What Is Religion?


Religion is a collection of beliefs about the ultimate reality and man’s relation to it. It involves a pious acceptance of the fundamental notions of the Divine and of man’s relation to the Divine contained in the religious traditions of a community. It also includes the practice of several cooperating virtues having God as their direct object, especially faith, hope, and love.

Despite the common perception that the word “religion” is mostly used as a punchline in Western culture, there are serious religious communities around the world with a long history of commitment to their beliefs and practices. In addition, there is an ever-growing body of evidence that the regular practice of Religion leads to benefits in health, family life, longevity, academic achievement and community cohesion.

Since the development of language, scholars have wrestled with the concept of Religion as an evolving social category. While some have used the classical view of social kinds that has an ahistorical essence, others have employed polythetic definitions that recognize that a religious group can be accurately described by a number of properties. Currently, the most popular approach eschews the claim that a religion has an ahistorical essence and instead identifies it as a prototype concept. However, this move is criticized by those who assert that the use of the term “religion” as a social taxon has a skewed perspective and should be avoided. For more, see the article on this topic by Paul Laurence and James Margolis.