While in the past the term religion referred directly, to Christianity and more specifically to Catholicism, today the religious panorama has diversified and this diversification makes it more difficult to identify a univocal reference to the term religion.
What is Religion?
The relevance of religion in individual and public life as religious diversity, i.e. the problems posed by the plurality of religions, and their difficult coexistence, and the contemporary tendency to make religion something personal that determines a considerable variety in the way it is conceived. It cannot be denied that even from the perspective of the philosopher of religion, which is one of the most interesting and urgent issues to be addressed.
The fact that the existence and relevance of religion is not as central a topic as it once was depends at least on two factors. The first is that the prognosis of a historical overcoming of the religious phenomenon, formulated by many authors, has not come true and in the meantime some of those theories that foreshadowed the end of religion have been overcome.
A critique of religion obviously exists even today, but it does not seem as corrosive. It is usually the fundamental component of a naturalistic vision of the world that seeks decisive support in science.
However, the problems connected with religion, as has been well understood by now, are not likely to be solved scientifically, so that the thought of still succeeding in doing so exposes today’s critics of religion to the objection of being naive positivists.
While, if they abdicate this impossible mission, they have the problem of demonstrating that a naturalistic view of the world is more plausible from an existential point of view than a religious one, particularly with regard to the meaning of life, the justification of fundamental moral values, the destiny of man after death.
Social sciences have indicated the modern tendency of societies to escape the legitimation that traditionally came to them from religion. It has been discussed whether this tendency has meant a progressive decrease in religious belief and worship to the limit of their disappearance or only the widespread phenomenon of the privatization of religion, i.e. its escape from the public sphere.
Religion has never lost its political and social importance, and fundamentalism of various origins, especially fundamentalism, tragically reminds us that religious wars are not something that belongs only to the past. This makes the idea of religion appear as a private matter more like the wishful thinking of some intellectuals and politicians than as an adequate description of reality.
That religion no longer plays a protective function on the social system and its sub-systems as it did before modernity, and that this has given rise to an unprecedented process of social differentiation, is the element of truth that secularization theory has grasped; the rest, as I have said, is much less evident today.
When we look at the phenomenon of religious diversity at the educational level. In a diverse and democratic society, respect for different religions implies the freedom to educate one’s children according to one’s religious vision, some or other, or even no religious conception.
Religion is considered as a commodity that responds to a need. The need may be similar, but the ways to satisfy it are different, so that each one chooses on the basis of his own preferences, all the more so if the offer is wide and if the doctrinal meshes of religions grant ever wider spaces of interpretation.
The existential commitment that characterizes religion, if authentic, is something profound, difficult to change or to give up. At the same time, religion does not respond to a purely subjective need, but rather meets the individual with the weight of what is a true world view.