The Concept of Religion


Religion is a broad term for beliefs, practices, and systems that focus on the belief in one or more gods or other supernatural forces. It includes a wide range of practices such as sermons, rituals, prayers, meditation, holy places, symbols, trances, feasts, and more. It also encompasses cultural beliefs, worldviews, texts, prophecies, revelations, morals, and more. It is not always easy to define religion, since it consists of many different traditions and faiths that differ from each other. There are some who have criticized definitions of religion, particularly those that focus on mental states. Instead, some have argued that the concept of religion should be based on the social and institutional structures that create religion.

Anthropologists have found that early humans tried to control parts of their environment that were uncontrollable, such as the weather or success in hunting, through magic and religion. They manipulated their surroundings directly through magic, and they asked for help from the spirits of nature or gods and goddesses through religion.

Today, the concept of religion is often used to refer to a taxon for sets of social practices, a category concept whose paradigmatic examples include the so-called world religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shinto, as well as regional religions such as Chinese folk religions or Japanese Shinto and cults such as Confucianism and Daoism. The concept is also sometimes used to refer to forms of life not explicitly named as religions, including nature worship, folklore, and even sports such as hockey.