What Is Religion?


Religion is the set of beliefs and practices that adherents believe will lead them to a better life. It may include beliefs in a God, deities or goddesses; a moral code; rituals; and an afterlife. Depending on the faith, these are usually backed by scriptures and texts that form the basis of teaching. Religion may also be accompanied by an organization and a community that support and encourage believers.

Sociologists have defined religion in many ways. Emil Durkheim, for example, took a functional approach and said that religion provides stability in society and serves as an agent of socialization. Others have focused on the content of religion, arguing that humans need to have hope for both this worldly life and the afterlife; and that without religion, people will turn to superstition or try to control their lives with an obsession with wealth or power.

Religious people may find peace and comfort in their belief in an invisible God and a promise of a better life. They often find community in churches, synagogues and temples and feel a sense of moral guidance. For some, a strong faith provides the strength to overcome a difficult situation, such as financial problems or divorce.

Whether or not one agrees with the real or lexical definition of religion, it is important to be aware that any definition is necessarily subjective. A stipulative definition will only be valid for the purposes that it is being used for; and even then, it must be subjected to some scrutiny.