I wanted to write something of my practice of Daoism, but as I thought about it, I wondered how to phrase my beliefs. Daoism is what I claim as both my philosophy and religion. I Googled “difference between Philosophy and Religion” and got some interesting answers. My 3 favorite answers are:
From Lucy (#3 in the comments), “Religion is satisfied to worship, philosophies seek to understand. Religions are paths of the heart, Philosophies are paths of the mind.”
From lwk1432 (way down in the comments), “Religion is philosophy with intuition.”
From Russell Blackford (second answer), “Philosophy is the process of rational inquiry into the nature of the world in which we find ourselves. … Just as there is no sharp boundary line between philosophy and science, there is also no sharp line between philosophy and religious doctrine. … When we talk about “a” philosophy, as opposed to just “philosophy”, we usually mean some kind of comprehensive worldview that claims to be supported by reason.
By contrast, a religion will include a worldview that is typically supported by faith and authority, more than by reason, and will usually explain the world, and how it works, by invoking some kind of supernatural entity or principle. In addition, a religion is not just a set of doctrines: it will usually include such things as rituals, commandments, hierarchies of leadership, practices of worship, and prescribed methods for transcending our physical state, here on Earth.”
And then there is the idea of Spirituality. It seems generally to me that people consider spirituality as something personal and religion as something organized and philosophy as something one thinks.
Daoism admits that language cannot adequately express spirituality. How do I understand and express the part of my spirituality that can be understood and expressed? In that expression, does my spirituality become a religion or philosophy?
I don’t believe in God, or any of the Daoist deities, but Daoism as a religion seems to me to be more about being in harmony with the universe than worshiping anything. I guess one could call it a philosophical religion.
Wikipedia says philosophy is, “the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. ”
Wikipedia says religion is, “is a cultural system that creates powerful and long-lasting meaning, by establishing symbols that relate humanity to beliefs and values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
Wikipedia says spirituality is, “an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.
My practice of Daoism encompasses all 3 and I guess I don’t really distinguish one or the other unless I have to make a statement. If someone asks me my religion, I will answer, “I am a Daoist.” Daoism seems to me to be much more open to accepting scientific truths as part of itself. I admit I have only read the Dao De Jing and the Nei-yeh. I have no idea how Daoism is practiced as an organized religion. Someday I may find out, but it is enough for me now to just concern myself with trying to live in harmony with the universe. I haven’t felt the need to join an organization. I walked away from Christianity because it seemed irrational to me. My understanding of Daoism feels logical and rational. Daoism supports the spiritual feelings I have and helps me externalize them and helps me internally understand my beliefs.
I have faith in Dao, but I don’t think it is even remotely the same as having faith in God. For me there is no higher being or omniscient entity in which to put faith. My faith is the acceptance that change is all there is. I strive to see reality as it really is, without embellishing on it more than is necessary. I am ok with the Big Bang Theory, but it is still a theory. I am not ok with just saying “God made it all” as a way to understand reality.
I think we all understand reality each in our unique way. Science, religion, and philosophy give us a framework for understanding reality collectively. Before I found Dao, I had only my personal spirituality and science as a way to communicate my beliefs. I always felt this was inadequate because they were separate ways of understanding. Daoism embraces and unites both.