What Is Religion?
A religion is a set of beliefs, practices, rituals and worldview that can vary distinctly from society to society. It includes a morality that can be associated with it and people within a religion may have distinct roles.
Religion has been used to describe a range of social institutions from societies as diverse as India, China and the United States. It has also been used to describe the way that people think about a universal power that manifests itself in the world and their need to be in right relations with it.
The concept was originally adapted from the Latin term religio which means scrupulous devotion. It referred to the commitments people made to gods and a belief in taboos, promises and curses as well as the adherence to certain laws or beliefs.
Various scholars have explored the concept of religion and the ways in which it has been shaped. One of the most influential books was Talal Asad’s Genealogies of Religion (1993), which argues that the concept is shaped by assumptions that are Christian and modern.
Another approach is the functional approach, which focuses on the social function of religion. Taking Durkheim’s definition as a model, this theory asserts that religion is the social glue that draws people into like-minded communities and can create solidarity.
This explains why many people feel that religion is meaningful. It can be so because of the way it helps them feel that they matter to others and have a sense of belonging in communities.