RELIGION, a term that since the 16th century has become naturalized in most European languages. It has even in the Teutonic tongues taken the place of the native terms formerly in use. As to its etymology, the derivation from relin quere is universally recognized to be in consistent with phonetic laws; the necessity for assuming the existence of a lost transitive verb ligere, "to look," has not been made out; and the deriva tion from which implies care fulness and attention to what concerns the gods to be the primary signification of the word, is better than that from religare, which refers the origin of reli gion to a sense of dependence on or con nection with Deity by the bond of piety, inasmuch as the latter does not accord with the way in which the ancient Ro mans used the terms religens and reli giosus, and supposes in them a higher conception of religion than they are likely to have possessed. The Lacta nian derivation (religaro), however, has not been shown to violate any known linguistic law; and the reason which Professor Max Miller gives ("Natural Religion," p. 35) as "the real objection" to it does not apply to it at all. It is not "the fact that in classical Latin religare is never used in the sense of binding or holding back." Binding or holding back, or behind, or fast, is its common meaning in classical Latin; it is its meaning in Cicero, Sueto nius, Vergil, Horace, and Ovid. Its only other meaning is to unbind.
General terms equivalent in meaning to religion are not to be found even in such languages as Chinese, Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Arabic, and need not of course be looked for in the languages of uncultured peoples. There is no de finition of religion in the Bible, nor any designation or description of it which applies to the heathen religions. The fathers and Schoolmen attempted only to give a definition of true religion. The difficulty of framing a correct definition of religion is very great. Such a defini tion ought to apply to nothing but reli gion, and to differentiate religion from everything else, as, for example, from im aginative idealization, art, morality, or philosophy. It should apply to every thing which is naturally and commonly called religion; to religion as a sub jective spiritual state, and to all reli gions, high or low, true or false, which have obtained objective historical real ization. And it should neither expressly nor by implication exclude any essential element of religion, but express in a general way all that is necessarily in cluded in its nature, indispensible to its notion. Since the need for definitions of this kind was felt—i. e., since the comparative study of religions began to be cultivated—numerous attempts to supply it have been made, but few, if any, of the definitions of religion as yet proposed fulfill all the requirements. Those of Kant, Fichte, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Strauss, Wundt, Pfleiderer, Her bert Spencer, Matthew Arnold, Tylor, John Caird, and Max Muller have at tracted most attention.
The classification of religions also pre sents great difficulties. To distribute them into (1) true and false religions, or (2) natural and revealed religions, or (3) natural and positive religions, or (4) religions of savage and of civilized peoples, or (5) book-religions and re ligions not possessed of sacred books, or (6) individual religions (i. e., founded by great individual teachers) and natural or race religions (i. e., the collective products of peoples or races, the growth of generations), must obviously be sci entifically inadequate and unsatisfactory, though some of the classifications thus obtained may not be without truth or interest. Max Muller holds that "the only scientific and truly genetic classifi cation of religions is the same as that of languages," and Maurice Vernes that they must be classified according to races. And there can be no doubt that, if religions, languages, and races are properly classified, the classifications will, on the whole, correspond or coincide. Still they ought to be classified independ ently, from a study of their own proper natures, and a complete accordance of their classifications is not to be looked for. The fact, for instance, that there are universal religions, reli gions not limited by language or race, must not be ignored or depreciated. Hegel's classification is very ingenious and suggestive. He distributes religions into religions of nature, religions of spirituality, and the absolute or Chris tian religion, answering respectively both to the chief stages of the historical realization of religion, and to the child hood, youth, and manhood of humanity. The religions of nature are represented as including (1) immediate religion (sorcery and fetish-worship) ; (2) pan theistic religion, which comprehends the religion of measure (China), the religion of phantasy (Brahmanism), and the re ligion of being-in-itself (Buddhism) ; and (3) religion which tends to freedom, and which is exemplified in the religion of the good or of light (ancient Persian), the religion of sorrow (Syrian), and the religion of mystery (Egypt). The re ligions of spirituality are held to be these three—the religion of sublimity (He brew), the religion of beauty (Greek), and the religion of the understanding (Roman). The classification of Von Hartman is of the same character, being very ingeniously conformed to the needs of his own philosophy, and yet not conspiciously inconsistent with the facts. The classifications of Lubbock, Tylor, Spencer, Reville, and D'Alvi ella deserve attention as being based on an extensive and close study of religions, including those vague and rude religions to which it is especially difficult to as sign appropriate places in a natural and comprehensive scheme of distribution. No general agreement, however, has been as yet reached either in determining the species of these religions or the order of their succession.