That said, the word “religion” is actually quite positive in its origins. It appears to be related to the word “ligament.” From the Latin root meaning “to bind together,” it would be difficult to narrow down exactly what originally was being bound together. On the one hand, it is thoroughly possible that this referred to the binding of a sacrificial offering to an altar. It could also refer to the binding of a person to truth with an oath. The ancients loved to debate such things seemingly ad nauseam. It is enough for us to remember that behind the word “religion” is the understanding that people have been bound together. Religion as a word is about a people with common truth, common belief, common confession, and common life. It is not a word that imposes but rather reflects that which binds people together.
It seems to me that this only strengthens and solidifies the value and benefit to the word so many love to hate. To be spiritual is not to be bound to anything specific – not to doctrine or to piety. But to be religious is to be bound to doctrine and to a piety that flows from this doctrine. It means to live an accountable life – accountable to the faith confessed, to the common confession of this faith, and to the common life of those who share this faith. I am religious. I live in a bound relationship to a specific confession. I am accountable to others. I live under an altar and pulpit with others who live in the same kind of relationship. Far from being a negative term, I think the term religious is very positive. I think it is about time to rehabilitate this term and restore its use.