What Is Religion?


Religion is a complex and sometimes controversial subject. It can include beliefs and practices related to the spiritual and supernatural, ethics, morality, culture, and history. It also can be a source of community and cohesion, as well as conflict and violence, as evidenced throughout history in the persecutions of Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, to name just a few examples.

Most of the time, people define religion in some way that includes faith or belief and practices related to what they consider sacred. This is often called a monotheistic definition of religion. Other times, however, teachers use a more holistic approach to understanding religion by examining all of the various dimensions that contribute to the phenomenon. This is similar to how scientists may break down a complex topic such as the environment or evolution into multiple components that are interrelated and interact.

The word religion is derived from the Latin religio, which means “scrupulousness.” It is a concept that encompasses both an internalized belief and a practice that is externally imposed. It can refer to the idea of being saved from something, whether it be in a literal sense such as going to heaven after death or in a more symbolic sense such as finding peace or reaching nirvana. In addition, most religions will have a particular place of worship, specific rites and rituals that are carried out, sacred books, a clergy or priesthood to oversee and administer the faith, and certain days, symbols and places that are considered holy.