What Is Religion?


Religion is a cultural system of beliefs, practices and ethics. It may be centered on a belief in a god or goddess, or it can include ideas about an afterlife or the cosmological order of creation. It usually includes a belief in sacred rites and rituals, holy places and objects, sacred books or scripture, a priesthood to administer the religion and laws to guide people’s behavior, a special day that is set aside for religious worship, and myth and symbol. It also includes a concept of salvation or a way to end human suffering, such as through nirvana, as found in Buddhism.

Some scholars use a very broad definition of religion, like Paul Tillich’s that “religion is anything that deals with the ultimate concerns of mankind.” Others are more narrow, such as those who believe that religion only covers belief in a god or a spiritual being. Some define it more functionally, such as Emile Durkheim, who suggested that religion binds society together. This view has been supported by research that reveals that religious communities outlast those founded on secular ideologies (like communism).

Scholars often argue over how to classify a religion, with some arguing for monothetic approaches while others favor polythetic ones. A monothetic approach has each feature that constitutes a religion ranked separately, with all the features having to be present in a particular group for it to be classified as a religion. This approach is sometimes called a “realistic” or “lexical” definition of religion, as opposed to a social scientific or functional one.

Posted in: Gambling