Religion is always for a group; but philosophy is not so. One person alone cannot be a religion. It is quite natural that there is a bond (a feeling of my and my men) among the members of a religion and bondage also.

If liberation is the aim of a religion, is it necessary to break this bond/bondage also for liberation (before or after death)?

If 'no', can we call it liberation?

Doesn't this imply that religions (not philosophy) never suggest liberation / total liberation?

Is it possible in any other way?

  • "Force of attraction", like what, gravity? "Liberation is the aim", whose aim? Could you fill in the in between the lines to anchor your loose analogies, so it doesn't sound like you are talking about gravitational accretion and escape velocities.
    – Conifold
    Apr 7, 2020 at 6:24
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    You introduce an idiosyncratic aim for religion, and then an idiosyncratic analysis of the relationships between members of a religion, and then ask us to explain how they work together? What? Apr 7, 2020 at 12:36
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    I would say you're right, religion is not about liberation and for the reasons you give. This is a common complaint against religion. As the Rig Veda says, 'Beware the hymn-reciters'. The full notion of liberation is heretical in commonplace monotheism, and this is connected with the persecution of Meister Eckhart and Al-Halaj. . .. .
    – user20253
    Apr 7, 2020 at 13:45
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    In Buddhism, the final step to enlightenment requires that you liberate yourself from all earthly ties (even from the desire to liberate yourself). So here is a religion which advocates liberation. I would also deny that one person cannot hold their own religion; why ever not? When a holy man first starts teaching a major new insight, are they not the only adherent of their newfound religion? Apr 7, 2020 at 16:45
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    @SonOfThought - Your question is not clear on what you mean by 'liberation', which might cause some confusion. It has a social/political meaning and a metaphysical/fundamental meaning. You might like to check-out Sadhguru on youtube talking about religion. He probably shares your view and it is orthodox in some quarters. The difficulty, again, is defining 'religion' since it has too many meanings. .
    – user20253
    Apr 7, 2020 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


There are a few misconceptions underlying this question that I want to straighten out before trying to answer it.

First, religion and philosophy are not the distinct entities the question presumes. Religion is the codification of philosophy. Every religion begins with the philosophical insight of a particular teacher. That philosophical teaching is gathered into a liturgy; solidified with a set of practices and injunctions; embellished with art, ritual, rites, and other aesthetic manifestations. The end result is religion. Over time religion may lose track of the underlying philosophical insights, at least for the bulk of the congregation: religious leaders can become more invested in their status and authority than in a faithful pursuit of the core philosophy, and congregations can collapse into lip-service practice, or focus on the dogmatic letter of the teaching rather than the living spirit of it. But while the philosophical core of religion might be reduced to esoteric mysticism, it never goes away entirely.

We have to take a bit of care with the notion of 'liberation.' Liberation is a soteriology: a theory about how to save ourselves from (to quote Hamlet) "the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." The problem is that while 'soteriology' is a general concept — we all want to find salvation from the miseries that life lades on us — 'liberation' is a more specific. To talk about 'liberation' we have to talk about what we need to be liberated from, and that can pull different philosophies off into various directions. True liberation (if I can speak of that) is a difficult concept: it implies freedom from both social and psychological constraints; it isn't purely individualistic or purely communitarian, but both and neither at the same time. So on one hand we end up with philosophers like Nietzsche, who suggest that all received morality is (at best) incomplete or (at worst) corrupt, and that we must liberate ourselves from those teachings and transcend them to find authentic moral positions. On the other hand, we find original teachers like Christ, who suggest that we only truly find ourselves in service and love to others, and need to liberate ourselves from the petty egoic concerns that lead us to fight and steal and lust.

Obviously, philosophers like Nietzsche do not tend to foster the creation of organized religions — though they can develop cultish followings among people who dogmatize their writing — and people like Christ do tend to foster such. But that is more a concern of the tendencies of followers than of the actual philosophies themselves.

If we exclude malignant cults (groups formed by people intent on dominating a smallish group of followers), then every founder of every religion intended to teach a system of liberation. Fully developed religions may (and often do) lose track of that. They may end up treating their congregations as flocks that need to be guided, not as people who need to be liberated, and they may do that for the best of misguided reasons. In that case, one eventually needs to see through their faith to the deeper teaching, and to transcend the structural limitations that the faith places on them (ostensibly for their own good). This is similar to the process that a child goes through as it enters adulthood: a child must break off from the container that parents create for it in order to return as an equal. It's in that 'returning as an equal' that liberation is found.

  • I liked the presentation and most of the ideas you shared. Thanks. (+1) Your idea is based on, "Religion is the codification of philosophy."~ Since the followers should abide by the rules of their religion, if any philosophy says even codification may lead to bond, would that philosophy be codified to become a religion? You may check thoroughly whether this philosophy about codification is rational/true. In other words, if this is true, "Religions won't tell you the underlying philosophy completely." And this implies, "Religions won't tell you the Truth completely." Apr 8, 2020 at 8:19
  • @SonOfThought: If we're going to follow William James, or Huxely's Perennial Philosophy, the problem isn't that 'religions lie'; the problem is that each generation of followers understands the original teaching less: garbled transmission. Eventually a new teacher comes along who has the same insight as the original teacher (in somewhat different words), who tries to do a course correction. Sometimes they pull the faith back on course; sometimes they create a schism and a new faith arises. then the garbling starts again. Apr 8, 2020 at 14:06
  • @SonOfThought: Codification of a philosophy doesn't necessarily lead to religion. For instance, Marxism, Right-Libertarianism, and even (if I can stretch the definition of 'philosophy' a good bit) professional sports are ritualized, dogmatized, and even subject to artistic paeans (Ayn Rand's novels, Marxist murals, sports merchandizing). Two of those are expressly anti-religious and the third likes its Sundays free. It has more to do with the nature of the philosophy: hyper-individualist philosophies generally abhor organized religion. Apr 8, 2020 at 14:13
  • OK. Different philosophies treat liberation in different ways. Even if the teachings of each new teacher is about true liberation (fundamental), he can make use of that philosophy as philosophy; but not as a religion. This is the thing I am talking about. Even though there are many benefits, here (in this question) the topic is not about benefits of religion; but true liberation and religions. Thank you for your great effort for answering this question nicely. Apr 9, 2020 at 5:05
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    @SonOfThought: Actually, you'll find that exact statement in a lot of mystical sects: Buddhism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Vedanta, I believe in Kabbalah; Crowley made it the centerpiece of Thelema, and Emerson the heart of Transcendentalism (though it's odd to mention those two in the same sentence). it's usually considered an 'advanced' teaching, but it's there. Liturgical sects don't go into it for the same reasons that parents don't normally tell young children about sex, death, and taxes. One needs to develop into the concept. Apr 9, 2020 at 17:05

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