What Is Religion?


Religion relates to belief in and practice of the supernatural or spiritual. Some people who practice religion say it helps them manage stress, anxiety and the ups and downs of life. Others report that it makes them feel better about themselves, provides a sense of stability and direction, and promotes moral behavior. Studies also show that regular religious participation can have positive effects on physical health.

The term “religion” was originally a synonym for religio, the Latin word meaning scrupulousness. It is now often used to describe the ways of life of a specific culture or group of people. It is not, as some have argued, a social genus that appears in every culture, but rather a taxon for a wide range of practices and beliefs.

Although it is common to use the concept of a religion as a family-resemblance concept, there are two philosophical issues that arise. The first is the question of whether there can be a definition of a religion that is not false or misleading. The second issue is the question of how to assess the usefulness of a definition.

Many scholars have opted for an open polythetic approach to the concept of religion in order to capture its complexity. However, for purposes of focus or clarity, it is possible to adopt a closed polythetic or monothetic approach. Some scholars have even opted for a non-existent definition.

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