Sunday, August 20, 2017

Navigating the word religion.

Michael Ward has a mission similar to mine. And that mission is to help people gain a better understanding of the meaning of the word “religion.” 

Michael Ward writes: “Etymologically, it means rather something like tying back together —- re-ligion: re-ligament, re-ligaturing, finding the unifying reality behind disparate appearances, seeking oneness, integration, wholeness, a “theory of everything.” Religion in this sense is opposite of analysis from the Greek Analysis: loosening up. There is a place for analysis, of course, we do often need to loosen things up, pull things apart, dissect. But analysis serves synthesis, doesn’t it. It’s not an end in itself.” (from a talk at Hillsdale College, April 6, 2017}

I agree. In this sense we are all religious. We all have a religion in the way we connect with our realities. By the nature of this activity we all engaged in religion. Religion is alive and well as it has always been and in a continuing variety of ways. There is a history to religion.

One of my favorite stories comes from a beginning conversation with a man who came to my office to talk about his grief. His young granddaughter had died after battling cancer. He began by saying, “I am not the religious one in the family. I always had too many questions. My question, “What do the first five letters of question spell.” 


“That sounds like a very religious activity for connecting with meaning.” 

We then talked about his grief story.

More background to the word. It comes from a Latin word religio. Breaking the word down into two words we have re, which means again and again. We have words like re-play, re-do, re-work, re-vision, all beginning with re. Each means repeat again and again. Then we have the word ligio from which give us the word ligament. A ligament connects two entities. Religion therefore is the activity connecting and understanding larger portions of reality, bringing them together in a Single unity for meaning.

In the conversation with Bill Moyer, Bill Moyer talks about his interview with Joseph Campbell where he says people are concerned about meaning. Joseph Campbell counters with people want an experience of being alive. Either way great connections are involved.

The downhill slide to the word religion may have begun when people would ask, “what religion do you belong to?” The word then moved to name the institution church, even a building. To separate oneself was not to be religious or have a religion. Words do change in meaning but they can not deny their historical origins: Latin - religio

The befrienderforum blog will journey with making connections continuously, with words, life experience, Scripture, daily conversation, etc., wherever the dots connect. I will use Steve Jobs famous graduation talk at Stanford on “connecting the dots” as a metaphor and move it to numerous places.


Marlin Whitmer
Retired hospital chaplain
Founder of the Befrienders in 1966 and the Art of Story Metaphor Listening in 1975

Jun 14, 2005 - Video of Steve Jobs' Commencement address on June 12, 2005. I am honored to ... The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of ...

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