What Is Religion?


The term Religion describes a wide range of social practices that are often characterized by belief in supernatural beings, a spiritual life, and/or a particular order of the universe. It is sometimes a subject of philosophical work, but most often it is the object of study of sociologists and historians.

Philosophy of religion involves all the major areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory (including moral theory and applied ethics), and more. It is a field of study that includes all the world’s religions, as well as some other traditions that do not fit into one of the four Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

A variety of ways to define religion exist, and the scholarly community has debated how to approach this question for centuries. Some scholars have favored polythetic or “family resemblance” approaches, which treat the various things called religions as social genuses that share a number of different characteristics to varying degrees. Others have opted for functional definitions, which treat the notion of religion as a particular type of human phenomenon that is both intensive and comprehensive in its mode of valuation.

Some anthropologists have argued that the concept of Religion emerged from humankind’s becoming self-aware and realizing that they would eventually die, prompting them to create Spirituality as a way to cope with these realizations. Others have suggested that it is a natural human response to the fear of death, and that it serves to answer questions that science cannot, such as the meaning of life and what happens after death.

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