I don’t find the word religion or religious to be a very helpful one in the current american mileu. especially not if you want your group to grow.
from a purely theoretical perseptive, the term religion is be a great term for “a system of meaning with rituals, community, etc” in austin we have a local ethical group that functions in a “Religious” sense this way.
but I am an on-the-ground kind of guy.
amongst all americans…..the following categories were offered on a survery.
religious and spiritual
religious not spiritual
not religious, but spiritual
not religious, not spiritual.
what did my professor of religion say about these categories? the first category is shrinking the most, the second category is also shrinking. the 3rd and 4th…are growing. so to me, you would have to pay me at least a million dollars before I would agree, as a spiritual person and a humanist, to even agree to TRY the term religious humanist. and if I wanted to say..i don’t know….convince other human beings to join me in my beliefs…..I would not even take a million dollars.
why? well, as I have said, americans less and less like the term religion/religious.
secondly, amongst free-thinkers the term religion/religious is poison. do I want to spend my time re-habilitating a word? re-explaining it? heck no.
the word stink used to mean “smell” and you could say ‘I love your stink, my darling” but I defy you to explain to your signifiant other that the word stink can mean something else that the way they connote it.
In my research ( I wrote a 55 page paper on the spiritual but not religious) I wrote a functional definition of religion but my work did not focus on the wonderful work done on the field of religion like the books mentioned in this thread ( the books are good) it focused on how the term was used IN AMERICA TODAY.
Religion is somewhat easier to define. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi define religion as ‘‘a system of beliefs in a divine or superhuman power, and practices of worship or other rituals directed towards such a power.” The term spiritual in general as used in our culture today shows a turn towards the subjective, personal, and experiential in which a person is connected to Spirit/Divine reality as an individual.
In looking at Argyle’s definition in relation to spirituality, Saucier/Skrzypinska stresses that with the term religion, “the emphasis on worship and rituals implies community activity that binds or ties people together.” the spiritual gradually came to be associated with the private realm of thought. Note the etymology of the word “religion “is the Latin religio which comes from ligo meaning ‘‘to tie or bind.’
Fuller believes a plethora of modern intellectual and cultural factors have sharpened the difference between the private and public spheres that have shaped how we see the two terms: the spiritual gradually came to be associated with the private realm of thought and
experience while…religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in religious institutions, participations in formal rituals, and adherence to official denominational doctrines.
my summary ignores that buddhism is a religion, and can be nontheistic. why? because such a small percent of americans are buddhist, and even amongst buddhists in america, many are theistic. I was looking at large cultural functions of the words. (also many folk/native forms of buddhism treat the buddha and other bodhsattvas as god. I met a buddhist woman who bought a ticket to nirvana for 200 dollars. it is framed. for her nirvana is just like heaven. she was born and raised in thailand. her buddhism is religious in the sense I said above. )
so…I find the term religious humanism to be a wonderful term. if I am writing an speaking in a formal academic setting. but if I am communicating online, in person, i personally think if someone values spirituality, feels they have a philosophical humanist belief system they wish to function as a group/religion in the sense of being a community/ideology/ and having ritual practice ... I would avoid using the term religious humanist like the plauge.
“Spiritual humanist” or ‘humanist faith” would be a 100 times better.
finally, the big problem is that the term spiritual functions the same whether or not one is Spiritual (believing in a Spirit beyond material) or spiritual (feeling a need for inspiration within the human spirit, a need for hope, meaning, etc that uses poetry and symbolic language in new ways). in my opinion a spiritual humanist does not care if a) you are Spiritual b) you are spiritual c) you are neither. but they welcome all three.
post finally: community is built around common narrative and STORY “this is who we are” “this is how we got here”.....religions have a lot of story…..humanists need to tap into STORY.