What Is Religion?


Religion is a social phenomenon that provides people with faith, meaning, and value. It also may help them deal with stress and cope with life’s problems. Many studies show that religious beliefs and rituals improve well-being. And some research suggests that people who participate in religious traditions may be less likely to smoke or drink excessively, and more likely to exercise regularly.

Different scholars use a variety of definitions to define “religion”. Most have been monothetic, using the classical view that any instance accurately described by a concept will share one key defining property. However, recent decades have seen the rise of “polythetic” approaches that allow for multiple properties to qualify a phenomenon as being a religion.

The first feature that defines a religion is its belief system, defined as any collection of ideas or notions held to be true by an organized group. This includes theology, philosophies, and other intellectual beliefs. It also may include practices like prayer and meditation. It also includes the observance of holidays, rituals, and other ceremonial activities.

Other features that distinguish religions are their values, moral codes, and ethics. They may have sacred histories, narratives, and mythologies that provide explanations for the origin of the universe or humankind. They often have a sense of community and may emphasize charity. And they usually have institutions and structures for managing their members. They may have sacred texts, symbols and holy places that are viewed as being important to their adherents.