What Is Religion?


Religion, broadly defined as a human being’s relation to that which is regarded as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence, is a fundamental part of the worldview of most people. It commonly includes a belief in one or more gods and spirits; worship of these deities, often including religious festivals and rituals; and the idea that certain texts have scriptural status and are invested with mystical and moral authority.

There are several different theories about the origin of religion. Some anthropologists (scientists who study human societies and cultures) suggest that religion developed as a response to a biological or cultural need. These needs could include a fear of death, a desire for immortality or life after death, and the hope that a kind creator would watch over humanity and give meaning to life.

Another theory suggests that religion evolved to bring people together. This fits with the work of sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, who stressed that social functions such as generating community cohesion and providing guidance in life can be considered religions even when they do not involve beliefs in disembodied spirits or cosmological orders.

Finally, some scholars have argued that there is no such thing as religion. They argue that the concept is an artifact of European colonialism and that people should stop using it to refer to a class of phenomena that does not exist. Others, however, have defended the use of the term, arguing that it can be used to describe both the social-functioning aspects of a culture and its myths and stories.

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