Religion is derived from a Latin word “religio” And originally, according to Cicero, the word meant to “choose”, “go over again” or “consider carefully”.
As of that time, Julius Caesar used religio to refer to the oath of loyalty to Rome which was captured by enemy soldiers!
So, Religion is the anglicized version of religio, and it first showed up in English referring to those who had taken vows of special devotion, to live their lives under a rule of piety.
However, Monastics Monks and nuns were, from the 12th century henceforth, referred to as “religious,” and in the classical sense, they had carefully considered and chosen to swear an oath which is called “Vows of religion,” or as we have them today in the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran faith’s as, “religious orders”
The term was however, used to describe a system of beliefs, or doctrines, as in Calvin’s which is “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”
During those times, life was compartmentalized, and one compartment, which is a personal one, was “religion” Calvin became admittedly, extreme and in modern Protestant usage the doctrines of Christianity are applied more broadly.
Mostly, the compartments are gone and in the common usage “religion” simply refers to a set of beliefs or doctrines, as it is in the Lutheran religion, the Baptist religion. Etc.
And people who adhere to these sets of belief are referred to as religious, surely “religious” in the original monastic context still applies.
There are three distinct uses for the term religion, the first is the classical Christian usage, monastic orders, then, the body of belief, of doctrine, which is held by a particular group, and finally, a system of salvation by works, and we must be specific when we use the term!
The first two uses of this term seem obvious, the third, though, is not and it’s likely to cause ill will and division among believers.
So, we must be careful to note the context in which “religion” is being used in order to avoid confusion, and alienation.
Having an encounter with a friend of mine, who confessed that she has experienced, both good and bad religions, and with three of these trends. She was “born again at a Billy Graham crusade at the age of ten, and for many years she attended Pentecostal churches. Till date, she consider Billy Graham as her spiritual father, and having embraced true religion, she professed Catholic as blessed.
Thanks be to God!
So, as I said early on, religion which is the Christian religion, in its truest sense is, simply, as the old Baltimore Catechism explains to us, “to know, love, and serve God in this life and to live with him forever in the next”.
In order to accomplish this we must as, St. Paul instructs us, know nothing, save Christ Jesus, and Him crucified.