Religion as Orienting Worldview



Religions are complex, and any attempt at defining religion necessarily falls short. Nevertheless, any scholarly inquiry into the nature of religion must use some criteria in order to evaluate and study the character of religious traditions across contexts. To this end, I propose understanding religion in terms of an orienting worldview. Religions are worldviews that are expressed not only in beliefs but also in narratives and symbols. More than this, religions orient action, and any genuine religious tradition necessarily is concerned with normative behavior, whether ethical or religious in character. Such an understanding of religion has several advantages, one of which is its natural relation to current forms of the science-religion dialogue. Not only can the findings of cognitive science and related areas inform us about the nature of religion; scientific discoveries also prove to be important for any religious synthesis that attempts to construct a worldview for the twenty-first century.