What Is Religion?

Religion is a set of beliefs, morals and practices that gives a group of people a shared identity. It also provides a code of conduct, often organised into hierarchies. It often deals with the supernatural and the spiritual, including forces beyond the control of humans. It includes a system of worship, devotion to something sacred and the belief in some form of life after death (heaven, hell, purgatory or limbo).

The best religion is one that teaches an ethic of reciprocity underlined by compassion. It has a clear code of conduct which is consistent with its ethical principles. It is a religion that helps you to become a better human being and, above all, it does not seek to exploit people by encouraging them to spend money on their beliefs.

Some scholars argue that to understand religion in terms of beliefs or even any subjective states, is a Protestant bias and that scholars should shift attention to the visible institutional structures that produce them. However, it is unlikely that this can be done without reintroducing the idea of mental states and their interaction with the structure of a religious community.

Good religion involves a process of transformation that embodies both truth and reconciliation. It requires a concrete refusal of the politics, social mores and ‘life-styles’ that are against what is truly conducive to life itself. Transformation consists of a journey into a deeper, intuited level of reality which is the source of wisdom and truth. It is a process that artists, poets and writers experience as what James Joyce called an epiphany.

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