What Is Religion?


Religion is a set of beliefs and values, often involving a belief in something supernatural or spiritual. It typically involves a moral code, a system of rituals, and a community of believers who support one another. Many people see religion as a way to find meaning in their lives and to connect with something greater than themselves.

Religious studies is a broad field with numerous sub-fields. Sociology looks at the social aspects of religion, such as the ways that different societies organize their religious traditions; psychology examines religious experience and feelings, including a variety of psychological theories (e.g., Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus Complex and Illusion; Carl Jung’s universal archetypes); and anthropology examines the institutions of religious tradition.

Scholars debate what makes a religion. Some believe that only those whose beliefs include a belief in god or spirits can be considered to have religion, while others argue that it’s necessary to have some kind of spiritual concept, even if the ideas are atheistic. A few scholars criticize the use of the term religion as a category, saying that it imposes a predetermined structure on an otherwise diverse group of phenomena.

Anthropologists studying human society and culture typically support the idea that religion evolved as a response to some biological or cultural need. For example, some anthropologists have theorized that humans created religions as a way to deal with their fear of death and to understand what happens after life ends.