What Is the Definition of Religion?

March 24 2015

The Washington Post has launched a new section, entitled “Acts of Faith,” which promises “news, analysis, and opinion to keep you up on daily conversations about faith, spirituality, ethics, and values.” Thomas J. Whitley notes that both the title and the description seem to suggest not only a particularly Christian understanding of what religion is, but a particular kind of Christian understanding:

Defining “religion” as that which deals with matters of faith and belief necessarily precludes that which deals with matters of praxis and that is less obviously about, or not at all about, faith or belief. (That they have called it “Acts of Faith,” I think does not diminish from my point, especially given the first articles they have posted.) That is, the focus on faith prioritizes a Western and a Protestant notion of what counts as “religion.”

To further make the point that this is a prioritization of one interpretation of religion, we need go no further than the New Testament. The traditional understanding of the divide between Judaism and Christianity is that Christianity is about belief. John 3:16 is the go-to verse here: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Yet while belief is of primary importance in the Gospel of John, it does not hold the same weight in other New Testament texts.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Marginalia

More about: American Religion, Christianity, Judaism, New Testament, Religion, Religion & Holidays

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela