A Definition and Application of "Religion"

As we come to the end of my third academic year, I am doing a mental review of what I can change and improve for next year. As chaplain and religion teacher, one of the conversations I quite frequently get into is exactly what is religion, and what counts as the study of religion. In particular, certain vexing questions are often asked:

Does religion require positing a God or other Divine Beings? If so, what do we do with religions that do not have an explicit place for Divine Beings, such as various forms of Buddhism or Confucianism?

If we are going to define religion in such a way that we include "religions" that do not have God(s), what stops anything from becoming a religion? If I have an ultimate concern for finding the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, and I pursue this concern "religiously", does that then make me an adherent of the religion "Grilled Cheese Sandwichism"?
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.