What Is Religion?


Religion is an umbrella term for a broad range of human beliefs about the world and their purpose. It encompasses practices and traditions ranging from devotion to sacred texts, rituals, and the belief in one or more gods to organized church and state structures. It also includes the concept of a divine plan for humankind, the development of moral codes, and the practice of communal sharing.

The word religion is derived from the Latin religio, which approximates “scrupulousness”, “devotion” or a sense of obligation.” The earliest recorded religions, in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, were polytheistic. As civilization developed, people began to collect and write stories about their gods. Eventually, they created epics such as the Bible’s Genesis and Gilgamesh.

In the 19th century, scholars such as Edmund Husserl and Friedrich Max Müller started a new academic field called religious studies (also known as comparative religion or religious history). It is an attempt to analyze a variety of religious texts from different cultures using the same critical skills used in other fields of study. It was at this time that the phenomenological approach to understanding religion emerged.

Phenomenology is the method that most closely links religion with the humanities and social sciences. It involves studying religious traditions by observing and experiencing them. This method attempts to bring about a deeper and more holistic understanding of the religions studied. Its use in the study of religion dates to at least the early 1900s and is based on a theory developed by Pierre Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye. Phenomenology catalogues observable characteristics of religions much as a zoologist might categorize animals or an entomologist might catalog insects.

Some theorists hold that a religion is a social genus, a grouping of beliefs and practices that appear in many cultures. However, this view raises two philosophical issues. For example, how do we define such a category? And does it have an essence?

Others, including Durkheim and Paul Tillich, have argued that religion is a cultural phenomenon that has no essential properties. They use a functional definition of the concept to include whatever dominant concerns serve a person’s values and life orientation.

Regardless of how religion is defined, it remains one of the most common and influential social phenomena in the world. It continues to play a crucial role in many societies, especially in poorer countries. Gallup surveys indicate that about 95% of the world’s poorest countries report having some form of religion.

The vast majority of religions are peaceful and have a positive impact on the lives of their followers. But it is important to always learn and understand information about any religion before judging or becoming involved in its practice. Beware of extremist organizations that are not accurate representatives of any religion. Never compromise your critical thinking or reason for the sake of acceptance in a religion.

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