Religion (from O.Fr. religion religious community, from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods, sense of right, moral obligation, sanctity", "obligation, the bond between man and the gods") is derived from the Latin religiō, the ultimate origins of which are obscure. One possible interpretation traced to Cicero, connects lego read, i.e. re (again) with lego in the sense of choose, go over again or consider carefully. The definition of religio by Cicero is cultum deorum, "the proper performance of rites in veneration of the gods." Julius Caesar used religio to mean "obligation of an oath" when discussing captured soldiers making an oath to their captors. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, used the term religio on elephants in that they venerate the sun and the moon. Modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell favor the derivation from ligare bind, connect, probably from a prefixed re-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or to reconnect, which was made prominent by St. Augustine, following the interpretation given by Lactantius in Divinae institutiones, IV, 28. The medieval usage alternates with order in designating bonded communities like those of monastic orders: "we hear of the 'religion' of the Golden Fleece, of a knight 'of the religion of Avys'". In the ancient and medieval world, the etymological Latin root religio was understood as an individual virtue of worship in mundane contexts; never as doctrine, practice, or actual source of knowledge. In general, religio referred to broad social obligations towards anything including family, neighbors, rulers, and even towards God. Religio was most often used by the ancient Romans not in the context of a relation towards gods, but as a range of general emotions such as hesitation, caution, anxiety, fear; feelings of being bound, restricted, inhibited; which arose from heightened attention in any mundane context. The term was also closely related to other terms like scrupulus which meant "very precisely" and some Roman authors related the term supertitio, which meant too much fear or anxiety or shame, to religio at times. When religio came into English around the 1200s as religion, it took the meaning of "life bound by monastic vows" or monastic orders. The compartmentalized concept of religion, where religious things were separated from worldly things, was not used before the 1500s. The concept of religion was first used in the 1500s to distinguish the domain of the church and the domain of civil authorities. In the ancient Greece, the Greek term threskeia was loosely translated into Latin as religio in late antiquity. The term was sparsely used in classical Greece but became more frequently used in the writings of Josephus in the first century AD. It was used in mundane contexts and could mean multiple things from respectful fear to excessive or harmfully distracting practices of others; to cultic practices. It was often contrasted with the Greek word deisidaimonia which meant too much fear. The concept of religion was formed in the 16th and 17th centuries, despite the fact that ancient sacred texts like the Bible, the Quran, and others did not have a word or even a concept of religion in the original languages and neither did the people or the cultures in which these sacred texts were written. For example, there is no precise equivalent of religion in Hebrew, and Judaism does not distinguish clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities. One of its central concepts is halakha, meaning the walk or path sometimes translated as law, which guides religious practice and belief and many aspects of daily life. The Greek word threskeia, which was used by Greek writers such as Herodotus and Josephus, is found in the New Testament. Threskeia is sometimes translated as religion in today's translations, however, the term was understood as worship well into the medieval period. In the Quran, the Arabic word din is often translated as religion in modern translations, but up to the mid-1600s translators expressed din as law. Even in the 1st century CE, Josephus had used the Greek term ioudaismos, which some translate as Judaism today, even though he used it as an ethnic term, not one linked to modern abstract concepts of religion as a set of beliefs. The Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes translated as religion, also means law. Throughout classical South Asia, the study of law consisted of concepts such as penance through piety and ceremonial as well as practical traditions. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between imperial law and universal or Buddha law, but these later became independent sources of power. The modern concept of religion, as an abstraction that entails distinct sets of beliefs or doctrines, is a recent invention in the English language since such usage began with texts from the 17th century due to the splitting of Christendom during the Protestant Reformation and globalization in the age of exploration which involved contact with numerous foreign cultures with non-European languages. Some argue that regardless of its definition, it is not appropriate to apply the term religion to non-Western cultures. Others argue that using religion on non-western cultures distorts what people do and believe. Though traditions, sacred texts, and practices have existed throughout time, most cultures did not align with western conceptions of religion since they did not separate everyday life from the sacred. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the terms Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and world religions first entered the English language. No one self-identified as a Hindu or Buddhist or other similar terms before the 1800s. "Hindu" has historically been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for people indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of religion since there was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning, but when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. According to the philologist Max Müller in the 19th century, the root of the English word religion, the Latin religio, was originally used to mean only reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety (which Cicero further derived to mean diligence). Max Müller characterized many other cultures around the world, including Egypt, Persia, and India, as having a similar power structure at this point in history. What is called ancient religion today, they would have only called law.
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