What Is Religion?


Religion is a complex category of beliefs and practices that people hold to be sacred. It encompasses a belief in something supernatural, spiritual, or transcendent; a set of rules for behaviour and morality; and an ultimate meaning to life. Although there are many different religions around the world, there are some similarities between them. All of them involve some form of devotion to a divine being or concept, and most of them deal with issues about the natural world or with forces that are beyond human control.

Some scholars have taken a more functional approach to the study of Religion and defined it as something that generates social cohesion, provides a moral framework for society, or gives a sense of purpose or orientation. This definition of Religion is sometimes referred to as the pan-human definition because it treats religion as an inevitable feature of the human experience. It is true that this functional definition combines several of the previous, substantive definitions of Religion, but it also introduces other factors and makes some assumptions that have not been included in other versions of the definition.

Some anthropologists believe that Religion evolved out of the need to answer big questions about the nature and meaning of life, or to cope with the fear of death. Others see it as a human response to the fact that humans have become self-aware and able to think about their own existence, leading them to search for ways to avoid death or to find hope in the idea of a higher power watching over humanity and providing meaning to life.