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In the highest religions, this supernatural Being is conceived as a spirit, one and indivisible, everywhere present in nature, but distinct from it.In the lower religions, the various phenomena of nature are associated with a number of distinct personalities, though it is rare that among these numerous nature-deities one is not honoured as supreme.The error of mistaking many nature-deities for the one true God vitiates, but does not destroy, religion.But religion ceases to exist where, as in Pantheism, the deity is pronounced to be devoid of all consciousness. 1) defines religion as "virtus per quam homines Deo debitum cultum et reverentiam exhibent" (the virtue which prompts man to render to God the worship and reverence that is His by right ).Religion may thus be defined as the voluntary subjection of oneself to God, that is to the free, supernatural Being (or beings) on whom man is conscious of being dependent, of whose powerful help he feels the need, and in whom he recognizes the source of his perfection and happiness. Primitive Buddhism, with its aim to secure unconscious repose (Nirvana) through personal effort independently of Divine aid, seems to be an exception.But even in primitive Buddhism communion with the gods of India was retained as an element of lay belief and aspiration, and it was only by substituting the ideal of Divine communion for that of Nirvana that Buddhism became a popular religion.He employs the latter meaning in his treatise "On the True Religion", where he says: "Religion binds us [ religat ] to the one Almighty God ." St. The correct one seems to be that offered by Lactantius.
To this must also be added the love of God for His own sake, inasmuch as He is the infinitely perfect Being, in whom truth, beauty, and goodness are realized in their highest possible degree.
The derivation of the word "religion" has been a matter of dispute from ancient times. Cicero, in his "De natura deorum", II, xxviii, derives religion from relegere (to treat carefully): "Those who carefully took in hand all things pertaining to the gods were called religiosi , from relegere ." Max Muller favoured this view.
But as religion is an elementary notion long antedating the time of complicated ritual presupposed in this explanation, we must seek elsewhere for its etymology.
What man aims at in religion is communion with the Deity, in which he hopes to attain his happiness and perfection.
This perfection is but crudely conceived in lower religions.