Religion may thus be defined as the voluntary subjection of oneself to God, that is to the free, supernatural Being (or beings) on whom man is conscious of being dependent, of whose powerful help he feels the need, and in whom he recognizes the source of his perfection and happiness. Primitive Buddhism, with its aim to secure unconscious repose (Nirvana) through personal effort independently of Divine aid, seems to be an exception.
But even in primitive Buddhism communion with the gods of India was retained as an element of lay belief and aspiration, and it was only by substituting the ideal of Divine communion for that of Nirvana that Buddhism became a popular religion.
In the highest religions, this supernatural Being is conceived as a spirit, one and indivisible, everywhere present in nature, but distinct from it.
In the lower religions, the various phenomena of nature are associated with a number of distinct personalities, though it is rare that among these numerous nature-deities one is not honoured as supreme.
While the prevailing motive in all lower religions is one of self-interest, the desire of happiness, it generally implies to some extent an affectionate as well as reverent attitude towards the deities that are the object of worship.
From what has been said it is plain that the concept of deity required for religion is that of a free personality.
In the higher religions, the perfection sought in religion becomes more intimately associated with moral goodness.
In Christianity, the highest of religions, communion with God implies spiritual perfection of the highest possible kind, the participation in the supernatural life of grace as the children of God.
But religion ceases to exist where, as in Pantheism, the deity is pronounced to be devoid of all consciousness. 1) defines religion as "virtus per quam homines Deo debitum cultum et reverentiam exhibent" (the virtue which prompts man to render to God the worship and reverence that is His by right ).Especially in lower grades of culture, where the nature and utilization of physical laws is but feebly understood, man feels in many ways his helplessness in the presence of the forces of nature : it is the Divine Being that controls them; He it is that can direct them for man's weal or woe.There thus arises in the natural order a sense of dependence on the Deity, deeply felt need of Divine help. Still it is not the recognition of dependence on God that constitutes the very essence of religion, indispensable as it is.A far more likely derivation, one that suits the idea of religion in its simple beginning, is that given by Lactantius, in his "Divine Institutes", IV, xxviii.He derives religion from religare (to bind): "We are tied to God and bound to Him [ religati ] by the bond of piety, and it is from this, and not, as Cicero holds, from careful consideration [ relegendo ], that religion has received its name." The objection that religio could not be derived from religare , a verb of the first conjugation, is not of great weight, when we call to mind that opinio omes from opinari , and rebellio from rebellare . Augustine, in his "City of God", X, iii, derives religio from religere in the sense of recovering: "having lost God through neglect [ negligentes ], we recover Him [ religentes ] and are drawn to Him." This explanation, implying the notion of the Redemption, is not suited to the primary idea of religion. Augustine himself was not satisfied with it, for in his "Retractions", I, xiii, he abandoned it in favour of the derivation given by Lactantius. 1, gives all three derivations without pronouncing in favour of any.