu and can be considered very religious. My mum often has pooja prayers in our house. The samiyar will chant the prayers in sanskrit and we dont understand anything and yet we sit with him and aye to everything he says. I suppose it is because we ourselves do not read the holy Gita.


Anonymous said...

No we are not. Too sensitive and it is up to people choice.

jon pour do care said...

Siva (the Auspicious One),

I guess who dares to question ! The next thing you know, you'll be 'outcast' from that 'community' ! So what is there left to be done ? Well ! We have the Internet of course ! Adious !

jon pour do care said...

We can discuss religion but it must be based on sincerity to seek the truth and we should start with us first, asking the one million dollar question, where did WE go wrong rather than pointing at others' wrong ! Once we know our mistakes, then the learning process begins and when this happen, there's nothing to stop us reaching the truth ! Adious !

jahamy said...

jon pour do care,

You are absolutely correct that criticism and evaluation should start from the self first. All too often, people in their attempt to "protect" their brittle faith, are quick to criticize the faith of others. I believe that one must be aware of the possible fault lines in one's thinking process first before one wants to embark on an analysis. Most of the time, I realize that what people do not understand they reject. Equally, I have seen people accept what they do not understand in the mistaken believe that what they do not understand must be "something so beyond them" that it must be true. Such is the mind and its cobwebs.

Even in discussions, there is a responsibility - responsibility of making the effort to express as clearly as possible, that you are ready to disagree, that you are ready to be criticized (not condemned, there is a difference)and that in the process you are able to responsibly do so as a civilized person.